EDDN 637 Second Language Learners and the Content Areas
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Students will become acquainted with and practice effective approaches, methods, and strategies for teaching and evaluating English language learners in the content areas (ELA, social studies, math and science). Throughout the course, students will explore the impact of culture and language on classroom learning. Special challenges in teaching and assessment in each content area will also be discussed. Includes 15 hours of fieldwork.
Shannon Smith, a Touro University TESOL candidate pursues a degree in the TESOL program at Touro University, Graduate school of education. She is a certified general education and special education 1-6th grade. She is currently filling in as a leave replacement Kindergarten and First grade ENL
Text: American History, Unit 2: Creating a Nation
English language learners face a lot of challenges when the linguistic and cognitive demands of certain content areas are unaligned to their cultural background knowledge and perspectives. The academic standards recommended by the NYS for English language learners can be very overwhelming for both students and educators. Teachers play a critical role in ensuring that students are linked with available basic literature and prior knowledge whenever they are being guided to understand any of the general subjects(Haynes,2005).
The instruction begins with educators learning from the learners and putting ourselves in the place of our students with the frustrating, challenging factors they face on a daily basis so that we can learn and understand the way they do. As educators, we can find more engaging ways to help ELLs learn new material that draws on their own unique background knowledge and perspectives. I am currently a Kindergarten and first-grade ENL teacher. With some setbacks this year and a shortage of substitutes, I have been placed all over the school and do not see my ENL students as much as I would like to. I have not been able to cover the subjects I had planned to. When I do have the opportunity to see my students we are still working on letter and sound recognition which was difficult to find required texts and resources for since it is very simple and basic. I chose to use a resource that was provided in this course that will still be beneficial in my teaching since I am acting as a substitute majority of the time and work with students k-6. I chose to analyze and critique a chapter from a social studies textbook on the American Revolution. Chapter four of the American revolution is a relevant example of how English language learners face challenges when learning social studies, especially when relating to American history.
This American Revolution unit explores the major causes and people of the war, focusing on the importance of America and New York State during this period. The education system lacks efficiency in impacting new English learners to respond to cognitive needs because there is a lack of familiarity with the historical background being used. If a student is not from America or specifically New York State, but is expected to have prior background knowledge on New York State and information about America, students are not going to understand key ideas and details. A majority of ELLs do not have the same background knowledge that their peers have or that textbook authors take for granted, like knowing the 50 states and having them memorized. They also bring their own unique and valuable experiences and background to the classroom. Sometimes those experiences can be connected to the content to make the instruction meaningful and help them comprehend the material, but if they cannot make connections to their background knowledge and different points of view or ideas are expressed, they might miss important concepts and ideas in the lesson. A student might be a master in history about the country they are from, and know all about the regions and areas, and would be able to understand wars and battles that were fought where they were from, but cannot grasp or make connections to places like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Massachusetts, etc. that this unit also places a huge emphasis on. The textbook states “The Treaty of Paris gave Britain most of Canada, all French lands east of the Mississippi River, and Spanish Florida.” (p.297). This could be very confusing to students who do not have background knowledge about these places. When a student hears “Spanish Florida” and does not know what state Florida is, what could it possibly mean to them by saying Spanish Florida? And how confusing could it be for them to talk about the French lands, but then also talk about Canada and Florida?
English Language Learners might have already learned about important historic moments in their own country, and now we are asking them to relearn something they learned about in a different way because what they have already learned is not correct or relevant to what they are learning in American history today in the classroom. The first thing I would do prior to introducing the American Revolution is to pre-teach about America and introduce the 50 states. I would create engaging activities and games using visual representatives to help students recognize and eventually maybe memorize the 50 states so when they are reading and learning about them in this unit, they can make some connection to them or be familiar with Boston when it comes up, or New York. Some ways to also engage ELLs in regards to this unit of the American Revolution to draw on their background knowledge and perspectives could be to hold a class discussion on where students are from and to show visual representations like maps to point out where they are from and then take that opportunity to compare it to America and relate it into the American Revolution and use this as a teaching point to teach about the states in America that they might see come up in lessons about the American Revolution. The more they see and learn about the states that are presented in the unit, the more they will start to recognize and memorize them and gain more knowledge about them.
This unit on the American Revolution has a lot of academic language and key vocabulary that is essential for students to know in order to understand concepts and ideas of the American Revolution. Two major ideas that come up a lot in this unit are cause and effect. The textbook states “Why It Matters Understanding cause and effect can help you see why events happen” (p.303). Pre-teaching the meaning of these words will eliminate any confusion when students are learning about a cause and effect of an aspect from the American Revolution. Explicitly explaining to students that a cause is an action or event that makes something happen, and an effect is what happens as the result of the action or event, is essential in this unit as a majority of the battles fought during the Revolution was a cause of something and always has an effect. This concept is also important to teach because a question on a state test might come up like “what was the cause of______” or “what was the effect of________”. It can be difficult for students to understand cause and effect especially on a topic that they do not connect to or understand. For example, the textbook states “In the mid-1600s, people began to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony and start their own settlements. Some left because of religious reasons. Others left to find better economic opportunities” (p.304). In this statement, it is important for students to understand the cause and effect of people leaving the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but it might be difficult to understand if they do not have background knowledge of Massachusetts or know what that is, and also if they don’t understand the meaning of cause and effect it will be challenging to understand why wars in the revolution began and ended. Starting by having students find and share real-life examples of causes and effects that relate to their personal lives and backgrounds is a great start to introduce cause and effect of the American Revolution.
In this unit of the American Revolution, there are also an incredible amount of unknown words for students and key vocabulary words that could be difficult to understand. Words like boycott, taxation, representation, parliament, proclamation, congress, protest, repeal appear a lot throughout the chapter and are important to be exposed to when learning about the different wars and battles of the American Revolution. For example, “In October 1765, representatives from nine colonies met in New York City in what became known as the Stamp Act Congress” (p.303). If students come across this excerpt, or it is read to them, and they do not know what congress means they are going to be very confused. The lines “no taxation without representation” also are repeated a lot throughout the chapter and is an important concept when learning about the American Revolution. Introducing these vocabulary words in depth is going to be beneficial to engage students in understanding the American Revolution. Some ways I would help my students is to pre-teach all of the important vocabulary words by utilizing word clouds and making sure I present a visual definition for each word. To begin a lesson on vocabulary, I would post a word cloud using wordsift containing the important vocabulary words for the unit. I would have the students on their own make a list of the words that they know and words that they do not know. After a few minutes of independent work, I would have the students turn and talk to a partner to compare their lists and learn from one another some of the words they did not know. After the partner talks I would move into the vocabulary instruction so that by the end of the lesson, every student would at least be exposed to and recognize every word.
Open resource. America’s History. New York: Worth Publishers, 2022. PDF. Social Studies textbook Unit 4 637 (4).pdf Chapter 4: The American Revolution, 1754-1783 – Northern Local …
Haynes, J. (2005). Challenges for ELLs in content area learning. In TESOL annual convention, Baltimore, MD.