ELLs and Bilingualism
Did you know that English Language Learners account for 9.5 percent of our student population? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are over 4.8 million English Language Learners (ELLs) attending public school in the United States.
ELL students are:
- immigrants or American-born
- educated formally or have limited to no formal education
- Monolingual or Mutilingual
- previously exposed to English or have little to no exposure
ELLs are a diverse and growing group. Teachers are faced with this challenge while ensuring that their students acquire a new language. How do we scaffold our lesson plans to engage and meet the needs of students?
It is important for educators to understand the importance of bilingualism in children. Moreover, bilingualism is an advantage that will open doors to job opportunities. Over 50% of the world’s population speaks more than one language (dana.org). Even deeper than that, the advantages begin much earlier.
Bilingualism Leads to Success
As the infographic from Bilingual Spot describes, being bilingual (or multilingual) cultivates a child who is a multitasker, culturally aware and has a broad vocabulary. I have heard many say that in order to acquire a new language, the native language is sacrificed. However, studies show that although ELLs may perform below level on state tests, former ELLs (shown proficiency in English) perform at-level or even out-perform native English speakers on the same exams.
It is important for educators (and parents) to encourage their ELLs to maintain their native language. Moreover, we should also encourage our monolingual students to acquire a second language as well.
Tools to Encourage Bilingualism
There are many resources out there with lessons plans and activities to help you do this, as well as many online tools. The following are easy to use, fun, and free:
- Starfall : Website & App with free activities that are scaffolded to help your students read. Not just for English Language Learners, a great way to use this tool would be to partner your native speakers with an ELL student. Have them journey through the activities together. I recommend using the tool with 4-8 year olds.
- Genius Plaza : Genius Plaza offers a suite of co-creation tools that allows students to “show what they know” by creating Sparks (ebooks, videos, exercises, games, and more) through a modality of their choosing. They can choose to share Sparks with the world in a safe and monitored environment. Students can also reflect on the work of other students, and view Sparks created by students all over the world. I recommend using the platform and app with 8-14 year olds.
- Duolingo : A gamified language learning platform that allows you to access courses for free and earn points for successful completion. The courses are designed around your native language (English speakers have access to over 30 language courses), and the exercises are engaging. Duolingo is a tool that can be used to help your English Language Learners as well as your monolingual students interested in learning another language. I recommend using this tool with high school students.
To Sum It Up
These tools allow us free access to allow students, parents, and educators to acquire an important 21st Century skill: communication … at the global level. As our country continues to become more diverse, bilingualism will not only be important for our ELLs, but for all of our students; stay ahead of the game and cultivate your global citizens.