Thursday, September 15, 2022

Teaching English Language Learners – What every ESL teacher should know!

 We have all had an English newcomer student for the first time at some point, and we have all wondered what to do with them. If that is you this year, this series is for you. 


Each post will provide its own tips to help you feel confident about teaching your newcomer students. Whether they are beginner or intermediate level, this is a great place for expert guidance. If you are not new to ESL newcomer teaching, feel free to follow along. You may learn some useful information! Read on to learn where to begin. 👀

You have an ESL newcomer… now what?

You just found out that an English newcomer – English language learner (ELL) will be placed in your class. Maybe you’ve taught other ELL students before, but this feels…different…scary. You have no idea where to start or what to do. 😟


If you're feeling this way, follow this series to find out what to do when they are new!

How do I start my first class with an ESL newcomer?

The best way to start is by making your new student feel welcomed and supported! This is probably a scary time for them, and it’s your job to put them at ease.


Maybe they are new to the country. Maybe they have been to school, but never a school where English was spoken. Or, maybe they have never been to school at all. You help set the tone for their school experience during the school year by showing them positivity, kindness, and support that transcends language barriers.

How do you make ESL students feel welcome?

Beginner ESL students may have an array of feelings as they become acclimated to their new environment. But don't worry, this is a normal part of the acculturation process. The emotions students may feel include:


    💧Euphoria: Students may be curious and excited about their new culture. 😁    

    💧Culture shock: Students may experience grief, anger, homesickness, and resentment. 😨


These reactions are normal as students adjust to their new lives in the United States. Help your newcomer students by creating a safe space that shows you are there for them as they process the many different changes in their lives. This will encourage them to relax, open up, and voice any concerns that come up throughout the year.  


It is important for your student to feel welcomed by you, but it’s even more important that they feel welcomed by the rest of the class. Fun group activities and ice breaker games are great for this! It opens up the opportunity for everyone to get to know each other while also sharing some laughs.

How can I get to know my ESL newcomers better?

Just as we should try to learn basic information about all our students, it is essential that we learn about our newcomer students and where they come from. Looking through your students’ cumulative folders is a great way to find some of this information:


    💧Where was the student born?

    💧What foreign language(s) do they speak?

    💧Did they go to school in their country?

    💧Can they read and write in their native language?

    💧Is this their first United States school?

    💧How do you pronounce their name?


Getting the personal information of your newcomer students will help you as an ESL teacher because you will become more aware of your students’ cultures and backgrounds. 


When you acknowledge students’ backgrounds, they will feel more connected to you and it will show them that you care. Not only that, it allows you to build a better course structure, a more detailed lesson plan, and relevant instructional strategies that will heighten the academic skills of your English students.


How do you differentiate ESL students?

Now that you know all the basic information about your student, you need to know how much English they know. Some students may know and understand a few English words and simple sentences, while others may be absolute beginners and have just started on their English language learning journey. 

Talk with your school’s English Language (ELL, ESL, ELD, etc.) teacher

Your English Language teacher should already have or be working to acquire English placement test scores. Depending on your state, the entrance tests students take may be different. Your school’s ELL teacher will know what program your state follows.


You can use these test scores to know which language domains beginner students need the most support with. The four language domains are listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Some ESL beginners may equally need support in all four areas, and that’s okay! Knowing how your students scored gives you an idea of what different students have already mastered and what is a good starting point in their ESL lessons.


Once you have completed the steps above, stay tuned for my next blog post in the series, which focuses on Language Support for ELL Newcomers.




Happy Teaching! 💜


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