How to Provide a Welcoming Environment to your Newcomer



Congratulations,  You have a multi- cultural student in your classroom!

Beginning school can be stressful to all students, especially a non-native speaker.  Here’s what you should know about creating a welcoming environment for your incoming English Language Learner (ELL) students.

Key points to creating a welcoming environment:

  • Assign a well- intentioned peer buddy that can provide assistance when needed. Provide plenty of picture books, or better yet, books in your student’s native language in your classroom library.
  • Learn to properly pronounce your newcomer’s name.
  • Prepare the class for your newcomer’s arrival, if possible (see me for ideas or invite me to address the class).
  • Physically show the new student how to manage the daily routines, including the lunch room and procedures.
  • Ascertain your newcomer’s language proficiency level.  This is obtained by your ELL specialist.  The levels range from No English Spoken to 6, similar to native-like proficiency.  Your ELL teacher will inform you of assessment results early in the year.  Then see the WIDA Can Do Descriptors Link to see what your new student is able to do.
  • Keep in mind that learning a language is a process.  It happens over a period of time (a beginner could take five to seven years to reach grade proficiency).
  • If your newcomer is in the “silent stage”, a beginner with no spoken English, alert any school personnel, cafeteria staff, bus drivers, and specialists of the fact.  A comfortable environment will enhance your newcomer’s transition.
  • When speaking to your new student it is not necessary to speak loudly- they can hear you, but they may not understand you.  It is important to speak at an appropriate pace, not too fast or too slow, and to enunciate clearly.
  • Use of gestures and body language when appropriate will help your new student better understand what you are saying.
  • Use pictures whenever possible, clip photos or use clip art then post pictures with key words and phrases on the wall.
  • Write key words for all lessons,  especially directions, on the white board.  You could  draw a picture!
  • Encourage parent participation and sharing of cultural holidays and celebrations.  Maybe your newcomer can teach the class some new words in their native language.
  • And remember to smile.  Your newcomer may not know what you are saying, but they can read your expressions.