Thursday, July 14, 2011

Matthew Lynch published an article today in Education News entitled Supporting English Language Learners I applaud his recognition of the need for supporting English language learners in the classroom. I think his intentions were good. From the list of publications at the bottom of the article, it is apparent that Lynch is knowledgeable in many areas of education but there is much he does not know about teaching ELLs. I left a short comment on his blog but I could have written a book. Wait! I did write several books on this topic.
The topic of teaching English language learners has become very hot over the last year. Many educators who are known in other fields of education are jumping on the bandwagon and publishing information that is dated or not in line with current research.
Lynch seems to assume that ELLs can learn English using technology out of the classroom but that they shouldn't use translators in the class because "There is some debate however as to whether or not these forms of assistive technology actually defeat the purpose of English language learning."
Language is not "soaked up.” English language learners must be able to understand the communication that is conveyed by the teacher. They need comprehensible input. We need to use every tool that we have to provide comprehensible input to ELLs including translators.
Lynch ignores the role of literacy in native language in second language acquisition.(Thomas & Collier, 1997) ELLs who become literate in native language first learn to read and write in English more quickly. Lynch's article implies that ELLs should not use their native language in learning English.


Karen Nemeth said...

I'm always behind you when you remind people how important is comprehensible input. We use a slightly different spin when talking about preschool, but the basic message is the same. The human brain does not learn language in isolation from meaning. The more information and connections between information - the more language the brain can learn, remember, and use. Time spent on passive language 'learning' is like junk food for the brain. And - every effort to support language learning should be combined with content learning for maximum effectiveness. Why would we want it any other way?? Here's my new saying from the keynote address I'll be giving in NYC on July 15: "Language is a cake. I could give you butter, eggs, and flour. You might have all the ingredients but you still don't have a cake. You have to blend the ingredients in proper balance AND bake them to have a cake. In the same way, you can't expect to get 'language' if you just let students practice the ingredients separately in isolation. You have to blend word sounds with word meanings with content knowledge with pragmatic usage AND you have to let students bake them together in real life practice to get language success!"

everythingESL said...

Thanks Karen so much for your comparison of language to a cake. I know your keynote will be wonderful.

Mrs. Flores said...

We had the honor of meeting with Thomas and Collier in person and we are actually following the model they recommend for ELL. Our entire district is following a 50/50 split with languages in Engish and Spanish. I am truly looking forward to following your blog for more ELL strategies.

Mrs. Flores said...

I noticed your reference to Thomas and Collier and I wanted to share that our school actually sat with them and asked questions about their language acquisition model. Our district was so impressed by there research that we are now following a 50/50 model adapted from their research. I plan to follow your blog for strategies and ideas. Thank you for your blog.

JulieESL said...

This whole language acquistion thing is really a slippery slope. It's almost as if a child needs a "time out" to learn the language before going into an English classroom to begin absorbing academic content. I guess the public school ESL classes are about learning the content as well as the language, but again, these are two entirely different things. Students should be allowed to spend intensive time learning the language - but I don't think that will happen because parents are too worried about their children falling behind academically. But if they are sitting in the classroom not understanding what's being said, they are falling behind academically. This is a very difficult problem as more and more parents move to the USA just so that their children can attend school here. Thank you for your great posts!