Thursday, July 30, 2015

ESL Teacher hints: Getting to know the students

As an ESL teacher, I don't start the year with a known caseload.  Rather, I have a caseload of 30-40 kids but I don't work directly with all these kids.  So part of my job the first weeks of school is to determine who needs to be seen directly.

The first thing to do is to learn everyone's name.  A co-worker makes really handy photo class lists for all the 4th grade classes.  She just pulls the picture off our data system and puts their name next to their photo.  It is incredibly helpful.  I write pronunciation hints under the picture.  Nametags (whether on the student or on the desk) are also great!

I try to spend time in each classroom through the first week.  I take note who follows directions well and who has trouble.  I notice who works quickly and who needs more time.  I check any written work to see what grammar and comprehension difficulties students may have.  I chat with students at recess to see who has friends and who has trouble getting along with others.  I just get to know the kids.

I carry stacks of our schoolwide behavior tickets.  I am constantly looking for students to praise.  When the teacher is busy with other tasks, I am still looking.  I also just let students know I am there to be their cheerleader.


I am also there to help the classroom teacher help the students.  I let them know if a student was struggling or succeeding.  Last year, I heard a classroom teacher telling his class hand signals to use.  I made up some hand signals.  These are not mine but they are free and cute.  Win, Win!

Of course, some students can't wait to get services.  Last year, we were lucky enough to have a full-time newcomer teacher.  I still helped the first few days though by introducing google translate in the classroom setting.  I also have stepped in to scribe for a student before their IEP schedule gets fully operational.


These first few days are a lot of fun.  All too soon, my "fun" is limited to giving standardized testing.  I try to make even this a chance to get to know kids.  When giving reading tests, I ask about their reading attitude.  When giving math tests, I watch to see strategies students already know and ones they may try but confuse.

Those are my (unscientific) get to know you hints.  I'm linking up with Notes from the Portable and Snazzy in Second for this Back 2 School Link-up.  I can't wait to see your ideas!  

                                July 16 - Kickoff Week - Setting Up Classrooms (see my post)
                                July 23 - Procedures and Policies (my post)
                                July 30 - Getting to Know You Strategies and Games (this post)
                               August 6 - Communicating with Parents


  1. What excellent ideas!! I love the ideas of printing the photos from your school data system, and giving out behavior tickets! Which grade levels do you work with?

  2. I love the posters for the nonverbal hand signals. I use them, but I never thought to make a poster to remind the students. Great idea!

    Notes From the Portable

    1. It's funny how often the kids referred to them in the first days. I think after a month or two they came down but they were helpful at first.

  3. I do still sell the sign but am on Summer break because I'm on a 5 week trip in Europe. They will be back on sale at the beginning of September. Maybe you can add that?