All students have a range of emotions when they start a new school year. Often they are excited to meet their teacher and see old friends. They can also be nervous about having a new teacher, learning new classroom procedures, and having to get to know new classmates. This is especially true for English Language Learners. These students can also have the added stress of not entirely understanding the instructions from their teacher. Many ESOL teachers have to spend time on beginning of the year assessments and may not be available to provide as much support during the first few weeks. You can share Easy Back to School Activities for ELLs with classroom teachers if you are not able to see students right away.
Create a welcoming classroom environment
When students feel safe and comfortable in their learning environment they will speak more, take more risks, and be happier overall. It helps to lower the student’s affective filter, which makes it easier for them to learn a new language.
As you are welcoming a new group of students, show them that both kids that look like them and those from places that are different are valued. You can do this by having a diverse classroom library and choosing diverse books as a classroom read-aloud.
Learn about student interests
Students are more motivated when they are reading and writing about topics that they find interesting. The beginning of the school year is a great time to give out student interest surveys. Students can fill out this FREE student interest graphic organizer or use the FREE digital student interest survey.
Collaborate with Colleagues
Consistency across classes is highly beneficial to ELLs. Start out the year by setting up common vocabulary walls, sentence frames, and other scaffolds that benefit all students, but especially ELLs. Using these scaffolds with all students will help ELLs be more likely to take part themselves. This is especially true of intermediate and advanced ELLs that still require support but may become resistant to support that makes them feel different from their peers. For more ideas, read about co-teaching to support ELLs.
Label the Room
Primary students will benefit from having labels around the classroom to help them when they are writing. Upper-grade teachers may want to label their classroom if they have newcomer or lower-level ELLs. One way to make labels helpful to older students is to add in synonyms, antonyms, or content area vocabulary.
Labels for a classroom library help students independently choose books that they are interested in. I have a set available in my TPT store.