March Tips For Tutors
This month’s tips are aimed at working with English Language Learners. I was able to access these articles through Scholastic.com, at their teacher page. Following the excerpts from the articles I have included some additional tips.
Excerpted from Easy Ways to Reach & Teach English Language Learners by Valerie Schiffer Danoff
- Use a minimum of pronouns. State the person, place, or thing you’re referring to repeatedly, if necessary. For example, to the question “Does Juan have his book?” you might answer, “No, I think Juan needs to borrow your book,” rather than “No, I think he needs to borrow yours.”)
- Use limited tenses when speaking to a beginner.
- Use fewer words, pause often, and check your rate of speaking for the newcomer and beginner; you may need to slow down and simplify your speech.
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- Use visuals that reinforce spoken or written words.
- Employ gestures for added emphasis
- Adjust your speech: Speak slowly; enunciate; use longer natural pauses; repeat words or phrases; include shorter sentences, fewer pronouns, and simpler syntax.
- Exaggerate intonations at times.
- Stress high-frequency vocabulary words.
- Use fewer idioms and clarify the meaning of words or phrases in context.
- Stress participatory learning.
- Maintain a low anxiety level and be enthusiastic.
What does this mean for your tutoring sessions?
When you are working with an English Language Learner, try to be as specific with your words as possible. Show more than tell, and think about the words you are using and words that you or the child may encounter while reading. Ask yourself some questions such as:
Is this word concrete or abstract? Concrete words are easy to show, but abstract words need to be explained, acted out, or connected to another word that the student already knows.
Does this word have multiple meanings? A word like “bright” can mean smart or shiny. If a word has multiple meanings, tell the student that the word can mean more than one thing, but that in this sentence it means _____. Don’t confuse them with all of the meanings in the middle of reading a sentence. You can tell the other meanings later if you feel it is important, but don’t overload the student with too many meanings at once.
Is this a figurative expression? Authors often use figurative language to make a story more interesting, but for an English Language Learner this can be very confusing. “Her head exploded with all of the new information”, gives us a good picture of how full her brain was, but imagine what confusion that could create for someone just learning the language. When you come upon figurative language, be ready to explain.
Try to put yourself in your student’s shoes. If you have ever learned a new language, think back to that time. It can be absolutely exhausting to constantly have to translate everything you hear and say. Be patient and remember that much repetition will be needed.
Many English only students may need these same techniques. Many students who only speak English do not have large vocabularies or exposure to many parts of the language. These methods and questions will help them as well.
Does this mean I have to water down the vocabulary I use with the students? Yes and no. Students need to hear new vocabulary in order to learn it, but be mindful of how much higher level vocabulary you are using.