How to support an English language learner when they are not in school?

20 de diciembre de 2016 / Por Craig Thomas

Teachers and parents alike have the same goal for students that are learning a second language-be bilingual.  What is true for students is that the more contact they have, the better they are.  While teachers prepare classes for students to have a variety of experiences and receive direct instruction, how can parents continue this process out of the school? Also, what happens for parents that aren't bilingual?

A clear understanding of the language acquisition process is essential for all participants that are willing to help.  Students don't just become bilingual from one day to another and they can't just learn one thing that makes them bilingual.  Being bilingual requires an understanding of many concepts based on grammar and phonics as well as the different skills they need to develop and implement.  Then, the students can begin to understand and apply how the language is used with its complex variety of expression and phrases. 

The following tips and strategies are for students to practice English outside of school, not to learn the language.  This keeps the responsibility off the parents that aren't bilingual
themselves.  It is also a list that allows the students to practice developing certain skills that will be beneficial in the classroom and help them excel at becoming more proficient in the English language.

  1. Watch TV: Listening, Reading, Vocabulary, and Use of English

While tv may not be the favorite option for some Creating scary Halloween stories (2).jpgfamilies, it can be a big help in helping students.  Watching tv in English is recommended for students to improve their listening skills and to observe how the language can be used in different situations.  Since the households for most students are not English environments, tv provides time for the students to listen to native  speakers of English outside of school and to get a feel for the regular speeds of the language. For the students that are reluctant to watch tv in English, they can choose shows or movies that they've seen many times already in their native language and almost recite the entire dialog. Since they already understand the topics, the new words they hear in English will seem easier to follow.  Older students that are comfortable reading should always watch the tv with subtitles whether they are watching the show for the first time in Spanish or a repeated time in English.  This helps create a visual aide of the written language while making memorization easier. 


  1. Music: Listening, Vocabulary, and Fluency/Pronunciation when Speaking

Music may not be the best source to study grammar structures, but it is a fun way to practice other important skills like listening and speaking based skills like fluency and pronunciation.  Most children love music and can easily sing along.  This activity is like an exercise of the mouth and tongue, improving speed, accuracy, and the rhythm of English.  It also develops listening skills to follow and identify the sounds and words of the lyrics. 
Singing is fun, but how can parents motivate their kids to use it as a tool? First, students should have a printed copy of the lyrics so that they follow along with what they hear and make the visual connection with the audio.  Second, students should be invited to investigate words from the lyrics that they don't understand.  GUESSING THE SOUND OF THE STAR (4).jpgIn the future, they are more likely to maintain these words memorized based on the connection they have with the song.  Finally, they can record themselves. 
 All cellphones have the microphone option and come in handy for students to listen to and correct themselves.


  1. Technology Games: Vocabulary and Reading

There are many options nowadays for students to have contact with technology and they all have access to different games that can support learning.  Tablets, computers, and cellphones are the newest interests for most kids and all companies have their stores full of games.  After completing a simple search for English vocabulary games, students will have hours of entertainment and learning opportunities.  Older students can download more challenging games that better suit their interests. 

These are three simple recommendations that any family can implement in their household whether they are bilingual or not.  They are perfect in order to keep the students' frustration level low and their interest in a second language high.  What is important for every option is that it is fun and interesting for the students because as long as they are enjoying the activities, they won't realize that they are studying and practicing a second language. 


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Craig Thomas

Escrito por Craig Thomas