This article by Sara Burnett is a must-read for teachers. Having witness first hand the diversity in the classroom, as well as the constant fluctuation of students entering or leaving to and from different parts of the world, it is important to help their transition as much as possible. The layout of the article is very straightforward and provides a list of Do’s and Don’ts in relation to welcoming newcomers into the class. It is made clear the extending welcome does not stop at the student, but should include the families of newcomers. Whether there are language barriers or not, continue to extend help and accommodations.
I was looking for concrete classroom ideas to put these ideas into practice and this article does not disappoint. It provides a lengthy list of activities and methods to show that students’ role is part of the community as a whole and not just as a member of the classroom. Furthermore, these ideas do not pertain solely to immigrant students, but really to any new student from near or far. This leads to another topic of discussion all-together: how do we engage existing students so they are welcoming in their own way, and addressing behaviour of students that exclude newcomers.
I’ve had the chance to work with a number of students that were new to the classroom and the country. They knew very little English and if you are a teacher with similar students then I would encourage incorporating music into the lesson plans. They were able to sing, gesture, work with others effortlessly when the importance of language was removed from the situation. Music is accessible and can provide rich source of learning for every individual in the classroom. We were working on rhythmic exercises and pairing them with gestures. They were easily able to follow along, and were learning more about English as they associated their movements with the words. Most importantly, they were enjoying what they were doing and you could see that they felt a sense of belonging within their classroom.