Skip to content
Language Learning

Four Ideas for Welcoming Newcomers to Your School

Newcomers, or students born outside the United States who have recently moved to the country, are a rapidly growing part of K-12 public schools. They are a highly diverse group from various cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Helping newcomers adapt to their new school environment will ensure better academic and social outcomes for the entire student body. When students feel welcomed and included, they are more likely to feel motivated and engaged in their learning. 

Creating a sense of belonging for all students is critical for acclimation and school unity. Providing individualized support for each newcomer can seem daunting, but with inclusive practices and routines, everyone will benefit.

Implement these practical tips and ideas to ensure newcomers and their families feel welcomed and informed at your school!

Do you have a dual language immersion program?

Dual language immersion (DLI) programs are an innovative approach that benefits all students—academically and intellectually gifted, non-native English speakers, students with exceptionalities, and students from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. Check out this blog post to learn more about how DLI programs can increase student engagement and complement traditional ELL programs. 

Build connections to foster a sense of belonging. 

All students want to feel like they belong, and a few intentional initiatives will go a long way to ensure newcomers are welcomed and build genuine connections with peers. Not only that, when the entire family feels welcomed and supported, they are more likely to be actively engaged in school activities, extracurriculars, and community events. 

A positive experience during the initial transition period encourages long-term engagement and commitment to the school. Try these ideas to build connections:

  • Buddy system: Pair newcomers with existing students who can serve as buddies to help them navigate the school, understand routines, and make friends.
  • Orientation sessions: Organize orientation sessions to familiarize newcomers with school policies, facilities, and support services available to them.
  • Multilingual support: Provide information in multiple languages to accommodate students and families from diverse linguistic backgrounds.
  • Peer support groups: Create peer support groups where newcomers can connect with other students who have similar experiences or backgrounds.
  • Parental involvement: Encourage parents/guardians of existing students to reach out and welcome newcomers and their families, fostering genuine connections.
  • Small-group activities: Plan small-group activities or icebreakers to help newcomers interact with their peers in a less intimidating setting.
  • School tours: Offer guided tours of the school facilities to newcomers, allowing them to familiarize themselves with the layout and resources available.

Provide explicit instruction for “hidden curriculum.”

It’s important to consider that what might seem routine may be completely unfamiliar for newcomer students. Don’t assume newcomers will be familiar with rules and procedures around things like drills, field trips, class presentations, and assemblies. Prepare students for what will happen during these types of events so expectations are clear. Explain changes in schedules or routines in advance.

Support newcomers during transitions between activities or classes by providing clear instructions, reminders, and extra time if necessary. Offer assistance with navigating the school environment if they are unfamiliar with the layout.

Implement clear and consistent routines.

Newcomers, especially multilingual learners, will adapt more quickly with clear and consistent classroom routines. Make sure you model routines for students when necessary, and use visuals and gestures regularly to aid comprehension.

Display the daily schedule prominently in the classroom, outlining the sequence of activities and transitions throughout the day. This helps newcomers anticipate what will happen next and feel more comfortable in the classroom environment.

Within your daily classroom routines and activities, give students multiple ways to express ideas and demonstrate their understanding. Provide scaffolded instruction and differentiated learning activities to accommodate newcomers’ diverse needs and readiness levels. Break tasks into manageable steps and provide additional support as needed.

Celebrate the diversity of your student body.

Culturally responsive teaching will have an enormous positive impact on all students, not just newcomers. Celebrating the diversity of your student body, including different perspectives, histories, languages, and cultures, creates a warm and welcoming environment.

Even starting with a diverse classroom library will help newcomers feel seen and understood. Strive to have many different characters, situations, and languages represented in literature. You can also organize school events or activities that celebrate the diverse cultures, traditions, and backgrounds of students. Asking students to share an aspect of their culture and modeling by sharing a piece of your own culture will help all students feel acknowledged and celebrated.

Creating a welcoming environment for newcomers is crucial for their academic success, social adjustment, emotional well-being, and overall positive school experience. It lays the foundation for a thriving and inclusive learning community where all students can reach their full potential. By implementing these routines and procedures, schools can create a supportive environment that helps newcomers feel comfortable, confident, and successful in their academic pursuits.

What has your school done to welcome newcomers? We’d love to hear your success stories and ideas for other schools to implement! Tag us on social media, and use the hashtag #UnitingOurWorld.

Share this Post

More on the blog