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Teacher Sldlls To

Teacher Sldlls To

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Published by: distanceprep on Nov 19, 2009
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Teacher Sldlls
Languaee Learners
Content-area teachers can provide rich, meaningful lessonsthat strengthen background information and promote theliteracy of students learning English.
Deborah Shortand Jana Echevarria
ach year, the United Statesbecomes more ethnically andlinguistically diverse. Schools
mirror this trend: Students from' non-English-speaking back-^r()unds represent the fastest-growingsubset ot the K-12 student population.In the 2(M)3-2OO4 schooi year. 5.5million school-age children were Englishlanguage learners (Leus, 2004)—upnearly 100 percent from a decadeearlier, although total enrollmentIncreased only slightly more than 10percent during that time (Nationalc:iearinghoiise for English LanguageAcquisition, 2002).Unfortunately, as a group, Englishlanguage learners (El.I.s) struggle inschool (Compared with native Englishspeakers, ELl,s have higher dropout ratesand demonstrate signitkant achievementgaps on state and national assessments(Snow & Biancarosa,
White HouseInitiative on Educational Excellence forHispanic Americans, 1999). As theystrive to meet higli academic standards,
tace the added challenge oflearning, comprehending, and applyingthe academic English through whichteachers and textbooks deliver impor-tant intormation. Those who teach thesestudents must take into considerationtheir special language acquisition needs.
Not All the Same
We do English language learners adis,ser\ice it we think t)f them as one-dimensional on the basis of their limitedEnglish proficiency. ELLs have diversebackgrounds, languages, and educationprofiles. Some read and write abovegrade level in their own language; othershave had limited schooling Some enter,sclu)ol highl\ motivated to learn becauseof family support or an innate drive tosucceed; others have had negativeschool experiences that squclehed theirmotivation Many come from middle-class families with high levels of literacy;
,\N1) (.IKKK.Ll.UM! V t I.O I-M
t)thers live in poverty without books intheir homes. Those whose nativelanguage is latin-based can reeognizeEnglish words with the same Latinderivations; those who have differentlanguage backgrounds, such asMandarin or Arabic, laek that advantage.Some students' native language does noteven have a written form.Like native English speakers, Englishlanguage learners have diifering levelsof cognitive ability. When EIXs strugglewith schoolwork, however, teachersshould be aware that the problem maybe related to background knowledgerather than to intelleetual abilitv'. Ask astudent from ninil Vietnam to write aparagraph about growing rice, and shemight have a great deal of informationto share from her personal experience;ask her to write about space explo-ration, and she may have no back-ground knowledge to draw on.All these factors affect the ease withwhich English language learners acquireEnglish proficiency in the academic andconversatitinal realms. Conversationalfluency in a new language developsinside and outside the classroom, andstudents can attain it in one to threeyears (Collier
Thomas, 1989). Thecomplex academic language that iscrucial for school success, however,develops more slowly and systemati-cally in academic settings (f Cummins,2000). The following portraits illustratedifferent levels of conversational andacademic language proficiency thatexist even amt)ng students of the sameethnic background.Salome attended school in Mexicothrough the 0th grade. When lierfamily came to the I'nited States thefollowing year, she could read andwrite in Spanish at grade level, butshe spoke no English. Weil-liked byher peers, she eagerly uses theEnglish words she acquires. Mostimportant, she has an academic foun-dation on which to build additionallearning.Mariano, Salome's older brother, quitschool after the 4th grade to help hisfather
their ranch.
was 15when his family arrived in the UnitedStates, and he has struggled academi-cally. Although he has picked upconversational English fairly quickly,he lags far below grade level and haslittle background knowle*dge to drawon when his teachers talk about unfa-miliar topics.Souka is in 2nd grade and lives withhis family in ;t ear. Before enteringkindergarten, he did not have anypreliteracy experiences, such as beingread to. learning rhymes, or eountingobjects. In fact, his native languageproficiency is limited.
often mixesSpanish and English while lackingfluency in either language, and he hasmade little academic progress in thela.st three years.stand the content covered in class.Other less fortunate ELLs have teacherswho fail to differentiate ftjr diverseability- levels or to make adaptations inresponse to students" limited Englishproficiency. These teachers may expectELU to complete paper-and-pencil tasksindependently, to read textbookswithout such supports as anticipationguides and pretaught vocabtilaiy, and tolisten to lectures without visual aids. Insuch classrooms, ELl^ are often unsureof the tasks they arc expected toperform, resulting in incomplete workand gaps in their learning.C;iearly, teachers need ,specific prepa-ration in working with English language
English language learners have diverse backgrounds,languages, and education profiles.
As you can see, although thesestudents arc all classified as Englishlanguage learners, they differ consider-ably in their approach to academic tasksand in the level of success they experi-ence in school,
High-Quality InstructionMakes a Difference
Another variable that affects Englishlanguage learners' academic learning isthe quality of instruction they receive.Although No Child Left Behind calls forhighly qualified teachers in every coreacademic classroom by 2006, few statesrequire that the teachers of corecontent areas have any background ortraining in .second-language acquisition,English as a second language (ESL)methods, or cross-cultural communica-tion.Some fortunate English languagelearners have content area teachers whounderstand their linguistic needs andprovide rich, meaningful lessons thatsupport their language growth- Theseteachers encourage ELLs to interactwith their peers and discuss ideas andwork on projects that help them under-leamers. They need to know who thestudents are and what their prior etluca-tion experiences were like. Moreover,teachers need to know how to deliver
sheltered instruction
—to teach contentto English language learners in strategicways that make the concepts compre-hensible while promoting the students'academic English language develop-ment.Tntil recently, no explicit model foreffectively delivering sheltered lessonsexisted, and researchers had conductedfew empirical investigations measuringwhat constitutes an effective shelteredlesson (August & Hakuta, 1997). Manyeducators agree on the important shel-tered instruction techniques that helpstudents comprehend content—forexample, slower speech, clear enuncia-tion, use of visuals and demonstrations,tat^eted vocabular>' development,connections to student experiences,and use t)f supplementary' materials(Genesee, 1999). But implementingseveral of these strategies is not suffi-cient to ensure ELLs' academic success.Without systematic language develop-ment, many students never gain the
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