Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I better support my international students’ English language acquisition?
A: This depends on the level of skill in English. Schools need to accommodate ELL students through a variety of options. There are full-blown ELL programs and sheltered contact courses, “Bridge” classes, and integrated curricula for ELL students. Using Special Education to provide ELL services is not appropriate.
One problem is the mindset of international students whose culture of origin rejects help as a sign of weakness; another is the US expectation of participation in class which can be strongly discouraged in other cultures.
Learning those cultural norms will help teachers be more effective in their support for English learners. Helping international students understand these expectations should be an important part of orientation.
Faculty training in supporting ELL students in mainstreamed classes is important. Accommodations can and should be made, just like for learning differences. Peer tutoring, faculty tutoring, evening study halls, required courses that stress US culture and English communication are all ways in which to help speedy language acquisition.
- Organize a weekly English language table where American students can volunteer to help international students with their conversational English. The international students may be able to assist their American peers in their foreign language study as well.
- In contrast, establish a language exchange table so American students can learn the language of their international peers. There are many peer-to-peer conversations about the similarities and differences about life as a teenager.
- Put students in a position where they have to use English: an English-only roommate, lab partner, project partners – any activity where students work together and have to speak English (and make friends).
- Avoid letting students isolate themselves. Joining a club/sport/activity/arts class should be a mandatory element of their program.
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