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 Learners (ELs) and Multilingual Learners (MLs). ELs can also have the added stress of not entirely understanding the instructions from their teacher.
Many English Language Development (ELD) teachers have to spend time on beginning of the year assessments and may not be available to provide much direct support during the first few weeks. You can share Supporting MLs in the Mainstream Classroom with classroom teachers if you are not able to see students right away. Here are some tips for starting the school year with MLs.
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. Take advantage of the (hopefully) slower pace of academic demands and have students share about themselves and take part in team-building activities with their classmates. Read about some fun back to school activities for ELLs to use at the beginning of the year.
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, especially diverse back to school books as a classroom read-aloud.
For the beginning of the year emphasize the importance of pronouncing names correctly. Student name books also make great back to school read alouds.
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 graphic organizers about themself or use the FREE digital student interest survey.
Would you rather questions are another way to learn about student preferences. Pair up students with a partner and have them share what they would rather do and tell why. You can add in structured listening and speaking activities by having students share what their partner’s preference is to the class or in a small group.
I would rather ________ because ________.
My partner would rather ________ because _________.
We both have the same/different opinions.
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.