Teachers new to teaching English in diverse classrooms may worry that they won’t adequately support their students. However, as they get comfortable with the class and assess students’ English capabilities, it becomes easier to tailor lessons for where the students are in their learning journeys.
A look at Teachers of Tomorrow’s educational philosophy and approach to teaching English in diverse classrooms can give teachers insights into planning English lessons for different proficiency levels. Individuals pursuing an alternative certification program can adopt these tactics as part of their instructional practices. But first, just how different is the English lesson experience for diverse learners?
Challenges Diverse Learners Face in English Class
Diverse learners face numerous challenges learning English in the classroom, including:
- Lack of confidence
- Limited vocabulary
- Pronunciation challenges
- Differences in communication styles
- Limited knowledge and understanding of idioms, metaphors, and slang
- Unfamiliarity with the verbal cues used when communicating in English.
Innovative Methods in Teaching English to Diverse Learners
Having a few go-to teaching strategies is a workable approach to teaching diverse learners. Innovative methods teachers of English can adopt include the following:
Use Different Ways to Deliver Content
Combine verbal message delivery with:
- Visuals like diagrams, drawings, and pictures
- Text via slide decks.
This way, learners who have difficulty following verbal communication can decipher the message from the alternative content types you provide and participate in the lesson.
Offer Video Captions and Transcripts
If playing videos in class, add captions to enable students to follow along. Students may find the video’s speaking rate too high and will appreciate the option to read captions as the video plays.
Most video software has automatic captions features that add or embed imported captions to videos, many of them free. You can use these to add captions to your educational videos.
Alternatively, provide a transcript of the video for students to read while the video plays. A transcript allows the student to reread the speech long after the end of the video. They can refer to the text for bits they may have missed while the video played or for better contextual understanding.
Offer Ample Opportunities For Students To Practice English Skills
Diverse learners may struggle with:
- Speaking English
- Writing in English.
Provide plenty of opportunities for the students to practice their reading, speaking, listening, and writing skills in class. They can do this by participating in class discussions and partner activities, doing presentations, reading aloud, and role-playing. Encourage them to practice their English skills outside the classroom as well.
Create A Supportive Learning Environment
Diverse learners may be self-conscious about their limited English language abilities, which can affect their confidence. They may shy away from speaking up and participating in class. Reassure them by offering continual encouragement to contribute to discussions, answer questions, and even pose questions.
Another way to show support is by sharing positive feedback whenever students participate in class. Even when the learners fall short of expectations or misunderstand instructions, teachers can frame their feedback in a way that makes the students want to try again.
Be Flexible in Your Teaching Strategies
Learners may respond well to one teaching activity but be indifferent to another. Teachers of English can use different teaching strategies and techniques to cater to students’ unique learning styles.
This reaction does not indicate the teacher’s failure to connect with the student. Rather, it points to the student’s unique way of learning, and the teacher can find ways to tweak their methodology to suit the student’s learning style.
Organize Cultural Awareness Activities for the Class
Teachers can expect students to have different cultures, beliefs, customs, values, and styles of relating in a diverse class. Many of the cultures are strange to the other learners, too. Students who don’t understand each other’s cultures can easily miscommunicate and misunderstand each other, which impedes learning.
To foster cultural appreciation, educators can:
- Initiate discussions on culture, where they invite students to share different aspects of their cultures and explain the norms in their societies and what different practices mean for their community.
- Hold cultural fairs
- Share multicultural resources with students
- Share content on multicultural materials with the class.
How Educators Can Prepare Themselves to Teach English in a Diverse Classroom
Here are some things you can do to prepare for teaching English in a diverse classroom:
- Show tolerance towards students’ English language abilities
- Be understanding when learners make slow progress
- Don’t be hard on students when they make minor errors. Encourage them instead.
- Don’t shy away from pushing for academic excellence
- Be willing to spend plenty of time on one-on-one sessions.
To Wrap Up
Diverse classrooms present distinct challenges for students and teachers of English. While the learners may struggle with low confidence levels, educators are expected to deliver lessons to students with varying English competency levels. However, by adopting the innovative teaching approaches discussed above, teachers can be better prepared and deliver meaningful lessons to diverse students.