Magazine article Social Studies Review

Integrated English Language Development in the History Classroom

Magazine article Social Studies Review

Integrated English Language Development in the History Classroom

Article excerpt

The Common Core State Standards have focused our attention on language as essential to learning in all content areas. Although the intention of the new internationally benchmarked Common Core standards is to prepare all students to succeed in a global economy and worldwide society, the high level of rigor and the expectations for how language is used in academic settings pose particular challenges for English Learners (Olsen 2010). Lesli Maxwell commented in Education Week that "Common Core ratchets up the language demands for all students.. .but for English learners, acquiring academic language is often the highest hurdle to clear before they can be deemed proficient in English." Consequently, amidst these high expectations for student learning, history teachers must ask - What does the integration of these new sets of standards mean for English Learners in our history classrooms, especially those learners who meet the state criteria for Long Term English Learners (LTELs)?

Fortunately, in California, where English Language Arts (ELA) and English Language Development (ELD) standards are introduced together in the state framework, this emphasis on literacy and language development embedded in content learning is spelled out in depth. The California ELD standards and the accompanying appendices developed in collaboration with practitioners throughout the state not only amplify the Common Core standards, but outline achievable academic goals for students at different levels of proficiency. Placing these ELD standards alongside the content specific standards in history provides a guide for rich instruction.

The first stage for teachers in providing access to Common Core instruction is simply the articulation of inclusive learning goals that incorporate the history to be learned, as well as the language that both surrounds and is embedded in the content. Saunders, Goldenberg, and Marceletti (2013) state as one of their 14 guidelines: "ELD instruction should be planned and delivered with specific language objectives in mind." These researchers propose this guideline based on investigations that confirm "formulating clear language objectives would support teachers' efforts to plan and deliver instruction that effectively directs students' attention to the targeted language form." Under Common Core instruction, all teachers are responsible for supporting English Learners' achievement in literacy and language acquisition in the content classes simultaneously with the development of basic English proficiency. Chapter three of the California English Language Arts (ELA) and Eng- lish Language Development (ELD) framework defines instruction with adequate scaffolding and access to the content curriculum for English Learners as "Integrated ELD." Because of this dual aim, teachers can most effectively begin to build pathways to academic language for English Learners when they understand what it means to develop language goals for students, and what differentiated goals are necessary for students at different levels of English proficiency.

To foster instruction that puts complex academic language learning at the center, teachers need to design learning goals that guide their instruction for both content and language. One way to do this is to intentionally integrate the ELD standards into their classroom learning goals (Jimenez, 2013). For all learners, but especially for English Learners engaged in Common Core lessons, the learning goals should be built on three fundamental principles. These are also acknowledged as three of the major shifts from the former to the present standards: 1 ) language is now central to all academic areas-all teachers are teachers of content and language; 2) there is an emphasis on collaboration, inquiry and teamwork; and 3) instruction must include complex and varied text, with an emphasis on informational text genres. The content component comes from the content standards, and represents what the teacher expects the students to know by the end of the unit or lesson. …

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