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Creating a Welcoming Claroom nvironment

By:ColornColorado

Onadailybasis,ELLsareadjustingtonewwaysofsayinganddoingthings.Astheirteacher,youarean
importantbridgetothisunknowncultureandschoolsystem.Thereareanumberofthingsyoucandotohelp
makeELLs'transitionsassmoothaspossible.
ChancesarethatyourEnglishlanguagelearners(ELLs)comefromaculturewithtraditionsandfamilyvalues
thatdifferfrommainstreamAmericanculture.Theseyoungchildrennotonlyhavethechallengeoflearninga
newlanguage,butalsoofadjustingtoanunfamiliarculturalsettingandschoolsystem.Imaginewhatitwould
beliketostepintoaforeignclassroomwhereyoudidn'tunderstandthelanguage,rules,routines,orexpected
behavior.
Onadailybasis,ELLsareadjustingtonewwaysofsayinganddoingthings.Astheirteacher,youarean
importantbridgetothisunknowncultureandschoolsystem.Thereareanumberofthingsyoucandotohelp
makeELLs'transitionsassmoothaspossible.

Stages of cultural accommodation


InthesamewaythatELLsgothroughstagesofEnglishlanguagelearning,theymayalsopassthroughstagesof
culturalaccommodation.Thesestages,however,maybelessdefinedandmoredifficulttonotice.Beingaware
ofthesestagesmayhelpyoutobetterunderstand"unusual"actionsandreactionsthatmayjustbepartof
adjustingtoanewculture.
Euphoria:ELLsmayexperienceaninitialperiodofexcitementabouttheirnewsurroundings.
Cultureshock:ELLsmaythenexperienceanger,hostility,frustration,homesickness,orresentment
towardsthenewculture.
Acceptance:ELLsmaygraduallyaccepttheirdifferentsurroundings.

Assimilation/adaptation:ELLsmayembraceandadapttotheirsurroundingsandtheir"new"culture.

Classroom strategies: helping your ELLs adjust to new surroundings


AlthoughtherearenospecificteachingtechniquestomakeELLsfeelthattheybelonginanewculture,there
arewaysforyoutomakethemfeelwelcomeinyourclassroom:

Learn their names


TakethetimetolearnhowtopronounceyourELLs'namescorrectly.Askthemtosaytheirname.Listen
carefullyandrepeatituntilyouknowit.Ifastudent'snameisPedro,makesureyoudonotcallhim/peedro/or
Peter.Also,modelthecorrectpronunciationofELLs'namestotheclasssothatallstudentscansaythecorrect
pronunciation.

Offer one-on-one assistance when possible


SomeELLsmaynotanswervoluntarilyinclassoraskforyourhelpeveniftheyneedit.ELLsmaysmileand
nod,butthisdoesnotnecessarilymeanthattheyunderstand.Goovertotheirdesktoofferindividualcoaching
inafriendlyway.Forconvenience,itmaybehelpfultoseatELLsnearyourdesk.

Assign a peer partner


IdentifyaclassmatewhoreallywantstohelpyourELLasapeer.ThisstudentcanmakesurethattheELL
understandswhatheorsheissupposedtodo.ItwillbeevenmorehelpfulifthepeerpartnerknowstheELL's
firstlanguage.

Post a visual daily schedule


EvenifELLsdonotyetunderstandallofthewordsthatyouspeak,itispossibleforthemtounderstandthe
structureofeachday.WhetherthroughchalkboardartorimagesonVelcro,youcanpostthedailyscheduleeach
morning.Bywritingdowntimesandhavingpicturesnexttowordslikelunch,washhands,math,andfieldtrip,
ELLscanhaveageneralsenseoftheupcomingday.

Use an interpreter
Onsiteinterpreterscanbeveryhelpfulinsmoothingoutmisunderstandingsthatariseduetocommunication
problemsandculturaldifferences.Ifanonsiteinterpreter(apaidorvolunteerschoolstaffposition)isnot
available,trytofindanadultperhapsanotherparentwhoisfamiliarwiththeschoolor"knowsthesystem"
whoiswillingtoservethispurpose.Indifficultsituations,itwouldnotbeappropriateforanotherchildto
translate.
ELLscanmakeunintentional"mistakes"astheyaretryinghardtoadjusttoanewculturalsetting.Theyare
constantlytransferringwhattheyknowasacceptablebehaviorsfromtheirownculturetotheU.S.classroomand
school.BepatientasELLslearnEnglishandadjust.

Invite their culture into the classroom


EncourageELLstosharetheirlanguageandculturewithyouandyourclass.Showandtellisagood
opportunityforELLstobringinsomethingrepresentativeoftheirculture,iftheywish.Theycouldalsotella
popularstoryorfolktaleusingwords,pictures,gestures,andmovements.ELLscouldalsotrytoteachtheclass
somewordsfromtheirnativelanguage.

Use materials related to your ELLs' cultures


Childrenrespondwhentheyseebooks,topics,characters,andimagesthatarefamiliar.Trytoachieveagood
balanceofbooksandmaterialsthatincludedifferentcultures.Browsethesebilingualbooksfromoursistersite
ColornColorado.

Label classroom objects in both languages


LabelingclassroomobjectswillallowELLstobetterunderstandtheirimmediatesurroundings.Theselabelswill
alsoassistyouwhenexplainingorgivingdirections.Startwitheverydayitems,suchas"door/puerta,"
"book/libro,"and"chair/silla."

Include ELLs in a non-threatening manner


SomeELLsmaybeapprehensiveaboutspeakingoutinagroup.Theymightbeafraidtomakemistakesinfront
oftheirpeers.Theirsilencecouldalsobeasignofrespectforyouasanauthorityandnotasignoftheir
inabilityorrefusaltoparticipate.FindwaystoinvolveELLsinanonthreateningmanner,suchasthroughTotal
PhysicalResponseactivitiesandcooperativelearningprojects.

Involve ELLs in cooperative learning


SomeELLsareusedtoworkingcooperativelyonassignedtasks.Whatmaylooklikecheatingtoyouisactually
aculturallyacquiredlearningstyleanattempttomimic,see,ormodelwhathastobedone.Usethiscultural
traitasaplusinyourclassroom.AssignbuddiesorpeertutorssothatELLsareabletoparticipateinallclass
activities.Also,checkoutthesecooperativelearningstrategiesyoucanusewithELLs.

Help your ELLs follow established rules


Allstudentsneedtounderstandandfollowyourclassroomrulesfromtheverybeginning,andELLsareno
exception.Teachthemyourclassroommanagementrulesassoonaspossibletoavoidmisunderstandings,
disciplineproblems,andfeelingsoflowselfesteem.Hereareafewstrategiesthatyoucanuseinclass:
Usevisualslikepictures,symbols,andrewardsystemstocommunicateyourexpectationsinapositive
anddirectmanner.
PhysicallymodellanguagetoELLsinclassroomroutinesandinstructionalactivities.ELLswillneedto
seeyouortheirpeersmodelbehaviorwhenyouwantthemtositdown,walktothebulletinboard,work
withapartner,copyaword,etc.
Beconsistentandfairwithallstudents.OnceELLsclearlyunderstandwhatisexpected,holdthem
equallyaccountablefortheirbehavior.
References

References
Clickthe"References"linkabovetohidethesereferences.
Adaptedfrom:EasternStreamCenteronResourcesandTraining(ESCORT).(2003).Help!Theydon'tspeak
English.Starterkit.Oneonta,NY:StateUniversityCollege.

Andfrom:Tharp,R.,Estrada,P.,StollDalton,S.,&Yamauchi,L.(2000).Teachingtransformed.Achieving
excellence,fairness,inclusion,andharmony.Boulder,CO:WestviewPress.
ColornColorado(2009)

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