Our Non-Negotiables for Teaching ELs

A MiddleWeb Blog

I posed a question in the Facebook Group “Advocating for ELLs” and to my Twitter PLN. I asked what their non-negotiables were for teaching English Learners. The responses were overwhelming.

Just imagine if we set aside time as campus or district teams to develop non-negotiables and then we lived by them. This would be a great practice for ESL and bilingual teams. And all teams!

Here are some of the responses:

validate ELs’ identities
instill confidence and empowerment in our multilingual students so they see their language skills as assets and superpowers
all kids are our kids
being bilingual and multilingual is an asset
high expectation and compassion for all
students have access to grade-level curriculum with language scaffolds as needed or not
every student engaged and accountable
teachers who want to teach ELs
EL teachers who are knowledgeable, passionate, and learning too
value and affirm the home language
develop a culturally responsive classroom
create an environment of acceptance
use texts that are culturally relevant
motivate students to tell their story
understand that ESL is not special education or a learning disability
build relationships with families
set and maintain high expectations for learning and believe they are capable

incorporate books and activities that represent ALL kids and all cultures
include visual and wait time
embrace a positive mindset! They can and they will
love and laugh often
show kindness, smile and create a safe space
ensure active EL engagement in critical thinking tasks across the curriculum
critical thinking is a transferable skill across languages – invite translanguaging
every child brings something valuable to our learning community
bilingualism is a superpower
every child will rise to our expectations
they each come with a story and we need to acknowledge that their story is an important part of their identity relationships matter – build safe and respected relationships with the child and the family
acknowledge and support cultural backgrounds
provide the correct linguistic accommodations in order to meet their needs
review vocabulary and build background
use and pronounce their given name correctly
use their prior knowledge
don’t allow failure
reduce the affective filter
praise success
be responsive
provide daily opportunities for speaking
zero tolerance for anyone seeking to police their language

Now build a list of your own

The statements above may help you and your team develop your own non-negotiables. One suggestion is to gather as a group and discuss them as idea-starters. Talk about the ones that stand out most. Can you all agree on some that don’t require any discussion or debate? Some of these can be grouped together into a single statement.

Others may feel more like beliefs to you. You could even go ahead and list your group’s belief statements. It’s best to keep your non-negotiables down to a short list. Narrow them down as much as you can.

Non-negotiables: Standards for our program that are NOT open for discussion.

Beliefs: What you hold true.

Once you have created your non-negotiables (and possibly your beliefs too) keep them at the forefront of your instruction and make them known to all stakeholders.

Administrators and mainstream teachers who also serve English learners need to know what you consider NOT open for discussion. If they are available to take part in the process of creating the non-negotiables and beliefs, even better! Even if one representative from each grade level can participate, they can be the voice for their team.

This process is an excellent way to set the tone as a new school year begins.
Happy creating! And please share with us the non-negotiables your campus or team creates.

Adapted and updated from the English Learners blog.

Valentina Gonzalez

Valentina Gonzalez (@ValentinaESL) is a former classroom teacher and currently serves as an Educational Consultant based out of Texas. Her 20 years as an educator include teaching in the classroom as well as serving as an ESL specialty teacher, district program facilitator, and as a professional development specialist for teachers of ELs. She enjoys advocating for ELLs by blogging, presenting at local and state conferences, and sharing resources with teachers.

1 Response

  1. mary Langer Thompson says:

    Valentina, these are wonderful, and so is the idea of “Non-negotiables.”

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