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More Active Learning for ESL Learners, Research Proposal Example

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Research Proposal

Better Resources and More Active Learning for Our ESL Learners; What We Can Do in the Classroom

Nothing is scarier for an elementary aged child than being a student in a new school. Now imagine what being a student in a new school that does not speak English well must feel like.  There are 5.5 million ESL students in U.S. public schools…this constitutes more than 12 percent of those students in public elementary and secondary schools.

While 12 percent may not seem like much, imagine if you had a classroom of 24 students.  12 percent of those students, anywhere from 3-4 children, do not speak English as their first language and have trouble mastering the English Language.

Being a teacher and managing a classroom of 24 students in challenging enough, but when you add in ESL learners, the challenge goes up.  Teachers need to keep with the flow of the lesson while administering certain needs to the ESL learners, and because of this, ESL learners do not get the specialized attention they need.  For example,  “Over 20 years ago, the research of Moll, Estrada, Diaz, and Lopes (1980)… found that teachers tended to correct pronunciation errors…or interrupt passage reading with attempts to define simple English words…thereby breaking the flow of the story.”  (Coyne, 2010).

So what is wrong with a teacher correcting his/her students?  Well, nothing.  The problem is, when an ELL learner or any student struggling with Language Arts is not given a real reason why it’s being corrected, and then the lesson continues without giving the student time to reflect, it creates confusion and slower learning.  Also, with the amount of material needed to learn in one school day, it seems all the teacher has time to do is briefly correct the student and move on.

So what can be done about this?  Having the student depend on the teacher for correction is ok, but it’s not a permanent solution.

ESL learners will learn better if given the opportunity to work more independently. 

According to Jean Piaget, children are active and motivated thinkers.  “Piaget believed that children are naturally curious about their world and actively seek out information to help them make sense of it.”  (Ormond, 2013).  Active and motivated ESL learners speak, writer, read and listen to the English language on their own.  The teacher is there to help them move forward, but the teacher gives the student the tools to learn the language.

By breaking the bond of dependence with the teacher, ESL students will be more able to learn the English language, as well as be given more confidence in their studies.  Have the student speak in front of the class, or speak in front of a small group, or speak in front of you.  Give the students more to write about.  The more they write, the more practice they will get using proper grammar within the English language.  Don’t have them write only for assignment purposes, give them a daily writing prompt to start their thinking processes.

Reading independently and reading aloud also give the ESL learner a chance to see what proper use of the English language looks and sounds like.  Even by giving simple books to start off with and then moving to more complex books, the student will start to see how the English language is used.

Piaget’s theory comes to play with reading because when a student is reading out loud, and a teacher stops to correct a mistake, and then quickly moves on, the child does not assimilate the task well.  They don’t know why they were mistaken; they were just corrected and moved on to another task.  Piaget said, “Children continually learn new things through two complimentary processes:  assimilation and accommodation.”  (Ormond, 2013).  Once a child assimilates the correct usage of the English Language, they will be better able to accommodate more complex language problems.  Let’s go back to reading out loud.  The reading text says, “The boy goes to the store to buy food.”  The child reads, “The boy go to the store to buy food.”  If the teacher only corrects the word “go” to “goes” and moves on, the student will not know why this is done and continue to make future errors like this.  If the teacher explains why we change the word “go” to the word “goes”, the child has a better understanding, and therefore a better assimilation of that grammar rule.  Now the student can apply their knowledge to future English language accommodations.

So far, this paper has explained Piaget’s theory in context with how an ESL child could succeed.  Yet, in a perfect world, all school systems would have all the resources to help ESL students.  In order for an ESL learner to become more independent, “developing expectations, targets, and a reasonable time frame for moving increasing percentages of ELs to English language proficiency and grade-level academic performance.”  (Hopkins, 2013).

The article from which this quote came from goes on to describe how resources in our children’s schools are poorly distributed.  Especially for the ESL learners.  In order to reauthorize the English language student, resources for both the teacher and student need to be made more fully available.

This article goes on to state that, “Better equipped ESL classrooms lead to better understanding of Language learning” (hypothesis) 50 different elementary schools within the Chicago area were researched.  Each classroom had at least 2 ESL students, and each school had different amounts of funding available to them.  Resources were distributed based on amount of funding, and what was prioritized within the school.   Methods were to look at certain ESL classrooms and resources available to them.  Findings stated that resources needed to be better distributed among ESL classrooms if students were to succeed. Classrooms that came better equipped with academic resources had higher graded students in general, and higher graded ESL students as wellOne criticism with this article is that one of the “resources” needed was a time frame in order to develop a language progression.  “We suggest considering a target time frame of 5 years…Empirical research suggests 4-7 years for academic English language proficiency as a challenging but achievable goal.”  (Hopkins, 2013).

While this could be a good goal to set with ESL students, in no way did it present exactly how the student was to achieve this time frame.  Was the student learning with conservative ways?  Or was the student more actively engaged in their work as Piaget explains?  The article needed to present different ways the ESL student was learning within the time frame in order for us to see that a time frame is a valuable resource in helping our ESL students.

English Language won’t be the only subject affected for ESL students.  Even math and science will encourage the use of language, and math and science classes will give students more opportunities to work hands on and independently.  “Participation in science and engineering practices should be expected of all students, and ELL’s contributions should be accepted and acknowledged for their value within the science discourse.”  (Lee, 2013)

This study presented the notion that if “Students who have more understanding of the STEM subject, their own language learning will increase, therefore, giving them a better opportunity to learn the English language. ESL students whose Math and Science standardized test scores that were in the above average range also had a slightly above average score within their Language Learning grades and tests as well.”  (Lee, 2013)

The research presented above states that ESL students will need access to rich language learning math and science classrooms for the ESL students.  By utilizing the resources and active learning materials, ESL students will better their language skills for the reading, writing, and speaking part of their daily studies.

The problem with this study is that we don’t know the entire background of the student.  Was the student already excelling in math and/or science?

The data used to present this research paper will largely entail of K-5 classrooms with a significant amount of ESL learners.  The amount of ESL learners depends on the number assigned to the classroom.  The ESL students will be observed in how they learn, what resources they use to learn, and how actively engaged they are in their learning and their classroom.  Graphs and surveys from the teachers and from the students (with parental permission) will be used for research purposes.  By studying this information, the purposed is to prove that when ESL learners are more engaged in their studies and in the classroom, their learning and understanding of the English language will improve.

In conclusion, in order for ESL students to become better learners, there needs to be more resources that integrate Piaget’s theory of learning.  That theory is that children are active learners and are motivated in their learning.  Giving ESL learners more independence from their teachers and engaging them will help develop their English language skills and study skills all around.  The article presented by Hopkins goes on to say that ESL classrooms need better resources in order for ESL classrooms to be more successful, and that school districts need to better distribute these resources.  The article presented by Lee states that by using Science and Math resources daily, ESL students will be able to develop their language skills even better.

References

Ormrod, Jeanne Ellis, (2013). Educational Psychology Developing Learners Pearson Education

Hopkins, Megan, Thompson, Karen D., Linquanti, Robert, Hakuta, Kenji, & August, Diane, (2013). Fully Accounting for English Learner Performance: A Key Issue in ESEA Reauthorization. Educational Researcher, #42, volume 2 101-108.

Lee, Okhee, Quinn, Helen, Valides, Guadalupe. (2013). Science and Language for English Language Learners in Relation to Next Generation Science Standards and with Implications for Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics. Educational Researcher,  #42, volume 4 223-233

Coyne, M.D., Kami-enui, E.J., & Carnine, D.W. (2010).  Problems in Current Instruction of English Language Learners. Education.com  Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/problems-instruction-english-learners/

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