Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
My class consists of 19 students, of which only 1 speaks English only in his household, and even he began his life in a bilingual environment. The other 18 speak at least one, if not two other languages in their homes. Most of my students speak Arabic, but many also speak French. I have 3 who speak French and not Arabic, 1 who speaks Spanish, and 1 who speaks a Philippine dialect. All of my students speak SOME English, but to varying degrees. My job is to teach them English, while also teaching them everything we normally teach in school (reading, writing, math, science, social studies etc.) Fortunately, I am certified to teach ESL and have some experience with English Language Learners. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. So, from now on, I will now be doing a Teaching Tip Tuesday geared especially towards teaching English Language Learners. Here’s this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:
ELL Teaching Tip #6: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Do you ever feel like a broken record? I know that I often feel that I am saying the same thing at least a hundred times a day. I give the same direction, over and over, trying to use the same words each time. If I change my wording, I’ll know about, because at least one of my students will look at me like I have 5 heads. While this is annoying to me, I find that the direct repetition helps my English Language Learns understand directions clearly. It is especially important when you are saying something that can be said in multiple ways. Imagine yourself not knowing any English, and you master the phrase “I need to go to the bathroom.” Then someone looks at you and asks you if you need to “use the restroom.” For most English Language Learners, if there is no context (ie. standing outside the known bathroom pointing) they will not make the connection between “go to the bathroom” and “use the restroom”.
While this is a simple, silly, example (though a valid real life one), think about the number of times you give directions in different ways. While there is a valid time for teaching students new ways to say something familiar, this is an instance where you need to make a conscience decision as a teacher, as to when you are teaching vocabulary and when you are trying to get something accomplished. Once I know that all (or at least a good majority) of my students are familiar with one direction, I will then throw in a new way to say something – often with direct instruction for the first few times. For example, my kids can now all count very well, so they are ready to work on the words first, second, third. However, in the beginning of the year, when I tried to introduce this to them (through our math unit) it went right over the majority of their heads.
Also, don’t expect all of your students to catch the same words at the same time. Students will learn words that are most important to them first. If they are a student who rarely uses the restroom at school, it may be six months before they realize that you are using two different words for bathroom. However, if that student constantly has a runny nose, they might learn that both kleenex and tissue mean the same thing. Students who know more English will pick up these words faster, as they already have a stronger base. (See Tip #24 for more information on how language learning cycles.)
Do you want more TESOL Teaching Tips – check back each Tuesday for more. Also, check out my previous tips: