Engaging English Language Learners
“Bienvenue! C'est tellement agréable d'être ici! Je suis ici pour vous parler tous aujourd'hui de l'importance d'une bonne reprise. Combien d'entre vous avez déjà écrit un CV? Avez-vous un emploi? Que pensez-vous qu'il faut inclure dans un curriculum vitae?”
If a presenter was saying this to you, and you had only taken a couple years of French, what would it take for you to understand and connect?
Helping your audience comprehend, engage, and participate (what we in the education world call “scaffolding”) is crucial to the success of this year’s conference. You can expect to have Emergent Bilingual students from a variety of cultural backgrounds and language proficiency in your workshops. Some will speak English almost fluently; some will not be able to speak much English at all. But regardless of their level of proficiency, they will need your help to access the information you are giving them.
It may seem intimidating, but there are ways that you can make your message understood. You already have awesome ideas for making your presentation fun and engaging, but here are some helpful tips for “scaffolding” the content of your presentation and getting your audience actively involved with your material so it has the maximum possible impact.
A Crash Course in Presenting to Emergent Bilinguals
- Be very, very, VERY visual.
Use as many photos, videos, diagrams, drawings – whatever you’ve got to put your words into images – as you can. After all, a picture speaks a thousand words, right?
- Avoid high-level vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, and jargon.
The English language is FILLED with lots of jargon and idiomatic expressions. Use very literal words and phrases students are probably familiar with.
- Say things in a few different ways.
If you use some vocabulary everybody might not know, say it again in a different way. For example, if you say, “College admissions take into consideration your extracurricular activities in addition to test scores,” you might want to explain it with, “What I mean is, colleges think test scores are important, but they also think sports, clubs, and other activities are very important too.”
- Give them tools to speak to you and each other.
If you want them to turn to someone and talk, give them the language to do so. Help them be successful in communicating their thoughts. Sentence frames help a lot. For example, if you were talking about personal strengths, write on the board (or include in a slide), “One of my greatest strengths is _____________. This is valuable because I want to be a ______________, and this can help me ______________.”
Want your audience to be engaged? Have them move around! Kids get tired of sitting still for too long and lose interest after 10 minutes of passive listening. The more they are up interacting with their peers and your material the better.
- Take cultural differences and restrictions into account.
For example, in America, it is totally acceptable for a girl to be paired with a boy for activities. In other cultures, it is a big no-no. Shaking hands may be culturally inappropriate to some students. Be aware of cultural differences when planning activities.
- Speak slowly.
Sometimes, we get excited, we get nervous or we are running out of time and start to speak too fast. Don’t forget that emergent bilingual students need time to process!
I hope this document helps guide your approach to working with our Emergent Bilingual students. If you have any questions or concerns, or you would like to discuss any of these strategies in relation to your presentation, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will be happy to be of assistance myself or put you in touch with one of our other ESL TOSAs (Teachers on Special Assignment). We are here to support you.
Thank you so much for being a part of the International Youth Leadership Conference this year and for sharing your knowledge, talents, and words of wisdom with our students. Your participation is greatly appreciated.