“Reaching Immigrant Students:
10 Strategies for Teachers”
Virginia M. Tong, Ph.D. (TESOL, Hunter College of CUNY)
Tom McIntyre, Ph.D. (Special Ed, Hunter College of CUNY)
While you’re waiting
things do you do to help your immigrant
students adjust to their new country?
 How do you help them to better handle the
struggle between two cultures as they redefine
their personal “sense of self”?
Stages of Acculturation
Euphoria (Excited, Enthusiastic, Curious).
Culture Shock (Disillusioned, Homesick).
Gradual Recovery.
- An active search for one’s true self ensues
- A “Cross cultural identity” begins to form
- Change is a constant intra-personal companion.
(full recovery).
Brown, 2001.
Adjusting to America…
Culture Scenarios
Which stage of acculturation?
Chen crosses the street while staring blankly
into the sky.
Carmen, a 17 year-old high school student
tells you that she wants to finish school and
return to her home country.
Ven is afraid to raise his hand to ask to go to
the bathroom.
Ben got into college and began to understand
what it meant to be in America.
1. Learn About The Cultural
Backgrounds Of Your Students
Teachers should learn about the home life of
their students…
But what & why?
These important influences on one’s sense of
self can be categorized into
“Levels of Culture”.
Level 1: “Surface culture”
Items produced by a culture
 Technology
 Foods
 Architecture
 Clothing
Other cultures are often judged as "superior" or
"inferior" based on this level… the physical realm
Few individuals are able to converse intelligently
at deeper levels of culture.
Level 2: Actions & Movements
(ceremonies, body language, movement patterns, emotionality)
 Which is the correct way to non-verbally indicate "me"?
 Which is the correct color to wear to a wedding? Funeral?
When you're in your house of worship, which is correct?
Be quiet while leader speaks.
Talk back to the leader & make your support known verbally.
Sit with your family.
Sit with others of your gender.
Close your hands with face down when praying.
Open your hands with face up when praying.
When you meet someone, how should you respond?
Clasp their hand in your own.
Clasp your own hands.
Stand tall with strong eye contact.
Bow with eyes down.
From your study and experience, what have you
learned about:
Body spacing and touch?
Gender and cross-gender considerations
Age considerations
Forbidden places (other than groin & buttocks)
Eye contact?
During conversation
When chastised by authority
Level 3: Speech & Language
Major effect on how reality is perceived & processed
Affects "promptness" & what’s meant by "on time“.
Aborigines might be judged as "backward“ by us.
(Our technology use & a kaleidoscope of words to describe.)
However, they might view us as "socially stunted".
European languages place great emphasis on tense.
“Black English” expresses & uses tense differently.
1st peoples’ languages don't use tense.
Our language places emphasis on "things“, not "people".
They have more 500 words for kinship… social connectivity
Language structure & terminology often reflect level 4.
Level 4: Thought
Values, ethics, religion, metaphysics, learning styles.
Major Western & Eastern religious figures are males
Major 1st Peoples & African religious figures are ???
Level 4 affects, & is reflected in all other levels.
“Appropriate” clothing for age & gender.
Who sits where.
Who is viewed as “Head of household”.
Gender use in languages.
Europeans stress importance of individual.
Most other groups emphasize interrelations.
If someone fails to complete his/her homework & asks to
look at yours, is it OK?
Many students have to change when came to U.S.
Task oriented
People oriented
Self-defined goals
Family defined goals
School supersedes family
Family is priority
Excel as an individual / Family Emotionally restrained
supports efforts
Outward or More restrained
Excel as a group / Family must
not suffer for achievement
Resolve disputes verbally
Resolve physically
Future oriented / Delay gratif.
Present oriented
Defend views with facts
Truth is felt
Learn from adults
Adults & older kids
Question authority (politely)
Don't question authority
Precision time
1 in each pair is EA middle/upper
Flexible time
Sharing Culture
Show & Tell.
Culture Simulators (see “10 tips” article handout).
Culture Capsules.
This reference can be found in your handout.
Exploring Culture Capsules
A culture capsule consists of 3-4 paragraphs.
It explains one or more minimal differences
between the customs of one culture &
corresponding American customs.
It is usually accompanied by photos,
illustrations, & relevant relics.
Culture capsules can be presented
in 5 or 10 minutes.
“Chinese New Year” &
“American New Year” (Chinese New Year)
Chinese New Year is the longest & most important
celebration in the Chinese (Lunar) calendar.
At celebrations, people wear red clothes & children
receive “lucky money” in bright red envelopes.
Red symbolizes fire that according to legend can
drive away bad luck.
Fireworks shower the festivities, based on the ancient
belief that loud noise frightens away evil spirits.
The New Year is a time of family reunion. The shape
& color of foods served hold significance (long life,
good luck)
On the 15th day of the month, the Chinese New Year
ends with the lantern festival & is highlighted by
the dragon dance.
(source: http://www.infoplease.com/spot/newyearcelebrations.html)
“Chinese New Year” &
“American New Year” (American New Year)
The most famous tradition in America is the dropping
of the lighted crystal ball in Times Square, starting
at 11:59pm. Thousands gather (& millions view TV)
to watch the ball make its one-minute drop,
arriving exactly at midnight.
People make “New Year’s resolutions,” promises to
improve themselves in the coming year. At
midnight comes the singing of “Auld Lang Syne,”
a song about remembering old friends with
fondness, & forgetting any personal offences.
The Rose Bowl football game is played in Pasadena,
CA on New Year’s Day. The “Tournament of
Roses” parade with its elaborate & creative floats
precedes the game.
2. Match Your Teaching Style to the
Learning Styles of Your Students
Research: Culture is the largest influence on
learning style (We learn how to learn at home)
Visual vs Verbal
 Preferences while learning
 Behavioral traits while learning
 Inductive vs. Deductive
 Field Independent vs Field Dependent
 Sequential vs Simultaneous.
Organize this incoming information.
Source: K-SOS
EA (especially male) versus CD
Source: K-SOS
Tell me what
is happening
in these
Source: K-SOS
What do you see?
For more information on matching teaching styles to
culturally different learning styles: Does the Way We
Teach Create Behavior Disorders In Culturally Different
Students? http://www.behavioradvisor.com/C-Learn.html
(This reference can be found in your handout).
3. Evaluate Student Behavior
in a Cultural Context
ESL and/or Immigrant students experience
 Anxiety
 Other emotions due to stress related to acculturation &
“fitting in”.
For more information on determining whether an
“inappropriate” behavior is different, deviant, or a
result of “acculturation stress” consult these
(online) references (found in the handout):
Culturally sensitive & appropriate assessment for EBD.
The culturally sensitive disciplinarian
Guidelines for providing appropriate services to culturally
diverse youngsters with emotional and/or behavioral
4. Determine the Reason(s) for
Academic Troubles
Limited English proficiency
 Structural differences from home language
 Stress & mental exhaustion from high levels of concentration
 A valid “Learning Disability” (special ed label)
(To determine whether it is LEP or LD,
assess students in their native/1st language.)
Acculturation Stress/Trauma from refugee experience
Mismatch between learning & teaching styles
Mismatch between the teacher’s views & the
student’s perceptions of “appropriate student
behavior” in learning situations
Limited or different exposure to formal education.
5. Keep Expectations High
We all hold high expectations for our kids…
BUT are we expressing them in ways that
will produce the results we seek?
Are we giving feedback on their performance
(behaviorally & academically) that is motivating
them to put forth their best efforts?
What recommendations do you have for
offering praise and “criticism”?
Say What?!
“Thumbs up”
“V” for victory
Pointing & summoning with “pointer finger”
Showing the soles of your feet.
Stars on stellar papers
Others we should know?
C’mon…They’re in America (Canada) now.
6. Obtain & Provide Effective Supports
for Recent Immigrant Students
For which “supports” might we advocate in order
to create a welcoming and supportive learning
What programs, materials, personnel, etc. are
important for the success of our students?
(academics, acculturation)
Which supports can help them to develop a
positive “cross-cultural identity”?
Suggestions (Tong, 1998)
Designate mentor teachers…advocates for individual
Recruit & hire staff who are immigrants, or speak the
language(s) and/or know the culture(s) of your
immigrant students.
Create mini-schools within larger schools.
Create smaller classes.
Initiate more group work & cross-age tutoring to allow
students to support others.
Set up student outreach centers that provide support &
services for immigrant and LEP youngsters.
Form school “culture clubs” to promote student
awareness, tolerance, & celebration of
cultural/linguistic differences.
Conduct professional development workshops to
educate staff in culturally proficient assessment,
instruction, behavior management, and interaction.25
7. The Power of Personal Relationships
“The greatest motivator that teachers have at
their disposal is themselves.”
What are some things that you do to create
positive & valued inter-personal bonds with
your students?
Establishing a history of positive interactions
Celebrating their ethnicity & language
Helping them to succeed at challenges:
Building self-confidence & competence with
effective praise & criticism.
8. Accept the Cultural Tendencies of
Your Students While Encouraging
Them to be Cultural Chameleons
Promote pride in the “old” & “new” cultures and
languages… the foundation for a positive
“cross cultural identity”.
Help students to recognize & understand the
 Similarities
 Differences
within & between the two cultures
(to promote proficient management of demands of both).
9. Learn Basic Words and Ways
Greetings in Many Different Languages
Jennifer’s Language Page
*See your handout for these & other resources.
10. Enjoy the Cultural Experience
“A teacher never knows where his/her influence ends.”
Your Thoughts?
Why wouldn’t this stuff work with your kids?
What are the exceptions to “the rules”?
Other thoughts, questions, concerns, &
Thank you.
Have a wonderful remainder
of the conference
Ginny & Tom

NYS TESOL Annual Conference 2007