How to Help a Child Who Does Not Speak English in the Classroom

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Many schools have non-English speaking students enrolled. In Frederick County, Maryland, as of 2009, the schools have students enrolled who come from 60 countries and who speak 55 different languages. Schools who have a high influx of immigrant students often have a "newcomer" program designed to help students who do not speak any English. Other schools, however, may offer English as a Second Language classes once or twice a day and expect the students to attend regular classes the remainder of the school day. This is a difficult circumstance for both the student, who is often very confused, and the teacher, who must try to meet the needs of all of her students.

  • Learn how to pronounce the student's name correctly, and greet her each day, thereby helping her to feel comfortable in your class. Use simple phrases on a consistent basis, such as: "I'm happy to see you today" and "Sit down and get out your pencil," as the repetition will help the child to learn basic English phrases.

  • Seat the child next to a peer who can assist her with classroom tasks. Pair the student with a child who speaks her native language, if possible. Even if no such person is available, the student will benefit from watching how her partner completes the assignment.

  • Use visual aids while teaching. A child who speaks no English can still understand the locations of countries on a map, objects that are broken into fractions and other concepts.

  • Give the non-English speaking student alternate assignments that she can successfully complete and that reinforce the information you are teaching. For example, if the rest of the class is working on a series of history questions that require referencing the book, the English language learner can copy the words that are in bold and look them up in a translation dictionary.

  • Seat the non-English speaking student at the front of the class, so that she can easily see visual presentations and hear what you are saying. This will also enable you to guide her when you notice that she is confused. For example, if you notice she does not understand an instruction, you can point to the correct page, demonstrate how to fold the paper or whatever the case may be. If she is working with her peers, you can ensure that the students are not off-task.

  • Encourage the non-English speaking student by letting her know that you approve of her efforts. Students who hail from countries with a culture of high academic standards can become very stressed when they feel that they are not meeting the teacher's expectations.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the student is completely unfamiliar with the English language, do not worry about copying, as it can be a helpful way for the student to learn how to write English words.
  • Ask the curriculum director at your school if academic materials are available in the student's native language. You can use these materials to provide alternate assignments.
  • Do not assume that the student has academic skills. Many immigrant students have not been educated in their home country, and they may not know how to hold a pencil, use a dictionary or understand academic vocabulary in their native language.

References

  • Photo Credit Jetta Productions/Lifesize/Getty Images
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