English Language Learners in Special Education:
How They Learn and How to Teach Them
By Jackie Moore
How Should Students Learn?
Unfortunately in our public school systems today, we do not have a clear program or even a concept of what type of classroom English Language Learners (ELL) need to be placed in. School districts of all sizes and demographic variations implement one type of approach for a few years, then try something else and may even possibly go back to the first theory again. Ever wonder why this approach is not effective? Districts are floundering around trying out many aspects of educating these students, but the most beneficial approach hasn’t been implemented across the board. This haphazard strategy creates large variations among our students and their success levels. Some districts and/or schools have done their homework and are currently implementing systems that work, but every single district in existence is not participating in providing successful programs for their ELL students. As educators we must find a way to reach these kids, test them appropriately and help them to be successful educationally as well as for the future.
Many students (ELL) are placed into English-speaking classrooms where they do not understand what is being said. This is termed immersion. Immersion is basically “sink or swim” in terms of language attainment. The majorities of our ELL students unfortunately, only learn to tread water not actually swim and therefore fail to be successful in reading, writing and speaking the English language. Imagine living in a foreign country and trying to learn their native language through subject based instruction. Learning the subject matter is more difficult than just learning to read, speak and write the language; yet that is our expectations of our English Language Learners. We want them to decode the language through the context provided within a particular subject matter and succeed academically and linguistically....