The Bendy Blog

Teaching English Language Learners

By Stacey Cronin

Bendy Blog category: Teaching Techniques

Yoga benefits our students physically, mentally, and emotionally, but yoga for learning language? Let’s explore how yoga promotes language acquisition in English Learners.

English Learners (ELs) are people whose native language is one other than English. They are learning the culture of a new country, academic language in school, and social language for daily interaction. Sometimes young ELs live with the added stress and responsibility of interpretation for family members in a variety of business and medical settings.

We know practicing yoga can aid with relaxation, self-regulation, and self-awareness. In addition, yoga can be a great resource providing further experiences with expressive and receptive language. Yoga offers mental and emotional release in the midst of a long day, where ELs are constantly trying to make sense of the language and routines around them. Using minimal verbal cues, children can participate in breath and movement.

Total Physical Response, TPR, is a well-known language teaching method coordinating language and movement. YogaKids exemplifies the Total Physical Response, combining language with physical movement and modeling. Think of how often yoga instruction includes direction and position vocabulary such as up, down, left, right, in front, behind, around, etc.  Body parts of humans and animals is another category of terms used throughout YogaKids instruction.  These are just a few Laughing Language activities that are perfect for ELs.

Participation in yoga class also offers ELs a fun way to engage with peers. YogaKids provides children the opportunity to participate in large and small group partnerships. ELs can take a turn as pose leader, promoting oral language development, even if they know very little English. As YogaKids Teachers we provide a safe environment in which to experiment with language.

Listed below are a few ideas to support English Learners in your YogaKids class:

  • Modeling is key. (You are an actor in a silent movie.)
  • Visuals, like pose cards, are helpful. After introducing a sequence, students can use the pose cards to retell the pose story or create their own.
  • Speak slower, not louder.
  • Repetition; remember multiple exposures are needed to internalize a new concept.
  • Simplify language; use precise terms with paraphrasing.
  • Position EL near socially positive peer.
  • Choral responses provide a safe way to participate orally.
  • Allow children to simply observe (safety of choice as they learn receptively).
  • Offer ways to demonstrate that do not require speaking. “Show me…”
  • Provide options for student responses, i.e. “Mountain or tree?” (Model as you say the options.)
  • If you have your own space, label the room. (window, blankets, blocks, water, wall, etc.)  This is helpful for ELs with strong oral language but limited written skills.
  • Implement music. It teaches the rhythm of language, and culture.

Remember facial expressions and body language can be easier to understand than words.  So let your light and love of children shine!

Learn how YogaKids can help you teach children of all ages and abilities!

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