Five Effective Strategies for Supporting English Language Learners in the Classroom

In my 3rd grade classroom, I use a variety of strategies to help English Learners learn English more quickly and retain new vocabulary. After learning French on my own time, I have discovered several strategies that have improved my French drastically.

1.) Using technology to enhance learning – Technology offers a different alternative to more traditional strategies such as direct instruction. When I learn French, I use apps such as Duolingo and Memrise to enhance my vocabulary. In the classroom, I give students the opportunity to use different apps to improve their language skills.

2.) Collaborate often with classmates in small groups. – By working in small groups, English Learners have the opportunity to improve their speaking skills because they have to work with their classmates to complete a specific task.

3.) Read books that are appropriate for their grade level. – When I study French, I read books and articles that reflect the level of my academic vocabulary. Similarly, when I have English Learners read books in English, I always make sure it is representative of their AR (Accelerated Reading) levels. If they read a book where the academic vocabulary is too advanced, then it discourages them from reading the book. Also, if the book is too easy, then they are not learning any new words.

4.) Always have visuals when teaching difficult concepts. – Whenever I am teaching a difficult math or reading concept, I have posters or pictures that represent the concept I am teaching. The posters allow students to make association between the words I am saying and the pictures I see. In case the vocabulary is too advanced, then the pictures act as a scaffold.

5.) Be respectful of the different cultures in the classroom. – Not all students learn in the same way whether or not they are ELLs. Students in general learn best through different teaching methodologies such as kinesthetic, visual, auditory, and tactile. I always ensure that my lessons incorporate at least two different learning styles so that students can learn in a way that is most effective for them.

Hope these strategies help your ELL students improve their English in the classroom! What strategies do you use when teaching ELL students? 

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“Professor Garfield: Fact or Opinion” App Review (iPad, 2nd-4th Grade)

Professor Garfield Fact or Opinion is a great educational app that is part story, part game, and part online safety lesson. The purpose of the app is to instruct the student about the difference between facts and opinions. The app begins with a comic where Garfield’s friend Nermal receives an “F” on his report about goats for using opinions instead of facts. Professor Garfield steps in to explain the differences between a fact and an opinion. Garfield also explains how to read with a questioning mind, and how a fact can be verified.

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After the comic is finished, then the app asks several questions where the child has to identify if a sentence is a fact or opinion. Depending on how many questions the student answers correctly, Nermal will get a letter grade. There is also another game where you identify the differences between a fact and opinion. Afterward, the app shows another comic that incorporates facts and opinions in the dialogue between Garfield and her friends. This way the student is able to see first-hand the difference between facts and opinions in case they still have difficulty understanding the concept.

Some criticisms about this app is that there is only one comic and the game uses the same questions. Also, only one student can use the app at one time instead of the small group so they would have to take turns using the app. It would be great if there were more comics or more questions in the game. Then again, the app is free! At the very least, the app helped my 3rd grade student who was having trouble with facts and opinions understand the concept better.