ESL/Bilingual Education Programs

  1. Danbury Public Schools

  2. Augusto Gomes, District Coordinator

ESL Strategies/Objectives:

  1. ESL instruction is to be focused on oral language, reading nad writing through concept development based on regular classroom objectives. All modifications are based upon grade level standards with appropriate tasks geared toward grade level content standards.

  2. Differentiating Instruction for Whole or Small Group Activities

  1. Enhanced Word Walls/Cognates

  2. Provide Sentence Starters

  3. Models and Rubrics

  4. Bilingual Resources

  5. Use Primary Language

  1. Adapt Reading Selections

  2. Controlled Speech

  3. Audiovisuals, Cues, Organizers

  4. Front-load, Embed, Blend, Review

  5. Teach in Reverse

Adapting Reading Selections:

  1. There are several ways to make a text easier for your English language learners to understand. Here are some of them:

  2. 1.Create a graphic organizer.

  3. 2.Make a time line.

  4. 3.Illustrate the text, including important information on the illustration.

  5. Draw a map, a chart, or a graph.

  6. Create an outline.

  7. 4.Reduce the grammatical complexity, while keeping all essential information.

  8. Shorten the sentences.

  9. Change the verb tenses to the simple present, present progressive or past tenses.

  10. Change the passive voice to the active voice.

  11. Delete unessential information.

  12. 5.Amplify the text.

  13. Add additional information to explain key concepts.

  14. 6.Highlight essential vocabulary. Use bold, italics, or other highlighting.

  15. 7.Add a glossary or word bank. Emphasize meaning in context, multiple meanings, word origins (Latin & Greek roots) and derivations: (psychology, psychologist, psychological)

Adapting Assessments:

  1. Provide word bank or specialized glossary

  2. Reduce lunguistic complexity without eliminating key vocabulary

  3. Adapt number of items ELL’s are expected to complete

  4. Break task into chunks

  5. Read directions and test questions aloud. Consider rephrasing when appropriate

  6. Adapt amount of time for completing task

  7. Provide sample problems for each task type

  8. Include pictures and graphic organizers used in lessons

  9. Provide sentence stems or writing frames

  10. Let students show mastery in different: verbal response, hands-on activities, models/visuals, sorting, etc.

  11. Differentiate scoring by giving one score for content knowledge and another for language skills

  12. Use clear and consistent format for pencil and paper tests

Classroom Collaboration with ELL Teachers:

  1. Use Danbury Public Schools Curriculum and CT ELL Framework (CT ELP Standards) to guide instruction and assessment

  2. Reduce or give alternative spelling/vocabulary list and homework assignments (progressively increase to grade level expectation as student English language proficiency increases)

  3. Give additional time to complete projects, tests, and assignments in class or in ESL/Bilingual classroom

  4. Grades should be based on modified work at the student’s English language proficiency level, effort, student improvement and progress

  5. Identify and report recurrent difficulties with daily work, homework, test performance to ESL/Bilingual Teacher as they occur

  6. Include student for tracking progress and goal setting for continual progress

  7. Include ESL/Bilingual Teacher(s) in decisions made at grade level meetings

McCloskey & Levine (2009) indicated that children use problem-solving strategies in order to acquire and learn languages. Teachers who are aware of these processes can accelerate the language-acquisition process though support of these strategies, which fall into two broad categories: learning strategies and communication strategies. Language-learning strategies are “the conscious thoughts and behaviors used by learners with the explicit coal of improving their knowledge and understanding of the target language” (Cohen, 1998, p.68). Communication strategies are used “to encode and express meaning in order to communicate in a language” (Piper, 1998, p.106). Children use similar strategies in both first language and second language acquisition environments. Some of these strategies lead children to create incorrect utterances in the new language. Rather than view these as errors, we can recognize them as the result of the ELL generating hypotheses about the new language and testing those hypotheses in their communication. Learning strategies are general cognitive strategies such as memorization, generalization, and inference. Learners use these strategies to gain meaning from oral language words and structures, and then remember them for later use. Communication strategies include overgeneralization, language transfer, and avoidance or simplification. What are these strategies and how do they assist acquisition?

Overgeneralization occurs when ELLs perceive patterns of language usage, generate a rule from many examples heard in the environment, and use the rule in a speaker-listener conversation. On occasion, the rule may be incorrect or partially correct. For example, when children perceive the-ed ending of English verbs, they often attach the ending to irregular verbs in incorrect ways: “runned,” “bringed,” and so on. The –s plural may be added to generate “sheeps” and “deers.” This strategy occurs in both first and second language acquisition. As we hear students use these over-generalized rule forms, we realize they have made important learning gains. In time, with more opportunities for meaningful input of the irregular forms, ELLs will acquire accurate grammar.

Language transfer is a communication strategy whereby ELLs use rules from their home languages to understand and speak the new language. Spanish-speaking children use language transfer when they place adjectives after nouns when speaking English (truck big). ELLs use transfer in a positive way when they anticipate the new language will contain similar structures to the home language. Thus, learners will anticipate that English contains noun and verb forms because Spanish contains these forms. When the new language contains forms such as articles that don’t exist in the target language (e.g., Chinese), students tend to eliminate those forms in their earliest utterances.

ELLs use a simplification or avoidance communication strategy when they avoid speaking about complex topics, avoid using full grammatical utterances, or avoid using word forms that they do not yet know. Young ELLs, responding to questions such as “How old are you?” use a simplification strategy by responding simply “ten.” The learner answers the question very simply, and thus continues the conversation, which may in turn lead to additional meaningful input. Simplification is more easily used by younger learners than by older students. Classroom conversations may require older ELLs to speak about complex topics even though they are not yet capable of doing so in grammatically correct forms. Teachers can encourage simplification as a strategy by providing a variety of formats for responding to teacher questions such as signal responses, written responses, or group responses. ELLs who actively use learning and communication strategies are more successful as language learners and acquirers. Teachers who encourage and teach strategy use are providing children with the tools they need to learn and acquire language while also learning classroom content.

•ELLs Are Active Acquirers of Language Throughout Their School Years
Pronunciation and intonations are readily acquired by young learner of a language who receive adequate language input. Complex grammar and an increased vocabulary load can be acquired most efficiently by children of ten or eleven who are already literate in a first language. Although different language skills are more easily learned at different ages, children are capable of acquiring native-like proficiency in multiple languages provided they receive sufficient comprehensible input in the new language.

• Seek to Find Meaning in All of Their Learning Experiences
Krashen & Terrell (1983) described comprehensible input as a necessary prerequisite to language acquisition. In order for acquirers to make progress in the language, they need to understand input, either speech or written text, which is a little more complex than language that they are currently able to produce (i+1). Krashen believed providing optimal input could be easy. “It may be that all the teacher need to do is make sure the students understand what is being said or what they are reading” (1983, p. 19). The Russian psychologist Vygotsky, writing at the beginning of the twentieth century, spoke of the importance of the social context of learning. Vygotsky (1962) described a zone of proximal development wherein children are enabled to learn or solve problems beyond their actual developmental level. Teachers, parents, and knowledgeable peers can provide the assistance that learners need to comprehend and learn at higher levels. This assistance is now referred to as scaffolding. In the area of language learning, teachers modify the input to students through joint activities that help them comprehend and develop concepts in ways they would not have been able to do on their own. The nature of this work is collaborative and now directive. It is an interactive approach to teaching that supports learning through meaningful conversations, adjustments, and support such as charts, the chalkboard, pictures, physical gestures, physical models, graphic organizers, cues, diagrams, audio-visual materials, highlighting, and restating in simpler language.

•ELLS Seek to Use Language for Purposeful Activity Even Though They May Have Limited Skills in English
Teachers can create purposes for using language to increase student motivation. Games, group projects, crafts, experiments, peer pairing, drama, role play, presentations, and music are some of the ways to create purposeful activities for learning and acquiring English.

•ELLs Profit from Physical Activity
Even in large classrooms of children, teachers can create brief moments of controlled activity that will promote interaction, provide for variety, and increase language acquisition through opportunities to listen and talk, and read or write about the target content.

•ELLs Are Social Beings in Any Language
The language classroom is one where children must participate by both listening and speaking. Silent classrooms do not produce language learners. Vygotsky emphasized the role of the environment in language acquisition. He wrote of language acquisition as a social construct requiring adults and other children to help learners develop language and concepts. Initially, children may produce limited amounts of English, bur gradually they increase their ability to comprehend and speak through interactions of caring and knowledgeable teachers, adults, and friends.

•ELLs Choose Which Aspects of Language to Learn
Provided they are given adequate amounts of comprehensible input, children will acquire those aspects of language that they wish to use or need for their own purposes, The target vocabulary of the content classroom must be available and accessible to learners in order for them to acquire academic language. Songs, chants, tapes, video, the computer, and other children’s voices can be used in addition to the teacher as sources of comprehensible input in the classroom.

•ELLs Respond to an Emotionally Positive Classroom Environment
In the 1950s and 1960s, a humanist orientation to education led to improvements in the learning experiences of many students. Psychologists stressed the importance of a nonthreatening environment to enable students to be risk takers. Since that time, teachers are more aware of student centered and student-initiated approaches to learning that more closely resemble the first language acquisition experience. Recent work on the brain suggests the optimal environment for many kinds of learning includes some cognitive challenge as a motivation to learn, but not high stress (Jenson, 1998). This tells us that ELLs need to be cognitively challenged in our classrooms. Too often in the past, these children were not included in classroom activities because they couldn’t speak the language. We have learned children will never speak English if they are not included in the instructional conversations of our classrooms.

•ELLs Respond to Interesting Content Information
Just as the first language experience is an integrated one, children also respond more eagerly to second-language learning when interesting topics are taught through the new language. Many teachers today attempt to make connections for their students between what they already know and what they are going to learn. Teachers who help students make connections between what is already known and understood in the past and what is currently being learned in the present increase their students’ participation and motivation for learning. Planting seeds, reading familiar fairy tales, describing the rain cycle, or conducting a science experiment with dependent and independent variables are some examples of how to integrate English language learning into the content of the school learning experience.