Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through his own teaching background, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for iCEV, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students by listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.
Thankfully, there are ways that you can accommodate ELL students in your classroom and help them succeed without being overwhelmed by extra work.
In this article, you’ll find a framework for supporting English language learners in your classroom:
Start with a Goal
Inventory and Evaluate Your Resources
Evaluate Your Schedule
Find Your Support System
Adopt Classroom Strategies
After reading, you’ll be better equipped with strategies and resources to aid your ESL students in your CTE classes!
1. Start with a Goal
The first step to helping your ESL students is to have a goal in mind. For English Language Learners in your classes, there are several goals you’ll want to consider:
Consideration 1: What are the goals of your CTE program and your pathway? As educators in the CTE space, your goals are likely building up to an even bigger, more overarching objective. For you to be successful, you’ll want to think about this goal and the outcomes your students want to have. How will your students move from an introductory course to a successful career in their chosen field? Is there a certification that students need to earn to enter that field?
Consideration 2: What are the needs of your class period? Is there essential terminology and skills students need to know to be successful in your class? Do you have many ESL students in your classes, or just a few? Depending on your classroom situation, there may be ways to help partner students to help them better learn core classroom concepts.
Consideration 3: What are the needs of the individual student? Each English learner is on a different journey and will need varying levels of assistance in the classroom. This can be influenced by the amount of time the student has spent learning English or whether or not English is the primary language spoken at home. You can tailor instruction based on these individual needs.
Once you understand your goals and needs at the individual, class, and program levels, you’ll have a starting point for your framework to ensure every student succeeds.
2. Inventory and Evaluate Your Resources
The next step toward helping your ELL students is to evaluate and list your resources.
A resource is any person, curriculum, or learning tool you can use to assist your English learners in your course. Start by thinking about the resources that you can already access.
Resources from Your School or District
School resources are places or people you can turn to in your district for specific help and advice when working with ESL students.
These could be written materials or a computer program. They could also be a person like a Teacher of English as a Second Language (TESL) or a translator employed by your district.
Sometimes, students can get help with their work in their English language development (ELD) class. Their ESL teachers can provide individualized or group instruction to improve their comprehension of course material.
Students can also receive services from other specialists, like a learning facilitator or special education teacher, depending on their individual needs.
Many English language learners can access digital dictionaries and translating tools they can use in class.
Encouraging your students to use these resources when necessary can go a long way to helping them feel comfortable and confident in your classroom.
Resources from Your Curriculum Provider
Sometimes, your curriculum provider may include resources to help English language leaners.
For example, AES provides resources like lesson transcripts and closed captions within the curriculum learning modules that can help ESL students.
In addition, don’t forget about the external resources that you can use in your classroom, such as:
Even though mobile phones can sometimes be a distraction in class, they can be a powerful tool when used to translate in real-time. Spoken-word translating apps can help you quickly communicate with English learners when an ESL teacher or other resource isn’t readily available.
3. Evaluate Your Schedule and Plan for ELL Students
Once you’ve established what resources are available to you, take time to evaluate your schedule.
When working with English language learners, you shouldn’t fly by the seat of your pants. Your prep work before class should be a priority and will pay dividends when your students master the material.
Even though it may feel like extra work to plan for your ELL students’ needs and learning styles, this truly is meaningful work that you will see the result of in time.
One way to ensure that you take time to prepare is to find gaps in your existing schedule. Think through how much time you need to create handouts and vocab lists or find translated materials, and then find areas in your workday where this work will fit.
Whether or not you have a dedicated planning period, use some of your planning time to prepare your ESL resources. It can be helpful to group similar types of work together. For example, if you’re preparing worksheets for a class, take a few minutes to assemble the additional resources English language learners may need to complete their work.
If your students are on a rotating schedule, think about if there is a day in the cycle when you’ll have more time to complete planning work. Overall, managing your time is critical to avoid burning out.
4. Find Your Support System
Another way to support ELL students is to leverage a support network of people you can turn to for help.
Others in your school want to improve student outcomes and the overall learning experience. Often, these individuals can help ensure students have the tools and resources in place to succeed in their courses.
Within your district, some people you can turn to for help include a district translator, an administrator, a counselor, or a teacher of English as a Second Language (TESL).
ESL teachers can be beneficial because they have specialized training to assist English learners. Two ways they can help include:
Pushing in - The ESL instructor comes into your classroom to work directly with students, often once or more a week.
Pulling out - The ESL teacher takes students from your classroom for specialized instruction as individuals or in small groups. This can be instruction specifically in English language development or to help with classwork or homework for your class.
In addition, consider the assistance you may be able to receive from a state education agency, a curriculum provider, or an online community of teachers.
Collaborating with peers in your district and curriculum providers like AES can remove some of the burdens of helping students and give you time back in your day.
5. Implement Classroom Strategies for ELL Students
With your support system in place, it’s time to rely on your resources to support ELL students in the classroom.
Below, you’ll find several strategies you can use to assist English language learners. You may find that some of these strategies come naturally in the classroom, while others may require a bit more effort.
Leverage Curriculum Resources
When possible, use the curriculum resources you already have available to help your students. You can use transcripts from your curriculum provider to help students understand the material from digital resources, such as eLearning lessons.
Using a translating tool or a school-employed translator, you can create translated versions of lesson transcripts in a student’s preferred language.
Request Support from Your School
Using assistance from others in your school can significantly improve your ELL students’ performance in the classroom.
Bringing in an English as a Second Language teacher for assistance can lighten your load. If an ESL instructor isn’t available, you can also request a classroom aide to come to your classroom to work with students.
Accommodate Students in the Classroom
Don’t forget to use student accommodations to aid English learners.
Is there a way to allow ESL students extra time on assignments, quizzes, and tests? Sometimes certain accommodations are part of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and are required under law. But even when they aren’t legally required, these accommodations can be essential to ensure these students can complete their work.
Create a Vocab List
If you’ve taught for more than a year, you likely have an idea about which topics and phrases ELL students are most likely to struggle with.
To get ahead of the curve with your next group of students, take the time to create vocab lists specifically for your ELL students. If they know these words and phrases ahead of time, they will have a better chance of understanding the curriculum content as a whole.
Use the Buddy System
Students often work well when paired with others, so consider creating a “buddy system” in your classroom. Whether you pair students who speak the same language or group ELLs with native English speakers, the buddy system can help students feel more confident in navigating your course.
Differentiate Your Instruction
Group work also offers opportunities to differentiate instruction for your English language development students.
Consider grouping students based on their knowledge and experience with a topic or using Project-Based Learning (PBL) to foster learning. You can also introduce a flipped classroom model, where students study at home and then “teach” the lesson in class.
Supporting English language learners in your class can sometimes feel frustrating and overwhelming. You already have so many challenges in the classroom, let alone trying to help students who don’t speak English as their first language.
When you don’t have resources or a plan to support these students, they can fall behind, and you can feel burdened by trying to help them catch up.
But when you use the steps in this article to create a plan, you can be ready to assist ESL students and help them succeed.
However, tailoring your instruction for ELL students isn’t the only challenge you’ll face in the classroom. You also have to meet course standards and keep your students engaged.
Download your free guide to learn how to save time and solve your biggest challenges as a CTE teacher. You’ll discover ways to feel less overwhelmed and focus on helping your students succeed.