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Supporting English Language Learners in School: Tips for Parents and Teachers

English serves as a unifying language in many international schools, especially those that are located in a cosmopolitan city like Singapore. Since mastery of this language is a requirement for facilitating effective communication, academic success, and social integration, it’s a must for international school students to have easy access to programs that can help them enhance their English proficiency.

Teachers and school administrators play a pivotal role in helping English Language Learners (ELLs)—     many of whom come from diverse linguistic backgrounds—achieve their language goals. By offering strategic support and a well-thought-out language program, these professionals empower ELLs to improve their grasp of the English language, excel academically, and feel that they are valued members of the school community.

Supporting language learners comes with plenty of challenges, but these can be overcome with the use of effective strategies. Here are some that can be of use to English teachers and international school administrators.

Strategies and Guidance for English Language Learners:

  • Champion Clear Communication and Orientation

Effective communication and orientation programs are essential components of supporting ELLs and their families in international schools. These programs serve as the foundation for a successful ELL experience by reducing anxiety and fostering a sense of belonging among learners of the language.

Orientation sessions should offer a comprehensive overview of the school’s ELL program, policies, and resources, ensuring that families are well-informed about their children’s educational journey. Open channels of communication between teachers, administrators, and ELL families are crucial for addressing concerns, sharing progress updates, and maintaining a positive school-home partnership. For instance, teachers should inform parents about how their child can benefit from additional English classes as well as how these sessions are configured into their American international school Singapore fees. By establishing clear communication and effective orientation practices, international schools can create a supportive atmosphere that sets the stage for English Language Learners (ELLs) and their families to fully engage with the ELL program.

  • Utilize Personalized Learning Plans

Personalized learning plans are instrumental in helping English Language Learners (ELLs) reach their language goals in an international school setting. A critical first step is taking an accurate assessment of each student’s language proficiency upon enrollment. This assessment informs the development of individualized learning plans that consider the unique needs and abilities of each ELL.

Language learning plans should set specific goals and outline strategies to achieve them, ensuring that instruction is tailored to the student’s proficiency level. Progress monitoring plays a pivotal role in the implementation of these plans, as it enables teachers and administrators to track a student’s language development. Monitoring is crucial in identifying areas where additional support is needed and making necessary adjustments to the plan. This ongoing assessment and personalized approach empower ELLs to progress at their own pace, which can build their confidence and competence in English.

  • Be Open to Collaboration

Collaboration among teachers, administrators, and students is a cornerstone of effective support for English Language Learners (ELLs) in international schools. Teachers and administrators should work together to create a cohesive and coordinated approach to ELL education. They can share insights into each student’s progress, challenges, and strengths, for example. Holding regular meetings and keeping communication channels open facilitate the exchange of valuable information, ensuring that all educators are aware of an ELL’s specific needs and can tailor their instruction accordingly.

Peer support is another essential aspect of collaboration. This involves engaging proficient English-speaking students to help out their ELL peers. Encouraging peer tutoring and mentoring programs not only benefits ELLs by providing additional language practice but also fosters a sense of inclusivity and camaraderie within the school community. When teachers, administrators, and peers collaborate effectively, ELLs receive well-rounded support that addresses their academic and social development. This collaborative effort ultimately plays a key role in enhancing their English language proficiency.

  • Adopt Culturally Responsive Teaching

Culturally responsive teaching practices are vital for ELLs in international schools, as these students typically come from diverse cultural backgrounds. Teachers should undergo training to develop cultural sensitivity and an understanding of the cultural nuances and perspectives of their ELL students. This knowledge informs instruction, making it much easier for them to incorporate culturally relevant materials and teaching methods into the curriculum. For instance, when discussing the word “vegetable,” mention local vegetables as well as vegetables that are commonly used in other cultures. 

By taking culture into account, teachers create an inclusive learning environment that recognizes, validates, and respects the diverse backgrounds of their students. This, in turn, makes the classroom more engaging and relatable for English Language Learners (ELLs). Additionally, language support should extend beyond the academic realm to help ELLs navigate daily life and social interactions in the school community. This holistic approach to teaching language not only accelerates language acquisition but also promotes a sense of belonging and inclusion. In this way, English language classes help improve language acquisition as well as reinforce the idea that ELLs are a part of the school community.

  • Keep the Student’s Family Engaged

Family engagement is a crucial component of supporting ELLs in international schools. Organizing parent workshops and seminars on topics related to language acquisition, homework assistance, and cultural adaptation can empower parents to actively participate in their child’s education. These workshops serve as opportunities for parents to learn about the ELL program, understand their child’s language goals, and gain insights into how they can support language development at home.

Meanwhile, offering translation services and interpreters further ensures that non-English-speaking parents can effectively communicate with school staff and stay informed about their child’s progress. By engaging families in their child’s educational journey, international schools create a collaborative environment where parents become partners in their child’s language acquisition and academic success.

  • Provide Easy Access to Learning Resources

Schools should offer bilingual and ESL materials in libraries and classrooms, along with digital language learning platforms to supplement classroom instruction. Language labs equipped with interactive learning tools can also offer additional opportunities for language practice. Ensuring that these resources are readily available both in the classroom and at home empowers ELLs to explore language learning independently and at their own pace. Moreover, schools can facilitate access to technology, such as closed captioning and voice typing that supports language learning. Using these functionalities makes it easier for ELLs to practice and reinforce their language skills. By equipping ELLs with the necessary resources, international schools enable students to take ownership of their language learning journey and maximize their proficiency in English.

  • Celebrate Diversity in and Out of the Classroom

Celebrating diversity is a fundamental aspect of fostering an inclusive environment in international schools. Hosting cultural celebrations, multicultural events, international food fairs, and cultural exhibitions allows students to showcase their diverse backgrounds and traditions. These events promote cultural exchange and understanding among students, fostering an environment of respect and appreciation for different cultures.

Additionally, incorporating literature and readings from various cultural backgrounds into the curriculum helps students develop a global perspective and empathy for others. By celebrating diversity, international schools not only enrich the educational experience for all students but also create a sense of belonging and acceptance for English Language Learners (ELLs).

By implementing these strategies and embracing culturally responsive teaching practices, international schools in Singapore empower ELLs to not only enhance their English proficiency but also thrive academically and socially. The journey to language proficiency is a shared one, and when schools prioritize the needs of ELLs, they enrich the educational experience for all students and prepare ELLs for success in a globalized world.


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