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Educating English Language Learners in an Inclusive Environment

Youb Kim and Patricia H. Hinchey

As the number of English language learners across the United States – and indeed, the world – increases exponentially, it is critical that pre-service teachers be prepared. Many currently available instructional materials are written primarily for practicing teachers, not for pre-service teachers of the millennial generation who are likely to encounter cultural and linguistic diversity in their classrooms, but who are unlikely to have had experience interacting with diverse groups of children. This engaging and accessible text is specifically designed to help tomorrow’s teachers anticipate the diversity of contemporary classrooms and to understand and meet the needs of English language learners. Key topics are aligned with typical state standards for teacher preparation and include: culture, language, literacy development, effective instruction and assessment, programs, policies, politics, and teacher professionalism. In addition to distillations of essential information in these areas, the book provides an extensive directory of relevant resources that points the way to further study. Teacher educators, school district administrators, home school education programs, and pre-service teachers will all find Educating English Language Learners in an Inclusive Environment an invaluable addition to their professional libraries.
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3. Language: You Know More—and Less—Than You Think

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CHAPTER THREE

Language

You Know More—and Less—Than You Think

When our students digest the statistics of how many English language learners are in U.S. classrooms, and when they confront the fact that students in their classrooms are likely to include learners with no or minimal English language skills, their first reaction is usually tinged with alarm: “How am I supposed to relate to these kids if they can’t understand what I say and I can’t understand what they say?” They worry that they will not be able to have any real conversation with English language learners—let alone find ways to teach them new academic content. Their concerns usually stem from their belief that they know nothing at all useful that would help them meet these challenges. We believe, however, that pre-service teachers generally know much more about language than they think.

Let’s take, for example, the question “What exactly do we mean when we use the term language?” To trigger thinking about that question, we sometimes show our students a video clip of a dog howling and ask: “Does that howling constitute a language?” Many students say yes, because the dog howls as a means of communication, just as humans use language. The howling signals to others such messages as “Danger!” or “I need company” or “I don’t like it here.” Other students argue that no, the howling is not a language, because human communication systems are different in...

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