Teacher Resources for ESL students: How to Help Them Succeed in the Classroom

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The Basics:

The Two Main Rules of Working with People for Whom English is a New Language
  • 1. Do not Assume Anything
  • 2. Ask questions

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Teaching Adults

Practical Advice:
  • Always remember that without English, people show you only the tip of the iceberg. Most of their personalities, intelligence, problem-solving abilities, and sense of humor are hidden
  • Teacher's not only teach a language but act as cultural broker's to students
  • Teaching should seek to provide a safe and comfortable environment for students
  • Use short sentences and speak slowly
  • Pause frequently to make sure that you are being understood
  • Many times students will pretend to understand even when they don't
  • Humor is appreciated and reduces feeling of tension
  • Remember that different cultures have different ideas about the way to express emotions
  • Silence means different things in different cultures. For example, in many cultures, silence is a sign of respect and it would be considered impolite to interrupt or to speak immediately after a person finishes

Difficulties many refugees face when they come to the United States are vast and varied. Some may include difficulty making phone calls, communicating in English when their native tongue is different, medical needs that need care, to name a few. In The Other Side of the Sky Farah, the author writes “Every aspect of everyday life challenged us”. This is a good summary of the level of difficulty they face daily.

As teachers it is first essential to understand refugees’ experiences in order to tailor your teaching to help them succeed in the American school system. Many ESL students work longer hours than other students. Some have jobs, but even those who do not work for money have to spend a lot of their time studying and doing homework in order to keep up in their classes. Many would like to participate in clubs and after-school activities with American kids and be involved socially but many simply do not have time when the demands of essential survival are much more of a necessity than leisure time. Often American kids will hold themselves apart from refugee students simply because they are different or because they have already established their own group of friends and it is difficult for ESL students to break into social groups when they don’t know English very well.

Having this general understanding can help you in the classroom and offer ideas of how to invite ESL students in and encourage them in their language learning. They may be shy at first, perhaps because their English is not very good but in time, if they feel comfortable will open up to you as an educator. Teachers can also act as cultural brokers and help ESL students learn not only the aspects of language learning but also of American culture and some tips on how to go about daily life.


The Following Books/ Websites/ Articles Provide Substantial Information on Teaching ESL students & include information
regarding Teaching Across Various Contexts and theories of how to best learn another language

Book Review

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Online Resources:Teaching ESL in the Classroom
ESL Teaching

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