The March 2015 Educational Leadership (Vol. 72 No.6) features the topic Culturally Diverse Classrooms. The article “What It Takes for English Learners to Succeed” by Jana Echevarria, Nancy Frey and Doug Fisher outlines four areas of focus in supporting English learners success. The four areas are: access, climate, expectations and language.
Making the core curriculum accessible to English language learners (ELLs) is central to the educational process and vital in preventing the new ELLs from not progressing to becoming long-term ELLs.
The classroom environment promotes respectful interaction, value cultural diversity and utilizes prior experience and background knowledge. Great strategies for how to create a positive classroom climate are given in Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind, (Jensen 2013).
Instituting learning expectations that communicate to the ELL the teacher’s belief in their capability, skill and their potential is critical. The teacher’s attitude and expectations for their student heavily influence the student’s performance.
Robust academic language instruction coupled with explicit English language instruction supports the advancement of student learning. “Poverty isn’t the greatest predictor of success for English learners; rather, their success is influenced primarily by their level of first-language development and quality of instruction they receive”.
As our student population becomes more culturally and linguistically diverse, it is imperative that educators consider all four areas when designing classrooms, engagement and instruction for ELLs.
Jana Echevarria is one of the authors of the SIOP model. It is very effective but very complicated to implement with all its components. But when you look at the actual instruction, it is all about brain-based strategies. It always goes back to best practices for students. It is true that there are some specific strategies for English Learners but I do think all student would benefit from them. However, they are essential for English Learners.