Strategies for Including English Language Learners in Physical Education

Article excerpt


There are approximately 4.5 million English language learners (ELLs) enrolled in a K-12 public school in the United States of America (USA) (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). Many of these students are from poor families and have parents who are less fluent in English (Fix & Capps, 2005). Concerns in teaching ELLs in mainstream classes are: lack of time for meeting the unique needs of ELLs (Youngs, 1999); teachers' workloads such as preparing two different versions of academic materials for ELLs and local students (Crosland, & Doumbia, 2003); lack of training to work with ELLs (Verplaetse, 1998); inequities in educational opportunities for all students (Platt, Harper, & Mendoza, 2003; Reeves, 2004); reluctance to work with ELLs (Platt et al., 2003); teachers' misconception of the second language acquisition process (Olsen, 1997; Reeves, 2004; Walqui, 2000); and positive and negative perceptions about the race and ethnicity of ELLs (Harklau, 2000; Vollmer, 2000).

Physical education teachers need to overcome students' achievement gaps by spending extra time preparing course materials, finding cultural relevant pedagogy for ELLs (Ladson--Billings, 1994), create a safe learning environment, and increase social interactions between ELLs and local students through modifying physical education curriculum and accommodating the language and socio emotional needs of ELLs (Glakas, 1993).The purpose of this paper is to describe three different strategies for including ELLs academically and socially in physical education classes.

Integrating Students' Native Languages in Physical Education

Verbal interactive activities help to promote collaboration and understanding of meaning between teachers, local students, and ELLs (Egbert & Simich-Dudgeon, 2001). When ELLs do not demonstrate their communication skills in English, teachers and local students should learn and use students' native languages (e.g., greeting with their native languages or learning the number in the native languages). Sato's study (2010) found that physical education teachers felt the number of social interactions was increased after they began to greet in students' native languages. Generally speaking, there are many teachers who believe ELLs should not use their native languages at their schools (Brittan, 2005). Physical education teachers must be aware in order to gain English proficiency, ELLs must improve their native language proficiency simultaneously.

Verbal interaction may not be effective enough for ELLs in physical education. Physical education teachers should ask local students to create visual aids such as posters or flashcards of activities in their native languages in physical education (Glakas, 1993). They do not need to write complete sentences in their native languages, but specific key words ELLs need to know should be listed on the visual aids. Physical education teachers must be aware that vocabulary such as "football", for example, has multiple cultural meanings. When ELLs acquire English proficiency, it is a culmination of their age, personality, environment, and native language proficiency (Larsen-Freeman & Long, 1991).

Our research team developed a teaching strategy of social inclusion of ELLs in physical education class by using student's native languages. There are a few key components of how a teacher can organize a physical education class.

1. Physical education teachers select the activities ELLs are familiar with. They need to search cultural activities ELLs like to participate.

ELLs may not be familiar with American football or basketball. Physical education teachers can give assignments to research sports and physical activities of the world. The class can investigate the different cultures and backgrounds of ELLs and increase social interactions (Glakas, 1994).

2. Physical education teachers need to teach the important and essential skills in order to implement activities. …