Developmentally and Culturally Effective Instructional Strategies for Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Young Children

Developmentally and Culturally Effective Instructional Strategies for Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Young Children

Patsy J. Robles-Goodwin (Texas Wesleyan University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3955-1.ch013
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The rising numbers of English Learners (ELs) in our schools requires educators to have a specialized knowledge base for understanding their linguistic needs, especially when planning for instruction; teachers also need to use language acquisition principles for working with ELs and integrate effective instructional strategies in their teaching. Studies have found factors affecting student success in public schools: 1) inadequate preparation of teachers, 2) ineffective teaching practices, and 3) at-risk school environments. These complex factors impact the instruction and ultimate success of student learning which is extremely detrimental to ELs. Therefore, the focus of the chapter addresses: the changing demographics, historical reasons for low achievement of ELs, and how educators can use their understanding of best practices to motivate ELs and increase their academic achievement. This chapter provides effective teaching practices for ELs and instructional activities that teachers can implement to help young ELs succeed academically.
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The number of students who speak a language other than English in classrooms has increased 95 percent in the past decade, and the number is expected to continue. Approximately, 4.7 million designated English language learners attend public schools (Office of English Language Acquisition, 2002). The number of English as Second Language (ESL) students in U.S. public schools has almost tripled over the past decade (Goldenberg, 2006).

The states with the highest numbers of limited English proficient students in 2010 were California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey. These six states accounted for 67% of the limited English population in the United States. By 2030s, it is predicted that English learners (ELs) will account for about 40 percent of the school-age population. Yet very few teachers are training to address their educational needs (Rojas, 2007). Teachers need training on best practices for effectively instructing students, so they can be academically successful.

With the continual growth of diverse students in our schools, the need for having competent educators with specialized skills for working with diverse students with varying proficiencies of English becomes crucial for equipping their schools with the effective practices that have been proven to work (Menken & Holmes, 2000). Not only are educators needing to address linguistic issues, they must address required grade-level content standards. However, to teach subject-area content, literacy skills for teaching reading and writing efficiently and effectively rise to the top as a priority for ensuring that students have the necessary skills to learn English and content knowledge with success. Another barrier for English Learners is learning to read fluently and with comprehension, especially since reading has been linked to academic success. Therefore, today’s schools are in great need of having teachers provide effective developmentally appropriate instruction required for the diversity of student learners in classrooms. Having a positive disposition and attitude toward cultural diversity are critical components needed by teachers to implement effective instructional practices to meet the needs of English Learners and to advocate for their continued cultural and linguistic development.


The census bureau has predicted that by the year 2100, the minority will become the majority, with non-Hispanic Whites comprising only 40 percent of the US population (Noor, 2012). The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) reports that Black and Hispanic youth are more likely than Whites or Asians to drop out of high school (NCES, 2011). Statistically, dropout rates particularly correlate with high poverty rates, poor school attendance, grade retention, and disengagement from school (Hammond, Linton, Smink, & Drew, 2007). With an estimate of more than 50 million Hispanics in the United States, they are the fastest growing group, but they have performed with some of the lowest educational success.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Comprehension: The ability to understand and get meaning from spoken and written language.

English Learners (ELs): Students who are learning English as a second or additional language. This term may apply to learners across various levels of proficiency in English. Also known as English Language Learners (ELLs).

Sheltered Instruction: An instructional approach for making content comprehensible for English Learners while they are developing academic English proficiency.

ESL: English as a Second Language. ESL represents the instructional practices used by teachers for supporting English acquisition and instruction for English Learners.

Home Language: The language, or languages, spoken in the student’s home. It is also known as primary language, first language or native language.

Academic Language: Specialized language used in formal contexts for academic subjects; the language used with literacy and academic achievement.

Explicit Instruction: Intentionally teaching the required steps for completing a learning task.

Language Proficiency: The ability to speak or understand language content at levels similar to native language. The levels include beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels.

Graphic Organizers: Diagrams or other pictorials showing text organization and the relationships among concepts or events presented in text.

Culturally Responsive Teaching: An approach to classroom instruction and communicating that respects the different cultural characteristics of all students. The goal is equitable access for all to high quality instruction. Also known as culturally relevant teaching.

Comprehension Strategies: Techniques students can use to improve understanding of text.

Culture: All aspects of human life such as language, education, gender, ethnicity, geography, politics, etc. that affect thinking and behaviors.

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