Deana Wojcik, a Volunteer of 826 Michigan shares some strategies for working with ELL Students. Read more below.

We reached out to one of our Volunteers of the Month, Deana, about strategies for working with English language learning students. She was excited by the fact our you all are interested in digging into these questions and wanted to convey how important, albeit challenging, helping ELL students with reading and writing is! Some of her kindly provided recommendations are below:

  • Ask the students about their own strategies! Questions like “What do you usually do when you don’t understand a word/sentence/text?” prompt students to think about and use strategies they may have already learned. This also gives you an idea of how aware the student is of their own level of understanding! The student may say, “Our teacher tells us to underline action words” and this can give you a good launching point for the session.
  • Make copies of the pages you’re reading and have the students write on the text. This process of “talking to the text” can better imprint lessons and help the student retain new vocabulary and understandings.
  • Get the student to say words and phrases out loud. Even though it can feel silly, vocal repetition is incredibly important and is often left out because it feels boring or repetitive. Help your student sound out a word, then say something like, “Now let’s say that word three more times. Now let’s whisper the word. Now let’s say the word to Catherine. Now let’s say that word in a silly voice.”
  • For early readers, drawing and illustration can be helpful supports—asking students to draw a scene from a story, or perhaps the tutor does a quick sketch and asks the students to describe it.
  • Have a conversation about the text. Ask the student to read some text and ask “When you get to the part where _(something happens)_, underline it/let me know.” This is a good accountability strategy to make sure the students commit to the reading and gives the tutors information about whether or not the student is understanding what they’re reading.

Deana also suggested a few websites as resources for further reading. I’ve read through these links and they’re very interesting and informative! I’ve pulled out a few points from each link below, but there’s definitely more to be gleaned if you want to spend a few minutes clicking around.

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