The problem of the ELL adequate teaching can be considered one of the burning issues of contemporary education due to the borders between cultures blurring and necessity of certain skills to be taught at classes. In this respect, students that come from other cultures/countries do not have sufficient language skills to cope with the schedule challenges introduced at class.
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So, insufficient language skills make it difficult and almost impossible for foreign students to perceive the information provided by the teacher at the same level as the native speakers of the English language. The more misunderstanding occurs, the more efforts are necessary to solve the problem of the education with bilingual students.
For instance, as reported in the article by Chavez (1995), the necessity for the bilingual branch in education emerged when it was necessary “to teach them [children of Mexican descent] in Spanish for a short period, until they got up to speed in their new language”. However, the same article also contains facts about lack of parental involvement and written consent in education of children of Mexican descent.
Our school uses the approach introduced by Fountas and Pinnell who managed to outline the needs of English language learners and develop a program aimed at approaching the students who do not know or have insufficient knowledge of English with regard to their language competency level.
As such, we have books for different levels of language acquisition that provide great support for students to achieve language competency typical for their grade level. At the same time, this methodology enables teachers to spend certain period of time with every students, assess his/her skills and achievements, and identify gaps in order to manage all the problems further.
The groups consist of a small number of learners so that the teacher could notice all gaps and give some instructions to every learner. The course is counted for 14-18 week period when students should become more effective in reading and writing and join the mainstream school schedule with other students as soon as they finish the course designed by Fountas and Pinnell.
The characteristics suggested by Dr. Strickus include school commitment also referred to as wide vision which concerns the interest of teaching staff and administration in helping children to master the language and improve their academic skills instead of simply labeling them as bilingual or ELL/EFL students. Connection to the community is another important principle advocated by Dr.
Strickus because the cultural differences should not influence the perception of the material by students. High-quality learning environment and connection to the students’ lives are also parts of the educational philosophy promoted by Dr. Strickus.
The most important thing promoted by Fountas and Pinnell methodology is that not all children of Mexican descent should undergo such program but only those who are considered to have problems with writing and reading after thorough assessment and evaluation.
This characteristic echoes the ‘school wide vision’ strategy offered by Dr. Strickus when school representatives are interested in child’s achievements and progress as well as parents. This approach to assignment of students to this program allows the administration of school to inform parents about necessity of such program participation and explain to them results expected after finishing of the course.
In other words, this design is beneficial for all stakeholders including teaching staff, administration, parents, and children.
Besides, connection to the community and connection to students’ lives are also drawn to make students’ families aware of the necessity of placing them into special conditions and the anticipated outcomes of the program. In addition, the methodology introduced by Fountas and Pinnell and used in our school enables to teach every student in accordance with the gaps in reading and writing instead of a universal scheme.
Though there are many different instructional methods and programs introduced by researchers and scholars in the branch of education, the one by Fountas and Pinnell fits the school’s needs and expectations. However, different parts of instructional methods can be found in its structure.
For instance, as suggested in Krashen’s theory of comprehensible input, “…teachers can make content more understandable to their students” (Reed & Railsback, 2003, p. 10). This means that teacher may vary design of the lesson to achieve understanding from students.
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A study by Robert E. Slavin (1995) demonstrate effectiveness of cooperative learning when a student and a teacher cooperate to achieve maximum effect (Reed & Railsback, 2003, p. 12). However, the administration of school is satisfied with results received from implementation of Fountas and Pinnell methodology.
The process of supporting ELLs at a school-wide level does not take many efforts if this process is well-structured and finds approval in the methodologies used by teachers. The school provides support where it is necessary while the community is another cornerstone of this issue.
As a classroom teacher, I believe that my role should include supporting students, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and helping in eliminating the gaps between the ELLs and mainstream students. Use of the main methodology agreed on at school and special approaches addressing individual characteristics of every student would result in the most effective performance.
Chavez, L. (1995, August). One nation one common language. Reader’s Digest. Web.
Reed, B., & Railsback, J. (2003). Instructional methods and program models for serving English language learners: an overview for the mainstream teacher. In Strategies and resources for mainstream teachers of English language learners (10-14). Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.