Module 1: ESL students and learning in a second language

Reading 1: ESL students: some factors influencing their school experiences and learning outcomes

Introduction

  • factors impacting on educational experiences of ESL students
  • same general range of factors as any other student: background, gender, peer group, personal traits
  • more specific set of factors to do with culture, language, non-English educational background etc may be present

Language and Learning

  • language is tool, context and outcome of learning
  • success in learning depends upon fluency in language
  • generally, fluency in English does not outstrip fluency in the mother tongue; therefore it is necessary for students to continue to develop and evolve their skills in their mother tongue in order to become truly proficient in English
  • language environment and support provision are critical
  • attitudes, family competence and expectations also factors

Second language learning

  • if already proficient in first language, an ESL student may be able to make comparisons between the two languages in order to develop understandings
  • if first language is not highly developed it becomes even more important to provide highly supportive, rewarding and successful experiences in English
  • school may be only place to model formal and/or academic language

Culture and cultural practice

  • “language and culture are interwoven”
  • learning a new language also means learning new attitudes, perspectives, behaviours, and communication techniques
  • understanding culturally based communication differences may be critical

ESL student with special needs

  • language issues may mask other needs
  • some may be inappropriately labelled with learning difficulty due to poor English skills
  • necessary to be aware of the characteristics of giftedness and identify them independent of English skills

Effects of movement, forced or voluntary, on students

  • culture shock period of adjustment to new community will affect ability to learn new language

Migrant Experiences

  • many ESL children have roles and experiences specific to coming from migrant families
  • some pressures/duties may be a distraction
  • some responsibilities may assist in early maturity
  • often high expectations of life opportunities in new country, lots of pressure
  • movement, family factors may affect ability to make friends

Experiences of trauma or torture

  • witnessing or experiencing war/excape/refugee camps can have long-lasting effects
  • various symptoms/behaviours eg anxiety and fear, withdrawal and depression, anger and agression
  • asylum seekers, esp temp visa holders, have very peculiar and complicated needs

Experience of being and international student or Third Culture kid

  • develop a blended culture putting together passport culture and new culture
  • often most comfortable with others of similar experiences, irrespective of cultural background
  • very aware of cultural differences, very tolerant, considerate of others, make friendships quickly
  • shallower relationships, wary of growing too close for fear of pain when leaving

Past and present educational experiences

  • cultural expectations of schooling, personal experiences, social attitudes, teacher-student relations
  • transition is a crucial phase – extra support is needed

Reading 1 Review:

Something known:

  • generally, fluency in English does not outstrip fluency in the mother tongue; therefore it is necessary for students to continue to develop and evolve their skills in their mother tongue in order to become truly proficient in English

Something new:

  • language issues may mask other needs
  • some may be inappropriately labelled with learning difficulty due to poor English skills
  • necessary to be aware of the characteristics of giftedness and identify them independent of English skills

Something to follow up:

  • develop a blended culture putting together passport culture and new culture
  • often most comfortable with others of similar experiences, irrespective of cultural background

Reading 2: ESL students: changing and re-shaping identities (identities under construction)

Introduction

What is identity and what are the tensions for ESL students?

Relationships between learning and identity

How can teachers take account of student identities? Successful approaches and models of practice

  • Accepting current and extending in new: explicit support to take on new discourses

  • Interculturality

  • Shaping identities through learning and doing – learning leading development

¬†The Inside Out Boys’ Voices Project

Conclusion

Reading 3: What ESL students may bring to the learning context

Introduction

  • “funds of knowledge” – range of skills, experiences and knowledge brought to the learning situation
  • factors – age, conceptual fluency in mother and acquired languages, age upon migration, homelife
  • important to identify the “funds of knowledge” that can support the language learner in the classroom

Communication

  • Understanding of “cultural perspectives and language systems” may include:
    • speak/red/write mother tongue
    • vocabulary
    • how to learn in another language
    • skills in translating/interpreting
    • awareness of differences in communication styles between languages
    • cross-cultural differences in body language, modes of speech (volume, intonation etc)
    • taking on adult roles with official bodies eg mediate between parents and doctors
    • sensitivity to culturally based discrimination in communications

Thinking

  • ‘bifocal world view’ – recognition of other perspectives
  • flexibility in problem-solving; there is more than one way to think/see/feel
  • increased creativity

Interdependence

  • may have greater knowledge of the ways in which the whole world is interconnected
  • live in different communities (urban/rural)
  • greater understanding of climates and how that shapes communities
  • different types of families (ie non-nuclear models)
  • technology as global connector
  • awareness/understanding of political/religious/education systems and impact on daily life
  • individual cs community, cooperation vs competition – different social values
  • cultural norms for expressing interdependence
  • experiences of survival – may have learnt different behaviours

Identity

  • dual identities: part of home/family culture, but also finding place in new culture
  • understand multiplicity of identities
  • diffs and similarities across lang/cultural groups
  • greater sense of identity
  • ways to identify with a group eg skills, music, food
  • knowing more than one way of life
  • skills in straddling cultures
  • awareness of individual choice in affecting identity – consciously making decisions
  • awareness/sensitivity re stereotyping

Futures

  • ¬†greater understanding of what it takes to purposefully try to shape your future
  • migration – cost and effort
  • valuing the learning involved in moving
  • valuing refugee experiences and applying knowledge to broader global understandings
  • experience of trauma – negative impact on views
  • freedom of speech – did they have it?
  • inner strength and resilience
  • optimism, desire/belief in new beginnings

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