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Teaching English Language Learners

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Gen Schulz

on 18 February 2013

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Transcript of Teaching English Language Learners

Involve Parents Stages of Language Acquisition Strategies Tools of the Trade In the Classroom The classroom teacher plays a major role in the school success of ELL students. For this reason, Herrell and Jordan (2012) state "It is vital that classroom teachers understand the implications of language acquisition research so they can provide the scaffolding necessary for their students to be successful in the classroom" (p. 1). They go on to discuss in several different manners the importance of the classroom environment and teaching strategies. For example ELLs require a supportive and comfortable classroom as well as much scaffolding to make adequate strides in their learning. Waxman, et al. echo this sentiment in their study on the resilience of ELLs saying that ELLs need to feel confident in their ability as well as a differentiated lesson plan.
Herrell and Jordan provide many strategies for use in the classroom in addition to naming key behaviors for the teacher, such as "...slower speech, clear enunciation, vocabulary development, making connections to student experiences, and using supplemental materials. (Genesee 1999)" (Herrell & Jordan, 2012, p.6). I strongly recommend their book 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners. It is an invaluable tool for the classroom teacher. "U.S. Department of Education statistics reveal that over 5 million school-age children are categorized as English Language Learners (Els; NCELA, 2006)" (Vera, et al., 2012, p. 184).

"English language learners (ELLs) are the fastest-growing student population in the U.S., but they are among the country's lowest performing students (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2007; Garcia & Cuellar, 2006)" (Waxman, et al., 2012, p. 53). Let's start at home. It is the school's and the teacher's ultimate responsibility to make sure the parents are comfortable and have access to the school, teacher, and subsequently their child's education. Parental involvement is a critical part of increasing student's achievement. "Parental educational involvement has been widely studied as one of the most important predictors of school success..." (Vera, et al., 2012, p .184). "...children of all ages with involved parents tend to have higher attendance, achievement levels, and more positive attitudes toward school..." (Vera, et al., 2012, p. 184). For the parents of ELL students there may be barriers to their involvement.

According to the study by Vera, et al., (2012) "...the most common barriers were linguistic, a lack of familiarity with the U.S. educational system, and a desire to not interfere with how teachers do their jobs" (p. 194).

Teachers need to get to know the students and their families to determine why there is lack of school involvement and then determine the best course of action to increase involvement.

Making sure parents feel welcome, encouraging interactions with the teacher and other school officials, making sure a translator is available if necessary, and stressing a team approach to their child's education will go a long way toward increasing parent involvement. For more information I suggest reading the study by Vera, et al. listed in the references page. Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. Berg, et al. (2012) also outline specific strategies teachers can employ when teaching ELLs. A list and brief description follows:
1. Understand Academic Background.
It is important for the teacher to understand what type and depth of schooling the student had in their native language so that the teacher can target instruction more accurately
2. Make Instruction Meaningful.
Making connections to their personal lives and previous experiences will help students better understand the content of a lesson as well as the vocabulary.
3. Make Instruction Culturally Responsive.
A student's culture should be present in the classroom and the learning materials. In addition, teachers should be familiar with the student's cultural beliefs and practices when it comes to school.
4. Foster Peer Interaction.
ELLs need opportunities to use the language in ways that are comfortable for them. Cooperative groups can foster language usage and acquisition so long as ELLs are paired with monolingual English speakers and all students are taught how to appropriately interact and foster communication.
5. Teacher's Language Use.
Teachers need to be more conscious of their own manner of speaking and be sure they are speaking slowly, clearly, naturally, and allowing for pauses so the ELLs can process what is being said. Avoiding idioms is also beneficial and avoids confusion for the ELL.
6. Make Written Materials Comprehensible.
There are many things a teacher can do to make texts more understandable to ELLs. Examples are pre-reading exercises, reading about the topic in their native language first, pairing students with bilingual students or native English speakers, and jigsaw exercises. Herrell and Jordan's book 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners (2012) has wonderful ideas that are easy to implement and reflect many other literacy strategies I have encountered. Going back to basic literacy skills greatly improves understanding for native English speakers and ELLs alike. It is important to ensure all students find the material accessible. Teaching reading strategies and vocabulary acquisition are two of the most critical lessons a teacher can present. They will stay with the students for a lifetime. While "..., gaining access to the information taught in middle and secondary content area classes requires that all children exit the elementary grades with good reading comprehension capacity" (Carlo, et al., 2004, p.188). Teachers in mainstream classes are not prepared to help their ELL students overcome their language barriers.

"Darling-Hammond (2006) reported that the majority of teachers from exemplary teacher education programs who were surveyed rated themselves as 'less well prepared' to work with ELLs (p. 65), and Reeves (2006) found that over81% of the secondary teachers she surveyed believed they received inadequate training to work with ELLs" (Berg, et al., 2012, p.35).
How do you feel? Are you prepared? The Root of the Problem So, What do we do?? The issues: The Barriers: Berg, et al. (2012) suggest that teachers need to understand the stages of second language acquisition in order to better scaffold instruction and facilitate language and academic achievement. The following is a list of the stages and a brief summary as they are outlined in the above mentioned study.
1. Silent/Receptive/Pre-productive Stage
"...ELLs are primarily taking in language input, building their oral comprehension skills and their ability to infer meaning from context clues" (page 35). They can communicate through non-verbal and one word responses. They should not be pressured to respond beyond this level.
2. Early Production Stage
Students are beginning to communication short phrases and extract more meaning from spoken language. "Any utterances produced here should be celebrated rather than corrected" (page 36).
3. Speech Entrance Stage
ELLs are now able to communicate with simple sentences. "All attempts to communicate (gestures, attentiveness, following directions, etc) should be warmly received and encouraged" (page 36).
4. Intermediate Fluency Stage
More complex language skills are now present. ELLs are beginning to think directly in English. "They can express opinions and share thoughts" (page 36). While conversation appears more fluent now , understanding of academic vocabulary still needs work.
5. Advanced Fluency Stage
"In this stage, the focus changes to reading, writing and building academic language. The student begins to engage in non-cued conversation and to produce oral and written narratives" (page 36). `
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