English Language Learners, also referred to as ELLs currently make up a 9.5 percentage or 4.8 million students of the total school population in the United States (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018). The City of Chicago alone has a population of 34 percent ELL students enrolled which will just continue to increase. Therefore, the purpose of my research paper is to address the importance of having ESL teachers, the role of the ELL teachers and specific strategies used for achievement. The reason behind why I choose to research about this topic more deeply was because of personal experience.
When I was younger I, myself, was an ELL student at Piper Elementary School. If it wasn’t for the help and guidance of all my ESL teachers, I wouldn’t be where I am now. These teachers made a strong affect in my view of how languages are learned, but also the way that languages should be taught. There is one other very strong reason why I choose this topic, which is the fact we are losing our ELL teachers.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, ‘In school year, 27 percent of all schools with bilingual/ESL teaching vacancies found them very difficult or impossible to fill, more than for many other teaching fields.’ This is very scary and therefore, in my research paper it will go in detail why we need more teachers to become ESL certified.
It is crucial we have more ESL teachers fill in the teacher vacancies Illinois currently has, because learning English is very important to be implemented on every child for the best of their future.
It is incredibly important because of the number and power of the countries that do speak the English language. English has become the language that is looked as the “international business language”. Meaning it will open more doors for students later with career opportunities, being a bilingual speaker vs just speaking one language. But for ELL students learning English the language socialization and the influence will have to come from our ESL teachers. While maintaining their native language is also important but that support should come from home. The article “Language Socialization Practices and Cultural Identity: Case Studies of Mexican-Descent Families in California and Texas,” written by Sandra R. Schecter and Robert Bayley in 1997 made an intensive case study regarding the importance of language socialization. Language use differs among each child and their family depending on where, surrounded by who, their language socialization is taken place by. Therefore, it is important children are implemented English language by our ESL teachers.
The importance of having more experienced teachers fill in the teaching vacancies for bilingual/ESL is primarily because they figure out ways that work best with culturally and linguistically diverse students, versus a regular classroom teacher. Don’t get me wrong, regular classroom teachers are great too, but their teaching strategies are different. ESL teachers understand that every student comes from a diverse background and therefore know each child should be taught according to their specific needs. ESL teachers are prepared to teach each child individually as each child will be at different levels based of their English proficiency. ESL teachers are prepared to teach students of all ages because they are required to achieve state-specific credentials. Which in Illinois it means, “complete a state-approved teacher preparation program that results in a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, receive the ESL endorsement on your teaching license, you must complete a concentration in TESOL studies, which varies depending upon your certification area, pass the tests required for ESL teachers in Illinois and apply for your teaching license in Illinois.” (eslteacheredu.org) ESL teachers are important because their primary goal will always be their students and making sure every one of them achieves as much as a native English learner would.
The role of ESL teachers is important due to specific strategies used for achievement, which makes it another reason why we need more ESL teachers in the education system for ELL students. Students who do not speak English and enter the American school system become overwhelmed because they are expected to keep up. Making ESL such an important class for students who struggle with English to be included in. ESL education is the closest language socialization that can help keep them up to speed. Prior to students entering the ESL instruction teachers take important steps to figure out each individual child’s English proficiency level. “Schools often have families fill out a Home Language Survey to establish the child’s native language and the language currently spoken at home. Instructors will also conduct an informal interview with the student in both English and the native language, if possible, with the parent present. A formal assessment, such as the ACCESS for ELLs, will be administered to assess the student’s skills in the areas of reading, writing, listening, and speaking.” (Cerbasi, 2012) Following the ACCESS assessment, the students then will place in levels between one and five. Level one being entering while level five being bridging.
Regular classroom teachers are not naturally experienced on using specific strategies that would assist ELL students in their learning. A factor playing a role in student achievement are the instructional strategies ELL teachers provide to the students. The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide by Larry Ferlazzo and Katie Hull Sypnieski, is one of the highest-rated books on instructional strategies used by ESL teachers. Some of the ESL teacher strategies used include making it visual, building in more group work, communicating with regular classroom teachers and families, honoring the “silent period”, allow scaffolding with second native language, etc. Hugo Torres, a fifth-grade teacher at Holy Family School of the St. Francis Center is an example of an ESL teacher who implements some of these instructional strategies. During an interview I asked him, what classroom management techniques would he advice for handling groups of students that speak different languages? He replied, “My classroom management techniques for handling these groups of students are definitely to have a lot of visuals, anchor charts, and reference charts hung up around the classroom. I also recommend labeling everything in various languages, so they can see that there are other languages. I allow new students to start speaking up whenever they feel comfortable enough to do so and most important, I make sure to have good communication with the other teachers.” These types of strategies will support and create a diverse and anti-bias classroom where children appreciated and experience success.
ESL teachers can teach in explicit and implicit but due to my research it is said to be explicit/inductive is the better way to teach ELL students. The explicit/inductive teaching method starts with examples and it is a student’s job to find rules. The implicit/deductive teaching method approaches students with rules, then examples, then practice. “Evidence that providing explicit instruction in academic language benefits ELLs is suggestive.” (Center for Research, pg.12, 2008) It is also said to be that ELL students need comprehensible input at all stages acquired. Which include bridging, schema building, re-presenting text and developing metacognition. Metacognition refers to methods/ strategies used to help students understand what they are learning. The way I see it as, it is processes designed for students to ‘think’ about their ‘thinking’. Cognitive is very similar to metacognition, it refers to the mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and comprehension. The way I would incorporate metacognitive strategies into my class of ELLs would be by doing a read-aloud. I would introduce the book with reading only the title and author. Going on from that; we would examine the cover of the book, reread title and discuss, the back cover and discuss. This would provide a brief introduction that engages the students and sets the purpose for listening comprehension. While reading the book I would have occasional pauses to make or invite a comment, demonstrates ways of thinking about the text, or pose relevant questions. I would have the students answers questions like, “I’m thinking…,” I’m wondering…,” “I’m noticing…,” I’m picturing…,” It reminds me of.,” etc. Going on from some of these questions we can do a think-pair-share to elaborate on the metacognitive strategy.
Like mentioned earlier metacognitive and cognitive strategies are very similar, therefore the way I would integrate this strategy would also be familiar to it. With explicit teaching students would gain success with comprehension. Therefore, this interactive classroom activity would also be conducted in an explicit way of teaching. Example; as a group we would skim through the pages of our selected read aloud book and underline words that students don’t know the meaning to. From those words I would select 8 to 10 of the most important words that connect with the theme being learned. Having students learn too many words at once can be stressful and less successful. Next, we would create mind maps made from pictures instead of words. This way the students can have a visual of what the words mean, which would make it easier to remember the new words. Another learning material example would be teaching vocabulary using cognates, which makes it one important cross-linguistic instructional strategy that has been found to be especially valuable for Spanish-speaking students. “Depending on the linguistic background of their students, teachers can also build ELL’s English vocabularies by working with shared cognates, or words across two languages that descend from the same, recognizable root.”(Center for Research, pg.14, 2008)
My last point in this paper would be that it is crucial we have more ESL teachers because there is more achievement on ELL students versus receiving no type of ESL instruction. “The results of the comparative analysis indicate that indeed, direct ESL instruction significantly increases gains in English language proficiency compared to English language proficiency gains made by students who do not receive direct ESL instruction.” (Nelson, Amy Jeanne, pg.55, 2003) That reason being is also because ESL teachers I believe are dedicated to build those strong relationships with their students and families. As mentioned earlier an instructional strategy includes building strong relationships with their students. Hugo Torres, the teacher I mentioned earlier in the paper supports this statement as well. I asked him what has been his greatest success in working with ELL students? He replied, “My great success in working with ELL students is definitely the relationships that I’ve built with my students and their families. The students and parents see me as someone who they can trust, talk to, and learn from. I have positive and close relationship with all my students and their parents.” To conclude, ESL teachers are very important due to the role and specific strategies they take on to use for achievement. The strategies ESL teachers use differ than the ones a regular classroom teacher would use. The main purpose of teaching for an ESL teacher will always be to make sure their students achieve as much as a native English learner would.