Integrating English language learners and STEM lessons can benefit ESL students in many meaningful ways.
While English language learners benefit from English as a Second Language (ESL) programs in school, these students will also refine verbal skills through STEM education. Using lessons in STEM subjects to improve English-language skills affords many opportunities to utilize tactile, hands-on approaches to learning.
1. Don’t Encourage Mocking or Bullying
No teacher worth his or her salt would ever intentionally mock a student or encourage other pupils to engage in bullying. While this first suggestion is common sense for most educators, remain mindful that as the teacher, even the most seemingly innocent chuckle, side eye, or eye roll can break a child’s confidence in class. When witnessing any evidence of bullying an English language learner by fellow students, address the issue immediately and make students understand that immersion into a new culture is to be admired and respected – not ridiculed.
2. Focus on the Project, Not the Jargon
When outlining a new project that pairs English language learners and STEM lessons, observe the process through which students complete each step. If a student requires assistance, show – don’t tell – them how to complete a task. While using a hands-on approach to illustrate a concept, use only vocabulary that is relevant to the lesson and draw a clear connection between the words being used and the action that is performed.
3. Show an Interest in Their Native Language
As students watch and listen to teachers’ explanations of tackling a project, ask them to share the phrases used in their native language that would illustrate supplies, operations, and concepts. Implementing this practice will allow students to become more comfortable with the project through relating similar personal experiences and convey that their teachers respect and want to work with them. The knowledge gained by teachers will help to establish a mutual understanding between educator and student.
4. Introduce Vocabulary Memorization Techniques
The ultimate goal is to develop skills of English language learners and STEM concept understanding. Students whose first language is English are still required to learn new vocabulary throughout their educational career. Implement the same vocabulary memorization tools used by native speakers to increase success by English language learners and STEM education.
5. Become Familiar with Student STEM Interests
Ask students to explain their STEM interests in a written English-language report. Express to students that this assignment is an opportunity to reveal their personal STEM interests and how these subjects have affected their academic careers. Ask pupils to explain the differences of being students of STEM and English language learners in the United States, and native speakers of the local language while learning these subjects in their home countries.
When considering an approach to lessons that blend STEM and English language learners, teachers must first and foremost remember to be patient. Pupils who are English language learners and STEM students are learning valuable, required curriculum, but also assimilating into local culture. These students will only succeed when supported by an understanding, patient teaching staff.
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