Supporting English Language Learners in the Classroom
By: Julia Yaremchuk, M.S.
Children who are English language learners come from a variety of backgrounds.
They may need to learn English because they come from an impoverished home, an immigrant household or simply a rural area, where there is a dialect spoken. Those who are learning the English language for the very first time may be children from all socio-economic backgrounds but it is crucial that language is learned not only by the child but the family as well; therefore making sure that family involvement is included in learning the language in order to be more successful in its acquisition.
In order to support those learning the English language in the classroom…
the educator must allow children to learn by doing. For example, ample opportunity for children to play in the dramatic play areas and outside will allow for them to learn English from their peers. Play is a great way of learning and research has shown that this is the primary way that children learn in the early childhood setting.
Another way to support English language learners is to reinforce the learning with pictures and sounds. Flashcards that show the word, the picture and the phonetic sounds may allow children to see, hear and associate the new word within context of the actual word. Flashcards are a wonderful means of learning English, especially if they are colorful and are used as an accessory tool within the creative curriculum of the classroom.
Learning a second language must be fun and interactive. English can be taught in a way where children enjoy coming to class and will be motivated to understand because they like what is being presented to them. “Current research shows that 80 percent of learning problems are stress related” (Strokes & Whiteside, 1984). Thus this is a crucial piece of information in setting up a relaxed, yet challenging classroom environment.
To support English language learners teachers can provide ample opportunities for children to move, smell, feel and touch what they are learning about. Differentiating the curriculum and allowing hands-on experience may stimulate children to gain English at a faster pace with enjoyment and deeper understanding.
Overall using the world as the classroom is a great tool to support English language learners. Teachers who invite guest speakers and take children on field trips may bridge the gap between the home language and the English learned within the classroom.