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How Mainstream Teachers Can Give ELLs a Break

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Many English-language learners have trouble reading cursive writing, so mainstream teachers can make life easier for them if they write on the blackboard in print letters. That's one of ten tips for how mainstream teachers can make slight adjustments in their teaching that will help English-learners to follow what's going on in the classroom, recommended by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (whose contract to operate has ended).

¡Colorín Colorado!, a bilingual Web site for teachers and families of ELLs, sent the list of ten tips out on a listserv yesterday. Among the other tips are reminders for teachers to present information in several ways and to avoid idioms and slang words.

I suppose some educators might feel they shouldn't have to adjust their teaching for one particular group of students in the classroom. But it doesn't seem to me that any of the tips suggested would lessen the quality of schooling for other students.

August 14 Clarification: The North Central Regional Educational Laboratory is still operating, but its name has been changed to REL Midwest.

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The best metaphor I've heard is that the little things done for EL's in a classroom are akin to the handicap ramps put in on sidewalks. Yes, they are constructed and intended for people with physical handicaps, to allow them access to the sidewalks. But there are a lot of other people who use them to make their lives easier; mothers with strollers, bicyclists, etc. It's the same with this list of ten tips: you as a teacher may do some of these things with the intention of helping an English Learner, but there could be a number of other learners in the class who benefit from that strategy, and who are able to access the instruction.

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