Getting Back to School with English Language Learners

End of Summer Blues

Like many of you, I am gearing up for the start of another amazing school year. With this, a plethora of feelings arise; I like to call this my “end of summer blues”. My emotions range from excited to sad (summer vacation is always difficult to part ways with!) to excited (a fresh start is always a good feeling) and scared (unknown challenges lie ahead tend to play tricks with your mind) to fearlessness (I can overcome any new challenge!). Although my brain entertains all of these emotions these last few days of summer, the one thing I want to ensure is that I start off on the right foot with my special group of students.

Unlike teachers who teach a specialized subject to a specific grade, I have the pleasure of working with ELL (English language learners) students from all three middle school grades. I educate my students throughout their three years of middle school, which allows me to see the growth they make. It is always very gratifying, and it’s also very rewarding to see all they’ve learned over one school year.

This group of students has two goals: learn English and learn the curriculum. This isn’t an easy task, folks! Their proficiency in the language directly affects how much of the curriculum they learn, therefore LEARNING English is at the top of the priority list. If we want these students to learn the language as fast as possible, reading is fundamental. We must have them work on gaining vocabulary through reading proficiency.

“If you’re failing to plan, you’re planning to fail.”  -Benjamin Franklin

This is where starting off on the right foot comes to play. By establishing a strong groundwork during pre-planning and the first week of school, I can provide personalized literacy and cross-curricular, individualized instruction through myON! I create a fun myON ELL group that meets three to five days a week. We meet during homeroom, study hall, and sometimes during their lunch time.

The first week of school, students learn how to navigate their dashboard, begin and complete project, and being that they’re English language learners, how to use the program’s dictionary tool to look up English words unknown to them in their native language. (As we like to say in the ESOL world, “vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary!”) I give students the liberty to choose books that interest them when they’re not working on a specific project. Heads up, sixth grade boys are especially attracted to the scary and gross book selections… whatever gets them reading!

I will then adjust the individual Lexile levels, create and look for already created projects that will work for each students’ particular needs, and see how some of these projects will work in other classes—yes, talk to your other subject teachers throughout the school year to see what they’re learning, and assign students a project that correlates. The process will become second nature after the initial week and this will allow you to witness the gains students make. This makes my end of the summer blues last just before the school year begins instead of all year long!

Here’s to a fantastic school year full of amazing growth with all your students!

About author: 

This school year we will be featuring blogs from industry experts who will share thoughts, ideas, and expertise around cross curriculum instruction in the  classroom which will include varied perspectives from teachers, researchers, curriculum specialists and literacy experts.

We will kick off this school year with Steven Rivera-Padilla,  a Bilingual Education Paraprofessional with Hillsborough County Public Schools. He has spent years working with students from various countries and cultural backgrounds to ensure both English language skills and curriculum content is being learned.