Overview of ESOL and Implications on Learning

"We are our language," (Hill 1). The language we speak and the culture we come from are defining attributes of who we are as people. Many English language learners (ELLs) are enrolled in U.S. public schools. For these students learning in a secondary language can be frustrating and isolating. Many students suffer a loss of self-esteem and some even are misdiagnosed with a learning disability. Becoming fluent in another language can take up to 10 years, nearly an entire general education career. Therefore, learning to accommodate students in language acquisition is a must for all teachers in public education. It is the teacher who must know how to teach students content and language. Balancing the two can be challenging. In this assignment we focus specifically on Juan, going on 3rd grade and in early stages of English language acquisition, and the resources are available for him and his teachers to make his learning experiences in our schools positive and meaningful.

Case Study

Juan is a 9 year old boy who will be starting 3rd grade in August, 2009. He is enrolled in the Elementary ESOL program in his school district.His birthplace is Mexico and he has lived in the United States for two years. His family moved to Missouri for his parents' jobs. Juan lives with both parents and 2 siblings. The primary language in the home is Spanish. His parents' English is limited, but they are easily able to communicate important ideas.His teacher reports that his attendance is average. He is average size and is in good health.

Due to the fact that Juan has English as his second language, there are certain educational needs that must be met. His teacher reports that his main needs due to ESOL are in the areas of: reading, writing, and social communication.

His social communication needs were noticed the first year when Juan was very shy and preferred to work alone. Even as the year continued and he became more open, he continued to struggle within the regular classrooms to communicate with his peers and others. The teacher reports that Juan lacked social skills and confidence to talk with peers and adults. He has reported to the teacher that he is afraid of speaking incorrectly or not being able to understand other students if they talk too quickly.

Reading and writing are really a struggle for Juan as he works to develop language skills. The main areas of need are in vocabulary recognition, word recognition and fluency. Juan needs visual cues, picture dictionaries, modeling of ideal reading and writing samples, and needs to hear English read to him often. He lacks confidence to attempt much writing. He continually needs specific models to compare to and often becomes frustrated with the use of the dictionary. He requires immediate feedback that is often difficult to provide within the classroom setting.

The teacher reports that she currently uses these technologies: Internet games, CD listening activities, Smart Board and digital cameras. She has a webcam, digital videorecorder, and computer microphone. She reports that she is interested in other uses of technology to assist her ESOL students.Juan is motivated to learn and when using the computer does attempt most activities with little frustration. The visual and audio components help keep his interest and often encourage him to try harder.Juan does not have a computer at home, but his parents report that they would eventually like to have one in their home.


Action Plan for Juan: ESOL Technology Interventions

1. Identify Needs-Identifying the current needs of our ESOL students can be done by using the district's current assessments such as the Direct Reading Assessment (DRA), teacher and student interviews, formal and informal observations and research of ESOL overall. For this project we focused on the interview of teacher and current research of ESOL overall.

2. Locate Assistive Technologies-
After identifying the main areas of need, we looked for assistive technologies to help meet these needs. Our main focus was in Reading/Writing and Social Communication. In addition, we added some assistive technologies to supplement math skills for ESOL students.We have discussed these assistive technologies and how they would benefit Juan and other ESOL students with similar needs.

Reading and Writing:
Juan could benefit from collaborative Wiki projects in the mainstream classroom. Wiki projects would give him opportunities to read peer writing and receive peer feedback. It would also be motivating and create the desire to write for a purpose. Wikis are a free online resource that should not be a problem for classroom access.

Podcasts are another recommendation for Juan. Podcasts provide students the opportunity to work collaboratively writing the podcasts. Then Juan would have the opportunity to practice reading and speaking in order to prepare for the recording. Listening to podcasts would be beneficial for Juan to give him a good model of the English language. Juan would also benefit from listening to the recording of himself in the podcast. Podcasts can be created using free online resources such as Audacity. There are many podcasts available for free download.

Juan would benefit from many available visual cues, photos, clip art, and virtual field trips to aid his reading comprehension and writing attempts. These items can easily be obtained with a digital camera or through online resources. There are several appropriate resources listed in our blog article "Technologies to aid in Reading for ESOL Students."

Social Communication:
Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab:
 This site has interactive listening exercises where students take part in a virtual conversation and then are asked to choose the appropriate response. This would help Juan develop better communication skills in a safe and forgiving environment. He would be allowed the necessary think time and also would be presented with models and examples of how a normal conversation should sound.

English Daily:
This website has many categories that would help with social communication for Juan and other ESOL students. The two areas that would be most beneficial is the Conversation and Idiom areas. The Conversation area provides examples for Juan to see how a real-life casual conversation looks and sounds. The Idioms section would clear up some confusion caused by many common idioms used by Juan's teachers and peers that are often taken literally and cause a gap in clear communication.

 Teachers can create VoiceThreads that contain pictures of vocabulary and the spoken vocabulary word for students. Juan can view the VoiceThread which will provide him with multiple opportunities to see and hear the vocabulary in context. Jaun can also create his own VoiceThreads. Juan could be paired with English speaking students to create social communication practice.

"Voice to Text" :
 Allows students to see their words in print. This would help Jaun practice with how his voice sounds aloud and then what it looks like in print. This again would allow for the reflective time he needs to be confident in his speaking.

Other basic assistive technologies: Digital video recordings, audio recordings and digital video chatting online can benefit Juan to hear his own voice. Paired with an English speaker, Juan would be able to compare and contrast the different oral presentations.

Though mathematics is often considered the universal language, students with weak reading skills can struggle considerably. It is important to understand what a problem is asking. Good reading skills are essential for understanding how to solve word problems. So the aforementioned reading strategies are certainly applicable in a math setting.

Virtual Manipulatives-These are especially good for getting students, especially those in ELL programs, to higher levels of cognitive thinking. Here are some examples of virtual manipulatives that can be used with mathematics, these are specific to second/third-grade:

Base 10 Blocks: This also has a language option to read in other languages.

Pan Balance: NCTM Illuminations has lots of lessons with virtual manipulatives

Internet4classrooms: This part of the site contains lots of second-grade skill level online math games and activities.

There are more suggestions for helping Juan with mathematics in the post about Instructional Strategies.

3. Implement these assistive technologies-
Implementing these technologies must occur in many different ways. We must consider resources, time, assistance and participation levels.

Having the proper resources is essential. Juan's classroom is equipped with Internet and access to many student computers. This will allow access to many of the online resources we have listed above. We attempted to choose many that were free to access online. Juan is also fortunate in that his classroom is equipped with digital cameras, video cameras, microphones, etc. This will also allow the use of the audio and video technologies listed above.

Time must be considered in that Juan's school day only allows for so many minutes in each subject area. The teacher must work to incorporate as much of this as time will allow during school hours and may request help from after-school programs or home if possible.

Assistance will be needed at first to make Juan familiar with the programs and ensure they are being utilized effectively. A teachers' aide, parent volunteer, upper grade student would all be considerations for this additional assistance.

Juan's level of participation is critical in implementing these suggestions. He must see the relevance and have the level of understanding necessary to create meaningful learning. If these resources are used properly, he should see their importance and desire to increase his learning with the help of technology.

4. Plan for assessment to determine effectiveness-
Obviously, there is a need to determine if the above mentioned technologies are effective. We know that we could ideally see any improvement by reassessing using the same district assessments (ex. DRA), informal observations, another teacher interview and even interviewing Juan.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Reflection from Contributors

Here each contributor will respond to these two reflective questions:
  • What experiences do you have and what needs do you foresee in your situation?

  • What did you discover that was new to you?


Katie said...

What experiences do you have and what needs do you foresee in your situation?

I taught at the school for ESOL students at the middle school level for 5 years. They pushed into my math classes. Their level of needs varied depending on their language acquisition. It was different in my math classes, because the language barrier was easier to overcome with visual cues. I did notice that most of my ESOL students were not as likely to volunteer to answer, but with time this did improve as their confidence improved.

In my teaching position for next year, I will be teaching at the school where the Elementary ESOL program is located. I foresee different needs with these lower grade students, because we will focus so much on reading and writing. These are two areas that I understand are really the main areas of need for ESOL students.

What did you discover that was new to you?

I feel like this project with the interview, research and action plan, has helped me discover many new assistive technologies that I will actually be able to implement with my second grade ESOL students. It is always a good idea to have resources, but to have them explained and directly applied to areas of need for my students will be so beneficial to their learning.

Connie said...

What experiences do you have and what needs do you foresee in your situation?

I teach in the field of Deaf Education. I feel there are many similarities between my deaf students and the ESOL students. Both of them have intense language needs and in reality my deaf students are English Language Learners too. For the past couple of years I have been assigned intervention reading groups from the regular education classes. These reading intervention classes have included several ESOL students. The class I taught last year was the kindergarten level. They were very similar to my deaf students in their need for a lot of vocabulary.

What did you discover that was new to you?
This project has made me aware of several technology resources that will be beneficial to my deaf and ESOL students. I will be happy to have these resources to share with the classroom teachers and our ESOL teacher.

Tammy Hasheider said...

I have very little experience teaching students whose primary language isn't English. I read several of the articles from the provided source. One thing I took away from my readings is how important it is to develop the child's mind first in his/her primary language. If a child is to succeed in a secondary language environment then he/she must have some primary, foundational skills in his/her first language. If a child cannot read at a proficient level in his/her first language, then his/her reading comprehension in a new language is bound to be limited. This extends to content-areas too.

Some suggestions in the articles were to provide reading materials in both languages, make sure ESL students have reading materials and that reading in their primary language is supported, test students they way they are learning (so if in english test in english, even if spanish alternatives are available), use modified rubrics, use cooperative learning, and access prior knowledge before reading.

Some software that might be interesting were Kidspiration (visual representation tool), ESL Pro for Kids, and Rosetta Stone.