English Language Learners

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racie Allen of the comedy team of Burns and Allen was once asked how one should speak French. She replied, "Well, you speak it the same way you speak English; you just use different words." When trying to assist in instructing English language learners, they usually have many concepts and language abilities that they need to master, as do the teachers that are trying to teach them. With the incorporation of the concepts and approaches to identify and assess the issues and concerns that we have learned in our classroom instruction, such as lesson preparation, building background, and comprehensible input, we can indeed teach our future English language learners all the right moves with all the right words. One of the first challenges that ELL instructors must come to terms with is the identification and assessment of their students' learning capabilities in their classroom. Traditional identification instruments designed for English speakers may not be valid with English language learners. Identification of English language learners with special needs should include consideration of several factors, such as family history, developmental and health history, first language and literacy development, previous schooling, and the learners' current academic ability, just to name a few. Learning in any language is affected by learning disabilities, but second language learners with special needs present additional educational challenges. According to the British Columbia Ministry of Education, Skills, and Training (Fowler & Hooper, 1998), instructors of English language learners with special needs should consider the cultural, developmental, and first language background of the learner. They should also do the following: (1.) Provide a highly structured learning environment; (2.) Focus on contextual learning;

Build on learners' prior knowledge; (4.) Provide constant review; (5.) Simplify language; (6.) Build other skills while developing English. The use of standardized testing to identify and assess the progress of English language learners with special needs is problematic. Normally designed for native English speakers, many assessment instruments do not reliably assess speakers of other languages because they ignore differences among linguistic and cultural groups (Schwarz & Burt, 1995). Assessment of English language learners with special needs should include the following: (1.) Consideration of cultural and developmental information; (2.) Collaboration of parents, teachers, counselors, psychologists, speech/language pathologists, and ESL specialists: (4.) Determination of first language proficiency; (5.) Examination of assessor's cultural assumptions and expectations; and (6.) Continual revision of the assessment instruments and procedures used. Because procedures are not in place in many schools and school districts to successfully determine academic placement of English language learners, many of these learners are sometimes placed inappropriately. Some who do not need special services (other than English as a second language) may find themselves in special education classes. Others who need special services may be placed in regular classes without the extra supports and services that they need. Working with English language learners and with students requiring special education services requires collaboration among teachers, school psychologists, speech pathologists, and assessment personnel with expertise in general, bilingual, and special education. By incorporating these important and critical procedures in our planning processes, these collaborations in the identification and assessment of English language learners can be a less stressful and more constructive process. A second issue that ELL instructors must contend with is NCLB testing requirements, which involve legal as well as academic understanding. Under Title I and Title III of the law, districts must also annually (in kindergarten...
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