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Language Development for English Language Learners

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  • Language Development for English Language Learners

  • The Center on Instruction is operated by RMC Research Corporation in partnership with the Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida StateUniversity; Horizon Research, Inc.; RG Research Group; the Texas Institute for Measurement,Evaluation, and Statistics at the University of Houston; and the VaughnGross Center for Reading and Language Arts at the University of Texas at Austin.

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  • Demographics

  • Frequent terms used in the literatureLanguage Minority Student (LM) a child who hears and/or speaks a language other than English in the home

    Limited English Proficient (LEP) Term used by federal government to identify LM students whose limited command of English prevents independent participation in instruction

    English Language Learner (ELL) an LM student designated locally (i.e., by the state) as limited English Proficientthe English Language Learner term is often preferred over Limited English Proficient as it highlights accomplishments rather than deficits

  • Who areEnglish Language Learners (ELLs)?National-origin minority students who have limited proficiency of English

    Membership defined by limited proficiency in English language use, which directly affects learning and assessment results

    Group membership is expected to be temporary

  • One of the fastest-growing groups among the school-aged population in this nationOf over 9 million LM students, roughly 5.5 million are classified as Limited English Proficient (LEP/ELL)Within the ELL population the largest and fastest growing segments are:Students who immigrated before KindergartenU.S. born children of immigrants (native-born) K-8: 76%9-12: 56%ELLs form a large, growing populationBy 2015, second generation children of immigrants are expected to be 30% of the school-aged population.

    (Capps, Fix, Murray, Ost, Passel, & Herwantoro 2005)

  • Number of LEP StudentsU.S. Department of Education, NCELA, 2006

  • Density of LEP StudentsU.S. Department of Education, NCELA, 2006

  • Growth in LEP StudentsU.S. Department of Education, NCELA, 2006

  • A heterogeneous populationLanguagesOver 460 different home languages are represented nationallyMost common languages are:Spanish (79%)Vietnamese (2%)Hmong (1.6%)Cantonese (1%)Korean (1%)Other 455 languages (15.4%)

  • Native language(s)

    Level of native language/literacy skills

    Level of English language/literacy skills

    Age of arrival

    Previous schooling experience

    Familiarity with school routines

    Content area knowledge

    Parental educationOther Characteristics of this Heterogeneous Population

  • Definitions: At school entryIdentification Home surveyLanguage proficiency testsOther input (e.g., teachers)MonitoringLanguage Title IIIAchievement Title IELLs(or LEP)IFEP(fluent)Language Prof. TestsIFEP = Initially Fluent English ProficientSlide courtesy of N. Lesaux and M. Kieffer, Harvard Graduate School of Education

  • Definitions: Over timeRFEP = Reclassified Fluent English ProficientSlide courtesy of N. Lesaux and M. Kieffer, Harvard Graduate School of Education

  • ELL Performance OutcomesSome states have begun to look at the performance of ELLs on state tests after they have gained proficiency in English

    Although some reclassified ELLs do well, many students who have lost the formal LEP designation continue to struggle with:listening, speaking, reading, and writing that involves academic languageaccess to content-area knowledge

  • Learning challengesELLs face a unique set of learning challenges: to develop the content-related knowledge and skills defined by state standardswhile simultaneously acquiring a second (or third) language for young children, this is a time when their first language is not fully developed to demonstrate their learning on an assessment in English

  • Language Development

  • What is Language?Is a written or oral system of communication made up of symbols with rules that govern their use

    Is the gateway for learning

    Enables us to communicate

  • Phonologythe patterns of basic speech units and the accepted rules of pronunciation

    Morphologysmallest meaningful units of speech

    Syntaxhow individual words and basic meaningful units are combined

    Semanticsthe ways in which a language conveys meaning

    Pragmaticsthe appropriate use of language Language Components

  • First Language Development MilestonesThere are many theories of how we develop languageLanguage and speech development vary across childrenMilestones serve as a guide to normal developmentLanguage development is cumulativeSimple skills are mastered before more complex onesOn average, children pass through different periods of language development at a certain age and time

  • Language Acquisition TheoriesNativist theoriesPropose that children are born with specific abilities that facilitate language learningLinguists ChomskyUniversal Grammar

    Lenneberg Critical Period for language acquisition

    DeKeyserRole of language aptitude opposed to the Critical Period

  • Interactionist theoriesTheorize that adults play an important part in childrens language acquisitionTheorists: Snow; Bates; TomaselloLanguage learning results from general cognitive abilities and the interactions between learners and their environment

    Language Acquisition Theories

  • Some languages are easier to learn than others depending on the complexity of their symbol system and the degree of transferability from the first language.

  • What is the Alphabetic Principle?

    The idea that letters and letter patterns represent the sounds of spoken language

  • What is an Alphabetic Language?A language that uses symbols to represent sounds in speech and print.Examples: English, Spanish, Greek, RussianAlphabetic languages differ in how they present a single sound in print.Orthography (defines the set of symbols used and the rules about how to write these symbols)Transparent Languages that allow a few or just one association between symbols and soundsOpaque Languages that allow: many ways to represent the same sound and a given symbol; or combination of symbols to represent sounds

  • Alphabetic LanguagesEnglish is considered to have an opaque orthography due to its many combinations of symbols to a particular sound.Ex: English: f and ph in fantasy and pharmacy; ee, ei and ea in need, receive, and readu for umbrella or Utah Whereas Spanish is considered to have a transparent orthography because of generally a 1:1 correspondence between letters and sounds.

  • What is Second Language Acquisition?The process of learning a language in addition to a native or first language.Debate: how long does it take to become fully proficient?Little empirical data to inform an answer to this questionFactors that influence second language proficiencyAge of first contact with new languageLevel of proficiency in first language (L1)Language-learning abilityIntensity of instruction and opportunities-to-learn

  • Assessment

  • Challenges in Assessing ELLs Content KnowledgeContent area knowledge and language proficiency challenges;

    ELLs need to devote more cognitive resources than their monolingual peers to process the language of English assessments;

    Fewer cognitive resources to attend content; and

    Language demands of the testsFrancis, 2006

  • Language ProficiencyStudents considered fully proficientcommunicate effectively and understand the meaning that others are trying to relay Components of language proficiencyoral (listening and speaking) skillswritten (reading and writing) skillsacademic and non-academic language

  • Language Proficiency TestsThe purpose of using Language Proficiency Tests with ELLs is threefold:To determine placement in language programsTo monitor students progress while in these programsTo guide decisions about when students should exit the program (August & Hakuta, 1997)

  • Language of AssessmentIn what language should ELLs be assessed?

    Native Language

    may give more accurate inventory of students knowledge and skillsmay be less predictive of English skills than a English assessment, depending upon schooling history


    may be more predictive of English skills than a native language assessmentmay reflect misunderstanding of assessment directions more than actual skill levelmay also reflect the ELLs schooling experiences in English

  • Testing in both languagesProvides a clear picture of knowledge, skills, abilities, and instructional needsIdeally, instructions even for English assessments, should be given in the students first language (L1) for ELLs who are indeed bilingual and biliterate

    ChallengesDifficult to find comparable assessments in L1 and EnglishTechnically and financially demandingDialectsMany skills being assessed are dependent upon instruction, but much instruction is only in English

    Language of Assessment

  • ReferencesAugust, D., & Hakuta., K. (1997). Improving schooling for language minority children: A research agenda. Washington, DC National Academy Press