Interdisciplinary Capstone Regarding English Language Learners


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Language and literacy education for students who are English language learners (ELLs) has been well cited in the research as a current hot topic (Tissington & LaCour, 2010). However, teachers and other school professionals often debate on the best way to educate ELLs. Furthermore, the lesson plans that are created to meet the needs of ELLs differ greatly. It is commonly agreed upon that a student's first experience with school, both positive and negative, will have long lasting effects on their education. As a result, teachers need provide an encouraging environment for learning.

English language learners (ELLs) are one of the largest groups to struggle with literacy (Tissington & LaCour, 2010). Because of this, focus of instruction should be placed on the learner's ability to comprehend the lesson content and not on the learner's language proficiency (Tissington & LaCour, 2010). Moreover, research has indicated that ELLs benefit from the same explicit, systematic instruction proven to be effective for native English speakers (Fishkin, 2010). Teachers of ELLs should have lesson plans that are effective for all students not just the EEL students.

Second language acquisition is the process of successfully learning a second language in addition to the first language(s) (Fishkin, 2010). The process of learning another language can be different from person to person. On average, it takes about three to five years for an ELL to have sufficient language to function successfully and independently in a mainstream classroom (Fishkin, 2010). Nevertheless, each child is an individual; what might take one student three years to may take another student only a year to learn.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) uses the acronym Limited English Proficient (LEP) and labels an ELL as an individual who "(a) is between the ages of 3 to 21 years; (b) has enrolled or is preparing to enroll in elementary or secondary school; (c) was not born in the U.S. or English is not a native language; (d) comes from a background in which English has had a considerable impact on an individual's English Language Proficiency; (e) comes from an environment where English is not the primary language; and (f ) has had difficulties in speaking, writing, reading, or understanding the English language that may deny the individual the ability to meet the state's proficient level of achievement" (NCLB, as cited in Wolf et al., 2008, p. 2).

ELLs are not considered a standardized group; rather, they are a mixed group. They can come from a diverse cultural and language background also they will have varying backgrounds when it comes to education and levels of language skill. The acronyms ELL (English Language Learners) and ESL (English as a Second Language) can to be used interchangeably. Nonetheless, when most people talk about ELLs, they can also be called bilingual students. A language other than English can be used as the primary language during the education process. The abbreviation ESL refers to students that are being taught only the English language. Most ELL teachers find the following literacy strategies to be most effective when teaching their students: building vocabulary and background knowledge, using visual aids to scaffold learning, providing hands-on activities, modeling, and offering opportunities for student-to-student interactions. (Fishkin, 2010) Qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods and action research studies have been shown on these strategies.

It is extremely important that teachers find the most effective research-based approaches to use to teacher ELLs. Due to the high number of ELLs entering classrooms each year, teachers will at some point in their careers have ELLs to educate. Teachers need to be educated themselves on what lesson plans are going to work the best when teaching ELLs.

Each year, there is a significant increase in English Language Learners entering schools in the U.S.; however, most teachers do not have the necessary training to teach them. These five strategies-(1) building vocabulary and background knowledge, (2) visual aids, (3) hands-on learning, (4) modeling, and (5) student-to-student interactions-are seen as being most effective when teaching ELLs. (Tissington & LaCour, 2010) There are many teachers who have not had any prior training; I think that applying these strategies will be beneficial in many classrooms. Applying these strategies is imperative; however, there are also a few other things that are just as important to fit in in order to have success in teaching ELLs. Having high expectations for all of the students, including the students' culture and having the parents involved are the three components that teachers should use when teaching ELL students. It is through the use of effective lesson plans and these three components that teachers will have great success when teaching their ELL students.

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