Social-Emotional Learning with ESL

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Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Instructors that teach English as a Second Language (ESL) courses can contribute to the student’s success not only in language but in life. English Language Learners (ELL) are considered to have greater challenges in social-emotional situations than those of their peers. This is thought to be caused by the fact that these students do not yet possess the language skills necessary to express concerns within their learning environment and can often feel intimidated and cut-off. Low self-esteem can also arise due to their inability to participate in the classroom to the same degree as their peers.

Instructors can increase the social-emotional skills of their students by practicing the following advice from Judie Haynes, an ESL instructor for 28 years and author.

  • Concentrate on teaching skills that show students how to handle being in a stressful situation including those that may arise in the classroom setting, cafeteria or hallway.
  • Use role-play to model correct behavior and teach students to watch how their peers handle similar situations.
  • Present children’s stories to help students identify with difficulties they face in school. “Perspectives of a Diverse America” was developed by Teaching Tolerance and focuses on anti-bias.
  • Encourage students to practice phrases which teach them how to approach teachers or classmates.
  • Give positive feedback on a daily basis. Telling the student what they are doing well reinforces their desire to continue to improve. Gestures like a smile or high five can drive the meaning further when language is still a barrier.
  • Involve parents. Teaching parents to use the skills in the home setting will increase the student’s confidence.
  • Teach students to be proud of their culture. Introduce multicultural books and activities in the classroom to involve all students.
  • Understand the student’s academic progress. Knowing the student’s limits so as not to pressure them more or knowing when to challenge them is crucial in the student’s success.
  • Incorporate positive self-talk. Teach students to use positive messages to themselves when they have negative thoughts.