What kind of Vocabulary should I Use while Teaching English Language Learners?

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You need to avoid some usual manners of speaking while teaching English Language Learners.It is essential that you pay close attention to the way you speak while teaching English Language Learners (ELLs).

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Keep sentences short and to the point. Teachers like to talk and many of the words used may not be essential. Sentences like “If everyone could please just open their books to page 113, we’ll get started.” could be replaced with “Please open your books to page 113.”
  • Use two separate sentences, with a pause in between, rather than a longer sentence.
  • Avoid using the passive tense that uses extra words and is a more complicated structure. For example, saying “We changed the schedule today” is clearer than saying “The schedule has been changed for today.” The word ‘been’ is often confusing to ELLs.
  • It is helpful to repeat important things by using different words. If an ELL does not understand a sentence like “Please find a partner for the discussion activity,” then perhaps say “You will talk together with someone about the story.” The combination of these two sentences provides more context and increases the likelihood of being understood.
  • When considering a choice of words, be aware of vocabulary that has multiple meaning. An ELL might know what “plane” means when it refers to an airplane. However, in a geometry lesson, the word has a completely different meaning. This confusion can be worse than not knowing the word at all. When necessary, point out both meanings.
  • In many cases, a word with a Latin root will be more easily understood than its non-Latinate synonym. A Spanish-speaking student, for instance, will understand “examination” better than “test,” since the Spanish word for this type of assessment is “examin.” A teacher, however, does not need to become an expert in Latin. A good guideline is this: if you can think of a synonym, use both words. “Tomorrow we will have a test, an examination.”
  • Avoid using idioms (“jump the gun,” “hit the nail on the head,” and so on), since they don’t translate well from one language to another. Phrasal verbs (multi-word verbs like “show up” and “drop off”) are also difficult to translate. It is hard to avoid them, so explain them as needed.

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