How are we addressing the needs of our ELL students?

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Throughout Texas schools, each year, more and more students participate in the Bilingual/ESL programs. As educators, we have become accustomed to this trend. But, just because we are accustomed to the trend, does this mean that we are really meeting the needs of our ELL students in the classrooms?

We hear the phrase “best practices” so often the term becomes trite. Many educators wonder, what constitutes as “best practices” and how do we adapt those practices for our ELL students? There are educators who still feel whatever accommodations are in place for special education students or struggling learners are the same accommodations that should be in place for ELL students. The problem with this assumption is ELL students may fall under the special education umbrella, or they may be a struggling learner, but the primary reason they are labeled as an ELL is because of their language development…not necessarily their cognitive development.

To gain a better understanding of the “best practices” for ELL students, educators must familiarize themselves with the Proficiency Level Descriptors (PLDs) as outlined in the ELPS-TELPAS rubrics for the domains of Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing.

After visiting numerous campuses and speaking with educators from across the state, I have learned a great number of educators are unaware of the current TELPAS levels of the ELL students they have in the classrooms. When using the PLDs to guide classroom instruction for ELLS, educators must refer to the domain level above the student’s current domain level because that is the goal for the student to perform by the next TELPAS assessment. The hope is for ELL students to raise their performance level in each domain by one level each school year. The only way for students to raise their performance levels is to look at and understand where the ELL student’s current levels are and the next levels he needs to attain. For example, if a student performs at the following levels: Listening- Advanced; Speaking- Advanced; Reading- Intermediate; and Writing- Intermediate, then the teacher should look at the performance levels for this student as follows: Listening- Advanced High; Speaking- Advanced High; Reading- Advanced; and Writing- Advanced.

Once there is an understanding of the student’s TELPAS levels for each domain, the next step is to understand how those descriptors apply to instructional practices and accommodations for our ELL students. There are a number of resources available to provide instructional practices and classroom accommodations for ELL students.

  • A+ Rise located on Project Share
  • Linguistic Instructional Alignment Guide (LIAG) provided to districts by their local ESC
  • Region 10 Bilingual/ESL Team

So, as the TELPAS season is in full swing, let’s become more knowledgeable of the ELL students in the classrooms, know and understand their current TELPAS levels, and find instructional strategies to better address the needs of all students.

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