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How to Teach English as a Second Language to Children?

If you are a teacher, there might be children in your class who have recently arrived in the country and have limited English proficiency. Although language barriers can be a problem for grade-level learning, young children are naturally able to learn another language quickly alongside their academics. Sometimes, the biggest obstacles are those that educators cannot control such as having to adapt to life in a different country or home environment.

It takes a little patience, love and support, and young English language learners (ELLs) will demonstrate excellent academic performance. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at the techniques used for teaching english as a second language. We will also discuss the best tips for parents.

Strategies for General Education Teachers

It can be difficult to find the right way to support ELL students, regardless of what programs are available at your school. These ideas will help you offer them better support.

Utilize Technology

Apps have advanced significantly in recent years, particularly the ones aimed at students who require extra help and attention. Such software can be accessed by both parents and teachers through their school district, or individually. These apps range from grammar games to translator tools. You might want to try:

Use the Buddy System

Peer learning is a most powerful tool. Look for the students in your class who are natural leaders and at the same time great learners. Choose peers for your English language learners. A buddy system will allow them to feel at ease and get support during assignments and group activities. Language learners who are paired with a friend can learn greetings and colloquialisms, as well as improve their grammar through interactions.

Thematically-linked Vocabulary

For students learning English, vocabulary alone is not very helpful. Your lessons should connect vocabulary to the topic you are currently teaching. For instance, when reviewing spelling words or sight words make sure to connect them with a topic or context students are learning about.

Pre-teach and Reteach

Pre-teaching difficult words is very useful for both native speakers and language learners. Target words should be taught in advance so that students can understand their meaning and place them in context.

Make sure that you have a plan for reteaching and retesting. Stick to RTI processes of your school, as well as those of your district to ensure you follow the necessary regulations while reteaching targeted skills.

Use ESL Techniques During Whole Group Reading

It’s important for a teacher to use definite strategies when previewing words and reading aloud with the class. These ideas will help words and their meanings stick:


It’s a good idea to break down assignments and projects into smaller pieces and then offer the students the specific support and accommodation they need. Contact your campus ESL coordinator and ask for bilingual dictionaries and assistive devices. Make sure to review information before you present and reteach it.


ESL Instruction in Schools

Teaching ESL to children can be very different depending on your state, district or school. While the federal government has a list of recommended practices, the states have specific regulations and mandates regarding programs for ELLs. What is more, some districts may follow these procedures in their own way. Resource teachers and materials vary by campus. In addition, some private schools don’t include any ESL staff or services altogether.

However, you might find these models no matter where you are teaching:

Pull-Out and Push-In Services

ESL classes can be held in a separate classroom when a teacher who is certified to teach ELLs pulls a student out of a regular ELA class. This is called “pull-out”, where the student joins others who need similar support for a small group lesson that replaces a general education class.

Push-in services, on the other hand, use a nominated staff member who co-teaches a class with a general education teacher. This cooperative approach allows the regular instructor to work out lesson plans that are geared toward the whole class while the ESL instructor offers accommodations for students who need them.

Resource Rooms

Many students arrive in the country without knowing any English and of course they require a lot of support. They must not only learn the basics of a foreign language, but also face the danger of falling behind their peers in such important subjects as math and reading. Many schools have a resource class that completely replaces the traditional classroom. This class will allow students with similar language skills to collaborate with the ESL instructor for as many hours as they need.

Dual Language Programs

There is nothing better than teaching ESL to children alongside native speakers who want to learn ELLs’ mother tongue. For example, such dual language programs may be an excellent option for speakers of Spanish.

These programs promote bilingualism and are usually held in regular campuses in your community, but they can also be offered in charter or private schools. Half the day students are taught in Spanish, and half the day in English. Both Spanish and English speakers benefit from total immersion which facilitates the acquisition of a second language.

Teachers and Parents Working Together

It is important for educators to maintain open communication between schools and parents of ELLs, but when language barriers become a hindrance to collaboration, you might reach out to your colleagues who will help you with translation.

Parents, too. need to communicate openly with teachers and help their children in learning a second language, as well as their academics. Different countries often have different policies and curricula, and this may seem daunting at first; however, these tips will help both parents and teachers to contribute to students’ academic success.

Continue the development of the first language

At first sight, it might seem counterproductive to improve skills in an ELLs’ native language. However, it is essential that language learners go on improving their reading and writing skills in their native tongue. Teachers and parents should not expect English to substitute a student’s mother tongue and cultural background. Their goal should be bilingualism, when students’ culture is appreciated and celebrated.

Educational Television Shows and Apps

Parents can watch educational videos with their children or use apps and learn together. These are some of the most popular resources:

Encourage parents to read with their children

Parents might only speak their native language or might not be able to read. In this case, they might like the idea of using wordless picture books as a way to practice both their mother tongue and English, as well as have storytelling sessions with their families. In addition, parents are also recommended to read books in their own language with their children.

It can be overwhelming to teach ESL, in particular when you are a general education teacher and must adjust your teaching to suit many different personalities, abilities and challenges. Luckily, there are many tricks and techniques you can adopt to help your ELL students succeed.

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