In accomplishing their responsibilities, educators are faced with many challenges. Among them, is teaching students whose English is their first language (Meyers, 1993). This can be encountered at any level of the educational system including grades 4-6 (Gibbons, 1994). Being a great challenge, educators are faced with problem of what to do. Considering that the educator is not teaching one student and working on a limited budget, there is need to develop a curriculum that suits students of grade 4-6 (Gunderson, 1991). Sometimes this can be overwhelming; to resolve the issue, there are several guidelines which educators can use so as to create a conducive learning environment and to ensure that all students despite their background are comfortable while learning. The following is an outline of a curriculum that can be used by educator in assisting linguistically challenged students on how to write.
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- Formal assessment and placement,
- Support for linguistic development,
- Establishing Reading and writing,
- Assessment and evaluation of student’s progress.
In class of many students, identifying an individual who’s English is a second language may be a little complicated (Helmer, 1996). Some students may display a certain level of command of the language but face problems during reading and writing. Some may show clear signs as they may not be able to speak the language fluently or not at all. Others show it through their behavior; for example, they like to isolate themselves as they experience hardships when interacting with the rest due language barrier (Meyers, 1993). Assessment of the students is important as the ones that require more help due to their background are identified and helped. Educators can consult the following documents published by Ministry of Education as guideline in assessing their students.
- Portfolio Assessment (XX0247)
- Student-Centered Conferencing (XX0248)
- Student Self-Assessment (XX0249)
Formal assessment and placement
After identifying the linguistically challenged students, it’s important to assess their knowledge and abilities so as to grade them. It should be done under the directive and assistance of trained specialist. The process of conducting these assessments should be informal, for instance, oral interviews, writing samples and reading out segments of written materials. Through this, appropriate grades can be determined for the student.
Classroom planning with both groups
After assessment and grading, educators are faced with the challenge of planning for linguistically challenged students and the rest who do not experience any difficulty (Cummins, 1994). Once the educators are introduced to these kind of students, it’s important for them to carry their out own assessment if they are meeting them for the first time (Galloway, et al, 1994). It helps them familiarize themselves with the student’s profile, their knowledge of the grade (Gibbons, 1994). Educators are also able to acquire visual instruction aids that are convenient to the student so as to facilitate communication. This will enable the educators to set up plan schedules that are convenient to all students (Gunderson, 1991). The following strategies are helpful to the educators for them to enhance the learning of both groups of students:
- Provide extra time for linguistically challenged students to answer questions,
- Avoid complicated vocabulary,
- Teach the language of the subject,
- Uses of simple sentences and repeat it severally before rephrasing,
- Clearly indicate change of topic during the lesson,
- Periodically check on the linguistically challenged students to ensure they understand.
Support for linguistic development
Once a student is able to communicate, then the possibility of writing the language becomes real (Crowhurst, 1994). This can be developed through:
- Using the students native language to enhance understanding and clarify problems
- Responding to the language errors made by the students
- Creating a positive environment for language learning
- Encouraging the students to rehearse information orally
Establishing reading and writing
Once a student is able to communicate, then it’s possible for them to start practicing how to read and write the same language (Brautigam, et al, 1997). The educator can enhance this through;
- Writing keywords on the board and using sign languages wherever possible to explain the key ideas,
- Providing written material and encouraging them to read the materials out loud and correcting the errors made,
- Giving them tasks to spell certain words and write articles on certain topics,
- Ensuring repeated practice of the things learnt so as to enhance understanding,
- Using peers as tutors.
Assessment and evaluation of student’s progress
Student’s progress can be measured through their performance in class (Atkinson et al, 1997). However, it is important to note that students functioning in a language that is not their first is demanding and exhausting. Therefore, assignments should be carefully chosen to emphasis key concepts and knowledge (Black, 1990). Short tests in class could also be useful in assessment and understanding. This is especially an important step since it enables educators to determine the effectiveness of the adopted curriculum (Carrasquillo & Rodriquez, 1995). In the case of any problem, educators can determine what might be the cause and therefore take corrective measures to make the curriculum work effectively (Collie & Slater, 1987).
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Recommended resources to have in the classroom include:
- Dictionaries specifically for learners of English
- Bilingual dictionaries
- alphabet letters (print and cursive)
- catalogues, magazines, or other heavily illustrated reading material
- Atkinson, M. et al, (1997). Talk Together: A Parent-Teacher Conference Guide. Golden BC: School District 18.
- Black, H. (1990). Organizing Thinking: Graphic Organizers, Book 2. Pacific Grove Ca: Midwest Publication.
- Brautigam, C. et al. (1997). Guidelines for Elementary ESL Support. New York: Richmond School District Press.
- Carrasquillo, A., & Rodriquez, V., (1995). Language Minority Students in the Mainstream Classroom, Clevedon: England: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
- Collie, J., & Slater, S., (1987), Literature in the Language Classroom. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.
- Crowhurst, M., (1994). Language and Learning across the Curriculum. Scarborough: Allyn & Bacon.
- Cummins, J., (1994). Bilingualism and Special Education: Issues in Assessment and Pedagogy. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
- Galloway, G., et al., (1994). In your classroom: supporting the integration of secondary ESL learners. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall.
- Gibbons, P., (1994). Learning to Learn in a Second Language. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
- Gunderson, L., (1991). ESL Literacy Instruction: A Guidebook to Theory and Practice. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall.
- Helmer, S., (1996). Look at Me When I Talk to You: ESL Learners in Non-ESL Classrooms. Toronto: Pippin Publishing.
- Meyers, M., (1993). Teaching to Diversity: Teaching and Learning in the Multi-Ethnic Classroom. Toronto: Irwin Publishing.