Yesterday I walked into the Kellogg Newcomer classroom. Immediately I took in the lovely and soft hum of multiple languages simultaneously creating their own symphony. I heard Arabic, Somali, Spanish, and Chinese, each with a beautiful flavor of culture and diversity. As I smiled to myself I thought, "I wish more teachers and students could enjoy this harmony". The Newcomer teachers flowed beautifully and efficiently between teaching academics and supporting students' cultural and linguistic needs.
We have been on a journey this year as a district diving into the pool of culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and learning. We have had time to explore and implement strategies that help us to level the playing field and provide equal access for students.
In the world of EL, culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and learning are at the heart of what we do. We see the assets our English learners bring with them and strive to help them to grow academically and socially in a sometimes new and confusing world of American education.
How then can we tie together the work we are doing in our classrooms and put a slight twist on it to assist our English learners? Here are 10 simple, and yet powerful things we can all do in our classrooms to enhance our culturally responsive teaching and learning for our ELs. The infographic below is from Tan Huynh.
1. Pronounce ELs' names correctly.
I purposefully chose to put this as number 1 because I feel that this is the most simple thing any teacher can do, and yet can have significant negative effects if mispronounced. For many students, hearing their name mispronounced can make them feel alienated and as if their culture is not valued. There is a very funny, and yet poignant, clip from the Ellen DeGeneres show that makes this point quite clearly.
2. Refrain from substituting ELs first name with an English nickname.
Does anyone want to be called a name that is not what they have chosen to be called? Simply ask what they would like to be called and then practice saying it repeatedly until it is as easy as saying "Jon Snow" (for all of you Game of Thrones fans).
3. Invite ELs to use their home language.
Not only does it bring a beautiful new harmony to your classroom but students feel that their language and culture is valued. It is an opportunity for ELs who speak the same language to have time to connect with one another.
4. Read books with characters who share ELs' experiences.
Here is a great book list that provides books at different age levels. Also, check with your Media Specialist. He or she is a great resource for finding culturally responsive books.
5. Encourage ELs to share the connections between their lives and the topic.
ELs bring with them a plethora of experiences. Create a community where students feel comfortable sharing their experiences through the content you are teaching.
6. Expect ELs to engage in the same learning experience and learn the same content as non-ELs.
ELs can do the work. Our job is to provide them the scaffolds and supports to get them there.
7. Have ELs work with non-ELs.
We do not learn in isolation. Providing opportunities for ELs to work with non-ELs allows students to not only learn from each other academically but also culturally. ELs also have much more opportunities to develop academic language when they are with their native English speaking peers.
8. Explicitly teach students how to respectfully collaborate.
Strategies such as Campfire Discussions and Gallery Walks provide students opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other.
9. Use ELs' experiences to activate prior knowledge.
When building background knowledge or activating prior knowledge, provide many examples from different cultures. Do not assume that all students have the same experiences, but instead provide experiences and examples that many students can connect to.
10. Permit ELs to process content in their home languages in addition to using English resources.
Providing students the opportunity to clarify concepts in their first language provides comfortability in learning and also transfers this knowledge into learning English.
Let's keep diving into the pool and creating harmony for our English Learners through culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and learning.
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
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