In all the teaching experiences I have had, I have always had a student in my classroom that was an ELL Newcomer. What is a newcomer student? A newcomer is a student that has little to no English and is most likely new to the country. At first, the task of figuring out how best to support these sweet students is daunting, but over time I have developed a love and passion to welcome newcomers from day 1! Below you will find some easy and practical tips to help you welcome your Newcomer student and help them start off on the right foot.
Here are my 5 favorite ways to welcome newcomers:
1. Smile… A LOT! Imagine you are in a new country, where you do not speak the language at all and have to go to school for the first time… frightening right? But imagine when you walk into your classroom and you are greeted by a friendly and smiling teacher… wouldn’t that calm your nerves at least a little? Keep in mind that your newcomers are scared, worried, and confused, so do your best to smile and assure them that it will be all right!
2. Learn their language: Obviously, you cannot learn a new language quickly, but you can at least have your students learn how to say “welcome” in the new student’s language or have the students learn how to say “my name is….” Maybe you or your students can decorate a poster that says “Welcome” in the child’s native language. Seeing or hearing something that is familiar to them will make them feel like they are entering a safe environment to learn and grow.
3. Buddy them up: Choose someone in the class that is friendly, responsible, and would enjoy the job of making sure your newcomer student knows what to do at lunch, can find where the bathrooms are, or has a friend to play with during recess.
4. Take advantage of lunchtime: Have your newcomer student and a few other students join you during lunch the first day: Unstructured time can be very scary for a newcomer student and so instead of making them go through that the first day, have them stay in with you and maybe another student or two. This will help them begin to make friends and learn that you are helpful and a school is a safe place.
5. Have materials ready for them to use. When I received a newcomer from Bulgaria in the middle of the year, I was very poorly prepared on how best to help her and really did not have the time to figure it out! The sweet girl was a great sport and would just sit and listen until the ESL teacher would come and pull her out, but I always felt so sad that I didn’t have something more appropriate for her to do. Out of this experience came a curriculum for ELL Newcomers so that this same experience doesn’t have to happen to you!
To get you started, I have created a Newcomer Welcome Kit, that will give you everything you need to get started in supporting your ELL Newcomers!