Classroom Tips for Content Area Teachers: Focus Newcomers
1. Provide oral and written directions. Newcomers will need to translate directions in order to understand what the classroom teacher is asking him/her to do. This will cut down on the time needed to translate.
2. Provide summaries of chapters or texts and reduce the length of reading assignments. Newcomers will have to translate what they read in class.
3. Provide copies of teacher notes. If teachers provide newcomers a copy of their completed notes, the students will be able to concentrate on taking in and understanding the new information while it is being presented in class instead of copying notes.
4. Provide indicators of where information is found in the text. Since reading in English will be a much slower and more difficult process for newcomers, pages numbers and heading references will allow students to focus in on a specific section of a text and support the students in locating information so that they can successfully respond to questions.
5. Reduce the amount of problems or questions on homework. It will take newcomers much longer to complete homework assignments than their native speaking peers.
6. Reduce the number of answer choices on assessments. Since reading will also be a struggle for newcomers on assessments, consider reducing the amount the newcomer needs to read by eliminating answer choices for multiple choice and matching questions on tests and quizzes.
7. Provide a word bank. Productive language (writing & speaking) develops much later when learning a new language than receptive language (reading & listening).
8. Provide extended time for assignments. Both reading and writing take longer for students who are learning a new language. This will reduce anxiety and allow students to put forth their best effort.
9. Use visuals. Visuals help newcomers comprehend new information even if they are not able to understand every word their classroom teachers are saying.
10. Provide written examples of classroom assignments. Written examples that newcomers can go back and review after class has ended will support them in both understanding the directions of the assignment and understanding the quality of work their teachers are requiring.
11. Provide sentence starters. Beginning a sentence or structuring their thoughts in sentence format can be very difficult for language learners.
12. Slow your speech, increase pauses, and speak in phrases. Students who are new to learning a language will need more time to process oral information.
13. Rephrase questions, directions, and explanations in a simpler form with more general vocabulary. Pay attention to the vocabulary and the grammatical complexity you are using to communicate with students.
14.Allow students to demonstrate their comprehension in nonverbal ways (i.e. thumbs up/thumbs down, fist-to-five, ABCD response cards, drawings) Be creative about allowing newcomers to express their comprehension of a topic without having to speak or write a sentence.
15. Present assessments in the same phrasing as used in learning and reviews. A newcomer will have a very limited English vocabulary and may not be familiar with synonyms of words not explicitly taught or discussed in the classroom.
16. Adapt assignments to reflect the student’s language proficiency. Language learning is a continuum and develops over time. Assignments that are appropriate for native speakers may not be appropriate to newcomers who are just beginning to acquire English. Be especially mindful of the reading and writing tasks you are assigning to students who are just learning to read and write in English.