I’ve been surprised by how much this course has challenged and pushed me. I feel like I have definitely begun to grow and as soon as I begin putting all I’ve learned into practice the growth will really happen. I honestly came into this class with the assumption that most of what we would do would be learn practical tips for teaching ELLs. While there have been an abundance of practical tips and ideas, the far bigger emphasis and basis for my learning has been the importance not of what we teach but how. And that “how” really pertains to how we see our students; how we choose to interact with them; how we strive to reach each student as an individual with a unique cultural and educational background; how we make modifications and accommodations for them; how we examine our own cultural backgrounds to better understand what preconceived ideas and assumptions we are bringing to the classroom; and how important it is to become culturally responsive.

At the beginning of the course we shared what we already knew about working with ELLs and what we wanted to know.  Now I’ve gone back and added what I learned with regards to those initial questions.


Want to know


My school district has a large ESL population (and I’m pretty sure it’s continuing to grow).

What kinds of plans and policies are guiding the region’s approach to meeting the needs of this group of students.

I am still exploring this to get a full picture of what our school board is doing.

In ESL classes you end up teaching so many more things than the specific topic/subject of the course.

How is teaching ESL similar to and different from teaching native English speakers a second language (since this is what I’m more familiar with as a Spanish teacher)

A big difference for the teacher is the fact that they may not know the students’ L1 and therefore need more strategies for how to approach more complex topics in the L2. This is why scaffolding is so important so that you can help students work their way up to the educational goals.

Younger students pick up English much faster and more easily than older students.

How are ESL students doing in general in Ontario?   How do they compare to their English-speaking peers? How does Ontario’s approach to ESL compare to other provinces and countries?

I assume I will find this information as I get more involved in ESL teaching.

Regardless of their cultural and language background all students are regular kids with regular kid desires, interests, passions, etc!

What is the best role of support staff/students in the room (ie, EAs, peer tutors, volunteers, students doing placements, etc.) I ask this because in this school board when I supply in ESL classes there are often several other people there to help and it’s not always clear to me what roles we should all take.

I think one good thing about extra support is the opportunity for students to get one-on-one time with a teacher or tutor.   This can help them to focus on their particular challenges.


Should “First language use should be discouraged as much as possible in the classroom?”

This has been a resounding “no” as students’ L1 forms the basis of their prior knowledge and understanding. Furthermore, their linguistic background is part of their identity and as such is key in their feeling comfortable and welcome in class.  


How will “Developing literacy skills in the first language can aid in developing second language literacy skills?”

From what I’ve learned I believe that L1 skills seem to parallel strengths in the L2. Students draw on their own knowledge in their L1 to build their understanding of English.

Personal Growth as a Teacher

I came into this course with a number of questions as well as goals. My main goal was to become a more inclusive teacher. Regardless of whether or not I end up working specifically in an ESL class, I know that I will always encounter students from diverse backgrounds who bring unique perspectives and backgrounds to their learning. To become a teacher who can best meet everyone’s needs I know that inclusion is essential. I’ve highlighted the more specific aspects I hoped to learn about as well as what I discovered throughout the course in my KWL chart. I also have a vision for ELLs that I’m sure will continue to evolve as I gain experience working with ELLs. Furthermore, as I’ve progressed through the readings, discussions, and experiences of this course I’ve come to change my views about teaching ELLs, one of them specifically being the absolute importance of students’ first languages. As a result of all I’ve learned and experienced in this course, I have no doubt that I will be a much better advocate for ELLs and all students from diverse backgrounds.

I feel excited and a bit overwhelmed at the same time. I’m excited to put what I’ve learned into practice, but I’m overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things I’d like to be focusing on. However, this is not a feeling that is inhibiting me from acting, but one that makes me realize I will have to be patient and begin with incremental changes to my approach to teaching. I’m especially excited to see what opportunities I have for working with ELLs.


Personal Philosophy of Teaching

Vision for ELLs