According to data provided by the Wyoming Department of Education there are currently 3,174 English Language Learners (ELL) in Wyoming schools. These students as well as the educators that support them face unique challenges in the classroom. Many teachers across the state are working with ELLs for the first time and are searching for strategies to support these students.
University of Wyoming College of Education Associate Professor, Jenna Shim, has become well known as a leading English as a Second Language (ESL) expert in the state of Wyoming through outreach. In addition to her teaching and research at UW, she works with educators in school districts across the state to strengthen the collaboration between ESL/ELL specialists and “main classroom” teachers.
One of Shim’s most impactful outreach project is the Annual Wyoming ESL Conference. Through this initiative she has been able to shift the ESL conversation from academic discussion to classroom practice. This has put innovative research into action in classrooms across the state and positively affected many ESL educators and ELLs.
Currently in its third year, the conference is a collaboration between UW College of Education and Teton County School District. The conference draws educators from schools and universities throughout Wyoming, many neighboring states, and as far away as the Czech Republic to learn about the latest ELL research.
The 3rd Annual Wyoming ESL Conference will be held in Jackson from April 20 – 21, 2018. The conference is provided FREE of charge, but registration is required. Learn more and register to attend by clicking the button below.
Shim shared the below list of methods that all educators who support ELLs should consider incorporating into their teaching strategies. These methods will help them provide a classroom environment where ELLs can flourish alongside their native English-speaking peers.
Five Strategies to Consider in Supporting ELLs in Your Classroom
- Provide multiple means of action, expression and engagement. Making written support available for orally-presented information as well as presenting written instruction for assignments or changes to the syllabus is often necessary. It is important to provide multiple ways for ELLs to demonstrate what they know since they may be more competent in English writing than speaking and vice versa.
- Be REALLY aware of your own use of language. Teachers must constantly reflect and think about what may be difficult for ELLs to understand such as idioms and slang. Be aware that what native speakers of English may see as apparently self-evident terminology may not be understood by ELLs.
- Talking slower and louder isn’t always helpful. Talking louder can offend ELLs and it isn’t at all helpful for their comprehension of English. Talking slower can be helpful when students are at an intermediate level but for ELLs at a very beginning level, talking slower isn’t helpful.
- Don’t make overt language corrections of grammar or pronunciation in front of others. Doing so can embarrass ELLs and shut them down completely. Instead, use techniques such as rephrasing and recasting of what the student has said into more comprehensible English.
- Allow WAIT TIME when asking questions. It takes time to process information. Watch for processing time to occur as lower proficiency speakers translate your words into their first language and then translate back out. Don’t just ask more questions after having asked one question.
Wyoming educators who are interested in adding an ESL Endorsement to their Wyoming Teaching License should learn more about the ESL Graduate Certificate program offered by UW College of Education. In the last three years, nearly 100 teachers who have completed the program have gained the knowledge and skills required to succesfully support English Language Learners in their classrooms.