It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Hard to believe, but it’s back-to-school time again already. Parents are out snagging the latest and greatest school supplies (back-to-school spending is second only to November-December holiday season spending!) while teachers are brainstorming the best ways to get students back into the school mindset. After an extended break, it’s easy to understand why students struggle to focus. And the beginning of the school year may be even more daunting for younger students, including those who have not experienced school before, and English as a Second Language (ESL)/English Language Learners (ELL)/Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and other students who may struggle with the English language.
Here are a few tips for teachers to ease the worries of all little learners, regardless of their educational and English language experience, at the beginning of and throughout the school year.
- Teach your students a song that you can sing with them to begin (and end, if you want) each day. It will make them feel welcome and is a fun, easy way to get them to participate.
- Smile! It may sound silly, but if you can put a smile on your face, especially during a lesson or activity that may not be a favorite of yours or your students, the children will relax and respond more positively.
- Follow a routine. A routine is important from the time we are born up through adulthood, and it eases most people’s anxieties. In the beginning, you may want to let your students know the plan for the morning/afternoon/day until they get comfortable with the daily schedule. Try to stick to the routine as much as possible but allow flexibility for any occasional wrenches that will undoubtedly get thrown in.
- Ask open-ended questions to engage the children and help them smoothly transition to the next activity or lesson. This can also help them make connections between the words or activity and their own lives, expanding their comprehension of the language.
- Model, model, model! Your students look to you, especially when something new has been introduced. Use clear and correct pronunciation. Demonstrate the appropriate movement for activities, mirroring left and right movements as necessary. Consistently model the correct behavior and language.
- Give your students a room tour. Familiarize them with their new environment by pointing out where important information is located and where items may be placed for different lessons throughout the day. You might even have them explore these areas to get comfortable with the new classroom.
- Keep communication with parents wide open and encourage them to take an active role in their child’s education. Introduce yourself at the beginning of the year, introduce any new programs or activities and provide updates on them throughout the year, and suggest ways they may be able to help their children at home.
I hope you find this helpful. Best of luck to you and your students in the new school year!