English as a Second Language (page 3)
Students whose native language is other than English enter New York City’s public schools at every grade level throughout the school year. They come from all over the world and have a range of social, cultural, and academic experiences, assumptions, and expectations that may be substantially different from those of other students in New York City and the United States. These new students face many challenges and must overcome numerous barriers in order to succeed in their present and future endeavors.
The inclusion of perspectives on bilingual/ESL learners was an important part of the development of the New York City edition of the New Standards™ Performance Standards. English as a Second Language (ESL) and bilingual programs offer students the opportunity to acquire second language proficiency and to become educated bilingual/bicultural adults. Students, educators, parents, and the community are partners in the process.
In accord with the current national movement toward school reform and the adoption of rigorous, challenging standards for all students and the entire school community, ESL programs must aim for high standards that are developmentally appropriate and empower students to become productive, informed adults and life-long learners.
The ESL Curriculum Frameworks, published as a chapter of the New York City Curriculum Frameworks, are in alignment with the New Standards™ Performance Standards. The frameworks demonstrate that the expectations of English language learners, particularly at the advanced and transitional levels of ESL instruction, begin to parallel and eventually merge with English Language Arts.
What is English as a Second Language?
ESL is an academic discipline designed to allow students to acquire English language proficiencies across the major skill areas of listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing, and critical thinking in a systematic and spiraling fashion. ESL services necessarily encompass academic areas other than language arts, such as science, mathematics, and social studies.
In addition, ESL instruction serves as a focal point for the introduction and reinforcement of the concepts of cross-cultural/multicultural understanding and social responsibility. Thus, ESL instruction plays a major role in affording bilingual/ESL students the opportunity to acquire the English proficiency and academic, cognitive, and cultural knowledge they need to become active participants in the larger society.
Teachers at all grade levels should use appropriate ESL methodologies including the integration of the visual and performing arts and technology. In this way, teachers will make their instruction more comprehensible while contributing to the English language acquisition of their students.
Because students enter the school system at all grades with varying levels of English language proficiency, the ESL Curriculum Frameworks are organized by grade cluster: Pre-K - 2, 3 - 5, 6 - 8, 9 - 12, and by level of instruction: beginning, intermediate, advanced, and transitional. The transitional level refers to the stage of English language development that forms the bridge to Language Arts in English.
What are social language and academic language?
Students in the early stages of language acquisition begin to acquire social language that enables them to function conversationally and negotiate everyday situations. As students are increasingly exposed to content-based materials and literature, they begin to develop academic language. This expanded range of language skills enables them to succeed in the cognitively and academically demanding situations critical for school success.
Educators must remember that social and academic language are not separate aspects of language functioning. They are, rather, a continuum of applications along which students progress as they move through the various stages of second language acquisition. Research studies have indicated that the average English language learner may need between five and seven years of instruction to acquire academic language proficiency on a par with native speakers of English of the same age. Research has also shown that if students are already literate in their native language, these skills will form a base for English literacy.
What is the programmatic structure of ESL?
Students who are recent arrivals in the United States with little or no prior study of English are placed in the beginning level of ESL. They generally move to the intermediate level after one year of instruction. They then move on to the advanced and transitional levels as they acquire greater academic language proficiency. Students in bilingual programs receive instruction in their native language parallel to that of their English proficient peers while they are in the process of achieving English language proficiency.
It must be noted that there is a group of students with little, interrupted, or no formal schooling in their countries of origin whose needs and progress have to be considered separately. With proper support and time, these students will be able to reach the same standards as all other students.
In elementary and middle schools, it is quite common to have a wide variety of English language proficiencies in bilingual and ESL classes. In the high schools, ESL classes are usually organized by levels of instruction: beginning, intermediate, advanced, and transitional. The majority of high schools follow this model although variations exist.
Regardless of class organization models, there is a recognition at all grade levels that second language acquisition is a process and that students progress through various acquisition stages at their own pace. Teachers of ESL select specific methods and use specialized instructional materials to meet their students’ needs.
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