Can you Translate?
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 #20: Use Peer Tutors
Here’s a true conversation from my class this week:
Ms. Raki: I love your writing, but can you tell me what this word is?
Student A: be de
Ms. Raki: Can you tell me what a be de is?
Student A: A be de
Ms. Raki: What would you use a be de for?
Student A: silence
Ms. Raki: It says here that your brothers were using a be de, what were they doing with it.
Student A: They were making a be de.
Ms. Raki: Why were they making a be de?
Student A: They like to make be des.
Okay, by this point I was still clueless as to what a be de was. Rather than drive me and Student A any crazier, I called in Student B – who happens to be strong in both French and English.
Ms. Raki: What is a be de in English?
Ms. Raki: Like a comic book?
Student B: Yeah!
Student A: Yeah!
Ms. Raki: Okay, let’s erase be de and put in comic book because that is the word in English.
Problem solved – thankfully!
This is a classic example of how I use peer tutors with my English Language Learners. Now, I actually use peer tutors in lots of ways – I pair up high and low ability and high and low English level students to work on problem solving, to write stories, to read books together. I have a strong math student explain their thinking to a weaker math student in hopes that the “kid language” will make better sense to them. But, with English Language Learners, I often use peer tutors as assistant translators. I try very hard to not translate everything – but if you are trying to get a student to express themselves in their writing or you are trying to get them to understand a key part of instruction, having a peer tutor translate a word or a phrase can be a life saving mechanism! I know there is not always a peer tutor that speaks every language, and then I turn to graphics and google translate, but if possible using peer tutors is a simple, easy way to help your English Language Learners understand and be understood.
Do you enjoy the weekly TESOL Teaching Tips? Do you want to know more about teaching English Language Learners? I will be speaking on this topic at the Everything’s Intermediate Expo, and I’d love to have you “join” us. It is a virtual expo, which will help us connect no matter where we are! Click HERE for ticket information.
Find more TESOL Teaching Tips here, and come back every Tuesday for a new tip!