The English Language Learning teacher faces challenges that are unique to the profession. However, because of the need for inclusion, in many cases, most teachers see their ELL students at the same time as the “typical” students. This makes it harder to differentiate the lesson plan to accommodate all learning styles and special needs, but makes the practice no less important. However, the most successful teachers are able to utilize all of the tools made available by the school system and building administrator. In fact, the best teachers go outside of the classroom, and also scour other teacher’s materials to find things that will help in their classroom.
As a core content teacher, I find that there were many suitable teaching methods introduced in Module 7. For the ELL students in my class, I have found that the most worthwhile tool is collaboration, paired with the shared experiences and previous learning from the ELL students. Students always share a common bond, whether they realize it or not. One method which works for me is group discussion. Many times, I will talk about current events and find a common denominator. For example, a talk about the Korean singer Psy, and his “Gangnam Style” dance appeals to my students, regardless of race or religion or economic status. Events in the news also work, particularly an event such as the recent tropical storm Sandy. All students have friends or relatives who were affected and this works to bring the group closer together. Common technological devices, such as YouTube and Facebook also work as teaching tools for my students because they all you these forms of multimedia.
It is harder to find common ground when working with exceptional students, but in no means impossible. Although the teaching materials may be different, as the exceptional student needs special software (i.e. TTS) and certain equipment to utilize the tools, the minds of the students work in a like manner. Children of this age generally are exposed to the same things and it is always possible to find one focal point for the students, even if the means are different for some. I am familiar with and have used some of the Assisted technology (AT) devices. My goal as a teacher is to keep all of the students together and working as a unified group. In a perfect classroom, the special devices, supports and AT’s become invisible.
The main thought which I try to instill with my students is that although we may look different as learners, we all need support. It is just that our forms of support may look different. For example, we also use technological help. We all use educational software. My objective is to find as many tools as possible and use them with everyone in the class, in a fair and equitable manner. Exceptional students and ELL students just want to fit in with the whole group. Therefore, it is important not to ask ‘easy” questions of the ELL students because they have more to offer and do not want their peers to think of them as “dumb.” I need to find opportunities to allow exceptional students and ELL students to shine in the classroom, thus enhancing their standing with the peer group. The tools listed in the module are all vital and can work, but I find that there is no substitute for the personal connection.