ELD Teachers K-5 - Assessment Strategies

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english-language-learning-aveenasThe topic of the education of immigrants  and language minorities has always been accompanied by social and political controversy in California. The state of California has provided specialized programs for English learners since 1960s,

and since then various programs have addressed assistance for limited-English-proficient children(LEP), migrant children, children with disabilities, Native American children, and young children in need of assistance in reading.

Among us, there has always been young students who are struggling as English-language learners, while they must also meet the same challenging grade-level standards and graduations requirements.   Collier (1987) found that children who arrive in the USA between the ages of four and seven and are schooled exclusively in English may need up to five years to reach the same levels of academic achievements as older English learners.  Considering the facts, what can  teachers and schools can do in the K-5 context  to respond to English learner needs?  Well, schools with high-quality programs, clear instructional focus and commitment, educational personnel who hold their beliefs that all children can learn, bilingual staff members, react better to English learner’s needs and their families.  While age has always been an important factor when learning a second language, it is clear that children learn more quickly than adults, mostly because their brains are more flexible and they are born with “universal grammar” a biological blueprint for language (Critical Period Hypothesis, Lenneberg 1967).  In order for schools and ELD teachers K-5 to create a safe and supportive learning environment for English learners students, they should consider:  

Help students to maintain and develop their primary or home language.

- Teachers attitudes toward students’ primary language can affect students’ motivation to learn English.

School staff and administrator should work to create a climate where students’ values and cultures are viewed as resource.

Classroom teachers can assist English learners and their family as they integrate into a new school system.

- ELD Teachers should encourage parents to read to their children in the native language at home and be actively involved in schools activities.

- ELD Teachers should understand that Language learning is a complex process.

That children may be shy and embarrassed about making mistakes in front of peer.

Variables as – attitudes, language anxiety, motivation and individual differences may affect English learners

Teachers feedback to students about the accuracy of their language

Throughout exemplary programs (Lucas and Katz 1994) have been found that teachers who speak the students’ primary language use it to check comprehension, interact socially with students and assist students’ families integrate better into an unfamiliar school system.  The results create a safer and supportive learning environment for young students, where they learn a new language and understand to interact appropriately and effectively.  The most common factors that effects English learners their chances for school success, are but not limited to:

 - Familial circumstances and educational experiences

Socialeconomic status  and social challenges

Family support and expectations 

In many cases the undocumented status and the living and child care arrangements may create gaps in their education.

In order for our English learners to succeed as students and to make significant progress, teachers play a significant role in helping them to reach the grade-level standards and graduations requirements.  For teachers to do this effectively, preservice training must prepare them to attend the demands of language development of their English learners. To do so, teachers need to be knowledgeable about:

The role and interaction of learners variables.

Strategies for explicitly teaching second-language skills.

Becoming familiar with critical topics such as profiles of English learners and their families.

How to design lesson plans with language, strategy and content adapting materials to English learners.

In the end  ELD teachers K-5  need time, ongoing support and components such as training face-to-face, in-house coaching, collaborative sessions, specific coaching and planning, so they can be equipped with the knowledge, skills and disposition to effectively teach English learners.

References: Improving Education for English Learners: Research-Based Approches  -  California Department of Education

By Iuliana Papuc