English Language Learners - ELL
The phrase English Language Learner can refer to anyone learning English. However, the acronym ELL or phrase English Language Learners has a special significance in the United States and Canada. English Language Learners are students who participate in class with native speakers, but have specific educational challenges that originate from the fact that they are indeed English language learners. In other words, they need to learn English to be able to participate in public education. Here are some statistics from the National Center for Educational Statistics.
- The English Language Learner (ELL) student population is growing more rapidly than the overall student population
- The ELL population has grown 65% since 2003
- ELL makes up 10% of all US students
There are a number of English language programs in public schools aimed at helping ELLs improve their English language skills. These programs generally fall into these categories:
- English as a Second Language - These are generally stand alone classes that are dedicated to raising English skills in non-native English speaking students. Students who attend English as a Second Language classes attend other classes taught in English, but are provided with extra support through these courses. Many schools also offer ESL support centers. ESL courses are generally taught strictly in English.
- Transitional Bilingual Education - These courses are used to teach core subjects such as math and science in an English Language Learners' native language. They are transitional in nature, usually not more than a few years, and focus on building core academic strengths during a period of transition towards English.
- Sheltered English or Content Based Programs - These programs focus on helping English language learners through instruction of academic subjects in English, but with special attention paid to building English language skills required to do well academically.
Most English Language Learner programs take place in public schools, as well as community colleges. Specifically, ELL programs focus on helping students build the English language learning skills they need to be successful in a classroom situation. However, teaching English Language Learners effectively in courses that are not specifically focused on English instruction for ELLs is a serious challenge that most teachers face in any classroom. In this case, some teachers may feel overwhelmed by the need to move forward in the course content, while at the same time understanding the challenges these learners face. In other words, teachers need to discover whether subject matter challenges are due to the difficulty of the subject matter, or because of limited English proficiency.
To help deal with this challenge there are a number of methods which can be used to help English Language Learners towards success.
- Use multiple intelligences to instruct
- Work in small groups and avoid lecturing to the whole class
- Encourage English proficiency through student interest
- Avoid idiomatic language when possible
- Use chanting and other 'musical' intelligence type activities when dealing with English language skill development
- Motivate through pride by choosing instructional materials which relate to students' nationality in some manner
- Don't be shy about taking a bilingual approach when faced with difficulties by asking other English Language Learners who speak the language to translate instructions that are particularly challenging
- Acquire a few basic ESL teaching techniques that will assist in helping English Language Learners in your classes: