What do teachers need to know about students who are learning to speak English?
Page 3: Programs and Personnel
Programs for ELL students include a wide range of instructional approaches, from using the student’s primary language in addition to English for instruction (i.e., bilingual), to teaching exclusively in English (i.e., immersion). Exactly which of these programs is used in a given school is a decision based on factors such as state and local educational policies, the size of the student population, and the nature and availability of resources. In some cases, a school might offer more than one type of program.
Research indicates that bilingual programs support students in achieving better outcomes in school. However, not all schools are able to offer these types of programs due to factors such as an insufficient number of students to justify a given program or a lack of qualified ESL or bilingual teachers. Although bilingual programming is ideal, if it is not available ELL students can still be successful through the implementation of effective instructional supports. The boxes below outline several of the program models implemented in today’s schools.
Developmental Bilingual Education
Summary: Instruction is provided to all students in two languages (e.g., Spanish and English)
Duration: Instruction usually begins in kindergarten or first grade and continues through elementary school
Native-English speakers and English learners are placed together in the program and receive instruction in both languages (e.g., English and Spanish). Teachers may provide:
Equal amounts of instruction in both languages
Spanish instruction ninety percent of the time (for content instruction); English instruction is used only ten percent of the time to develop English proficiency. Gradually, the instruction shifts so that both languages are used equally.
Research indicates that ELLs have greater academic success when content instruction is provided in the student’s home language for several years, while their English language proficiency gradually increases over time.
The student’s first language is allowed to become firmly established.
A bilingual environment is created in which all students interact socially and academically with both same- and other-language-speaking peers.
Opportunities are created for all students to learn different languages, cultures, and customs.
Schools have difficulty maintaining a balanced ratio of students who speak each language.
Support from the parents of native English speakers may diminish over time if they fear their child is not learning content being taught in another language.
More English instruction to accommodate the English-speaking students might occur, something that might be detrimental to the ELLs in the class.
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Developmental Bilingual Education
All students are English learners who share the same home language. They are taught primarily in their home language by a bilingual instructor; as their English language proficiency increases, instruction in the home language decreases. These students:
Generally begin this program in kindergarten or first grade
Receive the majority of their instruction in a separate classroom
Bilingual instructors work collaboratively with school personnel to integrate ELL students with native-English speaking students into programs where English is spoken.
Bilingual teachers provide instruction in the home language for a minimum of five to six years––even when the student develops basic English language proficiency––to ensure academic success.
The program produces better academic outcomes than do transitional bilingual education or ESL programs.
Students develop content knowledge in two languages and exit the program on grade level in both languages.
The program increases parental involvement; parents can communicate with the teacher and volunteer in the classroom in their home language.
Students acquire a strong self-identity and comfort level about being bilingual and about their cultural heritage.
The program closes the achievement gap when scores are compared to those of native-English speakers.
Students may have limited opportunities to interact with the entire school population.
Program effectiveness may be compromised for those students who:
Enter the program late
Are highly transient
Exit the program early
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Transitional Bilingual Education
English as a Second Language
Summary: Academic content instruction is provided in the student’s native language
Objective: English proficiency
Duration: Typically lasts from two to three years but may be concluded sooner in order to transition students into English-only instruction more quickly
As in the case of developmental bilingual education, students are taught primarily in their home language by a bilingual instructor; as English language proficiency increases, instruction in the home language decreases. Transitional bilingual education:
Expects students to participate in English-only instruction by the third or fourth grade (unlike developmental bilingual education, where the expectation is for students to become bilingual)
Includes language and academic objectives
Students learn information in the language in which they are more proficient.
Student motivation and confidence in academic learning increases.
It is possible to view the program as a segregated one.
Students are expected to acquire academic English proficiency in a shorter amount of time than is outlined in the stages of language acquisition.
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English as a Second Language (ESL)
The instruction that English learners receive may be:
Grammar-based—English-language structure, pronunciation, and vocabulary
Communication-based—the skillful use of English in meaningful contexts
Content-based—the development of language skills to support students’ acquisition of grade-level material
The instructional program is designed to be a short-term method for learning English:
Students in elementary school are pulled out of the general education classroom for sessions that may range from 30–45 minutes. These sessions may occur daily, once a week, or several times a week, depending on resources.
Students in middle and high school receive ESL instruction during a regular class period and in high school can receive course credit for this instruction.
English language proficiency tests may be used to determine which students qualify for the program and which students should exit the program because their English skills meet the established criteria.
Content-based ESL instruction––including academic objectives in addition to language objectives––leads to better academic outcomes than do either grammar-based or communication-based ESL instruction.
Such instruction can accommodate students with many different language backgrounds within a school.
ESL teachers do not need to be fluent in the students’ home language.
Instruction does not typically support students’ cognitive and academic language proficiency needs.
Pull-out programming often results in:
Students missing important classroom instruction
Fewer language supports for students during the remainder of the school day
Because variability of instruction exists, students who transfer from one school to another may not receive the same type of ESL instruction. For example, a student may receive content-based ESL instruction at one school and later transfer to a school that offers grammar-based ESL instruction.
ESL teachers face challenges such as scheduling and having students from varying grade levels attend class at the same time.
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Although a range of programs exists for providing instruction to ELLs, all programs should strive to include:
Parental involvement and coordinated communication between parents and school personnel
Instructional personnel who can implement specific instructional strategies and techniques
Strong and knowledgeable leadership among classroom, school, and district personnel
Professional development for teachers in these programs and for general education teachers who work with English language learners
Developmentally appropriate curriculum and instructional materials
High standards with respect to both language acquisition and academic achievement
Regardless of the program, ELL students should receive some type of ESL instruction (or English language development).
Developmental Bilingual Education, Plus ESL Taught Using Academic Content
Transitional Bilingual Education, Plus ESL Taught Using Academic Content
Transitional Bilingual Education, Plus ESL Taught Using Grammar-Based Instruction
ESL: Taught Using Academic Content
ESL: Taught Using Grammar-Based Instruction
Average Performance of Native English-speakers
A seminal study examining the performance of over 42,000 ELL students across five school districts showed that those in two-way immersion programs made the greatest gains on standardized reading assessments.
Began school as kindergarteners in the United States
Had no English proficiency when they started school
Were eligible for free and reduced price meals
Were enrolled in only one type of program model throughout their elementary school years
(Permission granted by the National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education)
Depending on school resources, ELL students might be enrolled in one or more of the programs previously mentioned, which are designed to meet these students’ educational needs. Depending on the programs offered, specially trained teachers provide instruction. Ideally, general education teachers may work with one or more of these professionals:
Bilingual teacher – fluent in and provides instruction in more than one language
ESL teachers are also sometimes referred to as Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). In addition to possessing a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, ESL licensure candidates must also meet the testing guidelines (e.g., Praxis II) outlined by their individual states.
ESL/ bilingual paraprofessional – provides instruction or support under the supervision of an ESL or bilingual teacher