One important method for finding the proper starting point for ELLs is to provide authentic and effective diagnostics for reading, writing, and oral literacies in both their L1 and L2. This is a good way to being understanding students' strengths and needs at the start of the year, but is especially important for ELLs who may have developed their skills since they were first given an assessment (STEP User Guide, 2015). Furthermore, attention to early observation will help teachers understand and plan for supporting students' acculturation processes, creating authentic scaffolded English interactions, and encouraging parental support in student learning (ESL and ELD Curriculum Grades 9 to 12, 2007).
In addition, I would try to begin each class with informal conversations with the students. I usually try to do this as they enter the classroom, saying hello to each individual student by name and asking how they're doing. Oftentimes, students will come in ready to talk about something that happened in the last class or ask your opinion on discussions they were having in the hallway. The informality of discussion that happens before students think the class actually "begins" is a way to make them comfortable and open to oral participation in the learning activities that follow. These are effective methods for finding appropriate starting points for ELLs because they help develop rapport with the students (Many Roots, Many Voices, p.20).
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