Elementary Preservice Teachers' Utilization of English Language Development Instructional Strategies in the Teaching of Science to English Learners

Article excerpt

Introduction

The majority of educators agree that there is a pressing need for dramatic changes in the way we deliver instruction to schoolchildren, particularly English learners. English learners face the daunting task of learning the academic curriculum and a new language concurrently. With their numbers rising across the nation, and increased accountability requirements focusing on their performance, schools are under pressure to better serve these students.

The concern lies in how to educate all children well, particularly children of color, children who are poor, and children who come from diverse linguistic backgrounds (Cochran-Smith, 2001). Sleeter (2001) has asserted that education in many communities comprised of culturally and linguistically diverse, poor students, is in a state of crisis. Students are learning too little, becoming disengaged, and dropping out of school at an alarming rate. Many of these disengaged, drop-outs are English learners.

Who are English learners? An English learner is defined as anyone learning to speak English whose native language is not English. The number of students in the United States from non-Englishspeaking backgrounds is large and growing. In 2001, this number was approximately 3.4 million. English learners and their families are increasingly relocating to areas such as the Midwest and the South where educators have little experience with non-English proficient children (Diaz-Rico, 2004).

The time required for students to acquire proficient language skills greatly effects academic achievement. Students who arrive in the United States with strong educational foundations easily transfer that knowledge to English and are more apt to perform better academically. Those who come to the United States with limited or interrupted educations will have a more difficult time performing at the level of their English-speaking peers (Whelan- Ariza, 2006)

One challenge facing teachers of English learners is to motivate students to achieve the highest possible level of achievement while simultaneously striving to attain language proficiency. This can be accomplished by building on English learners' prior knowledge and the use of proven, research-based instructional strategies. The purpose of this study is the identification of research-based instructional strategies for the teaching of elementary science to English learners.

Purpose of the Study

The researcher has identified twelve English Language Development (ELD) strategies appropriate for the teaching of elementary science to English learners. This study allowed for the application of the author's research in 67 elementary classrooms, resulting in the identification and clarification of specific research-based ELD instructional strategies relevant for the teaching of elementary science to English learners.

Twelve research-based ELD strategies appropriate for the teaching of elementary science to English learners were presented and modeled by the researcher to pre-service elementary education teachers in an elementary science methods course. The researcher presented the following ELD strategies:

1. Advance Organizers. The teacher uses science concept maps, KWL charts, concept webs that help English Learners' make the connection between existing knowledge and new concepts to be learned.

2. Leveled Questions. The teacher adapts the level of questions asked to the English Learners' language acquisition stage.

3. Modeled Talk. The teacher uses concurrent verbal explanation and physical demonstration of directions or concepts by using gestures, visuals, and demonstrations while giving directions.

4. Multiple Intelligence Strategies. The teacher employs instructional techniques that address the multiple intelligences present in each student, as identified by Howard Gardner.

5. Realia Strategies. The teacher uses concrete objects, illustrations, or photographs to build background knowledge and vocabulary. …