Thursday, March 17, 2011

Eight Identified Best Practices for Working with English Learners

Young people who are also English Learners state that they don’t want to leave their culture behind, but rather find a way to bridge between an English speaking culture and the culture of the language of their birth. They ask that English-only speakers respect them for who they are and take them time to know them as individuals with interests, talents, and dreams.
Research has identified a number of best practices and key understanding that should be considered when working with English Learners. On February 15 at the English Learner Summit, Dr. Laurie Olsen, and expert in this area, identified the following 8 practices.
  1. The development of a second language is predictable. It is important that we target strategies used at the stage of language development the child currently occupies. We need to know the language proficiency level of each student so we will not be fooled by a student’s ability to express him/herself conversationally with his/her ability to utilize academic vocabulary and language structures.
  2. There is a difference between social and academic language. While social language can be learned by exposure to the language, academic language (which is very precise) must be taught in an academic setting.
  3. First and second languages are interdependent. There is an important role played by the home language in developing concepts and key understandings.
  4. Language is more than reading, writing and literacy. Young people must be given an opportunity to both speak and listen.
  5. Oral language is the foundation for developing proficiency in a new language. Youth must be given the opportunity to produce the new language.
  6. Language develops in context not isolation. English Learners need a full spectrum of learning opportunities including science, the arts, social studies, physical education, technology and career education, and the cores of English Language Arts and mathematics.
  7. It is essential that English Learners have meaningful interactions with native English speakers.
  8. Learning environments need to affirm and support the English Learner. Promote community, participation, engagement, the development of healthy identify, and provide opportunities to share culture and other meaningful experiences.

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