The number of Spanish-speaking children in the country has increased because of immigration, which means teachers often have students in their classrooms that do not speak English. Although children often learn new languages more quickly than adults, teaching Spanish-speaking students can be a challenge if teachers cannot communicate with them in Spanish. They often have to give these students extra attention or work with them exclusively on learning English, sometimes teaching them traditional subjects along with the English language.
Teaching English as a Second Language
Teach students who only know Spanish how to communicate basic ideas in English, such as saying their name, address and age. Also work with them on basic questions and answers, such as "how are you" and "good" and "bad" so that they have the most basic understanding of the English language. Make sure that all of your students are able to say common phrases, such as "hello" and "my name is," before moving on to more difficult topics. Use hand gestures, pictures, puppet shows, TV shows, songs, plays and written words to show your students what basic words, questions and phrases mean.
Go on to teach your non-English-speaking students more difficult words and phrases that are relevant to their everyday lives, including those that they can use at school or at home. This can include words and phrases related to food, school supplies, furniture, sports, parts of houses and body parts. Label classroom objects, such as the door, pencil sharpener, map and blackboard, so that students are regularly exposed to certain words. Work on simple verb conjugations, such as conjugations of "to be" and "to do," to get your students to start communicating in sentences. Have students practice in groups and do work in workbooks to reinforce what they are learning. You could also play games with them, such as Bingo.
Continue to work with your students, progressively teaching them more difficult words, including adjectives, conjunctions, prepositions and nouns. Teach them by writing words on a whiteboard or chalkboard, saying the words and using nonverbal communication techniques such as gesturing. Try to move on to more difficult activities, such as reading and writing, as your students get better at communicating with you and each other.
Work on teaching your students material that relates to what they are learning in class, such as ideas related to math, history, social studies and science topics. Provide time for students to ask you questions and get clarification on information. Give some of your students, especially ones that have less of a grasp of the English language, extra attention, working with them in and out of class.
Get your students to think critically and communicate in English about contemporary topics, such as popular culture, politics or cultural traditions. Try to get some students to talk about cultural traditions in their home countries, if they are from other countries, by developing lesson plans centered around topics such as holidays, marriage traditions or foods, to communicate that their diverse backgrounds are accepted in your classroom.
- Teachnology; Effective Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners; Karen Pellino
- Association for Psychological Science; Teaching Non-Traditional Students; Mary J. Allen
- Questia; Teaching Non-English Speaking Students; Patricia D. Barber; 2003
- British Council: Teaching English
- Macomb Intermediate School District: Tips for Working with Non-English Speaking Students
- Interactive English Digest: Tips for English Education in the Home
- Refer your students to reliable websites that have words and phrases in English and Spanish. Try to find websites that have a person or computerized voice that says the words or phrases. Also tell students or their parents about flashcards or books that can help children to learn English.
- Try to work with all your Spanish-speaking students individually to get a sense of their English speaking, reading and writing abilities. Tailor their individual lessons to their educational levels.
- You likely will not be able to teach most of your students through just classroom instruction. Try to enlist the help of parents, interpreters, and other teachers, especially teachers dedicated to helping students with language barriers.
- Make sure that students know early on how to communicate "I don't understand" or "can you help me" when they do not understand something.
Laura Latzko is a freelance writer based in Phoenix, Ariz. She has reported for the "Columbia Missourian," "Columbia Daily Tribune," "Downtown Express" and "Washington Times." She holds a Master of Arts in journalism from the University of Missouri.