Thursday, May 30, 2019

What Are the Techniques and Strategies for English Language Learners?

I hear a lot of talk about that, particularly from people who are trying to rationalize Part 154. In case I haven't explained it 500 times, CR Part 154 says that we no longer need to teach English to English Language Learners. So we take away 33-100% of their direct English instruction, and they just pick it up in the other classes, the ones they were taking anyway.

You see, they will train the subject teacher in the techniques and strategies for dealing with ELLs. Either that, or at least two days a week a certified ESL teacher will appear, and use the techniques and strategies. So if it takes a native English speaker 45 minutes to study Chapter Four of To Kill a Mockingbird, we can teach ELLs that same chapter in those same 45 minutes. We will do that by incorporating techniques and strategies.

Will it waste the time of the native English speakers if we use those techniques and strategies? After all, we hadn't used them before. Will they lose valuable Chapter Four time? The answer is no, they absolutely will not. I've been teaching ESL for about thirty years, and I'm going to let you in on the top techniques and strategies for teaching ELLs before you finish this blog.

You don't need to go to school and take the credits. I mean, it would be great if you'd learn about language acquisition. Clearly neither MaryEllen Elia nor any of the Regents have bothered to study that. If they had, they'd know that older learners pick up language more slowly than younger learners, and they'd know that a one-size-fits-all approach they use is baseless and without merit. In fact, they'd know that their revision of Part 154 actively precludes the most effective techniques and strategies for teaching ELLs.

What are they, you ask? Thank you for that question. They are:

1. Be kind, and
2. Give them time.

People from other countries can feel pretty lost here. We have customs with which they're unfamiliar, and we speak this funny language they don't understand. Our food is different from theirs. Our homes look different from theirs. A lot of my students have left family behind, grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts, sometimes brothers, sisters, even parents. They're in shock. Lots of us lack patience.

They need a safe place. They need to feel more comfortable. Language learning is a lot about affect. A person who's angry about being here will not learn quickly, and perhaps will refuse to learn at all. It's on you, potential teacher of ELLs, to make that student feel welcomed. A good way to do that is to smile and be patient. One way to build on that is by offering them comprehensible input. Distinguished researcher Stephan Krashen says it's key to offer materials at or slightly above the learner's level. It's pretty gratifying for students to learn they can understand English at some level.

I'd think it was common sense that it takes time to learn a language. I'm horrified when I read this and that about ELLs not graduating in four years, and what's wrong with them and their teachers. You go to China, today, and graduate from their high school in four years. Students learn, and they learn at their own rate. Some learn much faster than others. That too is about affect. Students who love it here learn rapidly. There's no stopping them.

The thing is the geniuses in Albany took time away from them. They took their English classes away and replaced them with, well, nothing. Is there anyone who believes that an ESL teacher who sits in the room twice a week is going to pull the ELLs right up to the level of native English speakers in the same time it takes said native English speakers to do whatever the class is doing? Is there anyone who thinks giving a subject teacher the magical 12 credits in ESL will allow her to make up for a student who doesn't speak English?

There are a lot of classroom tricks I use. There are a lot of little things I say and do. But they won't make one bit of difference if I'm not kind to these kids. They would never listen to me. And if I don't have time to reach them, I will not reach them.

Finally, if you think that English teacher doing Chapter Four of To Kill a Mockingbird is gonna make ELLs understand it in the same time native English speakers do, I have a bridge in Brooklyn with your name on it.
blog comments powered by Disqus