Encouraging Beginning English Speakers to Speak in Class

One of the key components of culturally relevant pedagogy is to have all students participate in class, but this may prove especially challenging with New Arrival students who are in the “silent period,” a stage that generally encompasses the first six months that students are exposed to the new language. This is especially true when students are not able to access their heritage language through a Dual Language program.

Try These Strategies:

1. Use gestures/body language to make yourself understood throughout the lesson (even if you are speaking to the whole class and not just to the Emergent Bilinguals).

2. Provide visuals and refer to them often.

3. Practice basic conversation with students in English such as “Hello,” “How are you?,” “May I go to the restroom?,” and “Yes, you may.”

4. Ask yes or no questions, not open-ended questions.  (Examples: “Is this a…?”,  “Does this…?”)

5. Label objects around the room in both English and in the student’s native language.

6. If possible, pair the student with a buddy who speaks the same heritage language.

7. Get students to use gestures to answer your questions.  (Examples: Use “Point to,” “Circle,” “Find,” “Show me,” “Draw,” and “Match”)

8. Ask students to sort and categorize objects by characteristics.

Have you tried any of these methods with your students?  Do you have any other methods that have worked?

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