Research-Based Recommendations for Effective ELL Instruction (page 3)
Recommendations For Teachers
Present ELLs with challenging curricular content. Curricula should be organized around “big questions,” involve authentic reading and writing experiences, and provide textual choices as well as meaningful content for students. 1
Set high expectations for ELLs. ELLs will perform much better if placed according to academic achievement rather than language proficiency; placement in challenging classes with quality instruction will enable them to learn more. 2
Use technology effectively. Greater access to technology and computer-assisted learning can be effective in engaging ELLs’ motivation, developing writing and editing skills, and tapping into the collaborative potential of class websites and blogs. 3
Recognize socio-cultural factors. Awareness of students’ backgrounds, recognition of their prior literacy experiences, and knowledgeof the challenges and benefits that ELLs experience when learning a second language can enable teachers to be more effective. These challenges include: understanding implicit cultural knowledge and norms; developing metalinguistic awareness; learning to codeswitch and translate; dealing with political, cultural, and social dimensions of language status issues; negotiating disparities between home/community and school literacy practices. 4
Position native languages and home environments as resources. Teachers can help ELLs see their native languages and family cultures as resources that contribute to education rather than something to be overcome or cast aside. For example, research shows how students’ extracurricular composing develops ELLs’ abilities in text comprehension, collaboration with peers, and construction of a writerly identity. Teachers can use these techniques to reduce the distance between home and school, while helping ELLs to become more invested in school learning. 5
Teach ELLs in grades K–8 the basics of academic literacy. Focusing on content-specific and academic vocabulary, engaging students with class objectives, and encouraging them to write summaries of their learning, as recommended by models like Five Standards for Effective Pedagogy, Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA), and Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP), gives ELLs skills they can use in many academic subjects. 6 In addition, helping ELLs make connections between academic content and their own funds of knowledge about home and community literacies can help students see these knowledges as resources for building academic literacy.7
Teach ELLs in secondary school, like their K–8 peers, to simultaneously develop their skill with academic English and learn content in a variety of disciplines. Contexts of learning shift rapidly for ELLs in secondary school; on a daily basis they encounter several different teaching styles, varying tasks, multiple expectations, and a range of interaction styles. ELLs’ own socio-economic status, prior schooling, content knowledge, and immigration status also contribute to this variety. 8
Recognize the difference between ELLs and under-prepared students in higher education. Because first-year composition usually serves as a “gateway” course, it poses challenges for some college ESL students, including some who have attended U.S. high schools. ESL students who are new to the U.S. face the additional challenge of acclimating to a new culture and status at the same time they are learning English. 9 Conditions for their learning, especially in first-year composition, should include no more than 15 students per class, 10 and college instructors, as well as K–12 teachers, need to recognize students’ prior literacy experiences, provide connections to new learning, and give explicit instructions regarding expectations for work.
Recommendations For Schools and Policymakers
Delineate explicit expectations for ELLs. Successful programs require an explicit delineation of what students should be able to know and do in order to succeed at a given level. This means that state curriculum frameworks and/or content area standards need to address ELLs specifically so that their literacy strengths and challenges can be addressed. 11
Provide research-based professional development for teachers of ELLs. Less than 13 percent of teachers have received professional development on teaching ELLs, and despite the growing numbers of ELLs, only three states have policies that require all teachers to have some expertise in teaching ELLs effectively. As a result, most ELLs find themselves in mainstream classrooms taught by teachers with little or no formal preparation for working with a linguistically diverse student population.12 Well-meaning teachers with inadequate training can sabotage their own efforts to create positive learning environments through hypercriticism of errors; not seeing native language usage as an appropriate scaffold; ignoring language errors.13
Attend to processes and consequences of assessment of ELLs. Assessment carries major consequences for ELLs since it can determine what services will be available to the individual, how opportunities for learning will be distributed, and the category to which an individual will be assigned. The following research-based guidelines show how policy can be shaped to make the assessment of ELLs fair and effective.
Recognize ELLs’ heterogeneity. ELLs have many faces, and these need to be considered in making decisions about assessment. This means:
- adapt nationwide or federally mandated standardized testing (such as NCLB) to accommodate the needs of ELLs
- avoid any single assessment and insist on multiple assessments
- recognize that the term ELL can refer to either eligible students or those enrolled in special programs
- determine whether the ELL designation is based on spoken English proficiency or written tests
- consider the amount and duration of exposure to English. 14
Avoid testing in English exclusively. ELLs who have academic content knowledge and/or native language literacy skills may not be able to demonstrate that knowledge in English. Assessment should:
- acknowledge that ELLs may have difficulty comprehending the language and format of a test in English
- try to separate language factors from content knowledge
- recognize that tests in English include cultural and historical knowledge that may be unfamiliar to ELLs. 15
Use multiple assessments for varying purposes. Adequate assessment of ELL students will include multiple measures in order to distinguish among content knowledge, literacy skills, language acquisition, and cultural background. Assessment should:
- provide formative assessment during the learning process to help shape instruction, foster academic growth, and enhance motivation
- promote metacognition with self-assessment
- administer summative assessment to gather data about ELLs
- assess content knowledge with evaluation measures designed for ELLs. 16
Adhere to ethical principles of testing. Since assessment can be used to direct instruction and shape power relations as well as impose life-changing effects on ELL students, all testing should:
- assure that the assessment used will produce the desired information
- offer appropriate testing accommodations by reducing the linguistic complexity of assessment tools wherever possible17
- use test results for appropriate purposes
- guard against allowing test results to shape attitudes toward ELL students
- call upon principles of fairness for ELLs who are successful in content classes but cannot pass a required English exit exam or ESL class18
- avoid applying testing accommodations designed for disabilities, instead assigning accommodations that are language-based or consistent with students’ language needs. 19
1 Callahan, R. (2005). Tracking and high school English learners: Limiting opportunities to learn. American Educational Research Journal, 42 (2): 305-328.
2 Callahan, 2005.
3 Pennington, M. (2004). Electronic media in second language writing: An overview of tools and research findings. In S. Fotos & C. Browne (Eds.), New perspectives on CALL for second language classrooms (pp. 69-92). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Bloch, J. (2007). L2 Writing and technology. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
4 Walqui, A. (2000). Strategies for success: Engaging immigrant students in secondary schools. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Pang, E. S., & Kamil, M. L. (2004). Second language issues in early literacy and instruction. Publication Series No. 1. Mid-Atlantic Lab for Student Success, Philadelphia, PA. Sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (ED), Washington, DC. ERIC Document #ED484731.
5 Yi, Yongjoo. (2007). Engaging literacy: A biliterate student’s composing practices beyond school. Journal of Second Language Writing 16: 23-39.
Villalva, K. E. (2006). Hidden literacies and inquiry approaches of bilingual high school writers. Written Communication 23(1): 91.
6 Thar, R. G., Estrada, P., Dalteeen, S. S., and Yamauchi, L. (2000). Teaching transformed: Achieving excellence, fairness, inclusion and harmony. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Echevarria, J., Short, D., and Powers, K. (2003). School reform and standards-based education: How do teachers help English language learners? Technical report. Santa Cruz, CA: Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence.
Center for Applied Linguistics. (2007). The SIOP model of sheltered instruction. Retrieved on December 2, 2007, from http://www.cal.org/siop.
Garcia, G. E. (2000). Bilingual children’s reading. In M. L. Kamil, P. B. Mosenthal, & P. D. Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of reading research, (Vol. 3, pp. 813-834). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Cognitive academic language learning approach. Retrieved on December 8, 2007, from http://www.gwu.edu/~calla/.
Jimenez, R. T., Garcia, G. E., & Pearson, P.D. (1996). The reading strategies of bilingual Latina/o students who are successful English readers: Opportunities and obstacles. Reading Research Quarterly, 31(1): 90-112.
7 Fránquiz, M. E., & Reyes, M. L. (1998). Creating inclusive learning communities through English language arts: From chanclas to canicas. Language Arts 75 (3): 211-220.
Gonzalez, N. E., Moll, L. C., Amanti, C. (Eds.) (2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households and classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
8 McCarthey, S. J., Garcia, G. E., Lopez-Velasquez, A. M., & Guo, S. H. (2004). Understanding contexts for English language learners. Research in the Teaching of English 38 (4): 351-394.
9 Harklau, L., Losey, K., & Siegal, M. (Eds). (1999). Generation 1.5 meets college composition: Issues in the teaching of writing to U.S.- educated learners of ESL. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Harklau, L. (2000). “From the ‘good kids’ to the ‘worst’”: Representations of English language learners across educational settings. TESOL Quarterly, 34: 35-67.
10 CCCC Statement on Second-Language Writing and Writers (2001). College Composition and Communication, 52 (4): 669-674.
11 Callahan, R., 2005.
Karabenick, A. S., & Noda, P. A. (2004). Professional development implications of teachers beliefs and attitudes toward English language learners. Bilingual Research Journal 28 (1): 55-75.
Kindler, A. (2002). Survey of the states’ limited English proficient students and available educational programs and services: 2000-2001 summary report. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition.
12 Meltzer & Hamann, 2004.
13 Abedi, J., Hofstetter, C. H., & Lord, Carol. (2004). Assessment accommodations for English language learners: Implications for policy-based empirical research. Review of Educational Research.74 (1): 1-28.
Abedi, J., & Gándara, P. (2006). Performance of English language learners as a subgroup in large-scale assessment: Interaction of research and policy. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice 25 (4): 36–46.
Klinger, D. A., Rogers, W. T., Anderson, J. O., Poth, C., & Calman, R. (2006). Contextual and school factors associated with achievement on a high-stakes examination. Canadian Journal of Education, 29 (3): 771–797.
14 Abella, R., Urrutia, J., & Shneyderman, A. (2005). An examination of the validity of English-language achievement test scores in an English language learner population. Bilingual Research Journal 29 (1): 127-144.
Short, D. J., & Fitzsimmons, S. (2007). Double the work: Challenges and solutions to acquiring language and academic literacy for adolescent English language learners. Report to Carnegie Corporation of New York. New York: Alliance for Excellent Education.
15 Bitchener, J., Young, S., & Cameron, D. (2005). The effect of different types of corrective feedback on ESL student writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 14 (3): 191-205.
Gottlieb, M. (1999). Assessing ESOL adolescents. In C. J. Faltis, & P. Wolfe (Eds.), So much to say: Adolescents, bilingualism, and ESL in the secondary school (pp. 176-201). New York: Teachers College Press.
16 Abedi & Gándara, 2006.
17 Kopriva, R., Emick, J., Hipolito-Delgado, C. P., & Cameron, C. A. Do proper accommodation assignments make a difference? Examining the impact of improved decision making on scores for English language learners. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice 26 (3): 11-20.
18 Kopriva et al. 2007.
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