Relationships first….then data

In my last blog, I shared a few simple tips to welcome your newcomer English learners into your classroom.  Now that everyone is settling in, what’s next?  Getting to know who exactly is sitting in front of you!

It’s important to get to know your students as people before drawing any conclusions about their knowledge and potential.  Even if students are not proficient in English, they are coming to you with a lifetime of experiences in their first language to lean on.  Take some time to get to know their interests, their background, and how they think.  As you get to know what sparks their interest and engages them in learning, ideas for differentiation will come more easily.


The best way to get to know your students more personally is to take the time to talk one-on-one.  This may be difficult with your beginning English proficiency students, but with the help of some visuals and manipulatives, it IS possible.  Questionnaires that allow students to use pictures, clip art, or magazine clippings as their responses are particularly helpful.  With the popularity of social media, emojis and other icons are widely understood and can help students express their feelings, likes, and dislikes.  Students can match a picture that shows an emotion to pictures of scenes, determining how the student feels about particular situations or activities.  For a few sample “getting to know you” visual sorts, please visit our free Resource Center found in the English Learner Portal Online Classroom.  In the “Newcomer/SIFE” file you will find student profile samples, sort cards, and directions you can download and use right away.  Sort cards are also quick and easy to make if you need to customize to a certain age or group.
sortcardpicPicture sorts that require students to categorize and classify items will give you insight into how a student is thinking and processing.  Sorts such as living or non-living, colors and shapes, or land features and map elements will allow students to share some of their background knowledge visually.  There are a number of sample cognitive sort and match cards in our free Resource Center as well.


You can also combine whole class movement to be both “getting to know you” and language development activities.  For example, in our Resource Center we have a sample PowerPoint activity “Class Shuffle”, where students view a slide that asks them to decide what they like better.  The slide may show chocolate or vanilla?  Dogs or cats?  Reading or math?  Students move to the side of the room that represents their preference. Once sorted by their preference, students use the sentence frame provided to verbalize their selection with a partner or with the class. The sentence frames can be modified to match the target English proficiency level of your group.

Now that you have taken the time to get to know your students as people, people who come to your classroom full of life experiences, lessons that engage and challenge them will come easily to you, and the time spent building relationships will be time well spent!


NOW AVAILABLE in the English Learner Portal Online Classroom – “The Road to English Proficiency – First Steps in Differentiating and Scaffolding for Language” FREE 10 minute webinar along with FREE sample activities and articles in our Resource Center.

Sign up to be the first to hear about new online course releases here!


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