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Teaching English Language Learners

Introduction

Nowadays, schools across the country are working to bring a suitable and efficient prospectus for all students as pointed out by the passing of Goals 2000: Educate American Act of 1994. A variety of professional associations have reacted to this concern by calling for curriculum modification and by developing curriculum sets for all children.

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Research facts have pointed out that CLD student’s achievement is poor in academic areas when measured up to their mainstream peers and a lot of CLD students are at risk of failure at school (Gonzales, Brusca-Vega, & Yawkey, 1997). A lot of CLD students often come from families with lesser earnings and less formal education. As a consequence, these students may not have the practices of the social and/or educational skills that are essential to do well in schools, and they are more probably to be recognized as having a disability (Gonzales et al., 1997). The primary step in promoting literacy for CLD students is to distinguish the likely reasons why they struggle to do well academically. The next step is to use this knowledge to make suitable modifications to ELL’s teaching. This article addresses the academic requirements of CLD students (with or without disabilities) in comprehensive classrooms through the modification of teaching. It also gives a sample lesson plan with precise proposals and policies in modifying instruction.

Discussion

Content-area teachers and scaffold instruction for ELLs

Research on advancement to teaching for English language learners (ELLs) points out that incorporating content into language teaching can initiate a genuine educational challenge to learners through its demand for higher-order thinking skills. In addition to speed up English Language learning, the legitimacy of the challenge is natural in an approach that maintains academic development and provides inspiration to succeed.

Scaffolding is a conceptualization that gives teachers a helpful means to put together ELL instruction into content-area instruction and to allow ELLs to display their knowledge without total dependence on language. Effective scaffolding is a significant constituent of the database of all teachers who have ELLs in their charge. Content-based language instruction and scaffolding instruction for ELLs is an appropriate topic in the United States (US) given the 65.03% growth in ELL enrollment growth over the last 10 years in kindergarten to secondary (K-12) schools in the US (US Department of Education, 2006). Additionally, 77% of content-area teachers (CATs) account for the need for training of any kind in working with ELLs and given their direct association with ELLs, and the reality that the learner spend 80% of their school day with CATs (National Centre for Educational Statistics, 2002), it is thus vital to appreciate CATs’ sensible knowledge or knowledge in the practice of scaffolding instruction for ELLs.

Theoretical framework

Scaffolding as a sensible knowledge of teachers Shulman (1986, p. 9) conceptualized teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) as the junction involving teachers’ knowledge of their particular subject area and the methods of representing and preparing the subject in a means that makes it understandable to others. Scaffolding is an educational factor of PCK and thus that of teachers’ practical knowledge (TPK) of how to teach.

Vygotsky (1978) describes ‘‘scaffolding’’ as the social relations between specialists and beginners during which the former engage in supportive manners and make supportive environments for beginners to obtain skills and knowledge at an advanced competency stage. However, the idea of ‘‘scaffolding’’ has developed from learning support and assistance at the interpersonal level to one that includes the use of a multitude of tools, guides, and resources. Studies at the interpersonal level include Ulanoff and Pucci (1999), Nassaji and Cumming (2000), and Mohan and Beckett (2003).

Peers and/or equal non-experts are also incorporated in scaffolding studies that centered on interpersonal interactions. Researchers disputed that peer interactions continue to be logical even without the achievement of a good regular grade (positive interdependence) as inspiration. A related feature of peer-to-peer scaffolding is its multidimensionality and flexibility. Cumming-Potvin, Renshaw, and van Kraayenoord (2003), for instance, stress that scaffolding has been poorly visualized as a one-dimensional procedure of offering and eliminating learning support for learners. They disagree with a multi-tiered idea of scaffolding concerning the active interplay and interactions between members in a group working together, whereby the limitations between specialist and learner are indistinct and interchangeable (Cumming-Potvin et al, 2003).

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Cultural scaffolding is demonstrated by scholarly works in the early and mid-1990s on ‘‘primary and secondary discourses’’ (Gee, 2000), ‘‘funds of knowledge’’ (Moll, 1994), and ‘‘cultural responsive teaching’’ by Ladson-Billings (1994). In this high opinion, present pedagogy struggles for the interconnectivity between students’ out-of-school and school experiences that offers a means for students to come into ‘‘an intellectual partnership or at least be greatly helped by cultural artifacts in the form of tools and information resources’’ (Salomon & Perkins, 1998, p. 5) culturally and historically familiar to them. Cultural scaffolding describes a pedagogical approach, which, according to Salomon and Perkins (1998), involves the management of ‘‘cultural tools.’’ The authors give details that these tools vary from information resources to generally shared symbol systems that are ethnically and traditionally situated. The tools outline the foundation for learning systems, action reform, and the willpower of what can be carried out (Salomon & Perkins, 1998, p. 5). From an instructional standpoint, this means that the use of cultural meanings is vital in conveying knowledge, skills, and attitudes. I take on well, this pedagogical approach will result in ‘‘culturally responsive’’ teaching whereby students’ cultural disparities in backgrounds, knowledge base, and experiences are used as channels to teach them more efficiently.

Virginia Collier’s ‘‘Prism Model’’ which appeared from a study on factors for school efficacy for language minority students (LMS) specifically contributed to the types of scaffolding most relevant to ELLs (Thomas & Collier, 2002). The usefulness of the representation stems from its capacity to recognize and demonstrate the interdependency of four factors, namely linguistic, academic, cognitive, and socio-cultural support, in helping ELLs to succeed. Linguistic factors cover all aspects of language development support including formal, informal, conscious, and subconscious aspects of the acquisition and learning of oral as well as written language skills in students’ first and second languages (Thomas & Collier, 2002). Academic and cognitive factors, on the other hand, involve sustaining conceptual and intellectual support in school work and through the use of students’ ‘‘first language at least through the elementary school years’’ (Thomas & Collier, 2002 p. 43). Finally, sociocultural factors include the facility given to students to incorporate into their school learning experiences, their past, present, and future experiences at home, in school, in their community, and in the broader society (Thomas & Collier, 2002).

Humanistic Learning Theory

According to Stevick (1980), the humanistic approach in language teaching is a method focusing on humanism as the most important element in the process of teaching. Stevick is considered a leading figure for the humanistic approach who emphasized that “in a language course, success depends less on materials, techniques and linguistic analyses, and more on what goes on inside and between the people in the classroom” (Stevick, 1980, p 61). Three prominent methodologies branched out from the humanistic approach, specifically the silent way, suggestopedia, and community language learning. Gattengo (1972) introduced the silent way in which the teacher maintains his or her silence most of the time while the learners are involved in learning. The teacher, nevertheless, remains the firm controller of the class. Lozanov (1979) founded Suggestopaedia. Its principle is based on the belief that people are most capable of learning with clear minds and an absence of anxiety. Community language learning was developed by Curran (1972). It is based on counseling, wherein the learners sit in a group as a community and decide what they want to discuss. Hamachek (1977) commented on the humanistic approach in language teaching as a “humanistic education (that) starts with the idea that students are different, and it strives to help students become more like themselves and less like each other,” (p 44)

Piaget (1970) pointed out that the humanistic teacher should have a good grasp of language learning theories. Teachers consider the importance of change as implicit in the learning process, thus, there is awareness of the individual learners’ ‘developmental readiness’ (Piaget, 1970). Developmental readiness indicates when and how to teach each student where teachers may give problem-solving activities. Cognitivism suggests that this is precisely how individuals learn things. It is also suggested that the ideal humanistic teacher will need to be a pragmatist where he or she combines language learning theories with their own experience to share and discuss with each other for effective language lessons.

The humanistic teacher needs to know what motivates their students such as when some want to learn English because they need to for employment. Others want to learn simply for personal adventure and curiosity. The former is ‘extrinsic motivation’ while the latter is called ‘intrinsic motivation’. Extrinsically motivated students are more goal-oriented and often require mastery tests and examinations. However, students who are intrinsically motivated become satisfied in solving language problems as the solution becomes its own reward. But students can be both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated as they learn English for a specific purpose while enjoying the process of learning.

Interaction and second language learning

Interaction is considered a key factor in second language learning. Interaction is the discourse constructed by the learner and his interlocutors while the input is the result of this interaction (Ellis, 1994). Interactionist view language learning as a language acquisition that is a product of interaction between the learner’s mental abilities and the linguistic environment. According to Ellis (1994), suggested that interaction is important for second language acquisition. He distinguished three aspects of verbal interaction as input, production, and feedback. Input is the language given to the learner by native speakers and other learners in the environment, production or output is the language spoken by the language learners themselves while feedback is the response given by the conversational partners to the production of the learner. In a natural setting such as a migrant in another country, the learner needs to learn the language and at the same time must communicate in order to learn. The second language in this instance is acquired through sporadic and unsystematic social interaction with the society he has joined. The learner access the target language in his everyday communication and interaction within the new environment. The sounds and context of the language are embedded in a relevant situational process and the learner’s job is to provide meaning from this material as well as determine the rules for the use of the language. This process of interaction helps the individual to begin learning. Teaching in turn makes his progress in the communication process.

Krashen’s Comprehensible Input Hypothesis

Krashen (1985) suggested that in the second language acquisition (SLA) process, the two factors of learning and acquisition are involved in the development of second language skills. Learning is the process of gaining formal knowledge about language through structured and clear instruction in linguistic forms. The acquisition is comparable to first language learning where language is acquired as it is used as the medium for learning about other things. Krashen (1985) asserted that the focus of SL instruction should be on meaning rather than on form as there are similar processes in first (L1) and second (L2) language acquisition.

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Efficient acquisition occurs when language structures are presented just beyond what a learner is already proficient in (Krashen, 1985).. This motivates the learner to go beyond the linguistic input and use previous knowledge and communicative context to glean the meaning of new and unfamiliar structures. Krashen’s model provides a theoretical foundation for content-based ESL courses. It offers students contextualized language curricula based on meaningful, comprehensible input as language and information are acquired. In addition, language acquisition is facilitated and motivated through highly relevant personal and educational goals for students.

Cummin’s Two-Tiered Skill Model

Cummins (1981) suggested that becoming proficient in a second language involves a two-tiered model of skill acquisition where the first tier has the learner acquire “basic interpersonal language skills.” These interpersonal and functional literacy skills can be developed in 21-2 years. It involves the ability to converse with others and to articulate needs in the L2. The second tier “cognitive academic language proficiency” involves the acquisition of academic literacy skills. It is the learner’s ability to use the L2 to understand complex and decontextualized linguistic structures as well as analyze, explore, and deconstruct the concepts provided for in academic texts. It has been suggested that about 5 to 7 years are needed to fully master cognitive academic language proficiency (Cummins, 1981).

Proficiency in basic interpersonal communication and cognitive academic language becomes very important for the college ESL student. They are expected to be functionally and academically literate. In addition, they must be able to use English beyond conversation and communication of which L2 becomes a vehicle for learning, articulating, and analyzing information in academic disciplines. Cognitive academic language skills cannot be developed and gained from the everyday conversation as cognitive skills are task-based, experiential learning typified by students’ interactions with contexts, tasks, and texts. These are funds in complex interdisciplinary content (Cummins, 1981). Cummins’ model is a theoretical foundation for the type of task-based experiential learning integral to content-based ESL instruction.

Cognitive Learning Theory

As may be glimpsed from Krashen’s and Cummins’ theories, SLA is a complex cognitive task. Therefore, the principles of cognitive learning theory should be applied when developing ESL instructional methodology. Basic cognitive learning theory maintains that L2 is developed through a series of stages starting with an instructional or study phase, called the cognitive stage. Here, the learner gradually develops a mental representation of task requirements. Through the second associative stage, the learner refines and strengthens this representation but still consults with rules. Other learners require outside support when performing the task. The third stage of learning is the autonomous stage. In this stage, the task representation is refined where they can perform the task automatically and independently. Cognitive learning theory suggests that for students to progress through these stages, instruction, extensive practice, and feedback should be present in various learning strategies. When these conditions are met, learners attain sufficient proficiency to function on an autonomous level in the learning environment.

Chamot & O’Malley (1994) applied the principles of cognitive learning theory to L2 pedagogy through the learning model Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach or CALLA. CALLA uses a cognitive principle called scaffolding, “the provision of extensive instructional supports when concepts and skills are being first introduced and the gradual removal of supports when students begin to develop greater proficiency skills or knowledge” (Chamot & O’Malley, 1994, p.10). They advocate the use of materials drawn from major content areas to improve academic language skills and to provide direct instruction in learning strategies. The instructional program maximizes ESL students’ in acquiring language and content knowledge. Content-based assignments are practical in the scaffolding process. Students start with structured tasks which help them step by step through the process of gathering, evaluating, and synthesizing information. The task design challenges learners in linguistic input and teaches various learning strategies. When learners are familiarized with effective learning strategies and techniques, next is the exploration of topics in a less structured and more self-directed manner. According to Chamot and O’Malley (1994) Content-based learning tasks incorporating scaffolding provide the context for students to progress naturally through the cognitive, associative and autonomous stages of learning.

Given the rising diversity within the school-age population, anticipating teachers to contain all students poses many challenges. One of these challenges is the numerous learning necessities of classrooms. Teachers must form instructions materials and use teaching tactics that address the students’ knowing, doing, and talking about the subject (Westby & Velasquez, 2000).

To convene the needs of diverse students, teachers require doing the following:

  1. They must be familiar with what is necessary for learning tasks such as vocabulary knowledge, the skill to make suggestions, and the aptitude to work independently.
  2. They also must know their students’ strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Once these responsibilities are completed, the teacher must resolve the cause for the disparity between a student’s capabilities and the task requirements of the lesson e.g., practical knowledge of class behaviors involvement (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2000).

Possible Reasons CLD Students Struggle

According to Baca and Cervantes (1998), a student who is racially and linguistically diverse has to obtain a second language and second culture. Attaining a second language is difficult and slow development which involves learning from different ways of thoughts, interrelating, and speaking. This course is composed of linguistic, cognitive, social, and emotional tasks. Students may experience memory slippage, feelings of failure, and exhaustion, among many other stress-related behaviors that are believed to be a usual side effect of second language attainment and acculturation (Baca & Cervantes, 1998).

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These mental side effects can take place along with life’s daily challenges, all of which can place the CLD student at risk for reduced educational performance (Baca & Cervantes, 1998). Teachers thus require recognizing the inconsistency between task stress and student skills and then adapting a lesson plans suitable to their needs, this provides educator an insight on the subject of how he or she teaches (Echevarria et al., 2000).

Planning Lessons

Given the number of features that influence the learning of CLD students, teachers have to cautiously choose the ideas to be taught. By means of what is recognized as the Planning Pyramid, teachers can think about the requirements of CLD students and the need of the rest of their students (Schumm, Vaughn, & Leavell, 1994). Teachers can choose and systematize concepts according to the diverse levels of learning. The amount of learning is at the basis of the Planning Pyramid, and they have based on the hypothesis that all students are capable to learn though not all students will learn all the information presented in a lesson and equal access to information is given to all students, the arrangement of information is different according to a student’s needs (Schumm et al, 1994).

To present identical information access for all students, teachers must especially plan contextualized and decontextualized instructional activities that are cognitively demanding and undemanding for each lesson (Rupp, 1992).

Cognitively demanding and undemanding tasks can be context-embedded or context-reduced (Rupp, 1992). Context-embedded tasks are contextualized through the use of objects, body movements, pictures, and hands-on materials to help students in understanding the language used in the science task-for instance, creating a replica of the earth, or doing a laboratory test (Rupp, 1992). Indifference, context-reduced tasks are dependent on language only to put into words meaning for a science concept-for instance, reading about the layers of the earth.

Teachers can employ several instructional strategies to distinguish their instruction without “watering down” the curriculum (Boudah, Lenz, Bulgren, Schumaker, & Deshler, 2000). Contextualization means drawing from students’ personal experiences and building on their previous knowledge to teach the new scientific concept (Boudah et al, 2000). Teachers can “group individualize” the procedure by arranging questions that give confidence to each student to think about his or her own personal experiences as it relates to the subject or content to be learned (e.g., “Think of a time when you or someone you know…” “What part of the earth are you from”) and/or by providing common experiences to all students (e.g., books, videos, and field trips) (Boudah et al, 2000).

The use of contextualized teaching gives CLD students the support they require for understanding the lesson by visualizing the information through testing, pictures, graphic organizers, and charts. Contextualization permits teachers to (a) consider their students’ language aptitude levels of vocabulary power and (b) stress precise wording information (Echevarria & Graves, 1998). This kind of teaching interrelates content across subject areas during the development of thematic units, making learning more significant through connections across diverse types of learning activities (Echevarria & Graves, 1998). It also comprises having students work in pairs and in small groups; creating classroom communications between the teacher and the students; and preserving stability among teacher-directed, individual, and small-group activities.

Choosing Instructional Strategies

In observing the needs of CLD students, the teacher might make use of thematic units (i.e., the preparation and association of instruction where each control/subject is interconnected). These units make it possible that the linguistic and cognitive demands of learning science in a second language are by letting CLD students build on his/her previously learned language and ideas. The teacher should also use instructional discussions with the principle of combining students’ cultural and linguistic resources to build academic learning. Students’ background knowledge must be reviewed (e.g., “What do you know about the earth?”) and make active (e.g., “What part of the earth are you from? Tell me if there are trees where you live”) and this will assist the teacher to decide on what is the degree of a student’s existing knowledge (Echevarria et al., 2000). The teacher builds on new knowledge by relating new information to students’ prior knowledge for example “If where we live we have trees, weeds, flowers, and grass, then we live on the earth’s crust” (Echevarria & Graves, 1998). All students can keep in mind pertinent information better than immaterial information, and using thematic units and stimulating previous knowledge can make education more important (Echevarria et al, 2000).

Analogies and examples that are culturally applicable may also be employed to assist students’ understanding of concepts; analogies show the resemblance between a fresh concept and a common concept, making the new concept more significant to the student. The teacher should also show systematic concepts and processing skills step by step. A number of researchers have effectively used modeling and “think aloud” techniques with diverse types of learners (Echevarria et al., 2000). Cognitive modeling and expression are particularly useful for CLD students because these strategies help ease understanding by presenting real, step-by-step measures that reduce the cognitive, linguistic, and social requirements of the task (Echevarria & Graves, 1998). Westby et al (2000) noted that teachers may have to lessen the cognitive and linguistic loads of the curriculum or its arrangement, or they may have to make it easy for the improve of cognitive and linguistic skills required to learn science.

The teacher may consider using graphic organizers, which-along with visual materials-are respond to teaching and resources adaptation (Echevarria & Graves, 1998). These instructional aides help out to systematize concepts, structure discussions, and visually correspond to significant concepts and vocabulary (Echevarria et al., 2000). By matching these tools to detailed teaching/learning tasks, the teacher can get together the cognitive and linguistic needs of CLD students. The association of dialogue is vital for students who are learning a second language. teachers are required to set in the language in meaningful contexts (e.g., hands-on trials, demonstrations) and let students learn from each other in mutual circumstances to make the communicative task easier for the second-language learner (Echevarria et al., 2000).

To become accustomed to the socio-cultural backgrounds of CLD students involves the arrangement of the classroom by setting up schedules and outlines of participation for students to be familiar with what to do next when the teacher is not directly teaching (Westby et al., 1999). Having a conventional environment will assist students to focus on understanding the concepts and learning of skills rather than on events or outlines of social meetings, thus reducing the social demands of the task (Westby et al., 1999). A clear program and open teaching will deal with social, emotional, cognitive, and linguistic demands involved in learning a second language/second culture (Echevarria & Graves, 1998; Echevarria et al., 2000). A lot of CLD students struggle to perform academically because their linguistic, cultural, and social needs are unestablished or misinterpreted (Westby et al., 1999). Part of accepting and accommodating these dissimilarities involves making clear policies for classroom behavior and making an unsurprising and accepting environment in order to lessen the demands of learning a second language/the second culture. Teachers who are aware of their students’ learning needs incorporate lively student contributions in helpful activities and allow “nonstandard” suitable communications among students and the teacher (Rueda, Ruiz, & Figueroa, 1995). Other useful strategies include scheduling breaks within the lesson so students’ cognitive skills will not be tired, providing linguistic reminders to help students with the organization of the lesson, and not forcing unwilling students to speak (Rueda et al, 1995). Educators who know about second language and second-culture acquisition processes are more able to select valuable instructional practices for CLD students with and without disabilities.

Conclusion

A number of instructional strategies and modifications that are suggested for teaching CLD students are supported by research findings in regards to second-language acquisition, bilingual learning, special education, cognitive strategy, and effective teaching. And for this ground, a lot of instructional approaches, adjustments, and adaptations explained in this article could also help students with mild and moderate disabilities. The literature pointed out that clear instruction, cognitive techniques, expressions, hands-on activities, graphic organizers, thematic units, and the establishment of background knowledge have also been effectively used in students with disabilities (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2000). Teachers have to be alert that the character of students’ difficulties is different, even though they can gain from similar approaches. A lot of these instructional strategies deal with the difficulty students with disabilities come across in using language; processing, categorizing and recovering information; and acquiring and using strategies. The most efficient teachers are able to successfully include students with disabilities and students from different backgrounds (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2000) by identifying instructional strategies and tools that stress learning for all students.

References

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