Being an ESL teacher, there’s nothing more exciting than getting that phone call or email that a newcomer is in the counseling office waiting to enroll. I get butterflies. What adventure has he or she had to be at my school? What adventures will WE have together in his or her new home away from home. I get to be the welcoming face these students see, and I want to make sure they leave the school that day with positive impressions: they’ll be taken care of, they’ll be accepted and loved, they’ll find community, and they’ll have the support they need to succeed in and out of school.
One of the very first things I do is create a cultural biography for that student to give to their classroom teachers. This is a free resource for students grades K-12. I believe this is one of the best ways I can support both that student and his or her teachers. Being a former Social Studies teacher, I loved asking my students from different countries to elaborate on their experiences pertaining to the topic we were learning about in class. This helped foster a positive classroom environment, and everyone learned something new when these students shared. It also helped open the minds of my American students to see different perspectives and further develop mutual respect and understanding. Passing out cultural biographies to teachers ensures teachers will remember what countries our ESL students are from and involve them in classes. Knowing English language proficiency levels and educational history also helps teachers be better aware of how to proceed with modifications and accommodations.
This resource also includes an info sheet for students, so they are informed about pertinent information like logins and passwords, their schedule, lunch times, who they can eat with, their counselor and more. The purpose of both the cultural biography and student info sheet is to make the transition into our buildings as smooth as possible. Enjoy!