Visuals play an important role in facilitating the student’s understanding the text and the lesson. Whilst the teacher is teaching a lesson, she should keep in mind the diversity of the students and incorporate as many visuals in her lesson so all students will benefit. Although pairing the newcomer with a native speaker is a useful strategy, incorporating visuals into a lesson is an effective tool for teaching ELL learners. Rania Mirza has a different viewpoint and states in her article (English Language Learners in Canadian Schools:Emerging Directions for School Based Policies, 2012, p. 40) that whilst teaching, she came across a student who had just immigrated to Canada. The student connected instantly with the teacher as both spoke the same language and the student made good progress in her language acquisition. In the same year the teacher had to leave, only returning a year later to the same school as a volunteer. To her amazement the student was withdrawn and had fallen behind. The teacher found that the student was struggling and upon her insistence the student wrote about her feelings in a journal. It was later found that the student did not understand the question asked, and after much thought she asked her teacher the meaning of the question. In reply the teacher told her to remove the difficult words and instantly, the student was able to understand and answer the question. The young student further wrote that she would have had a better understanding of the content if she would have been shown visuals. Now more and more teachers are trying to inculcate within their lesson’s visuals and activities as tools to improve and enrich learning.
Tools I have used are visuals, both flash cards, real world objects and multimedia to introduce the content and vocabulary. During my Phase 2 school experience, I created a lesson plan taking into consideration the diversity of students in the class. Many of the students are English Language Learners and the first lesson I instructed was in English Language Arts where I wanted the students to read a story book/novel and based on the story they had to create a Bloom Ball. This is a 12-part hexagonal shaped ball, where the students write and color in the different parts according to the instructions. The ball is then attached together and can be displayed in the classroom. I created three bloom balls and passed it around to the students so they would have an idea of how I made and joined the different parts together. The visual presentation of the bloom ball gave all the students a clear concept, and they were able to follow the instructions accordingly. In addition, I presented a short video clip comparing the different elements of a story. The students not only enjoyed the visual but were also able to answer the questions without any hesitation. The visual presentation was very helpful for not only the ELL students but for the rest of the class as well, as the video engaged the students from the very beginning, and they became excited when they understood what was being displayed. Another unit and lesson plan I created was in Social Studies- the Age of Exploration. To engage my students, I created a lesson plan where the students would have to explore around the classroom for gold. I wanted the students to understand the meaning of ‘explore’ so had them participate in an activity. I observed that students, whether they are ELL or native speakers, enjoy and comprehend the lesson instantly when it comes to hands-on activities.
Students can show their Learning by hands-on tasks and project-based learning. This method of learning has enhanced the effectiveness of tasks to promote second language acquisition. Findings suggest that task-based learning and teaching is a more effective pedagogical approach than the traditional methods of Communicative Language Teaching models. If hands-on approach is to become a more accepted and established approach method, then more work is needed to develop greater understanding of how this framework can be utilized more successfully in the classrooms. (East, 2017). A hands-on approach seems to work well with all students and it not only engages the students in the lesson, but fosters in them socialization, with enhances communication with peers. At times students find it difficult to put their thoughts into words and with a hands-on approach to learning teachers can now assess a students’ work and know if the student has understood the topic. During Phase 2 of my school experience the students read a short story with the ELL teacher. They discussed the story, wrote the meanings of difficult words in sentences on the word wall and had to make a connection with the book. The students had the choice of summarizing the story, drawing in their journals, or engage in role play where they had the option of presenting within their group or in front of their classmates. The students opted for role play and were intrinsically motivated and excited to learn when they had to make their own props, cutting out and joining together construction paper. This made them work in a team where they had to take responsibility for their learning and communicate with each other. The students not only collaborated but built on their teamwork skills.
Teaching ELL students is not an easy task and teachers are facing many challenges in the form of lack of training, collaboration and communication. Teachers must take into consideration the individual needs of each student and incorporate strategies such as hands-on approach, group and project work, visuals, flash cards, journal writing, web diagrams, and role play to support ELL students in the classroom. It all comes down to ‘what works best’ for the student and teacher. ELL students grasp information immediately when they have a visual representation. Moreover, teaching and learning is moving away from the traditional methods of communicative approach where classes were mainly teacher led. Teaching has become more task-based for the whole class, as research shows that students learn quickly when they have to critically think and explore information for themselves. Hence, all students need us to believe in them and support them to learn and succeed. As a re-certifying teacher, this experience has consolidated my views of learning and how to best support my students. I will continue to utilize my skills and experience to create a positive impact on students’ learning and on their lives. I will do my best to teach and support all students, whether they are coming from different cultures or having unique needs. After all, aren’t we all the same but different in our own ways?