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Teaching refugees

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Teaching refugees

Language is a critical key to understanding the culture and experiences of people. It enables one to develop a sense of belonging and acceptance in a particular group. It is through language that we are able to communicate to each other – that complex concepts and ideas are transmitted. In school, competency is critical to its achievement. A competent instruction requires a creative and resourceful teacher to handle various situations especially when dealing with students of diverse cultural origin.

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In the given situation, a student does not speak English, and he just arrives during the 9th week of schooling.

Being a political refugee, his education has often been interrupted, probably by war or other civil unrest. The student perhaps has been traumatized to some extent. Now that he is with his new learning environment, his experiences can have a negative impact on his school performance while trying to adapt with his new culture.

To teach ESL effectively, the teacher should consider the cultural sensitivity of the student.

He should help his new student to cope up or adapt with his new school. First and foremost, the classroom environment should be conducive to cultural sensitivity, meaning, it recognizes student different cultures in a meaningful way. The teacher should also help to learn about his new culture. What particular activities can be done so that this student can be able to adapt to his new school?

Here are some helpful activities that the teacher should do: First, the “Getting to know you” part. This is making personal connections between the new comer, the old students, and the teacher himself. It is not simply asking the name of student, but also the names of his family members. At the same time, let the old students introduce themselves to the new comer. Second, “Incorporate culturally familiar learning strategies in the class.”

The new student may have different learning environment from his new environment and classroom routines. It is very important for the teacher to find the student experiences. Here are some helpful activities to be done: Let the student write autobiographical book or draw pictures of important events in his life to express the ideas and emotions. Ask him to tell about his family, his country of origin, customs and traditions that they have in order that for the teacher and to his new classmates to have a better understanding of who really is through the background he has. Make an effort to learn words or phrases in his first language (L1). It will be more interesting for him because you would appear as more of a partner in the learning process rather a mere authority figure who does all the commands. Third, “Organize a field trip to visit regional attractions such as museums, art exhibits, and historical sites so that the new student will be able to gain an appreciation of his new culture. And fourth, consider his emotional experiences. Normally, people have the need to feel that they belong, and feel at home, but due to cultural differences, sometimes one feels that he/she is an outcast. In order to overcome this feeling, the teacher in the given situation should make an effort that the new student will be able to be a part of the group. He could organize a group of old students where it will serve as the ingroup for the new student. The teacher should guide this group of students so that the new student would be comfortable with their company. This group of students will guide or assist him in activities or events in the school where his participation is required or necessary. This, I believe, can help so much the new student to overcome culture shock and finally will lead to a successful intercultural adjustment.

During this course of adjustment, the student, somehow, would be able to reinforce and practice English language skills. At first, it is quite difficult for him to do as a non-English speaker. Again, it is the teacher who could help him better. It requires creativity, resourcefulness, and patience on the part of the teacher to teach ESL to a non-English speaker. It is also important that the teacher should find out to what degree or level the student belongs to.

How should the teacher instruct the student to listen, read and write if he does not have a good grasp of English? How can he be included in content area of instruction?

Over the years, many methods for teaching English as a second language () have been developed. The teacher should select a method which is appropriate to the student needs. In his case, the Direct Method is applicable for it goes beyond translation of text. It emphasizes oral communication and the use of target language which is an integral part of learning a foreign language. In this method, reading and writing will be introduced later, once the student has a good grasp of speech. Since the student is a new comer, with a limited education, an inductive approach in teaching is more appropriate to his level. Here, he will be taught to learn how to structure the target language within real situations. This is through practice and examples taken from everyday life situations.  Added to that, the audio-lingual method can also be used for his case. This method teaches grammatical structure patterns and vocabulary through the repetition and memorization of set phrases or dialogues.

The student should be able to master the basic skills required for him such as listening, reading and writing for him to be included in the curriculum of his new class. Based on the book of Kenneth Cushner et al. which is entitled Human Diversity in Education, there are four basic skills where an ESL student must master. These are listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Each of these skills can be subdivided into different subdivisions such as vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, meanings, and style. And in the case of the student in the given scenario, it would be best if the teacher could carry out clear guidelines to bring the best result of instruction. The following could be of help: (1) Find out the needs of the student.

What particular learning competencies he needs at the end of the course. (ex. Alphabet, shapes, colors, classroom vocabulary, sentence pattern, etc.) (2.) Make a time table of the lessons you need to tackle with him. Divide the learning competencies into the number of days or weeks you have with him. In this way, you can be able to give extra time or additional sessions with him if necessary. (3) Formulate lesson objectives. The teacher should have at least one or two objectives of what the student should attain at the end of each session. (4) Incorporate the 3Ps in the lesson plan.  Presentation is the first part of the lesson plan. The teacher presents new material to the student. For example, to get him read and pronounce the names of days of the week correctly in English, the teacher should present each word by showing it written down and modeling the pronunciation. Next is practice. This is the second part of the lesson plan where students work on guided practice activities. For instance, the student would listen and repeat each word while the teacher is listening with him and doing the necessary corrections. Last is production. In this portion, the student should be able to do what the objective set out for him without any assistance. For example, he would read the words aloud individually. This part is more of application. (5) Come up with appropriate teaching strategies or activities. These are necessary in carrying out your objectives. Examples are songs, games, group presentation, pair work or peer tutoring; use of visual aids such as photos, charts, illustrations; use of graphic organizers, problem solving, role playing, film showing and the like. (6) Select appropriate materials. This could catch the interest of the student. It ranges from books to cards, game boards, CD players, etc.

Since the student is a beginner with limited background in English, it is a must that the teacher should provide him with guided reading and writing books. The book should be appropriate to his level. It is better if the teacher could give him manuals for exercises or activities. All learning activities should be done with the guidance of the teacher. And (7), set flexible behavior and practices. In order to monitor the progress of the student, he should provide a daily anecdotal report of the student performance. In giving instruction, it should be done in slow but clear voice and direct instruction for him to get the message. Take one step at a time. It is not necessary to overload him with many vocabularies at one session. It is a must that the teacher should give constant practice or review every session. Give hands-on activities. This will ensure deeper learning of the subject matter. Allow extra wait time for language processing. Always facilitate the student because he might get passive or hesitate to ask questions.  Though it is direct method that is best regarded to be more effective in teaching communicative English, it is still a must to consider the student cultural background. That’s why, it is also important to recognize or allow the use of his L1 to support instruction in L2. Finally, give concise and relevant assessment or evaluation.

In ESL instruction, English is taught in order to integrate the student’s background and cultural experiences through different steps of language learning competencies. For the student in the given scenario, he could be able to adapt with his new culture and be immersed in the content area of instruction with the help of his teacher, who is knowledgeable and skilled enough in carrying out the methods and strategies in teaching ESL. The student could be able to embrace and understand his new culture and still active with his old culture.


Cushner, K., McClelland, A., Safford, P. (1992). Human Diversity in Education: An Integrative Approach. USA: McGraw-Hill, Inc.






Cite this Teaching refugees

Teaching refugees. (2017, Jan 29). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/teaching-refugees/

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