ESL Teaching: Tips From a Teacher to Personnel


From one of my students:

Our first tip of the week! We hope to have the Program Service Plans up and running as soon as possible so that teachers can view the accommodations for each ELL student they have in their classes. You will notice on the PSPs that most students will require assistive technology as an instruction accommodation (Mostly students with a WIDA score of 3.0 and below). This allows students to use translation devices, cell phones with a translation app, or an internet translator such as google translate. I know it is difficult to ensure that students are truly using their cell phones to translate, it is an on-going battle in our classes as well, but it is required that they are allowed to use this technology.

Also keep in mind that many students are not literate in their first language so at times a simple translation may not be effective. This is true of many of our African refugee students. In addition many other students may also not understand the translations of many academic vocabulary words because they were not taught the vocabulary in their native country for many different reasons (many native English speakers are learning some of these things for the first time as well). These reasons may include low literacy skills, interrupted schooling, or limited formal schooling. In addition please understand that upon the arrival of our African and Latino students many of them have not attended school in several years due to violence and intense poverty. Provide simple definitions with simplified/non-academic vocabulary and use pictures/visual aids when possible.

Some practical ideas for translating:
Allow them to use their phones but closely monitor and if they are abusing this technology then stop its use. (one class without being able to translate will motivate them to use it properly)
If you have an extra computer in your room or mini-laptops allow them use of these to translate.
During exams have a computer up that is visible to the whole class, using only google translate. (we do this regularly in class, students will be up and moving)
In room 616 we have 15 iPads with a translation app that active ELL students can use if they are not already in use in our classes.
There are multiple bilingual dictionaries in room 616 as well.
Create a vocabulary sheet for large assignments and exams that provide a simple dictionary of academic vocabulary that students will need to understand for the assignment or exam. Make sure that the definitions are simple and do not use academic language, provide pictures where necessary. (Katie Radun has an excellent example of this)
I hope this helps and please email me with any suggestions or questions.

Jessica Mitchell
ELL Social Studies Teacher
Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

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