When it comes to ELL, everyone must learn the lingo

ELL of a challenge: English Language Learners, a growing percentage of students in American classrooms, present specific challenges for educators -- fortunately, there are workable solutions, says Harry Aurora.
By HARRY AURORA //

The makeup of the nation’s student body has changed dramatically over the past few decades.

One of the most striking changes is that English Language Learners, students who must learn English in addition to typical American academic studies, now account for nearly one out of every 10 students. Educators and administrators are tasked with helping ELL students succeed in academic, social and emotional learning – and language barriers can make this very challenging at times.

But there are strategies that can be put in place to help ELL students reach their goals.

“The beauty of a lot of these ELL strategies is that they can be implemented in the classroom or online,” says Dawn Eidelman, chief academic officer at iTutor. “Students benefit from schools that have bilingual teachers on staff, while school budgets can benefit from educational technology that brings those bilingual teachers right to the students as they need them.”

So, how can your school dramatically enhance ELL student success? Here are three ways to help non-native speakers thrive both in the classroom and in online tutoring environments.

Provide language services whenever possible: Language-assistance programs and bilingual services are key to helping ELL students and their families quickly acclimate to their new school and country, by building a bridge between the old and the new.

Harry Aurora: Speaking the language of success.

Language-assistance programs are designed to help ELL students master the English language quickly so they can give more focus to other educational endeavors. Fortunately, these programs can often can be conducted as online tutoring sessions on a one-to-one or small-group basis, giving the student a greater degree of attention.

Bilingual services help at every stage of a student’s academic career. And whether it’s through registering for classes or attending parent-teacher conferences with a translator, parents are empowered to be more involved in their child’s education.

Nurture their social and emotional learning: Social and emotional learning is just as important to the academic success of ELL students as learning the language and meeting educational goals.

One way educators and administrators can nurture social and emotional learning is by partnering ELL students with bilingual students, who can assist with both social growth and academic achievement. Bilingual students, acting as peer mentors, can socialize with the ELL students and assist with classroom assignments and projects.

ELL students who participate in peer-mentor programs often see improvements in their relationships with other students and educators, while developing positive attitudes toward learning.

Maintain open communication: Yvette Ramos, a doctor of education and former principal and superintendent in Texas, has logged several years’ worth of experience working with ELL students. She understands that one of the most important aspects to academic success is constant communication.

“Educators need to check in very often to make note of the comprehension and understanding and whether the student needs additional support,” Ramos notes.

Online tutoring services are perfectly set up to handle this type of communication, allowing educators to check in with the students on a one-to-one basis. Even if the online tutor is not bilingual, he or she can get assistance from a translator – ensuring that the student is mastering the required lessons.

Harry Aurora is the founder and CEO of Jericho-based digital-education innovator iTutor, which recently released Helping English Language Learners Overcome Classroom Challenges, a white paper providing educators and administrators with key insights into helping ELL students succeed in the classroom.