I decided I needed to be active in teaching our English-only students how to talk with someone who is acquiring English. Here are a few of the things that have worked:
For the first 10 minutes I brought to attention the nervousness that people have when talking to someone in another language. I gave them tools to use when communicating, taught them easy phrases and made them practice with each other.
The rest of the class time was used to play games. Look up ice breaker ideas or minute-to-win-it games online. Once kids are having fun, a lot of nervousness dissipates. I love to hear new English phrases that the international kids have picked up from their teammates.
2. International Journals
One of our English teachers worked with me on international journals. We had a pile of composition notebooks and, once a week, she would give her students a writing prompt. They would fill a page responding to the prompt and without including their name. Then the notebooks would go to my EFL class and my students would be given the same prompt. Again, no names were signed. That anonymity not only made the students more willing to expose their writing skills but it also made it a little mysterious and fun.
The English-only students could see the language acquisition level of the international students which helped them to adjust their conversational expectations and the English language learners were able to practice their language skills. Both groups really looked forward to the project.
3. International club
This was actually the idea of one of the international students. Once a month we take a field trip to a traditional restaurant of some nationality. The international students are required to invite a traditional student to come along. We decided to also invite another teacher or administrator. This gave the teacher an opportunity to see the international kids in a more relaxed environment and get to know their personalities a bit. Any time food is involved, kids are excited to participate. We’ve had Thai, Japanese, and Vietnamese…next is Mexican!
Just talking about the problem of cross-cultural communication seems to help kids relax. Once everyone knows that everyone else is nervous too, students let their guard down and give conversation another try.
I teach international students in a private school who are almost all living in host homes. You may be teaching American ELLs and have a slightly different situation, but the principles are probably the same.
I have found that many of my international students don’t tell anyone when they are not feeling well especially at the beginning of the year. First of all, they don’t know the school procedures. Who should they talk to? How sick is sick enough to go home? Secondly, these kids are just gettting to know their host families and don't want to be a bother or embarrasement.
This is one of the topics we discuss and practice in my class the first week of school. There is so much my students are learning that first week, however, that we have to review and practice throughout the year. I have included some free posters for you to download to help learn these terms. Posting them around the room or on your website will give the kids a resource when they forget.
1. Teach vocabulary that allows students to talk about being sick.
Use lots of pictures! We hop on the internet and start looking up pictures of sick people. Once we all understand the concept, we practice saying it in English (over and over.) Revisit the vocabulary throughout the year: play bingo, memory, charades, pictionary or anything that helps the kids review and remember these words and phrases. They’re going to need them!
2. Teach students what the school considers a reason to go to the office or to go home.
Most schools have the same stipulations: if you have thrown up or have a fever, STAY HOME! Those are the main two, but sometimes a kid just feels terrible. Let them know they have the ability to say if they feel too crummy to stay in class. That might mean they go to the clinic to rest or they go home.
3. Teach students how to contact their host families during the school day.
Some students have cell phones and can call or text their family, but usually students have to use a classroom or office phone. Practice English sentences that will help students communicate this need. (“Could I call my mom?”)
4. Teach students how to get to the office and what to do when they get there.
Actually practice going to the office as a class. Walk in there. Introduce the students to the office manager/secretary/guidance counselor/principal (whoever is in there running the show.) Explain what you’re doing so they can help orient the students (and have a chance to get to know each other a bit.) Ask if the students could see the school clinic. Is there somewhere kids can get tissues, sanitary pads, etc?
Prepare your students for the inevitable eventuality of illness. You know it’s going to happen, so get them ready!
I Feel Sick Free Poster 1i_feel_sick_poster_1.pdf
I Feel Sick Free Poster 2 i_feel_sick_poster_2.pdf
Not only am I teaching ESOL classes throughout the day, but I am also helping my international students manage their other course work, navigate teacher relationships, and acclimate to the social structure of an American high school. In order to help them I took a trip to the hardware store.
For $14 I bought a large sheet of marker board material and had them cut it into three sections. These I mounted on my classroom wall with indoor-outdoor mounting tape. I used a little blue painter's tape to divide up sections and...ta da! I have a visual organizer for my students that they refer to hourly throughout the day.
1. This Month
Board number 1 is our monthly calendar. An American school year has events that are definately foreign. For instance, in the month of December we have our exam schedule, special concerts for band and choir, not to mention Ugly Christmas Sweater day (that one took a lot of explaining.) By posting all the events, schedule changes, and fun activities the international kids at school know what to expect and how to plan. It also gives them the time to ask questions about things they may not culturally understand.
2. This Week
Board number 2 helps the kids keep track of homework, upcoming tests and projects that require planning. These kids have so many things to keep track of, it helps to have a big planner they can refer to on a regular basis. Often they will take a phone pic of the board to help them remember.
Board number 3 gives the students the game plan for today's class. If they know what my goals are for the lesson, they stay better focused and work with me to get the list done (the less we get done the more homework they have!)
The three boards in my room quickly become a life line to my international students. They know what to expect in regards to the student body, their classes, and their work load. It relieves a lot of anxiety when students have a chance to prepare.