With growing class sizes and a more diverse group of students, it may seem difficult to find time in the school day to meet the needs of English Learners. Many states now require teachers to provide thirty or more minutes of sheltered instruction each day to those who have been designated as English Language Learners (ELL). This is in addition to the day-to-day demands and needs of others in the classroom. As the demands on instructional time increase, it is vital to make the most of the limited time set aside for English Learners.
Utilize Classroom Support and Parent Volunteers
Many schools have access to support staff in the form of teacher’s aides or other school personnel. Often, these personnel are only in the classroom for a short time and may lack the qualifications of a classroom teacher. Similarly, many schools have little or no support staff, but have parents that want to volunteer in the classroom. It may be beneficial to take the time to train them in how to use district-adopted ELD curriculum, or set aside extra language practice corresponding to the current topics in your classroom. However, it may require less planning to have other adults in the room supervise the rest of the class during an independent work period, while you work with the English Learners. At the start of the school year, set clear expectations for both groups of students. Non-English learners should know that during this time, you and your group are not to be bothered, and that they should direct questions and concerns to the other adult(s) in the classroom.
Try Centers or Rotations
If your school or classroom has little or no support from other staff or volunteers, it is still possible to structure ELD within the school day. You will need to set up and provide a time each day for students to work independently or in small groups where they will not be directly supervised by you. Many teachers accomplish this by setting up “centers” or “rotations”. During this time, there needs to be a few activities or opportunities for practice/review that can be completed independently. This frees the teacher to work with the English Learners in the class. At the beginning of centers, it is important to set clear behavioral expectations and to model the activity or independent work they will be completing. The goal is for there to be no reason to talk to you once they get started. Rotations also allow for review and reinforcement for everyone, not just English Learners.
How to Incorporate Technology
There are wonderful Internet resources for those learning English. If you have access to computers and the Internet in your classroom, consider having English Learners work on spelling patterns or academic language and vocabulary (there are valuable internet resources and lessons listed below). Or, create an ongoing independent vocabulary project that incorporates technology. English Learners could make their own dictionary of terms from various content areas by using images from an Internet search and a classroom printer. This is also a great option if your parent volunteer or classroom support is not available at the last minute and the rest of the class requires your attention during your regular ELD time.
Make the Most of Transition Time
The minutes that teachers lose during transition time in a classroom start to add up. By setting clear expectations for everyone in the class, less time will be wasted and more time will be spent working directly with students, including English Learners. Many teachers have silent or independent reading time built into their daily classroom schedule. While English Learners certainly need opportunities for independent reading, this can be a great opportunity to meet with them to review, or reinforce, concepts from all content areas. Again, set clear expectations for everyone reading independently and for the group of English Learners.
Helpful Lesson Ideas for English Learners:
English Learners design a brochure, in both English and their native language, that introduces the classroom and classroom procedures to their parents at the start of the school year. This is a great way to get parents involved and connected to the classroom.
Ideas for four different centers, or stations, that can be updated weekly according to the new curriculum or content. Group English Learners together and work with them while other groups work independently.
English Learners create a picture dictionary to develop vocabulary, academic language, and spelling. They can add to it as new concepts are introduced in all content areas.