The April issue of Educational Leadership has tapped experts on English-language learners from across the country to discuss best practices for educating these students. I commend the editors of the issue for publishing a couple of articles devoted to best practices for teaching adolescent ELLs, including long-term ELLs. Many high schools are struggling with how to help such students acquire content and English at the same time.
Readers, are any of you in middle or high schools that are using what is called the “ELL cluster model?” I’ve seen classes with some elements of this model at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif., where blogger Larry Ferlazzo is a teacher, though educators there didn’t use this term. I’d like to learn about other schools that are mixing ELLs with native-English-speaking students but are still giving the ELLs focused instruction to acquire language skills.
Here is author Judith Rance-Roney’s description of the model from her article, “Best Practices for Adolescent ELLs”:
A promising classroom structure sometimes called the ELL cluster model has emerged in some schools to integrate some of the benefits of newcomer programs while avoiding linguistic segregation from native-English-speaking peers (Rance-Roney, 2008). A special cohort of content-area teachers is trained in methods for teaching the English language and in theories of second-language acquisition. Within these globally focused classrooms, one-quarter to one-third of the students are English language learners and the remaining students are native English speakers. This classroom model uses elements of the sheltered instruction approach for ELLs, a class structure wherein content mastery and academic language skill are developed concurrently. Although the class is conducted in English, classroom aides who speak the ELLs' native languages may assist. The teacher creates an environment that legitimizes the students' appropriate use of the native language to support the learning of academic content.
The special issue on ELLs also includes a summary of cutting-edge research that Kate Menken (from Queens College and the City University of New York Graduate Center) and Tatyana Kleyn (from the City College of New York) have conducted on long-term English-language learners in New York City. I call it “cutting edge” because very little research has been conducted on this very large subgroup of ELLs in the United States. I’m on the lookout for any morsel of information I can get about these students.
It’s not surprising that Menken and Kleyn found that many long-term ELLs have spent long periods of time being mainstreamed, without receiving special help to learn English. They note that these students often sound like native speakers of English but don’t have well-developed literacy skills. An astounding one-third of ELLs in grades 6-12 in New York City are long-term ELLs. That means they’ve attended U.S. schools for seven years or more.
Read the article, “The Difficult Road for Long-Term English-Learners,” to find more about what interventions the researchers are using in the Big Apple with these students.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.