Education History in the ELL Classroom

The educational backgrounds of English Language Learners (ELLs) can vary widely. Some have received good educations in their countries of origin, and this experience will help them succeed in their new schools. Some even have more advanced academic skills than many students in U.S. “gifted and talented” programs (Jesness 2004).

Keep in mind that the approach to education in an ELL’s country of origin may have been very different than it is in the United States. Many cultures favor a teacher-centered classroom, where lecture and rote memorization are the standard activities. The more learner-centered classrooms of the United States, with their cooperative learning groups and opportunities for student choice, will seem strange and chaotic to some learners.

Some ELLs will have received little to no schooling prior to immigrating, which presents an extra challenge since they must not only learn the language but also get used to what school is all about. Perhaps they have never held a pencil or opened a book. As you may imagine, the level of first language literacy makes a huge impact on second language learning (Parrish 2004). Imagine trying to remember a new vocabulary word without being able to write down its meaning in your first language!

From Professional Learning Board’s online continuing education course for teachers: Teaching English Language Learners

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