The United States is a melting pot. With a population of more than 323 million people, it's only natural for there to be countless citizens with different nationalities, ethnicities, spoken languages and more. When it comes to language, specifically, the U.S. is very diverse. According to the Census Bureau, the 15 largest metro areas in the country each have around 150 different spoken languages. The New York metro area has almost 200 spoken languages within its borders.
While the most common languages, other than English, include Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Vietnamese, there are more than 300 specific languages recognized in the country. This presents a unique challenge for one industry: education.
How early childhood educators approach ELL instruction
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that there were an estimated 4.6 million public school students classified as English Language Learners (ELLs) in the 2014-2015 school year. Of that group, roughly 3.7 million were Hispanic. For the thousands of public school educators in the U.S., the challenge becomes how to properly instruct this large demographic at the same time as native English speakers.
Thankfully, there are a number of strategies to do just this. For starters, teachers of ELL students have three common instructional models for non-English speakers:
- English as a Second Language (ESL) - A basic approach that teaches students entry-level English through memorization, drills and testing.
- Sheltered Instruction - An approach that emphasizes writing and reading English, as opposed to speaking.
- Dual-language Model - An approach that combines English with students' first languages, with lessons in both.
In addition to these accepted teaching methods, educators are also looking for new ways to instruct ELL students. Other solutions include bringing family into the classroom, either literally or through progress updates, after-class meetings, community events and more. New technology is also proving helpful for teachers. Mobile apps, in-classroom devices and other tools are bridging the language gap in effective ways. Throughout it all, fellow classmates can also be an asset for ELLs as peer interaction and language immersion help students learn by doing.
As the percentage of ELLs in U.S. classrooms continues to increase, professionals can turn to their own educations to better instruct this population. ASU’s online Master of Education in curriculum and instruction (Early Childhood Education) program brings a robust curriculum and skilled faculty to students all across the country, thanks in part to the flexible online course offerings.
Through ASU Online, working educators can study the learning needs of children in grades K-3 and be exposed to the latest methods for inspiring their development as English communicators. Explore the following infographic to learn how technology, peer interactions, multi-sensory lessons and other strategies can help teachers pursue advanced early childhood education careers that are bridging the language gap for young ELL students.