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Teaching English Language Learners_Ch. 11

Teaching English Language Learners_Ch. 11

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Published by Grace Huerta

This chapter, Teaching ELLs, is from the text, Educational Foundations: Diverse Histories, Diverse Perspectives.

This chapter, Teaching ELLs, is from the text, Educational Foundations: Diverse Histories, Diverse Perspectives.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Grace Huerta on Jan 07, 2013
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240
Teaching EnglishLanguage LearnersBilingual and English asa Second Language Efforts
11
CHAPTER 
CHAPTER OBJECTIVES
G
 
Readers will gain an introductory under-standing of the variety of programs avail-able to English language learners (ELLs)and their probable outcomes.
G
 
Readers will identify and describe themajor historical turns in language policyand practice in the United States.
G
 
Readers will identify their own beliefsabout English language learners.
G
 
Readers will understand the differencebetween language learning and lan-guage acquisition and how studentsacquire language.
G
 
Readers will identify the different strate-gies and aims of the major programstypes.
G
 
Readers will gain an awareness of thestrategies and challenges in assessment,identification, and placement of ELLs inschool programs.
G
 
Readers will understand the complexitiesand challenges that ELLs face related totheir identities in schools.
FIRST PERSON
Success Story: Vicki and Ruben’s Sixth-Grade Year
R
uben and Vicki were phenomenal students, but I didn’t know it thefirst week of my first year teaching in San Jose, California. “This is justlike
Dangerous Minds
!”(a 1995 movie about a white teacher who en-counters challenges in an urban classroom) announced Vicki, a talland outgoing student, to her fellow sixth-graders. I was struggling to gain theattention of the energetic class that was now skillfully taking advantage of mylack of authority. It was English Day, when everyone was to do their best tospeak English in specific subjects. Some students were quiet, struggling tomake sense of the unstructured classroom banter in English. Other studentswere speaking Spanish to their friends. As I later learned, students speakingSpanish during English time were usually not misbehaving but, rather,translating for a peer who had just arrived from Mexico or another Spanish-speaking country.I noticed Ruben, normally an intensely focused boy, asleep with his headon his desk as I passed out materials and described a math activity. I wasshocked and paralyzed into inaction. I couldn’t imagine why a child would fallasleep in the middle of a fun math game. At the end of the day, I rememberedto ask Ruben why he was sleeping in class. He explained matter-of-factly thathe wasn’t sleeping much because his aunt’s family had moved into his fami-ly’s small apartment. His space to sleep was the kitchen floor, and that wasn’tvery comfortable. Soon thereafter, I came to understand that Ruben’s Spanishwas much stronger than his English, so this, on top of his new sleeping diffi-culties, made English Day quite taxing for him.As Ruben continued to work hard in acquiring English, Vicki struggled to re-claim her Spanish. Just like Ruben, Vicki was born a native speaker of Spanish,but she had been placed in English-only classrooms in the primary grades andhad not sufficiently developed her reading and writing skills in Spanish. Her
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goal was to be able to read the Bible fluently to abuela, her grandmother, when she vis-ited her in Mexico next summer. Vicki, well liked by all and displaying high self-esteem,excelled in all academic areas in English and became student body president. She as-sisted the principal by translating from English to Spanish at school assemblies.As the school year progressed and students developed both their Spanish andEnglish literacy skills, I encouraged students to teach their peers about their real livesoutside of school. This aspect of the classroom curriculum helped students learn aboutone another’s heritage and changing cultures. One assignment asked students to cre-ate a Culture Bag. On the outside of the bag, they were to paste pictures that repre-sented “who they were” that people knew about them. Then, inside the bag, they wereto bring objects from home that showed “who they were” that people probably didn’tknow about them and symbols representing where they came from. The Culture Bagpresentations were special because only one student presented each week, and abook was compiled and bound for the presenter, each page a response from one of the presenter’s peers about what that person had learned about the presenter.I remember Vicki’s presentation well. As she stood in front of the class, we could seethat on her bag, she had pasted pictures and written the names of rock and mariachibands that she liked, family members and friends, and foods she enjoyed. Vicki beganto open her bag and then, uncharacteristically, hesitated before pulling out a leatherhair barrette with her full name, Victoria, branded into the leather. Vicki found her voiceand explained that she got the barrette in Mexico when she visited her abuela, whomshe missed very much. She said that it reminded her of her family and the fun theyhad each summer when she visited. She explained that she couldn’t wait to return thissummer. The class listened attentively and then asked Vicki where her family was fromin Mexico. This started a discussion of the different Mexican states of origin of many of the students in the class.Ruben’s presentation was one of the most powerful moments I have experiencedin a classroom. Ruben explained the pictures and words on the exterior of his bag inEnglish and then asked if he could speak Spanish to describe the inside of his bag.Although it was an English Day, I said that it would be fine. Ruben placed both handsover his heart, looked up to the far corner of the ceiling, his thin, small body now moreapparent, and began to sing. The class was spellbound, and a few students began tosmirk in slight sixth-grader-style embarrassment and recognition of the Mexican ballad.It was a long song about love, betrayal, and heartache. As the students warmed up tothe event, a few called out gritos (emotional cries) at appropriate moments, in re-sponse to the song. When Ruben finished, the students applauded enthusiastically and,all pre-teen embarrassment temporarily transformed into cultural pride, gave him anuproarious standing ovation.Both Ruben and Vicki finished the year with As in Spanish and English. They bothenrolled in honors courses in junior high. On a sunny afternoon the following year, Vickireturned to my classroom to catch me up on her family, to recount her accomplish-ments in junior high, and to thank me for being her teacher.Ruben and Vicki’s successful journeys in school as English language learners (ELLs)are examples of the positive educational outcomes that can be achieved with
First Person
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CHAPTER 
11
 Teaching English Language Learners
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How did schools get to the point where there are so many options for English lan-guage learners (ELLs)? This chapter will help to unravel the different programs. Asa starting point, consider three drastically different cases:Your grade school teacher locks you in a classroom closet or asks you to kneel onthe floor as punishment for speaking your first language, the language yourparents taught you (Soto, 1997).• Your parents came to the United States from Vietnam, speaking only Vietnamese,when you were 10 years old. You worked hard in your
sheltered English
classesfrom fourth grade through high school. You now speak, read, and write Englishvery well and even understand a little bit of spoken Vietnamese, although youcan’t read or write it (Crawford, 1991; Krashen & Biber, 1988; Ramírez, Yuen,Ramey, & Pasta, 1991).You finish the sixth-grade reading, writing, and speaking English and another lan-guage at or above the sixth-grade level. And, as a bonus, on tests you outscore yourclassmates who speak only English (Hakuta & Diaz, 1985; Ramírez et al., 1991).The scenarios above reflect the results of widely divergent strategies that educa-tors have utilized over time when teaching ELLs in our nation’s schools. This chap-ter will introduce the complex and highly controversial story of the schooling of speakers of minority languages in our country. You will learn a bit about the history,politics, law, and classroom approaches related to the educating of ELLs.It may surprise you to learn that, although such abuse may not occur often any-more, the children in the first scenario were punished for speaking English in ourcountry’s schools in contemporary times (Soto, 1997). Although there are manyexcellent and decent school programs for minority-language speakers (MLSs) thatI will discuss later, there are weaker programs that include deficit model programs,linguistic and cultural assimilation, untested programs, and, unfortunately, out-right linguicist treatment (Genesee, 1994; Skutnabb-Kangas, 1991). As you will see,the strategies and programs developed to support the linguistic and cultural needs
PAUSE
REFLECT 
What surprised you about Vicki’s and Ruben’s stories? Explain why.How often and under what circumstances should teachers break their ownrules about teaching (such as allowing Ruben to speak Spanish on English Day)?
PAUSE
 
REFLECT 
What surprised you about Vicki’s and Ruben’s stories? Explain why.How often and under what circumstances should teachers break their ownrules about teaching (such as allowing Ruben to speak Spanish on English Day)?
Different Roads to Different Outcomes: Choices in Language EducationDifferent Roads to Different Outcomes: Choices in Language Education
particular programs designed for ELLs. Given research-based program designs andteaching strategies, students have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of becomingbilingual, bicultural, and biliterate, as Vivki and Ruben did. There are many routes to fol-low when educating students who may want and need to learn another language.Each of those paths leads to different educational outcomes. And to complicate theissue, there are myriad different programs and variants within each type of program.
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