Teaching Students with Diverse Abilities

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Teaching students whose first language is not English is often a challenging task. This essay will focus on a few effective teaching and learning strategies for teaching business studies to second-language learners (ESL learners) in the context of the mainstream classroom.

Studies reveal that the negative effects of wrong beliefs about learning are significant (Sawir 2005). However, it has also been suggested that it is possible to intervene in relation to beliefs about learning (Sawir 2005). Hence a clear understanding of belief issues is of paramount importance for teachers. Care should be taken to give speaking and listening skills the appropriate status and these should be backed by comprehensive practical programs (Sawir 2005). Having oral presentations and listening tasks as part of the business studies assessment program can help develop these skills.

Krashen and Terrel (1983) suggest using language to transmit messages rather than teaching it explicitly for conscious learning. They use the expression the ‘natural approach’ and claim it is based on the theory that language acquisition occurs when students receive clear instructions in acquiring language proficiency (Webster and Hasari 2009). Therefore, the business studies teacher can introduce new words and concepts within the subject content thereby improving student vocabulary.

Four key strategies were considered by the majority of teachers in a study by Facella et al. (2005) as being effective in teaching second-language learners. These included gestures and visual cues; repetition and opportunities for practicing skills; use of objects, real props and hands on materials; and multi-sensory approaches. Thus, giving students real life business case studies to discuss and evaluate is an effective strategy. Taking students out to real businesses and letting them see first-hand how a business operates can also be useful.

Rice et al. (2004) argue that the use of visuals and demonstrations are often the primary source of information for ESL learners and suggests the use of outcome-based objectives against which students can assess their own progress. They also advocate the modulation of lesson objectives to each student’s level of language acquisition. The belief is that repeating demonstrations and instructions facilitate student learning. Hence, teachers should endeavour to demonstrate procedures, provide illustrations and diagrams before students commence research projects, as opposed to providing students with only written instructions. In addition, when forming groups, members should ideally be bilingual, strong in commerce and business studies and be willing to work with limited-English proficient students (Sutman et al. 1993).

Sheltered instruction is another effective strategy for teaching second-language students. It refers to a research-based instructional framework that provides clear and accessible content and academic language to ESL learners (Hansen-Thomas 2008). Features of sheltered instruction include use of cooperative learning activities with appropriately designed heterogeneous grouping of students, a focus on academic language as well as key content vocabulary, careful use of the student's first language as a tool to provide comprehensibility, use of hands-on activities using authentic materials, demonstrations, and modeling and explicit teaching and implementation of learning strategies (Hansen-Thomas 2008). Sheltered classes can be team-taught by an ESL teacher and a content-area teacher or taught by a content-area specialist trained in sheltered instruction.

ESL mentoring is another effective strategy to help teachers of second-language students. It is "a means of fostering stronger connections among the teaching staff, leading to a more positive and cohesive learning environment for students" (Brewster and Railsback 2001). One of the goals of the ESL mentor is to assist the teacher in learning how the school identifies...
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