Working with an Interpreter

Last week I shared the way that I go about setting up parent teacher conferences. Now that ours are over, I have decided to make one change for next year. At the beginning of the year, I’m going to send home a note asking parents to select if they would like an earlier (1-4) or later (5-8) time for their conference. I’m hoping this will help me avoid the last minute changes that plagued conferences this year. 

Now, onto tips when working with interpreters. 

·         Make sure to introduce yourself to the interpreter, and the interpreter to the parent.

·         Make sure you’re making eye contact with the parent as you talk, not the interpreter.

·         Speak in shorter sentences, with frequent breaks.

·         If you are uncomfortable with an interpreter who interprets at the same time as you talk, ask them to wait until you’re finished speaking (this conversation should happen before the parents arrive).

·         If special education terms, psychological terms, or testing will be discussed, make sure to explain the terms so that the interpreter and the parent can be clear as to what you’re referring to.

·         Make sure to give the parents time to ask questions. Since this is often one of a few times a year there is an interpreter available, be sure that you’re prepared to answer general questions as well (or at least know where to find the information)

In order to make this easy to share with your teachers, I’m including a  handout that you can print and slip in mailboxes, or email as a PDF.  (Click on the picture to purchase for $1.00). 

interpreter handout

Tips for working with interpreters

Do you have any additional tips that may help? Please share! 



Parent Teacher Conferences with ELL Parents

Later this week we have our spring conferences. As a classroom teacher, I loved conferences because it gave me a better insight into my students, and provided a great opportunity to talk with parents who are not as available.

As I have transitioned to a full time ESL teacher, I’ve found that one of the hardest transitions was during conferences. I cannot be at all of my kids conferences due to time restraints and the fact that I work in two separate buildings. This makes me miss my time in the classroom, getting to really interact with families.

Once I became the ESL teacher, I was in charge of finding all of the needed interpreters for conferences. I have to be honest, before I became the full time ESL teacher, our families had to find interpreters on their own, or their children tried to interpret.

My district is small enough, that out of three elementary schools, we only have one bilingual para, and she is located in the building I do not work in. Now we use a service to provide interpreters for our families. This service has always been around, I just finally figured out how to really make it work.

Here are some hints to using and scheduling multiple families who need interpreters during conferences, when you have to be budget minded and keep the number of interpreters down to a minimum.

1. Schedule your conferences FIRST. Do not let teachers schedule anyone else first. (Keep in touch with SPED teachers as IEP’s might be scheduled during this time).  This allows you the flexibility to fit one student per slot, and keep them all together. Be sure siblings are scheduled back to back.

2. Really communicate (over and over) with classroom teachers the times that have been chosen for their students.

3. Be sure to check in with the business that the interpreters will arrive on time, and as expected. It’s even better if they can give you names of interpreters so you can let your classroom teachers know.

4. Document everything. Keep everything. You never know.

5. Check in with your teachers as often as possible to make sure conferences don’t change. When they do change and you don’t have a translator, check back in with the teacher to see if another time will work.

6. Let your school office know that you have an interpreter coming. I always like to give them a copy of the schedule so they can help guide the interpreter if they get off track.

7. Be nice to your interpreter. Be overly organized and give them a list of all the conferences they will need to translate, the time the conference begins, and the location. I even like to color code (this is because my school is broken up into different color pods).

8. Be even nicer to your interpreter. Have water available, at the bare minimum. They’ll be doing a lot of talking.

Up next week: Information to share with classroom teachers about how to work with an interpreter. Including a free printable that you can just slip in teachers mailboxes.

Free Grammar Games

Teaching grammar can be difficult. It’s one of those things that you have to circle back several times each year, and re-visit year after year to make sure that your students really “get it”.

Games are a great way to revisit the skills after a quick review section. I’ve found the students become really engaged in the game and therefore the skill.

One of the best, new websites I’ve found in a while is this:

You can have the kids play individually or with teams. And the best part is that you can choose specific skills that are often targeted in ESL instruction.

Anyone else have any good, free games that they play with their students?