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Motivating ESL Students
By:Renee Vians

Many of the factors that affect the rate of language acquisition are beyond the instructor’s control. However, motivating ESL students is possible when you implement well-planned lessons, cooperative groups, experiential learning activities and peer tutoring. Above all else, it is important that instruction is stimulating. Here are some of the best practices for motivating ESL students.

Integrate the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol model to help ESL students succeed. Go to SIOP.org and register for training, download lesson plan templates or purchase books. Order a copy of "Implementing the SIOP Mode Through Effective Professional Development and Coaching," by Jana Echevarria, Deborah J. Short and Mary Ellen Vogt.

Simplify lessons and modify homework. Motivating students is easier with adapted course materials, so use textbooks, worksheet packets and recorded books designed for ESL students. Limit homework to short assignments that allow for the practice of a specific skill.

Teach with realia and graphic organizers. Explain concepts with clothing, food and other tangible objects to clarify meaning. Distribute T-charts, K-W-L charts or Venn diagrams to check comprehension.

Implement the “Buddy system” by pairing language-proficient and ESL students together. The ability to ask a peer for help can be motivating for ESL students, but the strategy is more effective if implemented classwide.

Write content and learning objectives on the board. Post the standards and demonstrable skills (exit behaviors) so students know what to expect and stay on task.

Implement auditory and kinesthetic activities. Use cooperative group activities like “Think-Pair-Share” to encourage listening, movement and oral interaction.

Validate correct responses. Motivating ESL students involves making appropriate statements that are focused on the task, not the student. For example, when an ESL statement responds correctly, repeat the response for verification.

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