Applied Empathetic Instruction for Limited-Level English Learners With Weekly Grade-Level CSOs: Where to Begin Assessment and Instruction

Applied Empathetic Instruction for Limited-Level English Learners With Weekly Grade-Level CSOs: Where to Begin Assessment and Instruction

Cassandra Aiken (Doddridge County Schools, USA) and Rachel Propst (Alderson Broaddus University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8543-5.ch015


With secondary English learners (ELs) often falling behind their peers in reaching grade-level expectations, a push to find research-based strategies to aid instruction to significantly decrease this gap is in place. This chapter addresses where to begin assessment and instruction with limited-level English learners to aid these students in accessing grade-level academic content in a timely manner. It provides key principles and research-based strategies for developing assessments and assignments to help break through initial barriers and provide an affective atmosphere (promoting confidence) for students to begin experimenting with language through meaningful and culturally relevant topics that will also address grade-level content standards. The texts and assignments should be rigorous, challenging the student to higher-order thinking and guiding the student to reach their full potential. Instruction should include multiple opportunities for extended discourse to allow the student to experiment and practice language across all language domains: reading, writing, listening, speaking.
Chapter Preview


The last place a school district wants to find itself is trying to get a language instruction educational program (LIEP) running as the first ELs walk through their school doors. A complete program should exist with skilled personnel who understand the diverse factors influencing language acquisition to help ELs both acquire proficiency in English and gain access to their grade-level academic content quickly and efficiently. When districts are not equipped with personnel who have been trained to teach ELs, these students often fall behind their peers because of the misconception that English language development (ELD) must precede development of content understanding. The NGA Center & CCSSO (2010) when exploring guiding principles for ELs, stated that although ELs will produce language that will distinguish them from their English-speaking peers, “it is possible to achieve the standards for college-and-career readiness” (Willner, 2014, p.5). Furthermore, Ellis (2008a) believes:

Ells have the same potential as native speakers of English to engage in cognitively complex tasks. Regardless of ELP level, all Ells need access to challenging, grade-appropriate curriculum, instruction, and assessment, and benefit from activities requiring them to create linguistic output. (Willner, 2014, p. 5).

The recent thrust to incorporate literacy skills into all content within the college career and readiness standards is essential to prepare students for the communication skills needed in the workplace. These skills, designed to encourage discourse with academic language in the content classroom, will benefit both ELs and native-speaking English students. Content classroom teachers (i.e., science, English, mathematics), although experts in their content subject, often lack training for instructing ELs. This task is often left to specialists in English language instruction with the expectation that proficiency in English must come prior to participation in the content classroom. Thus, ELs often miss the opportunity to learn beside their peers as the grade-level content material is presented to prepare them for post-secondary school.

Wong et. al., found that the majority of teacher candidates reported feeling “inadequate” understanding of the students first language or cultural experiences and that pre-service teachers believe this will inhibit students’ ability to understand direction (Wong, Indiatsi, Wong, 2016, p.60). Certainly, there are challenges to finding and creating materials suitable to language learners at varying stages. “Teacher educators should reassure teacher candidates that on-going professional development is necessary for all teachers” (Wong et al., 2016, p. 61).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Task-Based Learning: A use of tasks or activities that are focused on meaning for language learners that encourage authentic use of the target language that focuses on meaning rather than accuracy to develop confidence.

Language 2 (L2): The second language learned or the target language to be learned.

Language 1 (L1): The first language learned by a child.

Language Objectives: Objectives that outline the type of language that students will need to learn and use to accomplish the goals of the lesson.

Language Instruction Educational Program (LIEP): A program offering support and aid to students learning a second language.

Scaffolding: A teaching method that enables a student to achieve a goal through a series of processes or gradual steps.

Translanguaging: A process in which multilingual speakers use their languages as an integrated communication system to strategically decipher and relay meaning.

Discourse: Written or spoken communication in a connected series of utterances or an engaged conversation.

Language Domains: Four components of communication, including reading, writing, speaking, and listening. These components are sometimes divided into receptive language (reading and listening) and productive language (writing and speaking).

Affective Atmosphere: A classroom setting that is conducive to students’ emotional, social, and academic well-being. This setting promotes security and confidence as it encourages students to experiment with language without fear of making mistakes.

Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA): A department organized under the U.S. Department of Education to address the needs of English learners.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: