A Researched Investigation on Best Practices for English Language Learners Essay

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ELL students represent a large percentage of the population within schools in the United States. This group of students is actually increasing more than that of English speaking students. (Shore, 2001). This group also has a very high drop out rate, coupled with low ranking grades, academic achievement and scholarly expectations. Truly, ELL students are considered an at-risk population. (Thompson, 2000).

In order to confront this challenge, teachers are faced with a unique situation that requires a unique solution in order to help these students not only learn the English language, but also to bring them up to speed with the academic material congruent with modern learning standards. The focus of this investigation asks the question, How can teachers best instruct English Language Learners (ELL) students when these mostly monolingual teachers are often ill-equipped with the necessary tools and environments for optimum learning?

The investigation will then state a hypothesis as to the proposed best models under which teachers can best instruct ELL students. The paper will then support this hypothesis, cross-referencing literature reviews which outline non-traditional models of instruction that have proven to be the most effective in instructing limited English learners. It will then finally look at some of the conclusions to be derived from the investigation, reflecting on how teachers can best inspire students, and offering a few real-world application scenarios to the adjusted models.

Hypothesis The current modal that schools use to deal with ELL students is that of the sorting paradigm. This model normally sorts ELL students into low-quality education programs which do not challenge or inspire students. For this reason, many students will drop out of school and will not obtain a high school diploma. It is hypothesized that if ELL reform involve high-quality programs integrating other modules that differ from the current monolingual teacher/ traditional teaching scenarios, more success can be achieved by ELL students.

Despite vast changes in second language acquisition theory and pedagogy in the last fifty years, an English-only classroom fronted by a teacher who is monolingual or who is encouraged to behave as if he or she is monolingual, has remained the dominant practice in the teaching of ELL. (Ellis 2004) Furthermore, non-traditional teaching scenarios also instill more of a sense of purpose and placement into students who are confronting the challenges of a new culture and a new language.

Finally, these nontraditional models incorporate a greater sense of individual self esteem and opportunities for success than traditional models. Non-traditional models help students assimilate the culture, traditions, values, attitudes that are associated with their new language and surroundings. This paper will outline some of the recent literature supporting the hypothesis in favor of non-traditional ELL models, and will take a critical analysis that expounds upon some of the downfalls of traditional methods.

Review of Literature Studies show that most teachers are ill-equipped at dealing with the different levels of language acquisition. A recent study from the Johns Hopkins University has mentioned some important tools for recognizing these different levels of language acquisition in students. This experimental study of reading programs for English language learners has shown that existing evidence favors bilingual approaches to teaching students, especially paired bilingual strategies that enable teachers to teach students reading in their native languages, and English, at the same time.

This study also showed that English language learners benefited from other models of instruction such as systematic phonics, one-to-one or small group tutoring programs, cooperative learning programs, and programs emphasizing extensive reading. In order to effectively develop these programs, it is necessary for school systems to increase ELL budgets. Statistics show that there has been a huge increase in the amount of ELL students. (Nunez-Wormack, 1993) Unfortunately, while the number of students is actually growing, there have been huge cuts in budget programs designed to serve ELL students.

A nontraditional model of teaching ELL involves a monolingual (English-speaking) teacher who only a traditional oral-classroom. The theory behind this model is that the ELL student will learn more from a monolingual teacher who will not be tempted to revert back to the students mother tongue as a means of understanding. This is also a theory that is becoming widely challenged in regard to ELL best practice methodology. Freeman and Freeman (2001) CITE believe that a traditional oral-based classroom does not take into account the multitiered nature of the students experience.

The Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk (CRESPAR) gives us an example of these non-traditional systems of learning involving utilizing explicit teacher talk, think-aloud, story-telling, dramatizing, poetry readings, pantomiming, singing, peer-discussing, read-aloud, shared reading, small group instruction and peer instruction. Qualitative data analysis from a comparative study looking at traditional oral classrooms compared to a computer-assisted classroom also showed that the use of technology in ELL programs also showed positive effects for the use of computers in ELL classrooms.

(Sullivana, Prattb 1999) Another issue in the traditional versus nontraditional models for ELL learning is that of monolingual versus bilingual (1st language usage) in the classroom. Typically, there has been a widespread acceptance of English-only medium of communication within the confines of an ELL classroom. There is a growing body of evidence that support the view that L1 (native language) and/or bilingual teaching methods are actually more beneficial to ELL students.

Many studies have shown that bilingual scenarios actually support the student both technically and culturally in their advancement (see, e. g. , Judd, 1987). It is widely accepted by ELL teachers today that the use of L1 impedes students from process in the acquisition of English. According to Phillipson, (1992) English is best taught monolingual, by an English is a native speaker, and without the use of other languages, as the standards of English will drop. Recent research suggests that this rationale is not helpful.

Currently, the drop-out rate for ELL students is unbelievable high. A study of effective practices for linguistically and culturally diverse students (Garcia, 1991) found that classrooms that integrated L1 were more successful in the long run, both in regard to use language and the transition to the English language. An NCLE survey identifies two studies that point towards the beneficial effect of L1 language use in subsequent oral and written English acquisition. (Robsons 1982 study of Hmong refugees in Thailand and Burtoffs 1985 study of Haitian Creole speakers in New York City).

Rivera (1990) discusses a variety of options for integrating L1 into instruction, stating that because L1 is available, many more students will actually be inclined to participate in the classroom. Often, students will drop-out due to an insecurity and embarrassment to speak English. DAnnunzio (1991) reports that students had significant success with this model. Strei (1992) reports that drop-out rates decreased from a shocking 85% (with traditional monolingual English instruction) prior to the program to 10% (with the non-traditional bilingual model).

Studies also show that this methods reduces social anxiety, increases the effectiveness for learning, takes into account important cultural factors, and allows for learner-focused curriculum development. Piasecka (1986) argues that it allows students to use languages as a meaning-making tool for effective communication, instead of an end in itself. How can teachers best instruct English Language Learner (ELL) students when these mostly monolingual teachers are often ill-equipped with the necessary tools and environments for optimum learning?

Haynes & OLoughlin (2002) introduce the concept of scaffolding. This refers to the teacher offering meaningful support, using questioning techniques to elicit response that can be related to the students own cultural background. Normally, this is not a technique provided within the classroom, and usually on the contrary, the teacher attempts to avoid all associations to the students native language and culture. The study also suggests that sheltering is an effective mechanism whereby the teacher introduces new content through the use of music, story-telling, visual aids and play.

Another effective technique is reciprocal teaching. Using this method, the teacher presents and interactive lesson whereby he/she can assess the students comprehension in relationship to the lesson, constantly restructuring lessons in regard to student success. This method is successful in enhancing learning processes, and increases the self-esteem of the student. Proven Best Practice Guidelines for ELL Teachers and Learners What would be the characteristics of the best ELL educator, as well as the optimum program for ELL learning?

The following is a suggested list from Texas A&M report, State of the Art Research and Best Practices in Bilingual/ESL Education, competent teachers should 1. Use many visual aids 2. Model appropriate behavior and language for students. 3. Use gestures, body language, and facial expressions to develop understanding. 4. Perform demonstrations to ensure comprehension and in depth understanding. 5. Use graphic organizers, story maps, semantic webbing, and paraphrasing techniques. 6.

Provide vocabulary previews of forthcoming lessons. 7. Ask students to make predictions when reading stories aloud. 8. Adapt and simplify material in textbooks to make it more comprehensible. 9. Provide cooperative learning groups. 10. Utilize peer tutoring. 11. Provide multicultural content in classroom. 12. Seek out primary language support for students needing assistance. 13. Create a non-threatening environment where students feel comfortable to take risks with language. 14.

Make connections between content being taught and students prior knowledge and experiences. 15. Provide much time for student engagement and interaction with the teacher. 16. Allow time for students to practice and apply daily lessons. Related Studies in Best Practice for the ELL Classroom Franco (2002) argues that students who are beginning their studies of English respond to non-verbal stimulus, and display a very limited understanding of language when it is only spoken. Currently, oral-teaching is the standard practice within ELL.

Franco argues that students rely heavily on peers for language learning, and therefore benefit from work in small groups, and are particularly successful when this group work involves pantomiming, role-playing, and visual support. The author also concurs that only in later stages of language fluency does a student do well with ordinary conversations and printed-page learning. Many ELL children are faced by what Olsen (2000) refers to as language shock, or a struggle to learn a language within a society that is not always open to the diversity of other cultures.

ELL students face many obstacles including a dilemma faced by the need to embrace a new language and culture, while at the same time, feeling that are forced to abandon their own language and surrender key aspects of their identity. Olsen refers to this as the power struggle between the old and new. Another challenge to students is the fact that they are primarily taught academic English. Many can attest that the languages learned in a classroom is very different than the slang spoken by their peers in the hallways.

ELL students are usually separated from native English speakers, and do not have the opportunity to learn slang through social interaction. Olsen believes that ELL students, due to the current method of instruction, end up torn between their native culture and the new culture. (Meyer, 2000) suggests that teachers can help ELL students overcome these barriers though changes in instruction. Meyer suggests the strategy of Vygotskys social interactionist theory. This theory suggests that children internalize language and learning through cultural and group mediation.

Vygotsky observed that higher mental functions developed through social interaction. Through these interactions, a child learns speech patterns, oral and written language skills, cultural clues, slang and symbolic knowledge. These things are what allow an ELL student, similarly, to obtain knowledge. The most important contribution of Vygotskian psychology to the ELL best-practice investigation, is called cultural mediation, which refers to the fact the people obtain specific knowledge through a shared knowledge of a culture.

This is the process of internalization. Truly, a student cannot be expected to succeed without the mediation and internalization process, and equally, students can only gain this knowledge through non-tradition teaching methods. This theory sets up a classroom that fosters learning by such methods (as mentioned before) as modeling, internalization, cultural mediation, scaffolding and constructive understanding of projects. The social interactionist model has the gaol of making the ELL students become independent thinkers and problem solvers themselves.

In the article, Turning Frustration into Success for English Language Learners, authors Brice & Roseberry-McKibbin (1999) address the issue of language learning disabilities. More than any other student, these students face the most challenge. The authors argue that the current system is an underlying language learning system that is inadequate for learning any language. These studies show that ELL student progress is greater when a speech pathologist and classroom teacher work together with learning in groups.

These same studies also showed that progress was greater when these methods of teaching were employed on a consistent daily basis. The following is a summary of best practice strategies from Turning Frustration into Success for English Language Learners: Teachers should check in with students as to whether they understand was it is expected of them before starting a new project or lesson Students from similar cultural or linguistics backgrounds should be encouraged to support one another, and even sit near each other Repeating is necessary Teachers should come up with good questioning techniques.

Students should be given ample time to formulate answers Students should be given time to think of answers before they are called on Teachers should avoid giving content which is beyond expectations Teachers should speak slowly Teachers should use multi-sensory methods (hands-on) Scaffolding should be used Critical Analysis Each of the above mentioned resources state the following conclusion: Teachers must incorporate non-tradition methods of instruction into ELL classrooms in order to work with best-practice methodology.

It is stated over and over that educators must work with education within the context of a social and cultural climate. Simply put, relationships between teachers and students have a major impact on how well an ELL student will grasp the host language. These articles also point to the issue of power structure and peer struggles among ELL students. Truly, students cannot achieve in a hostile learning environment. It is well-documented in these and other studies, that ELL children are often made fun of my teachers and students when they speak their native languages.

This leads to social withdrawal and shyness. It is easy to see how this problem worsens the situation in regard to language learning, where the goal is free-expression through words. Olsen (2002) is correct in his opinion that ELL students remain torn between two worlds. This leads us to the understanding and backing of biculturalism and bilingualism. This is another best-practice that the above studies and articles support. Truly, a society that embraces diversity, biculturalism and bilingualism will help ELL students not only learn English, but will allow them to maintain their native tongues.

Conclusion Upon an extensive review of recent literature, it can be stated that ELL students generally have different needs than native English-speaking students. They generally require more support and individualized attention to their needs. They are undertaking a huge task of attempting to learn their studies, while at the same time aquaria new linguistic and cultural skills, while at the same time merging new experiences and environments. It is clear from the presented research that the current traditional, oral-based ELL classroom environment is simply not conducive to learning.

The staggering drop-out rates among ELL students are a testament to these findings. It has also been consistently shown that these drop-out rates improve significantly when a bilingual, nontraditional instructional environment is created. It is clear that the best practice for the area of ELL education can be best understood not merely as a task of teaching students English, but of embracing the cultural and linguistic diversity that ELL students bring to schools. Another important conclusion can be cross-referenced to the aforementioned social-interaction theories. Students must being to get know-how in ELL classrooms.

The mastery of skills occurs through social interaction with the society in question. In this way, true internalization of phenomenon can occur, whereby ELL students make tools their own. Reflection In reflection on the issue, one must not forget that we are talking about human beings. Many do not stop and think about how challenging it must be to leave one country and be forced into social, cultural, linguistic and educational upheaval. Many of these students have reported that they drop out because no one cares about them, people make fun of them, or because they feel that they cannot succeed within the education system.

Unfortunately, many teachers see diversity as a problem that they must overcome. However, diversity can actually be a powerful instrument that will allow students to feel at home within the context of the classroom. It is important to reflect upon the fact that many under-represented minorities within the education system actually begin to see their ethnicity as a barrier to success. Many times educators do not explain how learning English, or any other subject for that matter, can be connected to the students traditional culture.

Truly, diversity is on the increase in every school in the country, and teachers should begin to accept a move towards bilingual and multi-cultural settings. The following section will outline easy applications that can incorporate some of these best practices into the everyday lesson plan. Applications Practically, teachers can begin the apply some of the non-traditional methods of instruction that have been outlined in this essay. The following section discusses some of the real-world practical application of best-practice ELL instructional methods.

These suggestions are designed to be practical and easy to adhere to. They require no special training and are practices that any ELL teacher can begin to incorporate into the classroom, whether they are monolingual or bilingual. Best-practice methods can be as simple as seating ELL students in the middle of the classroom (if mixed with native English speakers) so that they may see/hear what other students are doing. Teachers can assign a peer-buddy to the ELL student. They can also provide pictures and illustrations to illustrate new words and terms. Using pictures, maps, globes, tables, movies, slide shows, etc.

, will help the student to grasp concepts more readily than a standard oral-instruction. Educators should give clear examples of words and concepts. Another useful tool for teachers is a tape recorder and listening material, as well as supplementary pictures, newspaper clippings and periodicals. A wonderful way of making ELL students feel comfortable is to ask them to describe cultural events or famous people from their home country, in English. This shows them that the educator is interested in their lives and home-culture. Cooperative groupings are great way to allow the student to begin expressing in English.

The small group is less intimidating than a larger one. Prepare students by giving them vocabulary lists, with bilingual aids, and consistently acknowledge each and every student. Teachers can make learning English fun by collecting high interest, low-level books such as comic books or childrens books that portray events and cultural characters in simple English. Teachers can use games in small groups, drawings, cartoon bubbles, and music to make the challenge more fun. Reference List Auerbach, Elsa. TESOL QUARTERLY Vol. 27, No. 1, Spring 1993. Reexamining English Only in the ESL Classroom.

University of Massachusetts at Boston Brice, A. and Roseberry-Mckibbin, C. 1999. Turning frustration into success for English language learners. Educational Leadership, 56, 7, 53-55. Accessed through WilsonWeb on-line database on June 10, 2001. Ellis, Elizabeth Margaret. Bilingualism among Teachers of English as a Second Language: A Study of Second Language Learning Experience as a Contributor to the Professional Knowledge and Beliefs of Teachers of ESL to Adults. Institution. 2004 Franco, Lydia. A Multisensory Program for English Language Development. ESL MiniConference.

July 2002 Haynes, Judie and OLoughlin, Judith. Meeting the Challenge. of Content Instruction. HYPERLINK http://www. everythingEsl. net http://www. everythingEsl. net (21 Aug. 2002). Meyer, L. 2000. Barriers to meaningful instruction for English learners. Theory into Practice, 39, 4, 228-236. Accessed through WilsonWeb on-line database on June 10, 2001. Nunez-Wormack, Elsa. Remarks. Conference Proceedings ESL Students in the CUNY. Classroom: Faculty Strategies for Success. 5 Feb. 1993. Olsen, L. 2000. Learning English and learning America: Immigrants in the center of a storm.

Theory into Practice, 39, 4, 196-202. Accessed through WilsonWeb on-line database on June 4, 2001. Phillips, J. State of the Art Research and Best. Practices in Bilingual/ESL Education:. A Cornucopia. Professional Development Model. Texas A&M University. Rudnick, B. 1995. Bridging the chasm between your English and ESL students. Teaching PreK 8, 26, 48-49. Accessed through WilsonWeb on-line database on June 4, 2001. Shore, K. 2001. Success for ESL students. Instructor, 110, 6, 30-32. Accessed through WilsonWeb on-line database on June 4, 2001. Slavin, Robert E.

EFFECTIVE READING PROGRAMS FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS: A Best-Evidence Synthesis. Johns Hopkins University, December 2003 Sullivana, Nancy and Prattb, Ellen. A comparative study of two ESL writing environments: A computer-assisted classroom and a traditional oral classroom. Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, College of Arts and Humanities, 6300 Ocean Drive, 24 February 1999. Thompson, G. 2000. The real deal on bilingual education: Former language-minority students discuss effective and ineffective instructional practices. Educational Horizons, 78, 2, 80-92. Accessed through WilsonWeb on-line database on June 10, 2001.

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