Welcome Back!!!

Welcome back!!! Here a few ideas to help English language learners that may be new to your class, school and community:

  • Give students time to adjust and acclimatize to not only a new language but the routines that may be very different from previous school experiences
  • It is okay (and normal) for a student to have a “silent period” as they get used to their new classroom and school.  They will be learning expectations and routines along with the class.
  • If possible take students on a tour of the school a few times teaching words for specific places and people in the school (bathroom, mudroom/boot room, office, principal…)
  • Create a book about the school with pre-made sentences: for example  “This is my __________”
  • Create (or find) an “All About Me” that includes information on family, languages, and interests
  • Connect new students with willing peers for partners for seat work, recess/breaks, lunch

Have a great start up!!! Looking forward to working with everyone in throughout the 2018-2019 school year.


ELL Communication Skills

One strategy that can be used in every content area and every level is group work (2s, 3s, or more) to build communication skills.  Building opportunities into the day for students to discuss and use specific language skills in order to build:

  • Speaking fluency
  • Listening skills
  • Asking & answering questions
  • Negotiating for a purpose
  • Academic language understanding in context

Math is one area that group work fits into easily.  In groups, students work together to understand and solve problems encouraging not only the use of academic language but community building within the classroom.  There are many different resources out there that can be used to build into Math Work Stations/Labs.

Two resources I have used that can be worked easily into Math Work Stations/Labs are:



Wanted to share a quick list of a few web based resources for helping with English Language learners develop their English skills.   Always preview a website prior to use:

  1. for safety
  2. to be familiar with the content, to better help show an ELL student where to go on the site.


Save the Date

On May 11, 2018 in the Dr. Kearney Middle School Library, we will be doing an English Language Learning session for teachers K – 12 to discuss strategies and connections to curriculum.  Bring a lesson, unit and a piece of technology to work with for the afternoon.

Draft ELL Standards

Last spring we were able to get our first look at the new English Language Learning standards draft from the Ministry of Education.   The graphic below shows four areas that have an impact on a ELL students learning needs.  These areas can provide a considerable amount of information about our students and can provide a starting point for planning.

Further reading can be done at:



Ways to help develop English skills for Kindergarten

A question was recently asked: How do families new to Canada get their preschoolers ready for Kindergarten? This brought to mind how often our ELL students often have younger siblings at home who will be entering our schools and will be learning English.

Here are a few ideas to for new families that may help support their little ones English skills development:

Encourage new parents to register with their local school, and ask what is going on around the school that they can be involved with.  Having the opportunity to play with language and become used to hearing English will go a long way in helping students be more prepared and comfortable for an English environment when they start school.

Excited for PWIM!!

Planning  and getting excited for the upcoming Picture Word Inductive Model or PWIM session for January 27, 2017. PWIM is a strategy that can offer an entry point to every student.  Here are some of the examples of the PWIM strategy being used in our district shared from staff at Robert Ogilvie Elementary.

A quote from chapter 6 of Teaching Beginning Reading and Writing with the Picture Word

Inductive Model, written by: Emily F. Calhoun.

“Some things do not change, despite students’ ages and abilities. The constant instructional goals remain critical in lesson and unit design and in teacher-and-student interactions: (1) building sight vocabulary; (2) helping students build confidence in their ability to learn; and (3) teaching students how to inquire into language and use what they know and find to read and write and participate fully in their own educational progress.”  http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/199025/chapters/Working-with-Older-Beginning-Readers.aspx


Working with ELLs

Working with English Language learners (ELLs) can feel overwhelming (for them and for you) in the beginning. Here are a few things to keep in mind while getting to know your ELL:

  • You do not need to become fluent in an ELL’s first language (L1) for them to learn from you. Encourage the student through gestures to watch not only you but their classmates for clues on what to do and to learn classroom routines.
  • Don’t be surprised or concerned that an ELL is not vocal right away but give opportunities for the student to communicate non-verbally (pictures & gestures). The student needs the opportunity to become comfortable, so allowing the student to be an observer in their new environment and learning situation goes a long way to building trust. Allowing for a ‘silent period’ will help your ELL student to see that the classroom/school is a safe place to take risks
  • Often students will experience ‘culture shock’ a common experience when immersed in a new country, language, culture (and even weather!) and a sense of loss for what has been left behind.  Remember every student has a different story and experience in coming to Canada.
  • Offering opportunities for sharing language and being open to learning something new about the student’s culture helps to build community, enrich the classroom and show the value of each person’s identity.  The student’s family members can even be a part of this sharing by teaching: words and phrases (ex. hello, goodbye, thank-you), stories, art, food and so much more.
  • Using visuals to improve understanding and create background knowledge for vocabulary/expressions.  Having visuals for the ELL can connect the content to their own background knowledge. Printing a word on the board during a class discussion can give a student a starting point to begin access the topic being discussed.
  • Provide opportunities to not only listen but safe opportunities to talk and take risks using language within the classroom.  Being able to use (and play) with language encourages students to take risks in their oral language, which will transfer into students taking risks with their writing.

Finally, give ELL students processing time.  When asked question, students are often translating from English to their first language and then translating the first language back to English before even trying to answer in English. This takes an enormous amount of effort, energy and time.   Relax! Breathe and wait, the answers given might just exceed expectations.

“A different language is a different vision of life” Federico Fellini

Posted in ELL