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.