Improving Participation Among English Learners

  • Establish a Positive Classroom Environment

    • Learn each student’s name and how to properly pronounce it.
    • Make connections to the cultures present in your classroom.
    • Refrain from passing judgement or making assumptions about cultural beliefs and practices.
    • Take advantage of teachable moments when questions arise or inappropriate comments are made by other students.

    Set Appropriate Expectations

    • Refer to the Can-Do Descriptors to ensure you’re framing questions in a way that is appropriate for the EP of each student:
      • Questions from easiest to most difficult: yes/no, what, where, when, how, and why
    • Refer to the Speaking Rubric when developing rubrics.
Students raising their hands
  • Engage ALL learners in the Classroom

    • Allow and encourage the use of the student’s native language.
    • Incorporate ‘Think-Pair-Share’:
      • Pose appropriately structured question to students and allow for think-time
      • Share the answer with a partner
      • Share the answer with the group
    • Incorporate ‘Phone-a-Friend’:
      • If the ‘Student A’ won't respond to a question, have him call on another student and ask the question. Once the other student has replied, pose the question again to ‘Student A’.
    • Non-Verbal Alternatives:
      • Students may respond through writing, illustrating, or physically demonstrating if other methods are either inappropriate or ineffective. 

    Cultural Considerations

    • In Asian cultures, being talkative is not valued as much as being accurate.
    • Most newcomers will go through a silent period during which they are either unable or or unwilling to speak. This may last up to a year.
    • ELs rely heavily on nonverbal cues, so teachers should continually monitor their own gestures, vocal tone, and facial expressions.
    • Be aware that some common american gestures may be very offensive to students from other cultures.
    • Asian children may smile or giggle out of embarrassment, confusion, grief, or an overall feeling of being uncomfortable. Be careful not to misinterpret these non-verbals.
    • Asian cultures view direct eye contact with elders/authority as disrespectful. One should not force a student to do this.
    • Physical proximity norms vary from culture to culture.
    • Students previously educated in Asian countries will not be as comfortable with partner or group work. Explicit instruction and modeling will therefore be necessary.