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More Florida Students are English Learners: Here’s How Teachers and Schools Can Adapt to Meet Their Needs

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Teachers and parents want to know: how can we reach out to TESOL learners? Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

There’s a growing demand in Florida for teachers of English as a Second Language with more than 265,000 English language learners in the state. 

90.7 WMFE talked to University of Central Florida ESOL professor Michele Regalla and VIPKid instructor Amanda Caraway about their tips for how schools can meet the needs of these students.

Regalla said it’s important for teachers to remember that English language learners are not only expected to master the same content material as their peers-but they’re simultaneously learning the language it’s being taught in.

She said that’s why teachers with students who don’t speak English as their first language at home need to be prepared to not only teach their content area.

“We also need teachers trained in the techniques to teach English language skills to these students.”

Michele Regalla and Amanda Caraway say bilingual students face challenges-but also bring a unique skill set to the classroom. Photo: Danielle Prieur

She said teachers should not be afraid to take advantage of the literacy skills their students already have in their first language.

“There’s a lot of research that shows that first language literacy is the best predictor of second language literacy. So if those kids can keep learning and reading in their home language, their English skills are going to thrive in the English classroom.”

Caraway who teaches Chinese students virtually through a program called VIPKid says this sometimes means teachers need to be prepared to switch up their traditional lesson plan-assessment style of teaching with full immersion.

“We actually have a term for it TPR. Within VIPKid it’s the main part of their platform that total physical response and not just the teacher doing the action but the student repeating it backward to help with that cognitive recognition of what those words are and what they mean.”

But she says the most important thing teachers can do? Prioritize language learning-whether it’s English or another language in their classroom. That’s something she observed on her trip to China to meet her students this month.

Amanda Caraway recently traveled to China to meet the students she teaches English through VIPKid. Photo: Amanda Caraway

“English is actually a country standard for them. All students are required to learn English as part of their normal curriculum. And in America we don’t focus on that as much-foreign language becomes something we take in high school.”

Check out resources for first-time and veteran teachers teaching students who are learning English for the first time or need to brush up on their English language skills from the Florida Literacy Council. 

If you’d like to listen to the conversation, please click on the clip above.

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

Reporter & Fill-in Host

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter at WMFE. You can hear her reporting on a daily basis on the station. She also fills-in as a host during the morning and afternoon drive times. Her reporting has been featured on NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now, and Vox. Danielle is originally from Rochester Hills, ... Read Full Bio »