Teaching English to English language Learners (ELL) can be a very challenging task especially when dealing with a diversified society. However, teachers are often required to be willing to learn and develop new strategies that can help such students to succeed in the classroom. In addition, it is important to implement these strategies in order to motivate students from non-English speaking countries learn the English language.
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This is a necessary move as students who are new to the English language can feel unsuccessful, frustrated and demoralized if there is no attempt to motivate them. According to Miller and Endo (2004), the major challenges faced by ELS students emanate from cultural and linguistic problems. This is contrary to a widely held assumption that English language teachers are the problem.
However, there is need for English teachers to determine the root cause of these problems and devise appropriate strategies to assist students. As an ESL teacher, I often look forward to ensuring that my students feel comfortable in the classroom and I am also required to learn new strategies to realize this goal. The paper explores the weaknesses and strengths often realized while exploring various challenges experienced while teaching a multicultural student population and how these challenges can be overcome based on my new learning.
As a Bengali, Hispanic, and Arabic teacher, it is not an easy task teaching the English language. Therefore, new strategies such as questioning the students have to be adopted. Based on the practicum plan information, Socratic questioning is a good strategy that can enhance the reading, pronunciation, and the understanding capabilities of ESL students.
In his research findings, Van Gorder (2003) has noted that questioning helps students to move forward, understand meaning and new vocabulary. Thereafter students are able to read fluently. In addition, questions assist students to understand new vocabularies, solve language problems and also assist them to move forward in learning the language (Van Gorder, 2003).
This is useful in promoting students’ understanding, thereby enabling them to make meaning out of different texts. In addition, Socratic questioning activates students’ prior knowledge achieved through demonstration of learning. Learning new vocabulary and writing paragraphs also enables ELL and ESL students to improve their proficiency in the English language.
However, this strategy is challenged by what Pellino (2007) refers to as ‘language load’. While an English teacher lists English words or asks students to write them down, on the other hand, an English leaner is faced with language load. Language load means the “number of unfamiliar words encountered as an English learner reads a text or listens to teacher or peer academic talk” (Pellino, 2007).
To counter this challenge, the teacher should break down sentences into comprehensible sections. In addition, he/she should explain the text material or write down sentences that of the same level as students’ level of understanding. Moreover, presentation of academic vocabulary can be carried out at the beginning of each lesson. Information from personal relationships can be used to develop activities and lessons that can assist students to improve their learning abilities.
Engaging ESL and ELL students in oral reading is important as it improves their reading abilities in addition to enabling them master words pronunciation. This shows that merely showing students how to use vocabularies learned is not adequate. Oral reading according to Harris, Turbill, Fitzsimmons and McKenzie (2003), improves the confidence levels of students, develops vocabulary, and pronunciation of words.
Reading is important as it not only improves the reading abilities of a student but also improves their prowess in English language. However, ESL students should not be exposed to limited reading materials. Instead, they have to be exposed to different reading materials. According to Harris, Turbill, Fitzsimmons and McKenzie (2006), by exposing children to different reading materials and texts, their prior knowledge is activated, thereby improving their ability to derive meaning.
Some of the reading materials and resources as suggested by Scott (2010) include magazines, books, use of tapes with stories and songs, poems, dual language textbooks, story props, tourist brochures, postcards, newspapers, and catalogues among others. To determine the reading and writing abilities of students, students should be encouraged to take English tests more often.
In addition, students should be encouraged to use their native language more often because according to Miller and Endo (2004), “students who continue to speak their native language have greater success in learning English” (p. 790). Based on my new learning, one major challenge often encountered by ESL students is language shock as they try to adjust to a new culture in their quest to learn the English language.
Assuming that students have been integrated into a community where every student speaks English fluently, language load and shock could prove to be a challenge. Therefore, I must be prepared to assist the students to adjust and avoid mockery by the other English speaking students. This particular challenge can be handled by motivating the students, evaluating the teaching approaches and strategies used so as to make the students more confident (Miller & Endo, 2004).
In addition, the efforts of the students should not be limited to the use of certain strategies and approaches. Moreover, students can be introduced to literacy centers which comprise of small groups that allow students improve their reading abilities. Various reading strategies such as shared-reading, guided-reading, small group shared-reading and modeled reading may be used (Harris et al., 2003).
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These strategies enable the teacher to model and guide children, thereby making them English independent readers. Words or English sentence structures that meets the ESL students learning abilities could be adopted to assist students improve their learning, reading, and pronunciation abilities rather than curtailing their success in the English language classroom (Miller & Endo, 2004).
According to Vaughn (2010), a major challenge faced by teachers teaching multicultural students is determining the students’ skills and knowledge in first language as well as understanding the level of performance in the student’s second language. This can be addressed through assessments, vocabulary and language tests (New Teacher Center, 2005).
In addition, authentic and metacognition maybe applied. In other words, students should not be left to memorize information but be encouraged to understand meaning and be tested to determine their learning abilities and capabilities. Moreover, building personal relationships with the parents can assist in gaining a positive experience and gain trust and improve students’ confidence.
One of the main resources that can be used to further my professional development is welcoming student’s parents into the classroom (Miller & Endo, 2004). This would create a closer relationship that is ideal for improving the students learning abilities. Another resource is investing in reading with a view to exploring the currently available ESL and ELL teaching approaches and strategies.
In addition, going back to school could be an appropriate resource as it increases the skills and the knowledge on how to appropriately and effectively instruct ELLs (Vaughn, 2010). In addition, learning the native language of my students would be important as it enhances better communication skills between me and the students (Goldenberg, 2008).
By enhancing academic achievement, it becomes easier for English teachers to create an English language-rich classroom. Moreover, by recognizing the sameness and diversity of the students, teachers are better able to integrate the existing curriculum with multicultural literature to boost the students’ language learning capabilities.
Proper pronunciation of students’ names and gathering background information such as the parents level of education, the language they speak back at home, the time they come to the U.S, and whether their parents speak English, would be important.
To sum it up, teachers are faced with numerous challenges when teaching a multicultural student population. Some of these challenges include language shock, determining the performance of second language, understanding the level of second language, and determining the best teaching approaches for each student.
Some of the methods useful with ESLs students include Socratic questioning, demonstration on language, oral reading, writing essays, learning new English words, and shared learning. The aforementioned challenges can be reduced by understanding each students background, creating personal relationships, and metacognition and authentic assessments.
Oral reading improves students’ confidence levels, develops vocabulary, and pronunciation abilities. ESL children should have special attention from the teachers to aid boost their learning reading abilities which can be achieved through the use of literacy centers.
Goldenberg, C. (2008). Teaching English language learners: What the research does—and does not—say. American Educator, 8-43.
Harris, P., Turbill, J., Fitzsimmons, P., & McKenzie, B. (2006). Reading in the primary year (2 nd ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Cengage Learning.
Harris, P., Turbill, J., Fitzsimmons, P., & McKenzie, B. (2003). Writing in the primary years. Melbourne, Australia: Social Science Press.
Miller, C M., & Endo, H. (2004). Understanding and meeting the needs of ESL students. PHI Delta Kappan, 786-791.
New Teacher Center. (2005). Six key strategies for teachers of English-Language learners. Web.
Pellino, K. (2007). Effective strategies for teaching English Language learners. Web.
Scot, C. (2010). The challenges of teaching ESL students in international schools. Web.
Van Gorder, B. L. (2003). When less is more: Questioning the text as a strategy for reading success. Voices from the Middle, 11(1), 35-37.
Vaughn, S. (2010). Response to intervention in reading for English language learners. Texas: University of Texas and Alba Ortiz.