You are on page 1of 9

Teaching Elementary School Hispanic and other Foreign ELL Students Christa Collarini University of Scranton

2 The United States of America exists as a booming and diverse country. Diversity is what makes America such a fascinating and popular place to live. According to the CIA World Fact Book (2014), while the US does not have an official language, English does hold status in twenty-eight of the fifty states. In recent times, Spanish-speaking individuals are making their permanent homes here in the US. In 2011, according the US Census Bureau, there were fiftytwo million Hispanics living in America. This was 16.7% of the nations total population, not counting the 3.7 million people living in Puerto Rico. This increase in Hispanic population has most definitely risen since the time of the census and it is projected that in the year 2050, there will be 132.8 million Spanish-speaking individuals living in the United States. Our countries educational systems need to take these astounding facts into consideration. Educators must know how to teach English language learning students from around the world and specifically from Hispanic backgrounds. There is not one specific way to teach all ELL students. Every area or school district in our country, urban and suburban, may need to embark upon different techniques. There will be humongous changes in US schools in regards to English language learning students. ELL students prove to all be diverse and some have more needs than others. There are so many different factors that go into what kinds of resources or assistance a student in an ELL program may need. Teachers in English Language Learning classrooms have long faced the challenge of working with children who have diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds and wideranging linguistic skill sets (Schwartzman, 2004). According to Schwartzman, technology can provide ELL students of all ages with proper educational needs. A computer program entitled, CompassLearning Odyssey ELL Elementary serves as an aesthetic technique for students from kindergarten all the way until sixth grade (Schwartzman, 2004). This program offers

3 elementary and intermediate level students a flashy and appealing way to assist their English language structure and usage. Students enter Winnies World, a child friendly, educational creation where the basics of English language can be exercised. This computer program does not exhibit a set sequence of tasks; it basically ties in several activities in diverse settings with repetition, categorizing, and sentence making lessons mixed in between. An example of an area students can explore is a dress shop where students may categorize different sets of clothing and also fill in the blanks of specific sentences. It combines auditory and visual learning but lacks in the way that actual speaking by the students does not occur. When educators use this program it is crucial that other measures are taken to pick up where this program lacks, which is in pronunciation and conversational practice (Schwartzman, 2004). Teachers must also provide ELL students with opportunities to converse in English. Along with technological games there are also other strategies that can be utilized by teachers of ELL students in elementary schools everywhere. A method that I believe can work wonders in an elementary school classroom is the SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) Lesson Model. Since 1995, this model has existed in trying to include not only the English language learning students but also includes the Englishspeaking students in a class side by side and learning together (Echevarria, J., & Vogt, M., 2010). Echevarria and Vogt stated, through our work and that of others, we have found that when teachers implement the SIOP teaching techniques to a high degree, the academic achievement of English learners (and other students) is increased. The SIOP Model is made up of eight key components with thirty features of instruction for ELLs. The components that make up the SIOP model are lesson preparation, building background, comprehensible input, strategies, interaction, practice and application, lesson delivery and review and assessment.

4 None of these components may be discarded otherwise this model will not work to its best potential. In this model students must be highly engaged in the lesson ninety to one hundred percent of the time (Echevarria, J., & Vogt, M., 2010). The key to a proper SIOP model is using abundant amounts of scaffolding and student-student interactions. Allowing students to obtain enough prior background knowledge is also extremely important in this model. Many schools have benefited from utilizing this teaching technique. A school that has clearly benefited from using the SIOP model is Risen Christ Catholic School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This suburban school has seen a recent rise in ELL population, particularly with Hispanic students. The school hired a bilingual teacher and ELL students were taken out of general classes to for a portion of the day (Dahlman, H., 2005). The teachers found that the students were not benefiting from this type of instruction and they needed to make changes so the ELL students could succeed. Dahlman stated, As a staff we were not yet aware of the fact that usually a child can acquire adequate social/oral English language skills in six to twelve moths, whereas it can take anywhere from four to ten years to acquire the academic English skills needed to be successful in school. The school also discovered that culture shock and lack of proper background knowledge in a handful of subjects also hindered the ELL students success. The schools teachers were all somewhat seen as ESL teachers when they used the SIOP model for their instruction. Risen Christ Catholic School believes that this model is just as effective for English speaking students as well. The research based way of forming lessons for adequate progress in education provides a positive atmosphere all throughout the school day (Dahlman, 2005). The school has still been fine-tuning their process and the teachers believe this approach works best for their school. The school wants students to not only

5 understand the English language to high degree; they want them to be comfortable learning in school as well. The Midwest has really seen a recent rise in ELL population. Hispanics are entering not only the urban areas but also the rural and suburban areas. These schools really have no history of working with anyone other than English speaking students so it was a shock to not only the English language learners but also the English only speaking individuals. In an article by Rix (2010), she stated, Nearly 5.5 million English language learner (ELL) students are enrolled in the U.S. public schools, double the number from the mid-1990s. The fastest-growing student population in the country, English language learners are expected to double again by 2025. Many teachers are not prepared for this and workshops and professional development series on this topic may not be enough for teachers to be prepared and able to teach these ELL students. There are however some strategies for suburban school elementary teachers. Forming support within the school with counselors and heartwarming individuals for ELL students to talk with is one strategy (Rix, K., 2010, May). Another is for teachers to always make directions clear and repeat them enough times. Group work intertwining English language learning students along with English speaking students is also extremely helpful. Also, practicing vocabulary daily and providing students with various synonyms may benefit ELL students in an English-speaking classroom Rix, K. (2010, May). These are just some helpful hints that regular content teachers may enforce in their classrooms. Ultimately, getting certified to teach ESL would be in every teachers best interest. The way the United States is growing, with non-English speakers, I believe that educational programs should add this to their curriculums in higher education. In an article by Maxwell (2012), promising information is discussed. By 2016, the Bay State plans to teach tens of thousands of core-content teachers how to work with English-

6 learners. Massachusetts has a future goal that I believe should be copied by every state in the U.S. They found that as many as 45,000 teachers were not seen as adequately prepared to teach ELLs (Maxwell, 2012). A three-credit course created by experts in the field is being tested with teachers in an area in Massachusetts. Hopefully these teachers will become aware of techniques that can assist English language learners. This ambitious improvement seems to me as a necessary one. Like a professor in the article says, "When you don't know another language or haven't had the experience of learning another language, it's difficult to imagine the challenges that students experience as they acquire English" (Maxwell, 2012). Our educational future in the United States is going to go through changes and I believe this change is a positive and imperative one. While this may seem to some as something that is too much too soon, there is no doubt in my mind that this could be a successful endeavor taken by the Massachusetts state school board. As a future educator of Americas young children, I have seen with my own eyes the population of ELL students coming into suburban areas. I took four years of Spanish in high school and I incorporated some of the language into my student teaching classroom last semester and I hope to incorporate it into my future classrooms. I believe that different languages are intriguing and lovely. Students should be exposed to more than just English in my mind. It seems as though our country will be gaining more and more Hispanics each year based on research. I hope to become ESL certified at some point and I really hope that major changes to under graduate elementary education programs occur. These changes should involve more instruction with limited English proficient students in general education classrooms. There are various techniques and strategies that may vary with whichever works best for your specific classroom. I am very passionate towards teaching at the elementary level and I hope that in the

7 near future the US schools and teachers will all be well prepared to teach all kinds of students and especially English language learners.

8 References Central Intelligence Agency. (2014). United states of america. In The world factbook. Retrieved on January 25, 2014 from Dahlman, H. (2005, Nov). These students don't speak english: Now what? Momentum, 36, 2124. Retrieved on January 25, 2014 from Echevarria, J., & Vogt, M. (2010). Using the SIOP model to improve literacy for english learners. New England Reading Association Journal, 46(1), 8-15,109,111. Retrieved on January 25, 2014 from Maxwell, L. A. (2012). Mass. requires ELL training for regular teachers. Education Week, 31(37), 8-8, 9. Retrieved on January 26, 2014 from Rix, K. (2010, May). ELL in the heartland. Scholastic Administr@tor, 9, 43-44. Retrieved on January 26, 2014 from Schwartzman, A. (2004). Passport to ELL. Technology & Learning, 25(3), 17-18,20,22. Retrieved on January 25, 2014 from United States Census Bureau. (2011). Profile america. Facts for features. United States Department of Commerce. Retreived on January 25, 2014 from

9 b12-ff19.html.