Nowadays, the integration of children whose native language is other than English is a common phenomenon at the majority of schools across the United States. Continuously increasing percentages of such students enrolled in US schools is one of the modern educational trends without regard to the location of the state. However, it is inseparable from one of the most significant challenges – the necessity to implement programs designed specifically for children who are not proficient in the English language to meet their educational needs and address the issues potentially related to increased language diversification.
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To cope with them, schools introduce bilingual and ESL programs, but they vary in types and effectiveness. Therefore, it is critical to select these programs based on the specificities of the student population.
Before making recommendations regarding the implementation of a particular bilingual and ESL program in the school, it is essential to recall different types of these initiatives. They are divided into bilingual (early-exit, late-exit, and two-way) and ESL (pull-out, class period, and resource center) programs (Rennie, 1993). The early-exit bilingual program is based on the early transitioning to all-English in-class communication and instruction.
In other words, the stress is laid on using the English language always when in class during early and middle-elementary grades (Fase, Jaspaert, & Kroon, 2013). Late-exit program is very similar to the one described above with the only difference – the transition to the English language is a more lengthy process that is completed when students are in the sixth grade (Scanlan & Lopez, 2015). Finally, the foundation of the two-way bilingual programs is striving to maintain the 50-50 balance between the majority and minority languages when explaining instructions and coping with in-class activities (Murphy, 2013; Rennie, 1993).
As for ESL pull-out programs, they are based on pulling minority students out of the mainstream classroom to provide them with class instruction in English as a second language (Zacarian & Haynes, 2014). ESL resource center is closely connected to the traditional pull-out programs with the only difference – students from different classes are pulled together in one environment to receive instructions in English (Rennie, 1993). ESL class period is associated with instructing minority students in English regularly (Honigsfeld & Dove, 2012). In addition to bilingual and ESL programs, there are as well other initiatives designed for satisfying language diversity needs.
They are divided into content-based programs based on the adaptation of English in response to the level of minority students’ proficiency accompanied by gestures and visual aids for enhancing the understanding of instructions when communicating during classes and structured immersion programs based on using only English during classes but fostering apprehension by deploying special educational techniques, such as grouping students based on the level of their language knowledge, thus choosing a particular level of language complexity to communicate with them (Wood, 2014; Rennie, 1993).
Based on the existence of a great variety of programs, it is essential to assess the specificities of the school environment to select an appropriate initiative for improving proficiency in the English language. Because the environment is not purely bilingual, as minorities are speaking several other languages, it is possible to state that implementing bilingual programs is ineffective. It can be explained by the fact that the distribution of minorities is not homogenous across classes. In other words, in some classes, there are several groups of language minority students. From this perspective, ESL programs are the best option for the district.
The main assumption is that the ESL class period might be beneficial for achieving long-term academic achievement. There are several arguments for choosing this program. To begin with, preference was given to class period instead of the pull-out program to minimize the risks of segregation that is a politically and historically critical matter of concern (Endo & Rong, 2013; Zacarian & Haynes, 2014). Because the foundation of the pull-out program is the division of students, it might potentially lead to the increased social and ethnic gap between minority and majority students, which is an undesirable outcome of the initiative.
Therefore, even though pull-out programs are popular in the United States schools, they are not recommended in this particular district due to the desire to contribute to establishing social equality, not foster a division of students (Rodriguez, Carrasquillo, & Lee, 2014).
On the other hand, the implementation of the ESL class period program is associated with the deeper and more effective integration of the minority students into the local community. More than that, their chances of becoming more proficient in English are significantly higher compared to the segregated pull-out sessions because they will be placed in the English-speaking environment during classes and communicate with native speakers, thus enhancing their understanding of the language.
The only challenge, in this case, is to group students based on their language knowledge. However, it is easy to overcome by conducting several language tests and personal communication with the students. All in all, developed in a supportive way and involving both majority students and expert teachers are the best approaches to making this initiative effective (Rennie, 1993). That being said, the ESL class period is preferred among other programs due to specificities of the local student population and objectives that go beyond academic achievement only.
Non-native speakers commonly face numerous challenges when sharing their thoughts. It is especially visible in the case of written communication or when it is requested to deliver messages connecting arguments to different content areas. However, this ability is not a vital aspect of effective communication. Instead, morphology, syntax, and phonological features play a central role in identifying the level of language knowledge and proficiency. To prove this statement, it may be helpful to analyze the sample text written by one of the students. Reading the paper for the first time, it is evident that the student faces some critical issues.
For instance, morphologically, it is obvious that the native language of the student is an isolating one that does not require morphemes, such as –sending to indicate the grammatical number. English, on the other hand, requires such morphemes and is inflective, so that changing words to share the overall meaning of the message is important.
Speaking of syntax, there are no critical matters of concern to point to because the writer develops the sentences using appropriate word order and punctuation rules. In general, analyzing the answer from the perspective of syntax, the impression is positive. As for phonological features, phonemes are organized as the onset with consonants at the beginning of syllables, but it is a common characteristic of the English language.
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More than that, it is essential to mention that the student experiences some vocabulary-related issues due to mixing up such words (for instance, “their” and “there”) and making mistakes in writing (“verry”). All in all, the word choice is poor that demonstrates the need to work on studying the language.
Still, regardless of several weak aspects of writing, it is essential to point to the strong sides of the writer. Hyun addressed the question from different perspectives. To be specific, in addition to human losses, the student mentioned the economic costs of wars as well as environmental consequences and the impact of international armed conflicts on globalization. More than that, Hyun mentions personal causes that commonly make people driven to initiate wars. In this way, in a short response, the student demonstrated the ability to address the question based on different content areas. It means that it is possible to cope with morphological, syntactic, and phonological issues and help the student become even more skilled writers and enhance the knowledge of the English language.
Still, to overcome the identified problems, it is paramount to determine what are the causes of their emergence. They may be defined by applying theories of second language acquisition. For instance, according to semantic meaning theory, the most important aspect of learning the second language is the acquisition of meaning. From what was written by Hyun, it is obvious that the student does understand the meanings of words (lexical and semantic meanings) as well as the meaning of the context (pragmatic meaning). However, it is the lack of apprehending the grammar meaning that affects the quality of writing (Gärdenfors, 2014).
On the other hand, the student’s issues can be explained from the perspective of the monitor model of second language acquisition. According to the central assumption of this approach, there are two separate concepts: acquisition of the language (picking it up during communication) and learning (studying rules and enriching one’s vocabulary) (Gass, 2013). Based on what was read in Hyun’s response, it is as well obvious that there are no critical problems with language acquisition. However, there may be some problems with learning – due to either the lack of time or motivation – because the absence of the necessary rules knowledge and vocabulary is notable.
Nevertheless, regardless of the existing challenges, all of them can be addressed. For instance, it is advisable to point to all mistakes made by the student and offer support and help in understanding them. Also, it is recommended to provide the student with relevant theoretical materials to contribute to the studying process. In any case, it is critical to initiate a truthful dialogue with this student and find out what is their goal as a learner.
If it is revealed that they want to become a better writer and improve the knowledge of the English language, giving some additional writing tasks may be an option. On the other hand, in case of avoiding contact, some additional attention and control during the classes may be beneficial for motivating the student to study, even though this motivation is likely to be negative (for instance, using grades to react to coping with learning activities). All in all, the response to the student’s writing should incorporate both weaknesses and strengths of the writing style and be based on an individual approach to teaching to be effective and enhance writing and the overall English language proficiency. Speaking of content-area knowledge, recommending some popular journals or newspapers may be an option for extending their horizons and potentially improving not only language but also general knowledge.
Endo, R., & Rong, X. L. (Eds.). (2013). Educating Asian Americans: Achievement, schooling, and identities. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Fase, W., Jaspaert, K., & Kroon, S. (2013). The state of minority languages: International perspectives on survival and decline. New York, NY: Routledge.
Gärdenfors, P. (2014). The geometry of meaning: Semantics-based on conceptual spaces. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Gass, S. M. (2013). Second language acquisition: An introductory course. New York, NY: Routledge.
Honigsfeld, A., & Dove, M. G. (Eds.). (2012). Co-teaching and other collaborative practices in the EFL/ESL classroom: Rationale research, reflections, and recommendations. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Murphy, A. F. (2013). A comparison of dual language and bilingual programs. Saarbrücken, Germany: LAP Lambert Academic Publishing.
Rennie, J. (1993). ESL and bilingual program models. Web.
Rodriguez, D., Carrasquillo, A., & Lee, K. S. (2014). The bilingual advantage: Promoting academic development, biliteracy, and native language in the classroom. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Scanlan, M., & Lopez, F. A. (2015). Leadership for culturally and linguistically responsive schools. New York, NY: Routledge.
Wood, D. L. (2014). A study of the effects of bilingual and structured English immersion programs on the oral English and literacy development of students learning English as a second language. Los Angeles, CA: University of California.
Zacarian, D., & Haynes, J. (2014). The essential guide for educating beginning English learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.