Sunday, March 13, 2016

Common Misconceptions about ELLs!!

One of the main setbacks to an ELL getting the quality education that he or she deserves is the misconceptions teachers and others have about their way of learning.  As an area I have previously studied, I understand that teachers may be intimidated by ELLs if they hear these misconceptions.  If you ever have concerns as a teacher, there are many resources for you--from the ESL specialist at your district to colleagues to reliable internet sources.

I want to go over a few common misconceptions and clear them up in hopes that people will shed their negative/uncertain attitudes towards ELLs and learn the facts.

  1. Exposure to English will automatically result in language learning.
    • Why it's wrong: Learning a second language requires more focus on grammar, vocabulary acquisition, and academic language than when we learn our first language as a baby.  ELLs can learn social language more quickly by interacting with natives and being exposed, but academic language can take longer than 7 years to achieve.   
  2. ELLs are always good at math.
    • Why it's wrong: This is simply a stereotype, and may be due in part to the large number of Asian ELLs.  No one ethnic group represents ELLs.  
  3. Good teaching for native speakers is good teaching for ELLs.
    • Why it's wrong: Since ELLs learn differently, sometimes they need different types of strategies or modifications/interventions that native students don't need, especially in the mainstream classroom when they're leaning content without being proficient in English.  This also goes along with the learning theories with every person learning in a different way (i.e. verbal, visual, tactile, etc.).   
  4. ELLs have learning problems/should be in special education programs.
    • Why it's wrong: Many ELLs can transfer cognitive skills from the first language to English, it just takes time.  With a portion of ELLs being immigrants with harsh backgrounds, they may not have had the proper schooling throughout their lives, but that also does not mean they have problems learning, they just haven't had the chance. 
  5. All ELLs learn the same and at the same rate.  
    • Why it's wrong: Once again, we know all people learn differently, so why would it be different for ELLs?  ELLs will progress with their language learning at different speeds due to factors like previous level of education, family support at home, amount of practice at school, and more.
So, how can we help to eliminate these misconceptions??  The answer lies in education itself.  Teachers must be educated enough to have a general understanding of second language acquisition and the processes that go along with that.  They must also be educated on different types of strategies and interventions they can use for ELLs.  Furthermore, teachers must work together and use their resources to be able to successfully include and teach ELLs in the mainstream classroom.  

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