ESL - 223N
February 16, 2014
ELL Families and Schools
The United States has had a major influx in immigration in recent years which has called for a need to reform and improve the rights of English Language Learners (ELLs). In fact, according to Flores, Batalova, and Fix (2012), “About 5.3 million English Language Learners (ELLs) –students whose primary language is not English and whose English language skills are not sufficient to keep up with classes conducted only in English – are enrolled in PK- 12 public schools across the United States” (p. 1). Understanding ELLs requires a level of knowledge about sociocultural influences, bilingualism and home language, parental and community resources, and the partnership between school and home.
Sociocultural Influences Within a community, school administration and staff, parents and students, are expected to follow a certain guideline in helping the young generation achieve the ultimate goal of graduation and further education beyond public school. This expectation can seem rather odd or even rude to some ethnic and cultural beliefs (Vera, Israel, Coyle, Cross, Knight-Lynn, Moallem, Bartucci, & Goldberger, 2012). This is why sociocultural influences are so important to understanding the needs of ELLs. Not all parents will understand the need for involvement or even to appreciate the need for firm boundaries. Teachers must make every effort to include parents so that students reap the benefits, and the educational journey does not end when the school doors close. Tapping into the sociocultural background of students helps to influence change in the way education is perceived for students and parents. When teachers strive to understand their students, it allows teachers to make more meaningful and comprehensive lesson plans that not only teach the desired content but engages students. Another benefit to understanding sociocultural influences is the trust and encouragement parents feel toward schools and teachers alike. It helps to build bridges and helps to destroy the barriers that hinder excellence in students.
Bilingualism and Home Language Use Bilingualism is one of the most favorable traits that companies look for when hiring new employees. This should prove the need to include, and not abolish, the use of bilingualism in schools. Bilingualism helps to improve one’s ability to communicate in many different ways. It also provides many forms of “funds of knowledge”. Improving both the native language and the second language are equally important because both languages will enhance the other. Many students may need to learn a topic in their native language so that they can retrieve the knowledge to be transported into their working English knowledge (Harbison, 2012). ELLs may not have a learning disability, but they do have one thing in common: the amount of time it takes to process information (Harbison, 2012). This is why it is so important for teachers to be patient with their students. The students may know the answer, but it may take them a little longer than non-bilingual students to connect content to English translation. Teachers must give students the opportunity to use the English language, even if that means spending time waiting on a response from the student. When the student uses his or her native language almost exclusively in the home, it may take him or her time to adjust to an, almost exclusive, second language classroom.
Parental and Community Resources Involving parents in a child’s education is an added benefit to any child, teacher, and parent. This process may take time and may involve directing parents to the right educational platforms for their own education. When parents learn a new language they can incorporate that into their home life which will help the student become more used to using the English language. It is also a helpful cure to the culture shock that