As a teacher at an International School, many of my students were English Language Learners. Even my native English speakers were living in a non-English speaking country. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. Here is this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:
We can never forget that our ESL or ELL students have a wealth of knowledge in their own language, including a ton of vocabulary words that possibly have similar roots with English. No matter what the home language of my students, every student I have ever taught has been able to find cognates and similarities between their home language and English. They key is getting kids to look for them. Often students see English as a completely foreign identity with no connection at all to the languages they speak at home. The more students are encouraged to look for these similarities, the more that they will find that they already have a base of words and grammatical structures built in to their understanding.
Some ways to help students build up these understandings are:
1.) Have students jot down key vocabulary words in their home language. This is the reason that my ESL Vocabulary Packets all start out asking students to write each word in their home language. It helps students identify similarities and cognates, while building up their English vocabulary. (Depending on a wide variety of factors, including literacy level and home environment, some students may not have academic language in their home language. You may allow students to translate the words if you feel like the cognates and roots will help them to remember the English – or to enhance their home language vocabulary. )
2.) Have students create a Venn Diagram, comparing their home language and English. This could be done with a specific set of vocabulary words, with grammar rules, or simply about the languages in general.
3.) Have students write the same sentence – in English and in their home language, and then diagram both sentences. This will encourage students to look not only at the similarities and differences of the vocabulary, but also the grammatical structure.
I’m always looking for new tips and ideas, so feel free to leave a comment with your great tips and ideas for helping ESL students recognize cognates.