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Advocating for English Learners, Essay Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1366

Essay

Introduction

English language learners are faced with many challenges in the content area. Most of those challenges are faced in reading literature in English classes because literature is mostly based upon culture. When teachers expect students to have prior knowledge about genres, which is not always the case for non-native English speakers. In most cases they have had no experience with fairy tales, myths, legends, or tall tales that American students have. If the teacher fails to provide prior knowledge and build a background, ELL students will not understand the text. In many cases the students can read the words, but they do not understand the text. “One reason that has bearing on the achievement gap between ELs and non-ELs is socioeconomic; that is, ELs frequently live in poverty. ELs often attend schools that serve students living in poverty, as defined by eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch” (Advocating for English Learners).

Getting Parents Involved

Getting parents involved in student’s education can prove very difficult, especially when students reach middle school and high school. Parents of ELL students often face more barriers than non-ELL students when it comes to being involved.   Accordingly, “ Some barriers that tend to inhibit EL parental and familial involvement include English language proficiency of families, parents’ educational level, differences between school culture and parents’ home culture, and logistical challenges such as securing childcare, finding transportation, and taking time off from work”(Advocating for English Learners)  First of all, teachers need to get to know their parents. I would start with an orientation meeting at the beginning of the school year, and do a follow up home visit for those parents that couldn’t make it to the orientation. This is a chance for me to get to know the child’s family and a chance for them to get to know me. This helps families realize that teachers are real people. This also gives me a chance to observe the home culture. This can be helpful to me when I am planning lessons that meet the needs of all students. Parents are more likely to get involved if they fell welcomed. I will offer books that parents can check out and read with students, or have books that parents can check out and read along with students. I will reinforce how important it is for parents to be involved in their child’s learning process. I will ask for parents help. Get them involved by seeking help in writing or in person. I will send home calendars of events so that parents will know what is going on in the classroom. I will also end out signup sheets for parents to volunteer for different tasks. Asking parents to come out and volunteer as room mothers or fathers is a good way to get them active in the classroom. For older students, parents can tutor or be chaperones for field trips or after school programs. Parents will help to spread the world about your willingness to get them involved. This will be great for one’s next school year of students. Teacher’s can assign activities that involve parents. For example, students may have to complete a report on one of their parents. Asking them questions about their jobs or interests is a good way to get parent and children taking.

Teacher Collaboration

I will collaborate with other teachers to improve student success. Many teachers do not have the skills needed to adequately teach ELL students. For example, “only 20 states require that all teachers have training in working with ELs” (Wright, 2010). Both teachers and the school benefits from collaboration. Research supports the fact that lower turnover rates for beginning teachers in schools where collaboration is fostered. Also, teachers felt a sense of personal satisfaction when they were involved in decision making. School leaders who foster collaboration between new and veteran teachers will improve teacher retention and teacher satisfaction.  Historically, teachers have worked in isolation. There was always one teacher in the classroom. That one teacher was responsible for all the needs of the students the class. In the past several decades, that picture has changed drastically. Wright added, “Indeed, they need English to succeed in school and in life in the United States. ELL programs must therefore provide systematic and direct ESL instruction that is (a) tailored to the linguistic needs of the ELLs students, (b) designed to help them improve their English language proficiency each year, and (c) designed to help them ultimately be redesignated as fluent English proficient. Language and literacy instruction goes beyond the cognitive processes of individual students and their acquisition of discrete skills” (Wright, 2010).  Consequently, today collaboration is taking place across the school. Teachers, literacy coaches, principals, parents, and administrators are putting their heads together to decide what is best for the students.  Today, the general education and special education teachers work side by side in one classroom. This can be a stressful task. Some teachers are territorial, and have a difficult time giving over the authority they have over their classrooms.

Reading Strategies

ELL students have difficulty with parts of speech and how words fit together forming the syntax of sentences. I will use strategies that will work for my students. Wright said, “Teachers often feel helpless to change bad education and language policies that have adverse effects on their students, on their classrooms and schools, and even on themselves” (Wright, 2010). The cloze reading or cloze syntax is a strategy that I will use with a text that ELL’s are familiar with. I will cover up words such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, prefixes and suffixes. As the text is read aloud, when the student comes to a word that is covered up, the student makes a prediction about what word goes in the blank. The ELL student discusses with his/her partner about the word they chose. This strategy is great because it helps the ELL student learn to use context clues to determine the missing words. These strategies must be taught to teachers who have no experience with working with ELL students. Often, teachers who are in schools where they are most likely to encounter ELL students are the ones that have no ELL training. For example, “In addition to these concerns, unprepared teachers (generally, without teacher credentials) are unequally distributed to low-income schools serving mostly students of color, many of them ELLs” (Oliveira & Athanases, 2007).

Vocabulary

Vocabulary is one of the most important aspects of reading for ELL students. Often these students have a different concept of what the word means. There are many effective strategies to help build vocabulary levels for ELL students. I will teach them site words. These are words that students will come in contact with in their daily curriculum. Next, the students need to practice content-specific vocabulary. The students need multiple chances to practice these words in order to ensure a concrete understanding of the words. Another great way to teach word meaning is through pictorial and cartoon drawings. Oliveira & Athanases added, “Teachers reported establishing a safe environment for language use and practice. This environment included ways to enable all ELL students to feel safe to take risks. For example, teachers reported engaging students in speaking when they appeared timid or self-conscious about speaking. Another component was helping ELLs to voice needs and clarifying that they are being heard” (2007).

Conclusion

English Language Learners are a part of classrooms all across the United States. This fact is not likely to change, so I will work hard for these children and their families. Language barriers are often the main reason that ELL students are placed in special education classrooms. Teachers must be properly trained to adequately educate ELL students. Collaboration between all involved stakeholders must be present to ensure that these students are receiving a proper education.  Oliveira & Athanases concluded by saying, “Acts of advocacy for ELLs took some teachers beyond the classroom and occurred outside the boundaries of class time” (2007). A true advocate must be willing to cross boundaries and break norms.

References

Oliveira, L. & Athanases, S. (2007). Graduates’ reports of advocating for English language learners. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(3). 202-215.

Wright, W. E. (2010). Foundations for Teaching English Language Learners: Research, Theory, Policy, and Practice. Philadelphia: Caslon Publishing

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