What is the most effective way to teach English-language learners?

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Zanada Maleki (not verified)

I believe that an

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I believe that an incremental approach to teaching the dominant or target language is most important. First there needs to be an acculturation in the target language, which in our case is English. This involves moving the student from simple commands and simplistic expressions into more complex nuances of our language expressions. This springs from a command of the spoken language before commanding the written language. One will eventually catch up with the other. The next logical step is a semi-immersion. There should be established milestones or benchmarks as performance indicators for the students to transist from one stage into another successfully. Semi-immersion is the next logical step, to total immersion based on the student's exhibited and measured readiness factors. Many students come to us from the romance language rooted languages, whereby some of the words from their primary language have parallels in our American English language. However, there are also students who come from primary languages that in no way resemble our American English. The grammatical expressions are so different in function and form from ours, voice intonation might determine the meaning of a word in how it is used and interpreted. Those coming from a written language tradition may use the Roman based alphabet, but there are also students from a written tradition that do not use the Roman alphabet; or they might be from a totally oral tradition. Students from a totally oral tradition tend to exhibit a slightly different learning style more based on "wrote" memory as the means for survival and for information survival. There should also be benchmarks as performance indicators to help identify students with learning difficulties and language acquisition handicapping conditions. This vital tool helps the teachers to better facilitate the child's learning efforts without creating undue stress on all parties involved. There is often an assumption that the students coming to us from another target language is a perfect specimen of learning, but they come to us just as our American students do, perfect and flawed all at once, often in the same bundle f a person. I have seen teachers expecting these children to be model and perfect students in every way, with no respect for the fact that children are children with wide ranges of attitudes and behaviors, all trainable and educable. In the over 19+ years in public education that I have experienced, I have taught students in just about all stages of English language acquisition. This not includes students from outside of the US, but also students from inside the US, where there are no literacy skills at home, as well as where regional dialect and idioms are not Mainstream American Academic English. I have also taught in areas of the country in which the immigrant students are blamed for not being fluent when they arrive in our classrooms. Further, as a student of other languages, I have also been through many of the experiences of what our English Language Learners are going through. While an older student might accelerate in the target language development, the readiness factors of language acquisition and application are still important. Teachers really do need to walk in the "moccasins of the other person" before judging the learning worthiness of the English Language Learners. Every teacher, to gain a wider persective and appreciation of this as a shared experience personally, needs to learn a language different from American English, a language that uses an entirely different grammatical structure, as well as totally different alphabet symbols. With that accomplished, then we might have more proficient teachers ready to teach more proficiently because we will have been there, done that, motivating students to learn from a much wider and comprehensive perspective! Words that tend to burn my ears when I hear them coming from allegedly highly qualified educators: what am I supposed to do with these kids, how am I supposed to teach them? At the same time these same people are willing to be more forgiving of their English speaking students who have a smaller knowledge base, and lesser exhibited motivation to learn. I have seen this more pronouncedly in reactions to students who are more visibly different from the background of the teacher and the usual dominant community the teacher serves, and their population in the classroom is more than 1. Whose responsibility is it to teach these children? It is a community effort, but the parents, the child's community outside of the school need to become involved in extra assistance beyond the school day. We cannot do it all in the confines of the school day. We cannot do it all with the already acculturated and native-born students that we have. Here is where I am in favor of a school plan such as the famous Harlem Kids' Zone (Geoffrey Canada) school that has students learning on top of learning: afterschool programs, and Saturday school which is open to all with a variety of different types of learning experiences not affordable time-wise during the regular school day. See What's Wrong with a 6 Hour School Day by Kate Tuttle. Learning is an emotional experience, so why not avail our learning opportunities for students with that in mind! As adults, that is also how we learn. We, both children and adults, do learn what we live, as emotional experience outcomes, intentional or not.
Rhonda Browning (not verified)

Bilingual education is

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Bilingual education is probably best for kids who are just beginning to learn the language, but some will survive in immersion and supportive programs. These are usually the brightest chldren or those whose families are integrating well. They are goign to succeed whether they get a quality education or not. For some, however, their home language is so different from English or they are just a little slower and it is just going to take time---just like teaching a slow learner to read or a child with ADHD to pay attention. Even six months behind is too much in this accountability based world especially since no child makes very little accommodation for children with special needs and is quick to punish, slow to accommodate schools that are not predominantly middle class and English speaking. I remember a child who came in my class when I was in the third grade. He was from Iceland. He spoke not a word of English and at lunch time the teacher pointed to her teeth. Oskar grew up kind of mean and hateful toward others even though he picked up social English pretty quickly. I stayed away from him because of his attitude so I don't know how he did in his school work. I wonder if he would have had a more positive outlook with more nurturing and an ELL teacher. You can do all the "tough love" you want by throwing kids into immersion and expecting them to keep up, but just like using that cruel method of teaching kids to swim, some are going to drown. In school that is called dropping out.
Sherry Prange (not verified)

We have a number of foreign

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We have a number of foreign exchange students in our high school. The Asians have the most difficulty with language and the initial semester is particularly difficult. At the end of the first year, one was reading at 6th grade level, comprehending at 7th grade level, but doing appropriate high school work in all other courses. Each year the English gets better and comprehension improves by maintaining an English environment and caring teachers who stop to explain things when questions are asked.
Mr. Joaquin C. Armendariz (not verified)

The controversy over

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The controversy over instruction of Non-Native English Speakers is due to the continuing violation by politicians and racist/xenophobic groups like U.S. English of the Academic Freedom of teachers, administrators, and school boards to provide instruction based on sound research in Language Acquisition, Language Learning(Formal), Bilingualism and Bilingual Education. Ever since the Lau vs. Nichols Decision by the U.S. Supreme Court the anti-minority groups in and out have obstructed the full implementation of even the transitional useless approaches to "Bilingual Education". Millions of children have been condemned to low wage jobs, lifes of crime, etc. as a result of the Educational Malpractice committed against them. We need to inform society and parents that early modern language learning is an IQ amplifier and xenophobia reducer for all learners- look up Wallace Lambert,Fred Genesee, Rolf Kjolseth,etc. and promote national cultural cohesion-see Christina Bratt Paulston's research. Why have credentials for teachers,administrators and others if we are treated as irrelevant? English Teachers, ESL Teachers, Modern Language Teachers, and their research colleagues need to say enough is enough!!! We need communities of mutual majority/ minority language learning in our schools so that business,industry and our military have the resources to keep us safe and competitive! See "The Tongue-Tied American: Confronting the Modern Language Learning Crisis" by the late Senator Paul Simon of Illinois- if read by policymakers, 9-11 might have been avoided as well as our continuing blindspots around the world.
Deanne Delehanty (not verified)

I have been working as a

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I have been working as a classroom teacher with ELL students for 19 years. We tried teaching them as a full class without native speakers and then when we created our own school we did a half/half situation. It is total immersion with help from an ESL teacher directly or indirectly. I believe this works best but can be more effective when the language is understood by one parent or sponsor. Working together to help make the change from native language to English is then easier. Bi-lingual may work but since we have over 27 languages (300) students that could never happen except for Spanish which does occur in another city school. You need teachers who are dedicated, understand and go out of their way to be helpful and demonstrative. They need to love children from all over the world and see their role as bringing them to understanding not a burden as some classroom teachers feel. I believe in our school we have a respect for all cultures that is evidenced by the children, staff and parents. Total acceptance exists but not in an artificial way. We are receiving more and more students without prior education which then makes our job more difficult. When the State and Federal governments push more and more testing on these students it is more than frustrating and in my opinion cruel to these children. They are taught curriculum but how can they possibly understand when it is not spoken in their language. They do gain a sense of such information when the teacher uses videos, books, and volunteers to help provide a better basis for understanding. As much one on one attention as possible and as many "prompts" as possible.
Kayoko Akaogi (not verified)

This would dig a deep

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This would dig a deep thought--- Being a immigrant, speaking English as the second language myself, I say the most difficult challenge is not the language itself, but to keep one's self-esteem high. If we support not only language but also the person "who they are---and respect", student would be more motivated to learn and would have better result.
W A Wolff (not verified)

I can see from the comments

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I can see from the comments of so-called experts why the votring is going the way it is. These folks can claim and support the fuzzy-wuzzy bilingual approach and most will just swallow it. In the real business world, international folks attend an immersion class such as Berlitz for six months. The results??? An amazing fluency in reading, writing, and listening. It works superbly well, even for the older (slower?) learners. Bilingual and similar programs are supported by the folks that want to make money by working in those programs.
margarita muniz (not verified)

As a principal in Boston of

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As a principal in Boston of a two way bilingual education school for the past 25 years we have struggled with the doubters and naysayers. Our results speak for the thousands of successful students who are making their way in the world in both languages. The Unz initiative passed in Massachusetts almost three years ago. The ELL students in the state are doing more poorly than ever. The Hernandez School has 90-100% of their 7th graders passing the MCAS which is one of the toughest state assessment in the USA. We are also surpassing the state in the mathematics portion of the test across all of the grades tested. Students learning in two languages and not doing watered down ESL or Spanish as a Second Language are committing to higher order thinking skills and mastery of material in all content areas in both languages. We hope the English Only movement is put to rest. All students and their families want their children to be well educated without having to give up one language to gain the other one. It can be done and it is being done throughout the country in many schools. Like the ostrich with its head in the sand the multitudes refuse to see the success in those schools and fail to emulate their work. I hope folks wake up and stop their prejudiced views from influencing second language learners. I do not endorse poor bilingual education any more than I endorse poor education of children in Title I programs or any other programs being touted as "the answer for the poor ELL student" .
Robert Vos (not verified)

The problem, I believe, is

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The problem, I believe, is that there is no one solution for everyone. I learned English at the age of seven by full immersion - I had no choice but to learn the language because there was no other option. While I fell behind, within one academic year I was back at grade level. I think we need to take more time to find out how the individual child learns best and then provide what he/she needs.
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