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The New Teacher Book

Last Updated Fall 2004

By Bob Peterson and Kelley Dawson Salas

As communities across the United States are becoming more diverse, many new teachers are finding find that their responsibilities include teaching both academic content and language skills to English Language Learners.

There are many different types of bilingual ed/ESL program (see the box below), and great differences can exist between programs that purport to serve students in similar ways.

Regardless of the type of program you're in, remember that it's your responsibility to deliver instruction to these students in a way that is understandable. That means organizing your teaching practice in a way that mets their needs, as well as "working the system" to ensure that these students are getting the services, such as extra support for taking tests, that they need.

As a starting point, find out what kinds of services your school offers to support English Language Learners — and to support you as their classroom teacher. Ask your administrators, colleagues, or district bilingual/ESL office. Then do a little of your own research about English Language Learners and how their needs can best be served. (See the resource list below for some places to start.)

Strategies For Improving Instruction For English Language Learners

Strategies For Becoming More Culturally Competent

Types of ESL and Bilingual Programs

English as a Second Language

Emphasis is on learning and using English in the classroom and on preparing English Language Learners to function in "mainstream" English-language classrooms. English Language Learners may be placed in an English as a Second Language class, "sheltered English" classes, or they may participate in a pullout ESL class. ESL teachers may also support classroom teachers in their classrooms. Other langauges typically are not used in ESL programs.

Transitional Bilingual Education
(also sometimes referred to as "early exit bilingual education")

Students' native language is used in classrooms to help students learn academic content while they are learning English. As soon as possible (usually two or three years), students are moved into instruction in English only. The goal is proficiency in English, not continuing to develop the student's native language skills.

Developmental Bilingual Education
(also referred to as "maintenance bilingual education" or "late exit bilingual education")

These programs develop and maintain proficiency in students' native language as well as English. Students entering developmental bilingual programs as kindergarteners are typically taught to read and write in their native language first, and then literacy skills are transferred to English. Once students function in both languages, they continue to learn language and content in both languages.

Dual Language Education
(also referred to as "two-way bilingual" or "two-way immersion")

These programs serve a mix of English Language Learners and native English-speaking students. They teach language and content in both English and in a target language (for example, Spanish, Japanese, etc.) The goal is for all students to become literate in both English and the target language, and to develop and maintain both languages.


Resources for Working with English Language Learners

Help! They Don't Speak English: Starter Kit for Primary Teachers
Oneonta, NY: Eastern Stream Center on Resources and Training (ESCORT),1998.

The Power of Two Languages: Literacy and Biliteracy for Spanish-Speaking Students
edited by Josefina Villamil Tinajero and Alma Flor Ada
New York: McMillan/McGraw Hill, 1993.

Dual Language Instruction: A Handbook for Enriched Education
edited by Nancy Cloud, Fred Genesee, and Else Hamayan
Philadelphia: Heinle & Heinle, 2000.

Learning and Not Learning English: Latino Students in American Schools
by Guadalupe Valdés
New York: Teacher's College Press, 2001.

Dr. Jim Cummins' ESL and Second Language Learning Web
This site offers details about Cummins' work researching second lanquage acquisition and literacy development, and links to other web resources.

Stephen D. Krashen's Website
Information about Krashen's many informative articles and other writings about language learning.

Rethinking Schools Special Collection on Bilingual Education
a more in-depth listing of articles and resources for teachers working with English Language Learners.

Last Updated Fall 2004