You may be wondering, how do I support a student who needs help, especially a multicultural student who may not have background knowledge or vocabulary in English?
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. According to research, stress affects learning because of a technical yet psychological aspect associated with language learning called the “affective filter”.
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 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. Kagan’s cooperative learning structures could prove to be your number one essential tool for ELL success.