Students with English as a second language (ESL) face many challenges in the classroom. They require teachers who not only understand the barriers they face but also have strategies and best practices to help them achieve their full potential.
A Growing Number of ESL Students
The number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in the U.S. increased by 60 percent between 1995 and 2005, according to The New York Times. As the world’s populations becomes more mobile, it is likely that the number of ESL students will continue to increase. In 2013-2014, the National Center for Education Statistics found that in urban areas especially, students learning English as an additional language represented more than 14 percent of total public school enrollment. The growing numbers are precisely why all teachers need to make provisions for the ESL students in their classes.
Time Is Critical
The sooner ESL students acquire basic language skills, the faster their integration will be. Being easily understood in the language of instruction is critical to self-esteem. It can help heal wounds for students who are refugees from troubled areas. The language barrier often masks the true ability of ESL students, with teachers underestimating their skills in a range of curriculum subjects. It is vitally important, therefore, for ESL students to receive assessments and support in a timely manner.
Not Just for ELLs
Fortunately, many of the activities and tasks that help English language learners acquire new vocabulary and sharpen their listening and speaking skills also benefit native English speakers. In fact, a strong ESL curriculum supports the essential skills of phonics, reading and writing across the whole school.
Fostering ESL student achievement involves the following essential elements:
- Exposure to a variety of English language media, including books, audio and conversation.
- Feedback that encourages students to persevere and learn from their mistakes.
- Opportunities to converse in English with peers and adults.
- Involvement and support of the local community, including parents and family.
Learning to Teach ELLs
ESL-trained teachers are able to integrate the two main strands of effective instruction: helping students develop language proficiency and supporting academic success in the new language.
Teachers focused on English language learning would benefit from obtaining a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction: English as a Second Language (MEDCI: ESL). The program covers language learning through the study of linguistics, with candidates learning how to engage students in a multicultural classroom.
English language specialists need to develop an appreciation of the skills and knowledge that ESL students bring to the classroom. The bilingual advantage these students possess is common globally, with the BBC finding that 60 to 75 percent of the world’s population speaks at least two languages. Being bilingual or multilingual constitutes a real cognitive benefit to students and can help with problem-solving, pattern recognition, and of course, communication skills.
Through an ESL-focused master’s program, teachers can gain in-depth knowledge of phonetics and phonology, word structure/morphology, syntax, and language variation. This specialized knowledge helps them equip all students, but especially ELLs, to excel in learning a new language and to achieve academic success across the curriculum.
Learn about the LSUS M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction: ESL online program.
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