Establishing an Atmosphere of Acceptance

Establishing an Atmosphere of Acceptance

by Judie Haynes

Discover how you can alleviate many newcomers' fears by creating an atmosphere of acceptance and welcome in all of your classes.

ESL and classroom teachers can alleviate many of the newcomers' fears by creating a language-nurturing environment in their classes. The first weeks are crucial.

A good relationship with classroom teacher and classmates will provide a great deal of the help and support newcomers need to cope with the challenges they face. This can't be emphasized enough. The more comfortable newcomers feel in your classroom, the quicker they will be able to learn. The more anxiety students experience, the less language they will comprehend.

Focus on the positive

Give lots of encouragement and praise for what the student can do. Don't dwell on all that they can't yet do. Create frequent opportunities for their success in your class. Don't call upon them to perform alone above their level of competence. Prepare mainstream students to welcome them into the class.

Pronounce newcomer's name correctly

Learn the correct pronunciation of the name from the newcomer. Determine which part is the given name and which is the family name. (Asian names are given in reverse order from ours; this may or may not have been reversed in the office.) Two-part first names are common in many cultures, and may appear to be a first name and a middle name. Ask. Use both parts of a two-part name. Hispanic family names may also be two-part. Saying the name right isn't always easy, but it's important. It may take a few tries. Write the newcomer's name on the board (with a phonetic version if necessary to help your students pronounce the name properly).

Ask the newcomer to pronounce the name or correct you. Avoid the temptation to Americanize the name or create a nickname for the student. If the student offers a name or an Americanized version of the name, however, accept it.

Take newcomers on a school tour

If possible, have parent volunteers or older students who speak the newcomers' languages take your new students on a tour of the important places in your school.

Some schools make a video tour for newcomers and their parents. If newcomers can read in their own language, have a welcome letter ready for them.

Have a bilingual student or parent show newcomers immediately where the bathrooms are and explain what the rules are for leaving the classroom. An accident can be a devastating embarrassment.

Before newcomers start school, have a bilingual person explain what a fire drill is. Schools in many countries do not conduct fire drill is and the noise from the alarm can be very frightening to a new arrival.

See additional ideas

Here are some additional ideas to help ESL, bilingual,and mainstream teachers and students create a language nuturing environment in their schools. Enjoy!

Related Links

Newcomers in the School Community
In the Spring my district always welcomes newcomers to the United States into our E.S.L. program. Finding activites for these new students is a challenge. Combine your students' natural interest in environmental print with a tour of the neighborhood for this thematic unit.

What Happened on Pa Lia's First Day?
On her first day in a new school Pa Lia felt alone and wanted to make friends. This thematic unit will help students discuss feelings about their first day in a new school and the difficulties of making new friends.

Help Your Newcomers Develop Pride in Their Heritage
Do you know how to use the diversity in your classroom to help your newcomers develop pride in their native languages and cultures? Try some of these ideas.

Developing a Multicultural Curriculum
Read about River Edge, N.J. teacher Carolyn Brush and her successful multicultural curriculum. This program combines teaching students about world cultures with the talents of the diverse student population.

How Does Your School Rate?
Participate in a district goal to make your school a wonderful place for newcomers. Here are some practices you could adopt.

Pair Your Newcomers with Buddies
Assign a buddy or a cross-grade tutor to your English language learner and watch them both blossom. Buddies gain in self esteem and your ELLs will feel welcome in your class

Activities for Newcomers
When brand new English language learners first enter your school, it can be overwhelming for the teachers responsible for their instruction. It's hard to know what to do first. Here are some activity-based tips to get you started.

Sensitize Your Mainstream Students
You want your newcomers to be accepted on the playground and on the school bus. Sensitize mainstream students to the challenges that new learners of English face.

Working with Bilingual Parent Volunteers
Develop a resource of parents who can help translate, interpret, and communicate

Resource Picks

Children Just Like Me
Explore the lives of children around the world with this exceptional resource by Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley for UNICEF. This book features photographs of children from 30 countries with their homes, families, dress, food, and games.

A Life Like Mine
"A Life Like Mine" published by DK in conjunction with UNICEF is a wonderful resource about children around the world. The book examines how children survive in varous countries worldwide. The basic theme is one of the rights of the child: Rights to water, food, home and health. Further rights of education, play, protection and identity are also examined. This book is an outstanding resource for all children. It makes a major statement about the rights of children.