English Language Learners (ELLs) are a large and growing population in our country. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (2011), 11.2 million students in 2009 spoke a language other than English at home. Physical education is in a unique position to help ELLs as it has characteristics that are supportive of these students, conditions similar to those in which children acquire their first language (Clancy, M. & Hruska, B., 2005).
These include: Physical involvement with language
- The use of multiple mediums to present information
- Opportunities to demonstrate language comprehension through physical expression
- A low-stress environment for language performance
- Success can be independent of language performance
- A large amount of interactions with other students
While the strategies listed on this page are targeted towards English Language Learners, they are effective for all students. Good teaching strategies are good teaching strategies, regardless of the population they are intended for.
Although some schools prohibit students speaking languages other than English in class, a review of literature shows that supporting ELL students’ use of their native language actually helps them comprehend and use English (Moughamian et al, 2009; Protheroe, N., 2011). In fact, it develops greater brain density in areas related to language, memory, and attention (Protheroe, 2011). Keep this in mind with your students.
Providing students with skills and vocabulary to talk about their learning.
- Self assessments
- Teach note taking and studying techniques
- Vocabulary assignments
Building on previous knowledge and establishing a link between the students and the material.
- Think – pair – share
- Anticipatory charts
Helping students see the relationships between various concepts.
- Compare and contrast
- Jigsaw learning – peer teaching
Familiarizes unknown concepts through direct experience.
- Video clips
- Use of manipulatives
- Local opportunities
Speaking slowly and clearly, modeling the language you want students to use, and providing samples of student work.
Inviting students to extend their understandings of text and apply them in a new way.
- Students create drawings, posters, or videos
- Students create new games
- Know who your ELL students are and their proficiency in English. This can be obtained from the ESOL teacher or bilingual teacher, guidance counselor, social worker, or administration. You can also perform a “cloze” test to assess their written comprehension levels. Lastly, you can recognize ELL students by observing your class after you give instructions. ELLs will tend to wait for other students to move first and then copy what they are doing.
- Assess and utilize the background knowledge of your students.
- Use technology such as class websites, blogs, and videos (many students are not familiar with American sports or activities).
- As with all your students, set high expectations for ELLs.
- Learn to pronounce student names correctly to help develop rapport.
- Avoid testing in English exclusively for ELLs who may not be able to demonstrate their knowledge of something in English.
- Utilize classroom protocols and routines.
- Utilize music when possible.
- Use bilingual students as helpers.
- Have structured note-taking formats such as graphic organizers for lectures.
Generally speaking, accommodations that are helpful for ELL students are usually helpful for all students. With this in mind it is important to remember that many of the accommodations that can be made for ELL students can be applied when differentiating for student needs on a regular basis. Below are just a few examples of classroom accommodations for ELL students.
General Classroom Accommodations
- Use a variety of instruction and assessment strategies
- Use cooperative group learning- reciprocal teaching, learning circles
- Provide a model or demonstrations of required/expected written or oral responses
- Use visuals during instruction and accompany print material with visuals for clarification and explanation
- Allow partner work
- Explicitly instruct different types of learning strategies
- Follow predictable routines in order to create an environment of security and stability especially for students new to the language and culture
- Involve students’ culture and family in school events and projects
- Create a sense of belonging for EVERY student in the class
Specific Accommodations for ELL students
- Reduce length and allow more time for written assignments
- Allow students to substitute drawings, pictures, or diagrams, graphs, charts for a written assignment
- Accept all attempts at speech production without error correction
- Assign a personal buddy to help the student learn the layout and rules of school and classroom
- Seat new ELL’s toward the middle or front of the class
Are there any specific management strategies I should consider for ELL students?
Due to differences in language and culture, some ELL students might be misperceived as being disruptive or non-responsive in regards to managing the classroom. Dr. Robert Kizlik offers some tips that might be considered in regards to management and ELL students in the mainstream classroom.
- ELL students come from a variety of backgrounds, even in the same country (for example schooled, unschooled, Americanized, etc.) This can lead to different expectations or patterns of behavior.
- ELL students are not stupid and they can hear what is being said. They just don’t necessarily understand the language or culture yet.
- It is easy to misunderstand body language and certain behaviors (for example, eye contact, spitting, chalk eating, etc.)
- Don’t assume they understand something just because it seems simple to you. Simplify it, boil it down.
- Even when they have lost their accent, they often misunderstand common words and phrases.
- Correct repeated patterns or mistakes (not every single mistake) once students are comfortable in the classroom environment.