What Strategies Work Best for Pre-Production ELLs?

  Wondering how to include your newcomer?

IMG_1905 Most importantly you want your student to feel comfortable so he or she does not shut down.   Yes, stress is proven to have a negative effect on language acquisition because it heightens    the  “affective filter”.  The lower the stress, the lower the affective filter.  Think of the affective  filter as a screen that filters input as it enters the brain.  This filter is ineffective when  our ELL  students are anxious or stressed.  It lowers or works when we make our students comfortable.

 So how do you make your student comfortable?

Start by finding out what your student “can do”.  “Can do descriptors” can be obtained from your  ELL specialist.  They will explain what your student is able to do in listening, speaking, reading and writing.  This data is obtained from the WIDA ACCESS test students are give in in January or February of the prior school year.  If your student is new to the district chances are they were given the test in their last school.  If not, your ELL specialist can provide you with results of an English language pre-screen assessment that will help you evaluate your student’s strengths.

Let’s think about this a little more.  Put yourself in the student’s shoes for just a minute.  Assume you are given a task that you have yet to learn or suppose you know it but you can not find the words to explain yourself in a comprehensible way.  How would you respond?   Responses could vary but chances are there will be stress.

Eliminate stress by giving your students alternate ways of accessing the content.

Not all assignments or tasks need be applied in a whole group or traditional teacher- directed method.  Do not be afraid to experiment with cooperative learning structures or assigning project- based assignments.   Don’t worry about rigor and relevance.  Allowing your class to participate in new teaching and learning structures can still be measured with high expectations.  What you will find is that as you begin to use these new strategies, your students will gradually take responsibility for their own learning leaving you time to observe their progress.  It is interesting that their learning grows as your effort lightens.

I must warn you though, you will need to spend time planning engaging lessons.  

Once you do, I promise, you will get a break for while your students are applying their learning, you are getting formative assessments off your to do list!

Why is a cooperative learning structure right for ELL students? 

Cooperative learning takes the spotlight off your ELL student and allows the student to observe others, share in decision making and take on a meaningful role that will heighten his or her motivation.  It offers all students the chance to participate equally. Similarly, kinesthetic response modes can be easily integrated into structures such as RoundTable, RallyTable, and others so students can demonstrate concepts through manipulatives or drawing structures could prove to be your number one essential tool for ELL success.

http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/oral-language-development-and-ells-5-challenges-and-solutions offers suggestions for mainstream teachers who are challenged by serving multiple levels of ELs in their classrooms.

These Kagan strategies have been helpful to me in the past with newcomers or students in the pre-production level of proficiency:

Kagan Structures:

  • Line-Ups
  •  Formations,
  • Mix-Freeze-Group,
  • Similarity Groups
  • Corners


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