Friday, February 5, 2010

20 Tips on Communicating with English Language Learners

Teachers and students can communicate with new non-English speaking students from the very first day. Here are some suggestions to aid that communication:

1. Use drawings, dramatic gestures, actions, emotions, voice, mime, chalkboard sketches, photographs and visual materials to provide clues to meaning.
2. If necessary, repeat your actions using the same simple structures and actions.
3. Simplify your message as much as possible breaking them into smaller, manageable parts to give newcomers a chance at comprehending.
4. Make sure the student's attention is focused.
5. Don't insist, however,that students make eye contact with you when you are speaking to them. This is considered rude in many cultures.
6. Modify your speech. Talk at a slow-to-normal pace, in short sentences. Use a pleasant tone of voice.
7. Use simple sentence structure (subject-verb-object) and high-frequency words
8. Use names of people rather than pronouns.
9. Pause after phrases or short sentences, not after each word. You do not want to distort the rhythm of the language.
10. Avoid using the passive voice and complex sentences.
11. If you have something important to convey, speak one-on- one to the student rather than in front of the class. The anxiety of being in the spotlight interferes with comprehension.
12. Ask simple yes/no questions. Accept one-word answers or gestures.
13. Be an active listener. Give full attention to your newcomer and make every effort to understand his / her attempts to communicate. Smile.
14. Talk in a calm, quiet manner. Raising your voice does not help comprehension
15. Demonstrate your patience through your facial expressions and body language.
16. Give your English language learners extra time to respond.
17. Encourage new learners of English to act out or to draw pictures to get their meaning across. Don't jump in immediately to supply the words for the student.
18. Correct pronunciation and grammar by repeating the response accurately. Do not ask the student to repeat the correction. This can be very embarrassing. Resist the urge to over correct. This will inhibit newcomers so that they will be less willing to speak.
19. Allow students to use a bilingual dictionary or electronic translator for words that can not be acted out.
20. Check comprehension frequently. Don't ask "Do you understand?" This is not a reliable check since many students will nod "yes" when they don't really understand.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

These 20 tips are great. They work well with young children as well. Music also helps English Language Learners.

Martin Tuttle said...

Thank you! These are great suggestions. I don't know about other teachers, but I find that sometimes I make the mistake, when modifying my speech, that I sometimes speak in gramatically incorrect forms, essentially mimicking my students errors because I think that they will have a better chance of understanding my statement. This is something I am trying to correct. Maybe it is more
prevalent in monolingual classrooms, when you hear the same errors repeatedly.

Also I was wondering if you could share more about the ways that you check for comprehension. I am also guilty of extending the generic "Do you understand?" Thanks

Deborah said...

Great websites and tips. I'll forward this to my supervisor so she can include the link in her next newsletter to our teachers. Thanks Judie!

Deborah said...

I'll forward this to our supervisor so she can add the link in her next newsletter to our district teachers. Thanks Judie!
Best regards.