Teachers of ELL
As the student's mainstream, or classroom teacher, you have a lot of influence over the success of an English learner in the Lexington Public Schools. In order to ensure success, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is now requiring core content (ELA/Mathematics/Science/Social Studies) teachers to possess an SEI endorsement. In order to earn this endorsement, required by 2016, teachers must either enroll and pass the RETELL course, pass an MTEL test for RETELL
Endorsement, or possess an ESL/ELL license.
The New England Equity Assistance Center of Brown University offers the following information:
Conversational and Academic Language Use in the Classroom: What Teachers Need To Know
Conversational Language: Basic Interpersonal Communication (BICS) Normal face-to-face interactions require a mastery of the "surface" features of the language, i.e. pronunciation, grammar, and enough vocabulary to carry on conversations. They also include the ability to gain meaning from gestures, intonation, and situation. Manipulating English comfortably in this manner usually takes 1-2 years to acquire. Although a necessary aspect of the total language acquisition process, conversational language represents only one part of communicative competence.
Academic Language" Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) the ability to use language in a variety of content-based contexts, utilizing the vocabulary, concepts, and information of the academic subjects (e.g., literature, science, math, etc.) in more complex oral and written modes requires approximately 4-10 years for students to acquire in a manner equal to the grade-level abilities of native-speaker classmates.
Whereas conversational language primarily exists outside of the classroom, academic language is classroom-based and often has little or no visual or other support. the ability to read and use texts and to write a variety of products (essays, journals, lab reports, etc.), therefore, demands language using specialized vocabulary and expressions which take a great deal more time to practice and acquire.
Recommendations for the Mainstream Teacher
1. Be sensitive to the cognitive demands of the learning activities you assign your students. Students for whom English is not the first language, no matter how long they have been studying in U.S. schools, may continue to struggle comceptually with the material presented, especially if the information is accompanied with few or no visual cues.
2. Check frequently for comprehension. Asking oral and/or written questions, requesting summaries, requiring student journals, etc. are some of the ways in which teachers can effectively monitor the comprehension of their students.
3. Allow students, if necessary, opportunities to confer in or use their first language to clarify concepts and to comprehend new vocabulary. Opportunities to use the first language in order to understand new concepts in English can save students valuable time and frustration in learning, especially when working with abstract concepts.
Teachers who instruct English learners are required to have a Sheltered English Instruction (SEI) Endorsement attached to their license if they teach a core content area.