Significant Language Development and Academic Growth of the English Learner

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Significant language development and academic growth of the English Learner Kathy Gallivan
ELL 497, Capstone Class
Prof. Louise Framan
November 5, 2012

The ultimate goal of teaching content and language to English language learners involves many theories of pedagogy and language acquisition. One language development theory is discussed within an introduction of Stephen Krashen at a language seminar, Mr. Shoebottom summarized his theory of language acquisition as having “no fundamental difference between the way we acquire our first language and our subsequent languages. He claims that humans have an innate ability that guides the language learning process. Infants learn their mother tongue simply by listening attentively to spoken language that is (made) meaningful to them; foreign languages are acquired in the same way” (Shoebottom, 1996-2012). Mr. Krashen first presented his five part English structure hypotheses, the Monitor Model in 1977 which is now the most widely established theory used in English language acquisition. On the other hand, in an interview for Discovery magazine, Noam Chomsky argues that there is a universal grammar that encompasses all languages, and rather than absorbing language from the environment and learning to communicate by imitation, children are born with the innate capacity to master language, a power imbued in our species. He summed up our ability to communicate as one of two things, either it’s a miracle or we have some internal system of rules that dertermines the structures and the interpretations (Chomsky, 2011). Either way, this conclusion that humans have a unique internal ability to communicate must be a cornerstone in the foundation for ELL teachers lesson planning. As educators choose strategies, they must focus on creating meaningful events for students to acquire language. These strategies are based upon a grade level within the lower primary grades. Preparing standards-based practices and strategies for the academic setting as aligned to standards of TESOL, NCATE begins long before the bell rings on that first day. Creating name plates for desks and cubbies will not only allow students to know where to sit, but create the feelings of inclusion and belonging for each student. The student’s admission papers will identify the first language and basic home situation. The first few days can also be spent in group reading and various projects to assess each student’s prior knowledge of English. Students come to American classrooms as unique creations of the cultures of the counties, families, and communities to which they belong and have been exposed. There are significant differences in the academic expectations within cultures, and some of these are not complimentary with traditional American classroom styles. It is important to know the culture each student brings with them and create an environment that respects and mingles these differences. It will be challenging to mesh cultures of corporate and individualistic styles. Creating a balance of cultures will require daily emphasis on the importance of diversity. Teacher must accept the responsibility for the overall tone of inclusion in the classroom. Balderrama recognized that “school is a focal point of community life” and that for English learners “classrooms can be an environment in which they can read the word, and read the world; that is a place where instruction is understandable and meaningful” (Balderrama & Diaz-Rico, 2006, p. 291). As schools and classrooms strive to reflect all cultures represented, they have adopted a more diverse climate which more accurately echoes the community they serve. Application of assessment, including accommodations, in measuring language proficiency and academic growth serves the dual purposes of the school’s accountability and for the students best progression plans. Traditional assessment through testing student’s knowledge of facts is...
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