My ELL Student

Having a student that struggles with English is difficult, even frustrating at times.

There is an individual in my English 10 class who I was honestly irritated with at first. He wouldn’t complete his assignments on time, wouldn’t ask for help, and when I received his first journal assignment, I was shocked by the grammatical errors.

Little did I know he was not a native English speaker. I found this out when I pulled him aside after his second incomplete paper was turned in. In talking to him, I realized how passionate he was about school. Despite his struggles with English, he was willing to learn and do whatever it took to succeed in class. I realized, in that moment, how naive I had been. I shouldn’t have assumed he was being lazy or unwilling to work hard. I should have asked to see how he was doing in the class or why he was struggling to finish his work. [Lesson learned! 🙂 ]

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In talking to this individual, I realized that I had to fix some of my lesson planning. This was stressful at first, but then I decided to look at it as accommodating rather than changing everything completely. I didn’t want to single this student out, but I wanted to make sure he was successful. I started shifting my lesson ideas and goals.

One of the first ways I accommodated for this individual was by having him come in for additional help before school. At my cooperating high school, Mason City High School, there is a forty-five minute period before the start of the day called Quick Time. During Quick Time students are able to go to classrooms and talk to teachers, finish late work, use computers, catch up on unfinished homework, ask teachers questions, and take quizzes.

I had my student come in and talk to me about his writing assignment. We sat side-by-side and worked on his grammar. I read aloud so he could hear how his sentences sounded; we also worked together to fix errors in capitalization and punctuation. This may not be an accommodation in the traditional sense, but it was a way I could change the learning environment to be more tailored to his success without taking away from other students in the class.

Another way I accommodated for this student was to give him an open-book quiz. I gave all the students the quiz during class one day. They had about fifteen minutes, and this student initially completed the quiz with everyone else. When I went to grade the quizzes, however, I realized this student left three answers blank and also wrote two illegible answers.

I decided that the best option for him would be an open book/open note quiz, since we had taken notes in class and talked about the different topics. I showed him the quiz after class and told him to come in before school to work on it. He came in with his notes and book ready, and I allowed him to have another chance to redeem his score. Since he struggles with English, having the book and notes as a resource allowed him to make connections between what we had read and talked about. It also gave him a chance to process and articulate his answers better than he had the first time. After the second attempt, his score increased from a 3.5 out of 10 to a 7.5 out of 10!

These are just a few simple ways my classroom planning has changed due to this individual. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to work with him and to see how I can shift and adapt my teaching to best fit the needs of my students.!

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