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Helping ESL Students Overcome Barriers to Learning English

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As the United States has continued to grow more culturally diverse, classrooms throughout the country increasingly reflect that makeup. As a result, English language learners (ELLs) are more common than ever before. Teachers are learning that ELLs sometimes require different accommodations in order to help them learn most effectively.

Learning to speak English is a notoriously difficult task on its own. On top of that, ELLs are trying to conduct their daily learning exercises in a language they do not fully understand. These days, educators have a far better understanding of the challenges faced by ELLs, as well as ways to better accommodate their learning needs. Through an online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction – English as a Second Language from the University of Louisiana Monroe, graduates develop an understanding of the challenges faced by ELLs and ways to address them, as well as the influence cultural background has on learning experiences.

ELLs encounter various challenges in the traditional classroom setting that can prevent them from engaging with learning materials and put them at a disadvantage compared to their classmates.

Lack of Suitable Accommodations

Whether it’s a graded test or a book for casual reading, it can be frustrating or even exclusionary when ELLs lack the proper materials. Teachers should ensure they have appropriate translations or are prepared to assist ELL students. Stocking classrooms with books or learning materials that appeal to ELLs is also a good idea.

ULM’s Curriculum Design for Multicultural Environments course helps teachers create a curriculum that caters to students from all cultures by studying how cultural groups and individual cultural identities affect school achievement and engagement. Teachers will learn how to create intentional accommodations — learning materials, technology, and theory application — to create an equitable learning environment for ELL students.

Lack of Time

Issues with time can manifest in a variety of ways. On a most basic level, learning a second language requires students to devote continuous blocks of time. Teachers can facilitate this process by providing ELLs with consistent blocks of time to focus on developing their skills. Additionally, Edutopia notes that break time can be beneficial for some ELLs. Learning a lesson in a second language can sometimes leave them unable to focus for as long as their peers. Lastly, allowing ELL students enough time to finish their assignments is also essential. Successful completion is the main objective, not speed.

Unengaged by Traditional Learning Methods

In an op-ed for eLearning Inside, Max Korneev, the co-founder of an English learning app, writes that he had a difficult time engaging with traditional, rote lessons when he was learning English. What accelerated his understanding was engaging with English writing on a subject he was already deeply interested in — in this case, the PC game “StarCraft.” Korneev writes, “I used to read short articles about recent game developments or other news about it to practice my English.” Finding topics of interest to students and engaging them with those topics can enhance their learning.

Feelings of Embarrassment

Korneev also points to embarrassment as a natural challenge when learning a new language. This reaction can be particularly inhibiting in a group atmosphere. Teachers can help mitigate the embarrassment for ELL students by emphasizing the strengths and knowledge they bring to the table. When teachers embrace linguistic and cultural diversity in discussions, they enable ELL students to thrive in the classroom.

Learn more about the University of Louisiana Monroe’s Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction – English as a Second Language (ESL) online program.

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