The Physical Educator as a Language Teacher for English Language Learners

By Gomez, Conrado L.; Jimenez-Silva, Margarita | Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators, March-April 2012 | Go to article overview

The Physical Educator as a Language Teacher for English Language Learners


Gomez, Conrado L., Jimenez-Silva, Margarita, Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators


The linguistic diversity in schools is increasing throughout the United States (Beavers & D'Amico, 2005) and as state and federal accountability increases in the instruction of English language learners (ELLs) (Coltrane, 2002), many teachers who never before were asked to work with ELLs are now required to contribute to the education of these students. In some states, all education majors, regardless of their specialization, have to take courses aimed at training them how to design instruction that is academically and linguistically appropriate for ELLs (National Council of Teachers of English, 2008). Consequently, physical education teachers are increasingly expected to be familiar with pedagogy that makes content comprehensible for students learning English as a second language (ESL) to facilitate both content knowledge and language acquisition (Bell & Lorenzi, 2004; Echeverria, Vogt, & Short, 2008).

In the 1990's and early 2000's a number of states that wanted alternative educational delivery models for educating ELLs started exploring the possibility of using Structured English Immersion (SEI) to replace bilingual and ESL programs. Whereas in traditional bilingual and ESL programs students were often pulled out of mainstream classrooms to receive English language instruction from bilingual- or ESL-certified teachers, SEI requires that the regular mainstream or content teacher deliver instruction to ELLs (Peregoy & Boyle, 2008). States like California, Arizona, and Massachusetts have adopted restrictive language policies that mandate all instruction be delivered using SEI methodology (Peregoy & Boyle, 2008). Consequently, state departments of education have required that all in-service teachers receive training in SEI and that universities require coursework in SEI for all their education majors (NCTE, 2008).

As instructors of courses that prepare teachers to work with ELLs, the authors are often asked by physical educators how they can be effective in meeting ELLs' needs. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to provide physical educators with the skills necessary to incorporate activities that develop language in the physical education classroom. Even though there are materials and quality information regarding multicultural approaches to physical education, there is a scarcity of literature that provides physical educators with the information necessary to develop activities that facilitate language development (Bell & Lorenzi, 2004). The lack of materials in this area is partly due to the failure on the part of some physical educators to realize that language is an important component of their content area (Bell & Lorenzi, 2004).

The Physical Education Teacher and SEI

National content standards in physical education, like those of other content areas, assume a certain level of English proficiency from students. Researchers de Jong and Harper (2005) posit "national content standards describe the disciplinary knowledge base of the content area and good teaching practices but fail to explain the linguistic foundation underlying these effective content classrooms," (p. 102). When physical educators assume that all students have the same level of oral English proficiency, they are embracing the stance that all it takes to teach ELLs is just good teaching. This idea is often reinforced during in-services for physical educators in which specific strategies for language development with ELLs are rarely addressed (Rivers, 2010). Consequently, most physical education preparation programs do not emphasize the instructional skills physical education teachers need to address and meet the linguistic needs of ELLs. In a review of textbooks used in the preparation of physical education teachers, Rivers (2010) found that minimal information is provided regarding meeting the specific needs of ELLs.

In SEI courses, physical education students learn about the nature of language development and how language usage varies according to the context in which it is used. …

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The Physical Educator as a Language Teacher for English Language Learners
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