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Increasing EL engagement: Strategies to encourage classroom participation

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For English learners (ELs), opportunities to learn and practice language are crucial for their language acquisition. But it can be intimidating to practice these skills in a room full of peers, and often language learners may shy away from engaging in discussions or participating aloud in class.

Intentionally developing an environment that fosters active participation will not only accelerate language acquisition for your ELs but will also make the learning process more enjoyable for them. Discover a few key strategies that you can use in your classroom right away to increase EL engagement and participation.

Cultivate an inclusive classroom culture

Creating an environment where multilingual learners (MLLs) feel comfortable and included sets the foundation for increased engagement. Acknowledging the diverse backgrounds and experiences of your students is a vital step towards building a sense of belonging. By encouraging students to share their linguistic and cultural backgrounds, they will feel valued and respected.

Teachers can incorporate activities that celebrate diversity, like choosing culturally representative classroom decor by translating signage into their home languages as well as English and building in opportunities for sharing personal stories both in small groups and with the whole class. Download our free activity “My Life Map” for an easy opportunity for students to share their experiences with others.  Building this familiarity can lower intimidation or risk for ELs, so they feel more confident contributing to class discussions.

Incorporate interactive learning activities

Interactive learning activities hold space for MLLs to practice social and academic language while building relationships with peers - and they make class fun for all students! 

Activities that center around conversation and dialogue are effective ways to stimulate engagement and provide a comfortable space for ELs to practice their language skills.

It is important to provide language support for your multilingual learners to remove barriers to participation during these activities. Scaffolds can look like sentence frames, modeling and repetition of language, and introducing academic vocabulary before students are asked to use it in conversation.

Implement language-rich instruction

Language-rich instruction means providing ample opportunities for students to listen, speak, read, and write in English. The more English learners are exposed to language, the more quickly and successfully they will become proficient. Check out our free toolkit on creating language-rich classrooms for more on this topic. 

By cultivating a positive classroom culture with interactive learning activities, implementing language-rich instruction, and providing regular feedback, educators can empower English Learners to actively participate in their class. Taking these steps are a key part of accelerating language acquisition and overall academic success.