Friday, March 28, 2014

Quick and Easy Tips To Make Your ESOL Students Love You

I know that our job is to be effective, not popular.  However, as Rita Pierson so eloquently stated in her recent TED Talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion), the simple truth is that "kids don't learn from people they don't like."  When ESOL students enter your classroom they most likely have feelings of confusion, fear, and sometimes apathy based on prior experiences with school.  Here are a few strategies I've used in the classroom with success.  I will include additional strategies in future posts.

Learn the Language: I admit that my Spanish is terrible.  My Arabic is even worse.  However, the students and parents appreciate my efforts and it breaks down immediate barriers.  I started off by learning a few phrases from the Internet and my classroom community has been eager to help me expand my vocabulary over the years.  When students are initially reluctant to participate in class, they are often reassured by their peers "don't worry, your English can't be worse than Ms. Ninja's Spanish."

Learn the Food: One of the easiest ways to share culture is through food.  When I first became an ESOL ninja, my students were appalled that I had never tried a pupusa (it's a corn tortilla stuffed with items such as cheese, pork, chicken, or beef).  I challenged them to bring some in and it started a year-long food exchange throughout the class.  The only effort that it required on my part was a willingness to learn, allocating some class time to this activity, and bringing in challah and rugaluch on Jewish Day.

Be Open to Communication: Some would claim that I have an unhealthy obsession with my smartphone and made matters worse by linking it with my work e-mail.  However, the students and parents appreciate the effort that I make to clarify class assignments and expectations after school hours.  I have even handled some of the run of the mill middle school drama that can be easily solved, but impacts learning if not dealt with in a timely fashion.  I also use Edmodo (see previous post) and am currently experimenting with a text messaging app.


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