Accepting Classroom Environment for English Language Learners (ELLs)

The first step in working with students from diverse backgrounds is to create an environment of acceptance so that all students feel welcome, empowered, and ready to learn. Small things that educators do to reach out to students who are ELLs can make a big difference to them while they are learning a new language and often navigating a new culture as well.

A welcoming environment is just as necessary in a school with only a few ELLs as it is in a school with a large ELL population.

Note: The following idea comes from Judie Haynes and her website www.everythingesl.net.

Familiar Sights and Sounds

Displaying a world map is a good way to make a classroom more visually appealing and welcoming for ELL newcomers. If your ELLs can do so, perhaps have them show you and their peers their home countries on the map. You might also make flags with their names and affix them to the map.

Learning and speaking a few words in an ELL’s language will help her feel welcomed. It is also well worth the effort to have phrases in many languages posted throughout the classroom, including “Welcome,” “Good morning,” and “How are you?” (Even if an ELL is not literate in his first language, he can likely recognize its written form.) This site (http://www.elite.net/~runner/jennifers/) is one tool for translating common phrases into over 800 languages!

When putting up posters and other decorative items, make sure faces from many continents are represented. You might also ask parents to bring in any pictures, postcards, or other visuals from their home countries that they may wish to donate or lend. Consider these ideas for the school office, cafeteria, and other common areas too.

From Professional Learning Board’s online continuing education course for teachers: Teaching English Language Learners

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