Wednesday, November 12, 2008

English Language Learners

Yesterday I had the unexpected pleasure of lunching with two of my teacher friends. As we were waiting for our table at PF Changs (um, YUM), CHRISTINE* & I listened to Courtney talk a bit about the case studies that she's doing as part of her Master's program.

Currently student teaching in a neighborhood of Boston, she is in a classroom with several ELL (English Language Learners) students, one from Grenada. I was particularly interested in the challenges that this student must face in the process of developing her EL skills. Because of the phonetical differences in her culture, her pronunciation of certain words did not mirror the correct spelling of these terms.


Term: Cheek
Pronunciation & Spelling: Shake

As you may be able to tell from a couple of previous posts about interpreting body language & cultural awareness, I'm becoming more and more interested in our educational system and how it has conformed and adapted to its increasingly diverse student body, in general. It has been projected that by the year 2010 (remember when that date sounded as if it were light years away?), more than 30% of school-age children will have grown up in homes where English is not the primary language. This already rings true in my mother's school in a city outside of Boston. Ever since she began teaching, she has faced a variety of cultural challenges and has proven to become a valuable resource in my quest to unify the world!

While many immigrants used to settle in more urban areas, America has become more of a melting pot throughout all neighborhoods - including suburban communities. Additionally, from coast to coast, many schools cater to students speaking over 50 unique languages. Included in this collection of dialects, you'll often find: Spanish, Chinese, Russian, & Korean, among a plethora of others.

The history of educating such pupils has certainly grown and developed, and has most recently turned toward privately tutoring ELL students. Having one-on-one time with a person focused on a specific culture, in addition to the child's previous use & knowledge of English is clearly an effective method of helping a child master a new language. However, immersion within a classroom is also critical. My French developed quite rapidly when I entered the classroom. Though make no mistake, learning math in a romance language was far from enjoyable.

Here are a few websites that may serve as rough guides and outlines to creating a tutorial curriculum for ELL students:

Now, I must reiterate that I'm not a qualified expert within this realm (as if it weren't already obvious). There are many students that are on IEPs. Tutors should always contact teachers & parents to develop an appropriate curriculum for each and every respective student as each individual's needs are unique.

Please feel free to share other resources pertinent to this subject.

*I think that Tine felt left out due to my initial non-mention of her name. Tine, you may now consider yourself famous!


Meriel said...

Same issue is running rampant in the workforce here in TX.

Lil' Boozie said...

Interesting. Perhaps this is something that should be more appropriately addressed at all professional levels.

I just spent an hour in Barnes & Noble reading the backs of quite a few cultural awareness books. And almost bought at least a dozen.. but I settled for one. I had planned on reading some of it in that nice, cozy lounge area that they offer, but there was a precious old man catching a loud nap.. And we all know how well I do with "small noises".