Teaching English Language Learners: Strategies for Overcoming Barriers

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Tufts University]On: 10 October 2014, At: 10:08Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>The Educational ForumPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/utef20</p><p>Teaching English Language Learners:Strategies for Overcoming BarriersSara R. Helfrich b &amp; Amy J. Bosh ba Department of School Psychology,Literacy, and Special Education ,Idaho State University , Pocatello, Idaho, USAb Department of Educational Foundations , Idaho State University ,Twin Falls, Idaho, USAPublished online: 17 Jun 2011.</p><p>To cite this article: Sara R. Helfrich &amp; Amy J. Bosh (2011) Teaching English LanguageLearners: Strategies for Overcoming Barriers, The Educational Forum, 75:3, 260-270, DOI:10.1080/00131725.2011.578459</p><p>To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00131725.2011.578459</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp;Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p><p>http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/utef20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/00131725.2011.578459http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00131725.2011.578459http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p></li><li><p>The Educational Forum, 75: 26070, 2011Copyright Kappa Delta PiISSN: 0013-1725 print/1938-8098 onlineDOI: 10.1080/00131725.2011.578459</p><p>Address correspondence to Sara R. Helfrich, The Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education and Human Services, Teacher Education Department, Ohio University, McCracken Hall 321D, Athens, OH 457012979, USA. E-mail: helfrich@ohio.edu</p><p>AbstractThe number of English language learners (ELLs) in todays classrooms is increasing. In this article, the authors identify four perceived barriers be-ginning and veteran teachers face in teaching literacy to ELLs: the lack of understanding of the role of literacy in other cultures, the teachers inability to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all learners, the devaluation of peer interactions and collaborations in the process of learning a language, and a lack of knowledge about using assessment measures with diverse stu-dent populations. Through the review of research and the authors experienc-es in the fi eld, strategies are offered to help teachers overcome these barriers and become more effective teachers of ELLs.</p><p>Key words: diversity, emerging literacy, English as a second language, inclusive education, reading.</p><p>The number of English language learners (ELLs) in todays classrooms is rapidly increasing. The percentage of students whose fi rst language is not English, and the percentage of nonnative English speakers that teachers instruct on a daily basis, will continue to increase over time. Several researchers have gathered data regarding student populations and ELLs:</p><p> According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (Klein et al. 2004), between 1979 and 1999, the number of school-aged students speaking a lan-guage other than English at home increased by 118 percent, from six million in 1979 to nearly 14 million in 1999. Spanish is the most frequently spoken </p><p>Teaching English Language Learners: Strategies for Overcoming BarriersSara R. HelfrichDepartment of School Psychology, Literacy, and Special Education, Idaho State University, Pocatello, Idaho, USA</p><p>Amy J. BoshDepartment of Educational Foundations, Idaho State University, Twin Falls, Idaho, USA</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Tuf</p><p>ts U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 10:</p><p>08 1</p><p>0 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>Teaching English Language Learners: Strategies for Overcoming Barriers</p><p>The Educational Forum Volume 75 2011 261</p><p>language (71 percent), followed by Asian languages (11 percent), other non-European languages (10 percent), and other European languages (7 percent).</p><p> A record 55 million students were enrolled in public and private elementary and secondary schools across the nation in Fall 2006; an 8 percent increase in this number is expected by the year 2018 (Hussar and Bailey 2009).</p><p> According to Orfi eld and Yun (as cited in Cohen and Lotan 2004), the majority of kindergarten through Grade 12 (K12) public school students in fi ve states, including California and Texas, are from minority backgrounds.</p><p> Based on information obtained by Development Associates (see August, 2006), during the 2001 through 2002 school year, roughly 43 percent of all K12 teach-ers in the United States reported working with ELLsan increase of nearly 28 percent from just ten years earlier</p><p>Effort is made on many levels to educate diverse learners in the English language so that these students can achieve success in a manner that will afford them the same op-portunities as those students for whom English is their primary language. It is important for teachers to remember that a need for instruction in the English language is not an indicator that a student is incapable of acquiring the literacy skills that will allow him or her to succeed academically, or to achieve a level of educational success comparable to his or her native English-speaking peers. The role of the teacher in language acquisition for ELLs is an integral one. For new teachers, the task may seem intimidating; research conducted by Sara R. Helfrich (Helfrich and Bean 2011) indicates that beginning teachers do not perceive themselves as being adequately prepared to instruct ELLs in the area of literacy. Diverse learners may require somewhat differentiated methods of instruction and assessment; being able to meet this challenge without taking time from other learners or singling out ELLs is both a diffi cult task and a delicate balance. Regardless of the formal training teachers receive in the areas of literacy and multicultural education, there is no magic answer to the question of how to educate students as fully as possible, despite the initial diffi culties they may have in terms of English language acquisition. Effective, eq-uitable, and enthusiastic teachers seek to integrate ELLs as fully as possible (Banks 2004; Cohen and Lotan 2004). According to Banks (2004, 5), an equity pedagogy exists when teachers use techniques and methods that facilitate the academic achievement of students from diverse racial, ethnic, and social-class groups.</p><p>It is important to look at the concept of language learning from a whole-child perspec-tive; one that not only respects the expectations placed on educators, but also accounts for the needs and developmental levels of the individual student. Effective English lan-guage instruction should not remake the ELL into one of his or her native-language peers, linguistically or otherwise; rather, teachers should allow for ELLs to learn the English language while respecting and preserving their native language and attitude toward literacythat is, teachers should strive for acculturation, rather than assimilation (Banks 1988). Phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fl uency, comprehension, oral and written expression, and the structure of reading and writing can be taught using methods that allow students to learn and demonstrate knowledge in a way that teachers can monitor and understand. This article addresses some of the perceived barriers faced by teachers of </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Tuf</p><p>ts U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 10:</p><p>08 1</p><p>0 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>262 The Educational Forum Volume 75 2011</p><p>Helfrich and Bosh</p><p>ELLs by highlighting key factors and differences and by providing valuable and relevant strategies to help guide and educate teachers of these students.</p><p>The authors have derived, from work as teachers and from work with beginning teach-ers, four perceived barriers beginning teachers face when focusing their attention and instruc-tional energy on teaching ELLs in the area of literacy. Through the review of research and experiences in the fi eld, strategies to help beginning teachersand, hopefully, all teachersovercome these barriers and become more effective teachers of ELLs are offered.</p><p>Barrier #1Teachers may not understand the role of literacy development or the importance of </p><p>literacy and education in diverse cultures.</p><p>StrategiesTeachers should work to understand the role of literacy development in diverse cul-</p><p>tures and work toward the preservation of cultural values. Teachers should determine cultural priorities and acquire background knowledge to help support the inclusion of all students.</p><p>One of the most diffi cult obstacles in unlocking the English language for ELLs is the issue of their individual backgrounds and cultures (McLaughlin 1992). August and Caldern (2006) found that effective teachers have high expectations for ELLs, and they value cultural differences. It is important for teachers to learn the backgrounds of their students and the function of language and literacy in their native culture (Delpit 1995). For example, how prominently does language acquisition and expression fi gure into the cultural priorities of the students family?</p><p>In comparison to Anglo-American culture, some cultures place less importance on academic written and spoken language profi ciency. Some cultures have values more deeply rooted in family relationships and work outside the home that may place differ-ent amounts or types of importance on literacy. If a student is raised in a family whose agricultural background is the main source of income and employment, that students interest level in reading and writing may differ greatly from a students whose traditional culture places high expectations on being literate across many areas. The importance of language and literacy in the home must be taken into consideration when introducing these students into English language instruction. Teachers should incorporate English as much as possible to help students succeed in school, yet should also be conscientious of not downplaying the students cultural background. A students native language and cultural values should be preserved.</p><p>Respecting diversity is integral to bringing students of different cultures together. Teachers must understand who their students are not just as learners, but as people as well. Teachers must recognize differences between students culture and the culture of the school; without this, teachers can easily misread students aptitudes, intent, or abilities (Delpit 1995, 167). When teachers begin to understand students cultures, they will begin </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Tuf</p><p>ts U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 10:</p><p>08 1</p><p>0 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>Teaching English Language Learners: Strategies for Overcoming Barriers</p><p>The Educational Forum Volume 75 2011 263</p><p>to see students potential; if teachers are to successfully educate all [students, they] must remove the blinders built of stereotypes [and] ignorance (182).</p><p>Efforts exist today to explore other cultures in the classroom. For example, many schools highlight and celebrate holidays or special events that pertain to a certain culture, such as Cinco de Mayo celebrations or a Native American ritual for a certain season or time of year. A day or a portion of it is dedicated to learning about that events signifi cance and historical purpose. Often, a celebration is held with traditional food, dress, or games. These events can be both fun and informational, and can highlight the students in the classroom that represent that culture in a way that gives them a positive spotlight and a platform to share what they know with others. This is important because in other areas, the student may be incorrectly perceived as being defi cient in some way due to language barriers. However, there is much more to a students cultural background than food or ethnic dress. Historical events, geographic factors, pastimes, and the affects of war or oppression are just a few of the important cultural aspects to consider. With investiga-tion into the cultureincluding that led by a student or studentssuch topics could be incorporated into everyday instruction. Teachers should take every opportunity to build connections between what is already familiar to students and what new information or skills are being taught (Walker-Dalhouse and Risko 2008). Learning gains relevance and retention and engagement are encouraged when that learning is applicable on a personal level (Bahruth and Steiner 1998).</p><p>A simple way in which teachers can incorporate and address various cultures in their classroom is through their selection of trade books. When establishing a classroom library, teachers can make the conscientious decision to include books that feature diverse charac-ters. When choosing books to read to or with students, the messages that teachers promote through [the books they choose] should convey [their] respect and acknowledgement of diverse cultures (Hall 2008, 81). Manyak (2007, 198) affi rmed that instruction should not only be language-rich, but should be socio-culturally informed as well; this entails teachers recognizing valuable cultural experiences and resources [students bring with them to class] and fi nding ways to incorporate them into classroom activities. [Connect-ing] literacy activities to [ELLs] out-of-school lives can lead to meaningful, engaging, and sophisticated literate activities.</p><p>Barrier #2Teachers may struggle to meet the literacy needs of all learners in their classroom, </p><p>especially those of ELLs.</p><p>StrategiesTeachers should work to engage ELLs in classroom instructional activities without </p><p>isolating them or taking instructional time away from other students. They should use explicit instruction, adapted patterns of speech, modeling, and real reading to convey meaning and increase ELLs comprehension.</p><p>In any grade level or classroom setting, new teachers are faced with the task of teach-ing skills based on their particular curriculum require...</p></li></ul>


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