Literacy Development, Science Curriculum, and the Adolescent English Language Learner: Modifying Instruction for the English-Only Classroom
Sandefur, Sarah Jo, Watson, Sandy White, Johnston, Linda B., Multicultural Education
Several years ago while teaching my high school physical science class, I was interrupted with a knock at my classroom door. One of my school's administrators was standing in the hall with two new students. They were introduced to me as sisters from Columbia. I quickly found them seats and returned to the hall at the administrator's beckoning. The administrator then told me that the girls had just moved to the United States and could speak no English. I asked the administrator what I should do. She hesitated and then replied, "If you are fortunate, they will be quiet and you can ignore them." From that point on, I searched for resources and information that could be used to help the girls succeed in school and learn science. There was little available then and the literature today is still lacking information regarding the teaching of science and literacy development to English language learners. (S. Watson, personal communication, May 18, 2004)
The number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in the United States increased 72% between 1992 and 2002 (Zehler, Hopstock & Fleischman, 2003). According to this same study 3,997,819 Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students were enrolled in K-12 public schools in 2001-02. During the same year 357,325 of these students were receiving some type of special education services. ELL students comprise approximately two percent of the total school population (http://www.ed.gov, retrieved 2003).
Most of these students receive their educational services in the general education classroom. However, ELL students who qualify do receive some services in the area of special education. An ELL teacher provides some of these services. The majority of ELL students continue to receive services within the general education classroom.
Therefore, it is important for the general education teacher to be aware of both cultural and linguistic differences and the effect these have on performance in academics, classroom conduct, and social interaction (Lewis & Doorlag, 2003). For successful implementation of any instructional model for ELL students the importance of collaboration among teachers is essential. The ELL students must have their unique education needs addressed if they are to be successful.
Exemplary instruction for ELL students requires basic principles that foster equity and excellence in academically diverse learners. These principles are detailed in the following statements: (1) Good curriculum comes first; (2) All tasks should respect each learner; (3) When in doubt teach up; (4) Become an assessment junkie; and (5) Grade to reflect growth (Tomlinson, 2003).
Teaching academic content requires attention to both information and skills. While content teachers are not reading teachers, time spent previewing and engaging in pre-study activities provides an opportunity to teach valuable skills that will serve students in all areas of studies. For ESL/ELL students, time spent in previewing will assure greater comprehension and retention. It will prepare them not only for reading, but also for participation in class discussions, collaborative work, and individual group projects. (http://www.esl-ell.com/prof_dev/classroom.cfm, retrieved, May 19, 2004)
Teachers now look for new and better ways to address areas of need for ELL students in all content areas. Specifically, ELL teachers must have the skills to teach reading within an academic content area.
One of the broad goals from the "ESL Standards for PreK-12 Students" as designed by TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) is for ELLs to "use English to achieve academically in all content areas" (p. 12). More specific standards suggest that "students will use English to obtain, process, construct, and provide subject matter information in spoken and written form" (Goal 2, Standard 2, p. 12), and that "students will use appropriate learning strategies to construct and apply academic knowledge" (Goal 2, Standard 3, p. …