Sharpen up those No. 2 pencils, school is back in session. The academic experience is different for every student, and for ESL (English as a Second Language) students, school becomes the focal point of their language and culture learning – for better or worse. We love our ELL (English Language Learners – you get two fancy names!) students, and we’ve consulted our in-house experts on the secrets to achieving ESL success in school. A brand new school year has just begun, and we’re here to help ESL/ELL students make it the best one ever.
1. Find a mentor.
It’s crucial that ESL students have at least one go-to person for language-learning support at school. The ESL experience is full of triumphs, challenges, and tribulations – and your learner needs someone dedicated to supporting them on their wild ride. Most schools now have at least one designated staff member for ESL support, so connect your student with them early on so they can build a trusting relationship. We recommend setting up a private meeting with your preferred mentor to talk with your child about how they can help on a day-to-day basis. A good mentor can quickly become your student’s new best friend. Tell them to bring stickers and watch the friendship fireworks fly.
2. Set goals and celebrate accomplishments.
This one’s really important. On any language-learning journey, setting small, attainable goals and issuing fun rewards keeps learners motivated and engaged. For young ESL learners, this is particularly important. Students love tracking the progress they’ve made, and celebrating the small accomplishments leads to big language-learning success. Create a fun visual that allows students to chart their success and receive rewards for certain noteworthy accomplishments. Just finished reading an entire chapter in an English novel? In our humble opinion, that calls for a Mango smoothie.
3. Gather resources.
Our inside sources (area ESL teachers!) tell us that their most useful resources come in the form of one-on-one tutoring, portable dictionaries, language-learning software (ahem!), books, novels, music, and games. So stock your student up with these crucial resources both at home and at school, so that no matter where they go, they can keep up their learning. Tailor these resources to your student’s interests by picking books, games, and activities that pique their interest and keep them motivated and excited. If it involves Captain Underpants, Miley Cyrus, or Nicholas Sparks novels, so be it.
4. Prepare for a new social life.
It’s important your students experience academic success, but social happiness is just as essential. ESL students often report feeling alienated, silenced, and misunderstood by their English-speaking peers. When preparing your students for their new social life, put your kid goggles on. Their peers may be unfamiliar with other cultures and unsure of how to approach ESL students. Peer learning can be a great tool for your student’s language learning, so spend time discussing social skills, potential challenges, and opportunities to connect with their new classmates. Bonus points if you meet with your student’s teacher and request they build culture and language learning into the curriculum whenever possible.
5. Embrace your culture.
Let’s get one thing clear: learning English does not equate to abandoning your native language or culture. Your student’s native language and culture rules, and we believe they should treasure it. In the past, there’s been some misconception about having to choose just one language or culture. Over here, we believe that language and culture enriches lives – so the more, the merrier. Ensure that your student has many opportunities to celebrate their culture, speak in their native language, and share it with their peers. They’ll love showing their classmates just how cool being bilingual and multicultural really is.
6. Keep it in the family.
Whenever possible, learning English should be a family affair. It can be a daunting task to learn a new language alone, and the support and camaraderie of learning alongside family can completely transform the ESL experience. Experts recommend finding small, simple ways to involve families in the learning process. Send home fun, easy English worksheets that require parent involvement, host ESL family events throughout the school year, and translate school newsletters, curriculum, and communications into the family's native language. Families are encouraged to exercise patience, praise, and support towards their ESL students – these pint-sized champions of language learning are prone to frustration and exhaustion, and your support will mean the world. Break out the #1 English Language Learner Award, your student is a superstar.
7. Get involved with extracurricular activities.
After-school activities are the ESL student’s shining beacon of hope. Most schools offer a range of diverse activities, and odds are one will play to your student’s strengths – no matter what their native language is. You don’t have to speak English to play soccer, art is universal, and Mathletes speak the language of numbers. Look to your school’s activity roster for opportunities for them to engage with their peers outside of the academic world and find a healthy, fun outlet to express themselves. You may have to sit through some excruciating violin recitals and witness some cringe-worthy basketball games, but it’s all for the good of your student’s confidence – and you can cheer them on in whatever language you’d like.
8. Use Mango.
We’re here to help. Mango’s philosophy is centered around language learning you can actually use – and language learning you’ll enjoy. Our programs are fun, bright, and devoted to providing useful, exciting lessons. When it comes to ESL learning, we deliver language learning in your student’s native tongue, teach culture along the way, and let them control the pace. We teach useful stuff without the fluff, so that students (and their families!) can get out there and start a conversation as soon as possible. When schools sign on to a Mango subscription, students have been known to swap languages, start conversation clubs, and basically obsess over language learning. Just like us.
ESL students, it’s going to be a great year. Gather up your resources, recruit your friends and family, and let the language learning begin!