Responding to and Supporting the Needs of English Learner Students
This month, we showcase research and evidence-based practices for supporting and creating better outcomes for students who are English learners. Inform your efforts with these eight tips and accompanying resources.
1. Review the research. REL West conducts research and uses data to better understand the diversity of English learner students with the goal of informing — and reforming — policy and practice in ways that best support students’ needs. Access their extensive library of resources for schools, districts, and states.
2. Involve families. Current research confirms that children and families benefit when families are involved in a child’s early learning, both inside the classroom and at home. Get started with these two webinars.
- Webinar: Structuring Meaningful Home-School Partnerships with Families of Young English Learner Students
- Webinar: Building Capacity for School Success in Families of Young English Learner Students
3. Embrace instructional strategies that work, like scaffolding. Scaffolding helps many students, particularly English learners, develop both their writing skills and their understanding of how writing works. The Teaching and Learning Cycle (TLC) is a pedagogical framework for scaffolding academic writing through deep and critical thinking tasks, academic discussions, interactive reading, and language development. Find out how you can use the framework in your classroom.
4. Design high-quality, challenging, and supportive learning opportunities. When it comes to curriculum design, our experts at the Quality Teaching for English Learners (QTEL) initiative start with the premise that conceptual, analytic, and language practices develop simultaneously as students engage in disciplinary learning. Basically, instruction should amplify rather than simplify expectations, concepts, texts, and learning tasks. The QTEL team shows teachers how to do this in Amplifying the Curriculum.
5. Engage in meaningful classroom talk to support oral language development. Imagine a trusting classroom culture in which all students, including students who are English learners, feel that whatever their language skill level, their contributions to classroom discourse will be valued by their teachers and peers and never subject to ridicule, sanctions, or negative comparisons. Sounds great, doesn’t it? WestEd’s Aída Walqui and Margaret Heritage dig more deeply into this concept in American Educator.
6. Bridge cultural differences. We all have cultural values that accompany us everywhere we go — even into our classrooms. Find out how they operate in your classroom and commit to learning about the diverse cultures in your school and community. Read this classic brief for a framework for understanding cultural differences.
7. Learn from schools that are using noteworthy and effective strategies for supporting students who are immigrants, refugees, and asylees (“newcomers”) in K–12 classrooms. A recent brief highlights insights from five schools that are experiencing success in their support of newcomer students. Partnering with community resources is one of eight promising practices to consider.
8. Commit to a diverse teacher workforce. Our Saroja Warner says, “Giving students exposure to people who are different from themselves, and the ideas and challenges that such exposure brings, leads to improved cognitive skills, including critical thinking and problem solving.”
For more information about improving outcomes for English learner students:
- Visit our English Language Learners Area of Work page
- Sign up for the WestEd E-Bulletin
- Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
Posted on March 9, 2020