Given that nearly one in four school children in the United States speaks a language other than English at home, significant numbers of educators across the country teach multilingual, diverse student populations in their classrooms.
On the one hand, the challenge is simultaneously teaching academic content and skills while helping English language learners (ELLs) acquire English and, in many cases, navigate a brand-new culture. On the other hand, the challenge is to establish high-quality second language learning programs for children whose first language is English, especially in the early grades.
Meeting the language needs of both categories of students is important in a globally competitive world. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate and encourage the assets that multilingual speakers can bring to the classroom.
Bolstering Language Learning
Share My Lesson offers educators a number of resources to support not only students who are learning English, but also native English speakers who are learning an additional language. What might happen if we focus on the incredible benefits gained from learning multiple languages for all students instead of separating “English Language Learning” from “Foreign Languages” such as Spanish, German, or Chinese?
If we open ourselves up to this notion, we could share and adapt more resources, saving us time in lesson planning. More importantly, we could even change the more traditional deficit-focused treatment of ELLs to a more asset-focused model of celebrating the benefits of speaking multiple languages.
Often, resources for teaching language acquisition can be adapted for other languages. Visit Share My Lesson’s profile of the “Foreign Languages Team” for resources for teaching French, Spanish, German, and more, and adapt them for the target language you are teaching.
Check out the blog “8 Common Misconceptions of Language Learning” for positive ways to foster more rapid growth of language acquisition for all students. Two additional Share My Lesson resources—“What Learning a Language Says about Me” and “Language and Learning with Yo Azama”—highlight the benefits of speaking multiple languages and can be shared directly with students, teachers, and parents.
Creating a Positive School Culture
Without a school culture of kindness and respect for differences, students who are learning English can become easy targets of bullying or teasing. Visit Share My Lesson’s free resources and webinars on bullying prevention, mental health, and healthy school climate in the “Social Emotional Learning and Health” collection.
Can your students imagine what it must be like to leave their home and enter a new land where the language and culture are vastly different from what they’ve always known? How much do your students know about immigration to the United States? Do they have questions about immigration laws and policies? Check out the “Immigration Resources” collection for tools and lesson plans to discuss this urgent topic directly with students.
What are your favorite tools for teaching English language learners or for teaching foreign languages to native English speakers? Upload them to Share My Lesson so that we can harness our collective power in supporting English and foreign language acquisition for all students. Visit the “Best of English Language Learners” collection for toolkits, strategies, and detailed lesson plans.
One of Share My Lesson’s premiere partners is Colorín Colorado, co-produced by the AFT and PBS station WETA, which offers thousands of resources for educators and families of ELLs. Be sure to check out the reading tip sheets for parents, available in 13 languages, as well as the classroom videos highlighting effective instruction of ELLs, ranging from pre-K to high school.
And when new issues arise, such as asylum-seeking families being separated at the U.S. southern border, our partners are quick to provide resources to help students discuss and make sense of these events. See our new “#FamiliesBelongTogether” collection, with teaching guides from PBS NewsHour Extra and other partners, for ways to address this humanitarian crisis.
–THE SHARE MY LESSON TEAM