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Teaching English Language Learners: a self-study.


This study investigates the implementation, challenges, and successes of a district-wide, intensive, three-week English as a Second Language (ESL (1) An earlier family of client/server development tools for Windows and OS/2 from Ardent Software (formerly VMARK). It was originally developed by Easel Corporation, which was acquired by VMARK. ) summer program in an elementary school elementary school: see school.  in the southeastern United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  were where the English Language English language, member of the West Germanic group of the Germanic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Germanic languages). Spoken by about 470 million people throughout the world, English is the official language of about 45 nations.  Learner (ELL) population has grown significantly over the past ten years.


The 2000 Census (US Census Bureau Noun 1. Census Bureau - the bureau of the Commerce Department responsible for taking the census; provides demographic information and analyses about the population of the United States
Bureau of the Census
) found that 53.6 percent of Alabama's foreign-born population had arrived in the state after 1990. The 2000 Census also recorded 87,772 foreign-born residents in the Alabama: this was an increase of 44,239 residents since the 1990 Census which stated that the foreign-born population was 43,533 residents. If we add the 2003 estimate of illegal immigrants illegal immigrant n. an alien (non-citizen) who has entered the United States without government permission or stayed beyond the termination date of a visa. (See: alien)  in the state by the Immigration and Naturalization Services Noun 1. Immigration and Naturalization Service - an agency in the Department of Justice that enforces laws and regulations for the admission of foreign-born persons to the United States
 (24,000 individuals) then the total foreign-born population rises well above 110,000 residents. This dramatic change in Alabama's demographic profile A demographic or demographic profile is a term used in marketing and broadcasting, to describe a demographic grouping or a market segment. This typically involves age bands (as teenagers do not wish to purchase denture fixant), social class bands (as the rich may want  is very visible in the schools around the state. In an effort to help further educate the ELLs, a university established an intensive ESL summer school program that took place over three weeks. We performed a self-study as we observed, interacted and spoke with all of the participants in the summer program (ESL students, their teacher-interns, administrators of the elementary school, and the ESL program director). The guiding questions of the self-study are:

1. What strategies and instructional settings are most effective in teaching ELLs not only English, but also provide opportunities to learn how to mediate MEDIATE, POWERS. Those incident to primary powers, given by a principal to his agent. For example, the general authority given to collect, receive and pay debts due by or to the principal is a primary power.  and organize their lives outside of school?

2. How can we use the ESL summer program to build, strengthen, and inform the Professional Development School (PDS (1) (Processor Direct Slot) A single expansion slot on certain, early Macintosh models that was used to connect high-speed peripherals as well as additional CPUs. Providing a channel directly to the CPU, the PDS coexisted with NuBus slots on some models. ) relationship with Broadlumber Elementary School?

Professional Development Schools

An important facet facet /fac·et/ (fas´it) a small plane surface on a hard body, as on a bone.

1. A small smooth area on a bone or other firm structure.

 of a future language teacher's education is participation in inquiry-based teaching (IBT (1) (Instructor Based Training) Training courses conducted by human teachers.

(2) (Internet Based Training) Training courses provided via the Internet.
). The benefits of IBT practices emerge during real-life teaching episodes in the schools within our communities (Frey, 2002). Vital to the concept of IBT is involvement in an academic setting outside of university classrooms that afford future teachers opportunities to reflect on their personal development, professional growth, as well as their academic preparation. IBT places the emphasis on activity within appropriate educational settings and applies Wells' (1999) practice of education to teacher preparation, and in this case, language teacher education. Glass and Wong (2003) bring to light the concept of engaged pedagogy which compliments IBT and supports successful PDS relationships by preparing teachers and teacher-educators to extend their understanding of activity beyond the traditional roles. As Glass and Wong (2003) state, engaged pedagogy:

--Permits educators to understand the local contexts of each students' student's life while providing a global framework for success in their community.

--Strengthens the teacher-pupil relationship as each is transformed through IBT.

--Provides opportunities for critical reflection and the formation of knowledge within all of those involved.

--Offers teacher-educators a framework to involve themselves in professional development as well as curriculum development in the community's schools.

Engaged pedagogy distributes the responsibility for success among the school, teacher-educators, the community, and student-teachers. It fosters a shared vision, continuous evaluation and renewal of the partnership in order to develop a symbiotic symbiotic /sym·bi·ot·ic/ (sim?bi-ot´ik) associated in symbiosis; living together.

Of, resembling, or relating to symbiosis.
 mutualism Mutualism

An interaction between two species that benefits both. Individualsthat interact with mutualists experience higher sucess than those that do not.
 (Bailey et al, 2002), and affords the participants opportunities to reap benefits that may not have been included within the original PDS framework. Keeping these ideas in mind, I then set out to investigate the ESL-specific PDS that was in beginning stages of development.

Broadlumber Elementary School

Broadlumber Elementary School (BES, a pseudonym pseudonym (s`dənĭm) [Gr.,=false name], name assumed, particularly by writers, to conceal identity. A writer's pseudonym is also referred to as a nom de plume (pen name). ) is located in the Southeastern United States and is part of a school system that serves a city of about 165,000 inhabitants
:This article is about the video game. For Inhabitants of housing, see Residency
Inhabitants is an independently developed commercial puzzle game created by S+F Software. Details
The game is based loosely on the concepts from SameGame.
 and a district that serves 16,466 students. Of the seniors in the school district about 50% are college bound. The school has 347 K-fifth grade students: 50% white, 45% African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race. , and 5% Hispanic. There are 17 classroom teachers and one administrator. BES administers the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT) to their students in the third, fourth, and fifth grades each year. The national norm for the 2002 SAT, ninth edition, is 50 (Alabama State Board of Education The Alabama State Board of Education is a nine-member body which authorizes the education policy for the state of Alabama. The governor is the ex officio president of the board. The remaining eight members are elected from eight single-member districts for four-year terms, with half the  School Report Card for 2001-2002). The letter grades are BES performance compared to the rest of the nation.

The average score of BES students in all grades and areas assessed is "C" when compared to the rest of the nation. It is interesting to note that BES's school system receives less funding than other school systems in the nation (on the average), and the BES students' are "average". This makes us think about the effects on student learning and achievement if the school system was to match its student funding to that of the national average. All of the ESL students in BES are Hispanic. This is important because the SAT report for 2002 also presents averages based on race. The report uses the terms: Black, Hispanic, and White. According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 the SAT report, the Hispanic students' average score in BES's system was 48, which is not far below the national average of 50 for all students. The white students' average score in BES's system was 60, and the black student's average score was 36. However, further investigation and data from the Alabama State Department of Education reveals the following information for the ESL students at BES:

--Third grade ELL SAT average in Reading is about 33, and their average Math score is 27.

--Fourth grade ELLs scored and average of 48 on the Language section of the SAT, an average of 34 on the Math section, and an average of 29 on the Reading section.

--Fifth grade ELL average scores on the SAT are: 43 on the Reading section and 40 on the Science section.

BES's school system is comprised of 29 schools: 16 Elementary, 7 Middle, 5 High Schools, and one regional learning center. There are two, certified-ESL teachers employed by the system who are in charge of serving the 29 institutions. These teachers are responsible for the assessment, placement, and supervision of the ESL students as well as general community interaction and individual school support. The school system employs some tutors and translators This is primarily a list of notable Western translators. Please feel free to add translators from other languages, cultures and areas of specialization. Large sublists have been split off to separate articles.  to help on an as needed as needed prn. See prn order.  basis. Also, the ESL teachers provide an ESL-specific workshop once a year for the teachers in their system.

Methodology and Data Analysis

As part of the university's commitment to assisting local schools with the challenge of teaching their changing and diverse student population, we established a three-week, ESL summer program that took place at BES. The ESL teachers in the summer program participated as part of an internship internship /in·tern·ship/ (in´tern-ship) the position or term of service of an intern in a hospital.
n the course work or practicum conducted in a professional dental clinic.
 that was supervised by the local university. The three groups of interns This article or section is written like an .
Please help [ rewrite this article] from a neutral point of view.
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 were observed daily (Monday through Friday) for 3 weeks from 8 AM to 11:30 AM. There were a total of 56 ELLs who took part in the program. The students in the ESL summer program were from grades 1-12 and the teacher-interns were all from the university's graduate program in language education. The interns' interaction with the ELLs outside of class was also noted and analyzed by the researchers. Data from each of the three classrooms was collected everyday during the three week period. Also, any communication or encounter between the school's staff and / or administrator and the interns and/or the ELLs was noted as relevant to the central theme of the overall investigation: preparing and educating ELLs to mediate, organize, and transform their communities of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991).

Every teacher-intern was observed during every day of the program. Detailed notes on classroom management, activities, assessment, personal interaction, content knowledge, and professional growth were made about each teacher-intern. More specifically, we noted the teacher-interns' and ESL students' language ability and use, content knowledge, and patterns of social interaction while engaged in activities in and out of the classroom There were three different types of educational environments set up by the teacher interns during the intensive, three-week Summer school:

--Group 1: 6,7 year olds (19 students), three teacher-interns. The teacher-interns in this group divided the class according to English language ability and formed three smaller groups within the class. Each teacher taught a group for one week then rotated to another in-class group.

--Group 2: 8, 9, l0 year olds (19 students), two teacher-interns. The teacher-interns in this class decided to team teach the class as a whole

--Group 3:11+ year olds (18 students), two teacher-interns. The two teacher-interns divided their class into two smaller groups according to English language ability. Each teacher intern intern /in·tern/ (in´tern) a medical graduate serving in a hospital preparatory to being licensed to practice medicine.

in·tern or in·terne
 spent one-half of the program with each in-class group.

The ELLs responded best to lessons that engaged them in activities and allowed them to interact with each other in real-life school or social settings. Interestingly, a few of the younger students (8-10 year olds) said that they were told that they were coming to an ESL camp, but that they thought this was just a "regular school". The instructors in the two younger groups (ages 6 and 7, and ages 8-10) were the most successful in providing opportunities for the students to learn language and social skills that they could use outside of class. The third group (ages 11+) became very grammar focused and linguistically-oriented. The instructors of this group structured very traditional, teacher-centered lessons. No activities were observed that would have allowed the students to transfer any "life skills" into their communities and families.

Of particular interest to this study is that the overall school learning environment was adversely affected by the administrator and support staff's lack of familiarity with and knowledge of diverse populations. This is important to note because the administrator and support staff are the same who serve BES during the regular school year. Although always very professional and cordial cordial: see liqueur.  during our discussions and interactions, the administrator did not have the background needed to understand the process and intricacies involved in learning to participate in a new society in another language. For example, the administrator walked in during an information gap / puzzle making activity about dinosaurs <onlyinclude> This list of dinosaurs is a comprehensive listing of all genera that have ever been included in the superorder Dinosauria, excluding class Aves (birds, both living and those known only from fossils) and purely vernacular terms.  that occurred in the Group 2 classroom. There were several groups of children on the floor working with big-piece dinosaur dinosaur (dī`nəsôr) [Gr., = terrible lizard], extinct land reptile of the Mesozoic era. The dinosaurs, which were egg-laying animals, ranged in length from 2 1-2 ft (91 cm) to about 127 ft (39 m).  puzzles. The students were very active and talkative while trying to complete the task. They were constructing not only the puzzle but meaning as well during this lesson. After observing this activity for a few minutes the administrator stated that the class had become rather noisy and disorderly. The teacher-interns told the administrator that this was part of the process involved in learning another language, the social use of language during an activity. But, this explanation did not seem to convince the administrator. It was also evident that the administrator was not familiar with the concept of the student's first language affecting English language learning. Comments were about how Spanish-speaking students seemed to pick up English quicker or were 'smarter' than students from non-Spanish speaking countries. After one of these comments, it was explained to her that Spanish has more cognates (words that appear similar and the same meaning in both languages) than Chinese, for example. In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently
, students whose first language includes English cognates will be able to acquire some vocabulary more quickly than other students whose language does not have English cognates. Therefore, the rates of language learning may vary from student to student with different first languages.

There were two teacher-interns who had backgrounds in teaching Spanish as foreign language. One teacher-intern had not had any actual classroom experience teaching Spanish, and became extremely grammar-oriented in her lessons. The students in this group (Group 3) were observed to be disengaged dis·en·gage  
v. dis·en·gaged, dis·en·gag·ing, dis·en·gag·es
1. To release from something that holds fast, connects, or entangles. See Synonyms at extricate.

 from the lessons during many of the classes observed. In general, the instructors in this classroom were not as successful in engaging ELLs as I had initially thought they would be because the other teacher-interns had been teaching and tutoring ESL students for the past year. The director of the ESL summer school told both instructors that they needed to move away from pure, grammar-based exercises and lessons (verb conjugations or preposition preposition, in English, the part of speech embracing a small number of words used before nouns and pronouns to connect them to the preceding material, e.g., of, in, and about.  worksheets), but the instructors were not very willing to re-design their lessons. The second intern with a foreign language education background had taught Spanish in the k-12 setting for quite some time. Bill (a pseudonym) was a more effective instructor with this class (Group 2) than were the instructors in Group 3. He brought in many hands-on activities for the students to work on in groups with each other every day during the three-week period. His was the "dinosaur puzzle" activity mentioned earlier. Also, the co-instructor and he worked well together during the lesson and met daily to discuss the lesson and activities. It was evident that Bill's experience with language students in the public schools helped to focus his efforts and those of his co-teacher. The teacher-interns who were the most successful with the students had little or no experience teaching second languages, but did have extensive experience as regular classroom teachers. This was apparent in the youngest classroom (Group 1). As in every class, during the first two days of instruction the teacher-interns in Group 1 assessed their students' English language proficiency in reading, writing (or spelling), listening, and speaking. We did not have access to the districts' ESL teachers' assessment instruments or results so we mainly relied on in-class evaluation methods.

After the initial assessment, the teachers then decided to create 3 sub-groups in the classroom according to the student's language proficiency Language proficiency or linguistic proficiency is the ability of an individual to speak or perform in an acquired language. As theories vary among pedagogues as to what constitutes proficiency[1], there is little consistency as to how different organisations . Each teacher would instruct each group for one week. The teachers in Group 1 decided that the beginning and the end of the day would be spent as a whole class in order to build relationships among the students and to give the class a more cohesive cohesive,
n the capability to cohere or stick together to form a mass.
 feel. After the initial, morning activity the class then divided into the three sub-groups. The three subgroups were taught within the same classroom, but the students' paid attention and were very engaged in their activities. Every now and then, one of the children (usually a 6 year old) wandered off to another group to see what was going on. The teacher-interns had decided to let the student take part in the activity for a bit to see how the others interacted with the "visitor'. Although this interaction only lasted for a few minutes, the students were always willing to explain what they were doing (in English) and some even let the visitor help with the activity. The visiting student would then go back to his or her activity and relate to everyone what was going on in the other group(s). The teacher-interns in Group 1 brought everyone together at the end of the day and the students would take part in a closing activity and see the products of their daily efforts (a counting sheet made with colored cereal, for example). The students always seemed to enjoy this sharing time with each other although it was not part of the teacher-interns original plans.

Discussion and Implications

The self-study of the intensive ESL summer school revealed that it would be more beneficial for the program to:

--Include more community-based activities group activities for the older students.

--Invite regular classroom teachers from the whole district to take part in or observe classes.

--Build an information bank of materials, lessons, strategies and activities that were used during the ESL summer program to share with teachers from the schools system. The district's ESL teacher would make these available to the classroom teachers.

--Address first language literacy as well as second language learning. This would address the issue of administrator's knowledge about the effects of the ESL student's first language on learning of English.

As a result of the self-study, we plan to bring together the district's ESL teachers before the start date of the summer program so that they can share any information and assessment data about the ELLs who have enrolled in the program. We also plan to invite teachers from BES and the district to meetings and workshops conducted by our future teacher-interns (supervised by their university instructors and the school system's ESL teachers). This supports Glass and Wongs' (2003) concept of engaged pedagogy and Frey's (2002) inquiry-based teaching and teacher-interns learn about the concerns and expectations from regular classroom teachers. This will also serve to strengthen the PDS relationship. It will take the combined effort of many to learn as much as they can about teaching and living within diverse populations in present-day America. Experience is incredibly important in education, but it is complimented and balanced by opportunities for professional development. Futhermore, teachers must take advantage of every opportunity to inform themselves about how to approach, educate, and interact with English language learners and their families.


Alabama State Board of Education School Report Card (2001-2002). Retrieved March 15, 2004 from

Bailey, J.L., Mitchell, B., & Winstead, R. (2002). A school-university partnership across five countries in the South Pacific. International Education, 31, 2, 5-17.

Department of Education, Office of the Secretary (2001). State education indicators with a focus on Title I. Planning and evaluation service: Document # 2001-28: Washington.

ESEA ESEA Elementary and Secondary Education Act
ESEA E-Sports Entertainment Association
ESEA Eurocopter South East Asia
 Implementation Guide (2002). Section G: Programs for English Language Learners. Washington: Small Axe Educational Communications.

Frey, N. (2002). Literacy achievement in an urban middle-level professional development school: A learning community at work. Reading Improvement, 39,1, 3-13.

Glass, R.D. & Wong, P.L. (2003). Engaged pedagogy: Meeting the demands for justice in urban professional development schools. Teacher Education Quarterly, 30, 2, 69-87.

Immigration and Naturalization Services (Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration immigration, entrance of a person (an alien) into a new country for the purpose of establishing permanent residence. Motives for immigration, like those for migration generally, are often economic, although religious or political factors may be very important.  Services).

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation Legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) is a theoretical description of how newcomers become experienced members and eventually old timers of a community of practice or collaborative project. . New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
: Cambridge University Press Cambridge University Press (known colloquially as CUP) is a publisher given a Royal Charter by Henry VIII in 1534, and one of the two privileged presses (the other being Oxford University Press). .

US Census Bureau (2000). Retrieved March 15, 2004 from /main/www/cen2000.htmlUS.

Wells, G. (1999). Dialogic di·a·log·ic   also di·a·log·i·cal
Of, relating to, or written in dialogue.

 inquiry: Toward a sociocultural so·ci·o·cul·tur·al  
Of or involving both social and cultural factors.

 practice and theory of Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Miguel Mantero, The University of Alabama The University of Alabama (also known as Alabama, UA or colloquially as 'Bama) is a public coeducational university located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA. Founded in 1831, UA is the flagship campus of the University of Alabama System.  

Miguel Mantero's research interests include cognition cognition

Act or process of knowing. Cognition includes every mental process that may be described as an experience of knowing (including perceiving, recognizing, conceiving, and reasoning), as distinguished from an experience of feeling or of willing.
 and SLA (1) (StereoLithography Apparatus) See 3D printing.

(2) (Service Level Agreement) A contract between the provider and the user that specifies the level of service expected during its term.
, as well as classroom discourse processes.
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Author:Mantero, Miguel
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2005
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