English Language Learners’ Difficulties

Introduction

ELL students frequently face difficulties in various classes, especially those that heavily depend on proficiency in the English language. It is important to note that teachers who work with ELL students can be unqualified to perform such duties (Abedi & Herman, 2010). The term ELL is used to describe students who are non-native English speakers and are learning English and may or may not participate in supporting programs. Furthermore, some ELLs can represent ethnic minorities, and due to their problems with the language are appointed to low-ability classes. If teachers are trained correctly and educated about the importance of feedback, it is possible that the performance of students will also increase (Alghazo, Bani Abdelrahman, & Abu Qbeitah, 2009).

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The importance of the topic is in its usefulness both to teachers who work with ELLs and ELLs themselves. If teachers understand the importance of feedback, active engagement, and difficulties that ELLs face during lessons, there is a chance that students will be able to understand how their performance can be improved with the teacher’s support. For me, it was interesting to understand what factors contribute to the underperformance of ELLs (such as poverty, instructional practices, student literacy, etc.).

It is crucial to understand what exact difficulties ELLs face and how teachers can overcome them to increase the efficiency of their instruction and classroom assignments. With the growing number of immigrants in the United States, the approach to ELLs and their education should be changed. When their difficulties are examined and reviewed, teachers will have the opportunity to understand what actions should be taken.

The thesis of the paper is as follows: although instructional practices for ELL students exist and are adopted, teachers remain unaware of difficulties that these students face, which affects students’ performance. The author hypothesizes that if teachers are aware of difficulties ELLs have during their study, they can provide appropriate support, thus improving instructional practices and students’ performance.

Review of Literature

Janzen (2008) identifies several issues that ELLs face: linguistic issues, sociocultural issues, pedagogical issues, and the education of teachers. It is suggested to provide cultural support to students, for example, to create a project that would be connected to their culture. Savage, Bitterlin, and Price (2010) suggest that instruction should be interactive, include charts and pictures, as well as pronunciation practice. As language instruction depends on the context, teachers need to ensure that their instruction is not focused on isolated parts of the language (e.g., grammar).

However, Lee, Quinn, and Valdés (2013) argue that with the neatly developed design and the engagement of evidence, ELLs will be successful in learning even if they faced severe difficulties earlier. Lucas, Villegas, and Freedson-Gonzalez (2008) state that the input provided to learners should be slightly beyond their level of competence to avoid common difficulties. Shatz and Wilkinson (2010) go further and point out that the first language of the child should not be affected by the acquisition of the second language as it can affect their cultural identity. Baş and Beyhab (2017) point out that the theory of multiple intelligences can be used to eliminate some of the difficulties.

Although it is true that different projects can remove some difficulties, the challenges of students should not be overlooked. Some of the difficulties are impossible to eliminate with well-structured lessons. If no feedback is given, ELLs might lag behind in their knowledge. Education of teachers and their engagement is essential if one is trying to understand the reason behind ELLs’ failures.

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Conclusion

Hill and Miller (2013) suggest providing explicit, interactive instructions to students together with tasks where students can use higher-order thinking. Alhasiany (2014) advises using the native language of students for support, both when teaching and providing feedback. As can be seen, both teachers’ involvement and instruction based on active interaction are desirable. Constant communication with students will help uncover other, less obvious difficulties that hinder the learning process.

References

Abedi, J., & Herman, J. (2010). Assessing English language learners’ opportunity to learn mathematics: Issues and limitations. Teachers College Record, 112(3), 723-746.

Alghazo, K. M., Bani Abdelrahman, M. S., & Abu Qbeitah, A. A. (2009). The effect of teachers’ error feedback on Al-Hussein Bin Talal University students’ self-correction ability, European Journal of Social Sciences, 12(1), 145-159.

Alhasiany, F. (2014). English language learners. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 5(8), 38-43.

Baş, G., & Beyhab, Ö. (2017). Effects of multiple intelligences supported project-based learning on students’ achievement levels and attitudes towards English lessons. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 2(3), 365-386.

Hill, J. D., & Miller, K. B. (2013). Classroom instruction that works with English language learners. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Janzen, J. (2008). Teaching English language learners in the content areas. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 1010-1038.

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English Language Learners’ Difficulties
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Lee, O., Quinn, H., & Valdés, G. (2013). Science and language for English language learners in relation to next generation science standards and with implications for common core state standards for English language arts and mathematics. Educational Researcher, 42(4), 223-233.

Lucas, T., Villegas, A. M., & Freedson-Gonzalez, M. (2008). Linguistically responsive teacher education: Preparing classroom teachers to teach English language learners. Journal of Teacher Education, 59(4), 361-373.

Savage, K. L., Bitterlin, G., & Price, D. (2010). Grammar matters: Teaching grammar in adult ESL classes. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Shatz, M., & Wilkinson, L. C. (2010). The education of English language learners: Research to practice. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

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