For teachers and teacher educators striving to address a growing number of state mandates relating to the education of English language learners (ELLs), Educating English Language Learners in an Inclusive Environment, Second Edition provides a reader-friendly survey of key topics, including: legal and professional imperatives, cultural concerns, linguistics, literacy instruction, assessment, policy, and politics. This overview will be useful to in-service teachers with little or no preparation for working with ELLs but who nevertheless face legislative demands to teach both academic content and English. It will also be useful to teacher educators trying to squeeze preparation for working with ELLs into already overflowing teacher preparation programs. Though many try, no one text can provide exhaustive information; there is simply too much to learn. This second edition instead provides readers with a road map to critical topics and to specific resources they can use independently to learn more, as they will surely need to do.
3. Language: You Know More—and Less—Than You Think
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...