Key Instructional Principles to Use with English Language Learners

A list of several key instructional principles that can be used with English-language learners with learning difficulties.
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Updated on: March 13, 2002
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In an effort to speed up the process of learning English, some teachers and administrators do not allow students to use their native language when working with other students of the same language background. Yet, peer clarification in the native language can be extremely beneficial.

A "one size fits all" approach to classroom discussions can be problematic for a number of reasons. Each culture has its own conventions. These conventions can relate to the amount of talking that is considered appropriate during a lesson, the meaning of direct eye contact, and the volume of speech, to name just three of many potentially important examples. Some of the basic information about key cultural conventions can be learned through conversations with members of the community.

  • Visual aids are an excellent way to help English-language learners with learning difficulties process information. The double demands of learning content and a second language are significant. Because the spoken word is fleeting, visual aids such as graphic organizers, concept and story maps, and word banks give students visual tools to process, reflect on, and organize information.

  • Ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of instructional activities in producing actual student learning is important in ensuring that teaching methods are effective. Teachers can and should frequently assess the effects of instructional activities for all students through an array of measures. Ongoing curriculum-based assessments are a widely advocated approach to measuring both English-language development and academic/cognitive growth. This approach can often be administered in the students' native language and/or in English, depending on the purpose of the assessment.

    Informal instructional assessments during the lesson are also an excellent way to probe and track, in a number of ways, what the students are getting out of lessons, discussions, practice, independent work, partner learning, or cooperative groups. These curriculum-based and informal assessments show teachers clearly what is being learned, so that they can provide responsive feedback and adjust teaching tactics.

  • Building home-school connections has been noted as an important way to encourage English-language development. Parent involvement can be encouraged by making school a welcoming place for all parents. This can be accomplished by posting bilingual signs where possible, sending home bilingual notices and letters, and setting up situations where parents feel comfortable volunteering in the schools. Certainly, parents can help on field trips, and they can be invited to share their expertise in the classrooms.

    The gap between home and school can be bridged, in part, through appropriate homework assignments. Be aware that many students have no one at home who can help them with homework assignments in English. It might be useful to provide writing or reading assignments that can be done in either language. Include explanations to parents regarding the nature of homework in the family's primary language. English-language learners with learning difficulties can also read a book they know well in English to their parents, even if the parents have limited English-language capabilities. This creates an opportunity for children to teach their parents English and to show their parents what they have learned.

  • Excerpted from Teaching English-Language Learners with Learning Difficulties

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