"The number of English-language learners in the United States is growing rapidly, including many states that have not previously had large immigrant populations." -- Larry Ferlazzo
The expectation that Mexican-American English-language learners (ELLs) would enter U.S. schools with inadequate social competence turned out not to be realized, say UC Berkeley experts Margaret Bridge and Bruce Fuller. Indeed, a lot of old assumptions about how to serve ELLs need to be checked.
For example, when children are quiet, do not assume they understand, say Bridge and Fuller. With respecting elders being a common cultural norm, many Mexican-American children may think that asking questions of their teachers is disrespectful. Also, classrooms should not be English-only zones. Instead of disallowing non-English talk in the classroom, facilitate learning by using children's home language. This develops vocabulary and concepts in the ELLs' first language, boosting their cognitive skills and English development.
What about Grammar Drills?
Everyone agrees that ELLs need help in mastering "the basics" of grammar usage. However, the ways that those basics are taught varies widely.
To dissuade instructors from the common practice of drowning ELLs in worksheets and grammar drills, Judie Haynes, co-founder and owner of the website everythingESL.net, writes, "Research has shown that 'out of context' grammar drills do not work with students of any age . . . Read predictable books. Teach thematic units. Any mention of a grammar rule should be within the context of those texts."
Non-Negotiable Vocabulary for ELLs to Study
Beside focusing on developing communication and reading skills, Marilee Sprenger -- an expert in brain-based instructional strategies and author of Teaching the Critical Vocabulary of the Common Core -- recommends that ELLs learn high-frequency academic language terms that are embedded in the Common Core State Standards. This strategy should raise their standardized test scores, since researchers estimate that "85 percent of achievement test scores are based on the vocabulary of the standards." What are those critical CCSS nouns and verbs? Sprenger lists them on her website.
Below are a list of websites and books that suggest ways to support English-language learners. The strategies will also benefit other students in your classes.
Websites to Support ELLs
- English Grammar Word Builder: Printable lesson plans, grammar rules, and online exercises.
- AT&T Labs' Text-to-Speech: A free text-to-speech translator.
- 365 ESL Short Stories: Texts for intermediate ESL/EFL students.
- PinkMonkey: Free G-rated literature study guides, with notes and chapter summaries.
- Casa Notes: Note templates for field trip permissions, student contracts, invitation to parent-teacher conferences, etc. Users are given the option of printing the notes in Spanish or English.
Online Articles that Discuss How to Support ELLs
- Free Apps to Support Vocabulary Acquisition by Monica Burns.
Burns always comes up with a creative mix of tools. In this Edutopia piece, she discusses apps like Kids' Vocab by MindSnacks, Futaba, and Flashcardlet.
- Do's & Don'ts For Teaching English-Language Learners by Larry Ferlazzo.
In this Edutopia piece, Ferlazzo covers wait time, modeling, non-linguistic cues, and more.
- 50 Incredibly Useful Links For Learning & Teaching The English Language by TeachThought.
This curated blog post contains a great collection of resource tools, printables, and other materials for ELL educators.
- Judie Haynes' Seven Strategies for Classroom Teachers of ELLs.
Haynes concisely describes comprehensible input, visual lessons, and making testing and homework modifications.
- 10 Ways to Support English Language Learning With The New York Times by Holly Epstein Ojalvo.
This piece from The Learning Network recommends creative approaches to using one of the best newspapers in the world with ELLs.
- SIOP® 8 Components and 30 Features, adapted from Making Content Comprehensible for English Language Learners, The SIOPModel by Jana Echevarria, Mary Ellen Vogt, and Deborah J. Short.
This article describes The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, including how to use graphic organizers, outlines, adapted texts, leveled study guides, and much more.
How do you support ELLs in your classroom?