Lesson 2: How important for ENL/ESL Students to have someone who understands them?



The participants will be able to define the importance of the support from educators and parents/guardians for ENL/ESL students.

Case Study

When Bessie Alexopolous and her parents moved from Greece to the United States, she didn't know a word of English. As the only Greek-speaking student in her class, Alexopolous was all but ignored by her teachers. Her fellow students followed suit.

"I was silent for a long time," she says. "I was afraid to raise my hand. They always labeled me as shy, but the truth was I felt odd and different. And I didn't want to tell anyone that I spoke a different language at home."(Kilman, 2009)

This is a typical situation for ENL/ESL students without much support from their teachers.

  • Let's think
   If you were in the same situation as Bessie, how do you feel? 
   Do you think the situation would be different if the teacher's attitude for her was different?

You will define your answer to this question in "Reflection" below this page after reviewing "Introduction" and "Investigation".


Many ESL/ENL students feel lonely when they cannot participate in class activities. Some teachers think that there is no other way for those kids who don’t speak any English but sitting at the back of their classroom and do some different activities by her/himself. Some teachers also think that they are unable to communicate or there is no need to communicate with the parents/guardians of ENL/ESL students because of language difficulty as well as a different set of values and cultures.

Please click to learn more about Bessie Alexopolous as Lonely Language Learners.


Many ELLs have first language and literacy knowledge as well as skills that boost their acquisition of English language and literacy. Additionally, they bring an array of cultural practices and perspectives that enrich our schools and society. Teachers must build on this enormous reservoir of talent with additional time and appropriate instructional support (Blueprint, 2014).

For teachers who never had the experience to work with ENL/ESL students, it is easy for teachers to think and act inappropriately because of the lack of knowledge to ENL/ESL students. You will have more details about those misconceptions in Lesson 3: Do you know any misconceptions of ENL/ESL Students?


Now it is time for you to think about it…. If you were in a classroom as a new student and your teacher almost ignored you.

  • Let’s click to watch 5 minutes video with today's teachers who had that experience when they first came to the U.S.A.



Thank you for your participation in Lesson 2! Here are some questions for you to self-assess your understanding.

  • Do you think that ENL/ESL students are happier to be separated and work themselves because of their poor language ability?
  • Do you think that ENL/ESL students are empty vessels and your goal as a teacher is to fill them with knowledge in English because they didn’t have any?
  • Do you think that it is difficult or worthless to talk to ENL/ESL students' parents/guardians about students' school life?


Go on to Lesson 3: Do you know any misconceptions of ENL/ESL Students?

Return to Encouraging Young ESL Students in the USA