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| Volume 66 | Number 7
Table of Contents
Eugene E. García, Bryant T. Jensen and Kent P. Scribner
To meet the needs of English language learners, we must understand who they are. This article provides an overview of the demography of language minority children, children from immigrant families, and English language learners—three populations that are related but not synonymous. The authors describe the factors contributing to the achievement gap for English language learners, as well as the need for collaboration among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to help ELLs reach their potential.
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Jill Kerper Mora
From 1998 to 2008, voters in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts passed anti-bilingual education ballot initiatives that required English-only instruction for the vast majority of the states' English language learners. The contentious political discourse leading up to the votes largely ignored the research on best practices for educating English language learners, as well as the practical and pedagogical issues facing educators. The author of this article examines the research to counter several "myths" underlying the English-only movement: that all schools should be required to adopt the same approach in serving their differing populations of English language learners; that bilingual instruction is the reason for English language learners' low levels of English proficiency; and that students can learn English quickly and then easily catch up with native English speakers in literacy and content learning.
To move toward a supportive school setting for all students, educators can create a linguistically plural learning environment, even without bilingual instruction. A multilingual learning context affirms language learners' identities and reduces linguistic barriers, enabling educators to build an improved relationship with the learners' families and communities. Three practices that educators should avoid are insisting on a monolingual classroom, banning home languages outside school, and restricting praise to students' second language proficiency. They can welcome all languages in the classroom by adopting such practices as asking students to familiarize their classmates with key words in their native languages, expanding the school's multilingual resources, and involving parents.
Yu Ren Dong
To reduce the vocabulary overload on English language learners, content-area teachers can implement two effective strategies: using cognates to help students understand challenging English academic vocabulary and activating prior knowledge. Teachers can identify and include cognates in lessons, or, if they have no knowledge of the language or languages in question, they can ask specific students to do so. Teachers can activate students' prior knowledge by having them write about their previous experiences with literacy and schooling and by inviting their perspectives on historical events covered in social studies classes.
Adolescent English language learners present particular challenges for schools. The population of adolescent ELLs is diverse, and their educational needs are affected by differences in immigration status, quality of educational background, native language, cultural distance from U.S. culture, future plans, and economic status. The article offers five practices that can help schools improve educational achievement for these students: acceptance of shared responsibility by school staff; a dual curriculum that promotes language development as well as academic needs; careful consideration of how to integrate immigrants with the general school population; extended learning time; and individual progress records.
Nancy L. Hadaway
The amount and scope of academic language used for school work in intermediate grades is overwhelming to many English language learners (ELLs). Narrow reading—reading texts focused on one subject or by one author—is a strategy that helps support struggling ELLs. Many content textbooks are written in a way that makes both the cognitive and language load unsupportable for language learners; reading a wide range of authors and genres can also be overwhelming. Narrow reading of children's books, with their simpler language and repetitive formats, makes reading inviting rather than impenetrable and makes complex academic concepts easier to grasp. Hadaway outlines three formats for organizing narrow reading of children's books in the classroom: focusing on one theme or topic; concentrating on one author, and channeling reading into one subgenre. She gives examples of good children's books and series and suggests how to organize a sequence of titles through these formats.
Ballot initiatives that mandated the use of Structured English Immersion (SEI) in public schools in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts have met with resistance from many educators. According to the author of this article, some of the resistance comes from a lack of understanding of what Structured English Immersion is. The article describes the essential components of this approach, including (1) the explicit teaching of the English language during significant portions of the school day; (2) use of instructional methods that treat English as a foreign language; and (3) rigorous time lines for students to exit from the program. The author describes schools that have improved ELLs' English skills significantly since implementing SEI.
Approximately 2 million undocumented immigrants are under 18 years of age, and nearly all are English language learners. Many are unable to pass their high school's exit exam and, as a result, fail to graduate. In addition, undocumented students who are 18 years old are at risk of detention and deportation. For the 65,000 undocumented students who do graduate annually from U.S. high schools, a college education is usually out of reach. Most states don't offer these students in-state tuition or financial aid, and most financial awards require the student to have a social security number. Undocumented immigrants who do manage to graduate from college cannot find professional-level work and typically need to leave the country to use their education and skills.The author tells the story of one student, brought to the United States as an undocumented minor, who aspires to go to college.
Approximately 2 million undocumented immigrants are under 18 years of age, and nearly all are English language learners. Many are unable to pass their high school's exit exam and, as a result, fail to graduate. In addition, undocumented students who are 18 years old are at risk of detention and deportation. For the 65,000 undocumented students who do graduate annually from U.S. high schools, a college education is usually out of reach. Most states don't offer these students in-state tuition or financial aid, and most financial awards require the student to have a social security number. Undocumented immigrants who do manage to graduate from college cannot find professional-level work and typically need to leave the country to use their education and skills.
The author tells the story of one student, brought to the United States as an undocumented minor, who aspires to go to college.
Verónica López Estrada, Leo Gómez and José Agustín Ruiz-Escalante
Many educators work under limiting misconceptions about how second language acquisition operates and what English language learners (ELLs) need. With the population of second language learners—especially Latino learners—exploding in U.S. schools, ineffective models of teaching ELLs won't do. The authors decry the fact that most bilingual education programs in U. S. schools—generally structured as "transitional" bilingual programs—hew to a "subtractive /remedial" model rather than an "additive/enrichment" model. In transitional programs, the goal is to get English language learners speaking and working in English as quickly as possible. Teachers teach only in English and students are expected to perform in English, which prevents them from developing cognitive and academic language proficiency in their first language. The authors hold up dual language programs as the preferable option, especially for Latino ELLs. Dual language programs promote conversational and academic proficiency in both languages. Rather than waiting until they know English well to study grade-level academic content, and studying only in English, ELLs work in both their first language and English throughout their instructional program, thus becoming bilingual and biliterate.
Noah Borrero, Sara Exposito, Maria Del Rosario Barillas and Merrianne Dyer
One urban K-8 school in California capitalizes on its language learners' bilingual capabilities in its Young Interpreters Program, in which 7th and 8th graders become onsite interpreters for monolingual parents. An intermediate school outside of East Los Angeles helps Latina students achieve their potential through its Girls at Promise Writing Club. An elementary school outside of Atlanta, Georgia, reaches out to Latino parents to more clearly understand their needs and concerns and promote their participation in governance and advocacy.
Delfino Aleman, Joseph F. Johnson Jr. and Lynne Perez
How do some urban schools serving high proportions of low-income English language learners produce high achievement for these students in spite of their challenges? This article explores that question by looking at four urban elementary schools that have received the Excellence in Urban Education award from the National Center for Urban School Transformation. The authors' observations of these schools identified four elements they had in common: high expectations, a focus on conceptual understanding, a culture of appreciation, and dynamic leadership.
Jeff Zwiers and Marie Crawford
To accelerate oral language development, English language learners (ELLs) need to share ideas, argue, and construct knowledge with other students. But a typical school day provides limited time for language learners to talk together beyond social chatter. Even when teachers do provide time for deeper discussion in pairs or small groups, students often don't know effective ways to deepen conversations. Working with two 4th grade classes of ELLs, Zwiers and Crawford piloted a technique to teach students to use six conversational features that lead to meaty discussions: initiate a worthwhile topic, elaborate and clarify, support another's ideas, build on or challenge another's ideas, apply ideas to life, and paraphrase. To reinforce using these features, the authors created prompts, a visual symbol, and a hand gesture to accompany each feature. Students made cards depicting the symbols and prompts. Participating teachers led students in practice conversations on academic topics, urging students to use the cards and prompts in each conversation. After four months, students' conversations, class participation, time on-task, and even whole-group discussions showed significant improvement and broader language use.
Teachers must stop trying to fit ELLs into a familiar model and must look instead at their particular needs. Educators often presume that particular ways of thinking—like using metacognition—are universal, whereas many students don't automatically use or even understand such practices and skills unless they were raised in literacy-oriented homes. Pransky says the key distinction is between students raised in "literacy-oriented" compared with "non-literacy-oriented" homes, rather than between native and nonnative speakers. The essential task for reaching struggling ELLs is to teach students from non-literacy-oriented communities the skills and mindsets that come naturally to students raised with a literacy orientation. He gives examples of strategies he uses to do so with elementary students.
A. Y. "Fred" Ramirez and Ivannia Soto-Hinman
Parents play an important role in raising the achievement of their children. Families of English language learners, however, may find it difficult to get involved in schools. Barriers to parental involvement may include false assumptions on the part of teachers, cultural beliefs regarding schooling, and logistical challenges related to schedules and language. Ramirez and Soto-Hinman discuss some of these difficulties and offer practical suggestions for improving parent participation.
Thomas R. Hoerr
W. James Popham
Douglas B. Reeves
Tracy A. Huebner
Amy M. Azzam
Kathleen Budge and William Parrett
Between spring and fall of 2008, William Howard Taft Elementary School in Boise, Idaho, went from serving only one English language learner (ELL) to being designated an ELL site for the district and welcoming 58 new students from refugee families. Taft, a predominately low-income school, had with effort raised its students' low achievement scores over 10 years, and some teachers feared that the sudden influx of ELLs would roll back hard-earned gains. But Taft's principal and a small team of teachers took action in the spring and summer to prepare the school and welcome the new students. Teachers learned all they could about teaching ELLs and about the experiences of the refugees. Students researched the various countries that the soon-to-arrive students had left. Teacher teams visited the homes of incoming refugee students. Most important for the kids themselves was the two-week Tiger Pride Summer Camp the school quickly created. Incoming refugee students attended, each paired with a current Taft student.
Kate Menken and Tatyana Kleyn
The term long-term English language learners refers to language learners who have attended U.S. schools for seven years or more. These learners are typically found in grades 6–12, speak a language other than English (usually Spanish), are often orally bilingual but less adept at academic language, have often moved back and forth between their home countries and the United States, have typically received inconsistent language programming, perform below grade level in reading and writing, and have different needs from those of newly arrived language learners. To better meet these students' needs, schools should promote bilingualism and biliteracy development in grades K-12, offer professional development to teachers on how to integrate explicit language and literacy instruction aimed at the long-term English language learners in their classrooms, develop specialized programs that differ from those targeting newly arrived students, and offer native language arts programs that focus on developing native language literacy.
Kris De Pedro, Michelle B. Nayfack and Priscilla Wohlstetter
Felton Elementary School has a large population of English language learners, many of whom were not achieving proficiency on state language arts tests, even after several years in this country. To keep these students from starting secondary school without the English skills they would need, school leaders developed an after-school journalism program that targeted students in grades 3–5 who were struggling with English proficiency. Program teachers interviewed the students, their parents, and their teachers to gather information about students' interests and learning styles. Students worked in small news teams devoted to community news, sports, and calendar events. After 11 weeks in the program, participants had improved their test scores and become more enthusiastic about school.
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