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Establishing an Atmosphere of Acceptance

Establishing an Atmosphere of Acceptance

"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. "

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).

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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.


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