Like many other states, New Jersey has some teachers who have spent most of their careers working only with native speakers of English, but who now have students in their classrooms who are new to the language.
To reach out to those teachers, the New Jersey Department of Education has produced an online tutorial called “English Language Learners in the Mainstream.”
The tutorial summarizes research findings on English-language acquisition as well as sample strategies and lessons for working with children who have limited proficiency in the language.
“Enunciate clearly. Don’t raise your voice. ELLs can hear,” reads one section of the tutorial. Another section describes five stages of adaptation by English-language learners to their new culture and language. Those include the “honeymoon stage,” when many students are cooperative and excited about learning English, and the “uprooting stage,” when students may experience mixed emotions as they discover the differences between the new culture and their home cultures.
The tutorial is an attempt to answer questions that educators have when they receive English-language learners in their classrooms but haven’t had much experience teaching them.
“We get a barrage of questions every year,” said Raquel Sinai, the coordinator for bilingual and English- as-a-second-language education for the New Jersey education department. “We wanted something that we could lead principals and teachers to.”
New Jersey’s population of K-12 English-language learners has doubled in 15 years, to its current 66,000. Many universities still don’t provide preservice teachers with training on how to work with such students, Ms. Sinai said.
“Kids who are not English speakers are everyone’s students,” she said. “They only spend a portion of their day with the ESL teacher, often as little as one period a day.”