Tips for familiarizing a new ELL student with school, classroom, and classmates.

From The More-Than-Surviving Handbook

by Barbara Law and Mary Eckes

The More-Than-Just-Surviving Handbook is filled with practical, effective strategies for settling a new ELL student into the classroom. One strategy is assigning a student-buddy to the newcomer. However, rather than arbitrarily assigning a buddy to help a newcomer and leaving the buddy undirected and to his or her own devices, it is wise to be more systematic. One school the authors are familiar with has instituted a carefully planned and executed buddy system that has seen great success. This system, as with most successful programs, has strong administrative support. It involves the careful selection and training of ELL buddies, as well as parental involvement and the use of contracts. Here are some tips for creating a successful buddy program.

Tip 1:
Only good students, who are patient, mature, tolerant of differences, and wise enough to know when to help and when to let the ELL students work on their own, are selected as student-buddies.

Tip 2:
A training workshop is given at the beginning of the year to sensitize all student-buddies to the challenges ELL students face and to help them learn ways to assist the newcomers. Parents of student-buddies are given a form to sign, giving permission for their children to be buddies.

Tip 3:
Buddies are matched with newcomers in their class and given a list of fun and friend-making things to do. Students sign contracts, which detail things they will do with the newcomer-buddies. Some suggestions include going to McDonald’s together, phoning their newcomer-buddies every day, inviting them home once a week.

Tip 4:
Special recognition is given to student-buddies for their services. There is a friendship picnic at the end of the year, and a “buddies poster” (photographs of each student-buddies with his/her newcomer friend) is displayed in a prominent place in the school.

This program makes everyone in the school aware that ELL students do not create problems that need to be overcome, but provide special opportunities for learning and friendship. Being appointed a student-buddy is seen as an honour. The program is a well-planned way to ease the transition for new students.

More information about The More-Than-Just Surviving Handbook is available at

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