Forum: Why educating English language learners means success for everyone

This welcome attention to English learners, however, will become hollow rhetoric if the federal government does not fund significant professional development for teachers. A majority of teachers today report that they do not feel prepared to work with English learners, and most teachers in fact have limited or no training regarding the unique challenges and opportunities that accompany teaching English learners.

This is an issue that has been a major part of my work for the last years – teachers who have language learners in their classrooms need appropriate and comprehensive training. And these days, that means most teacher need training. While this article focuses on the US, the situation is no different in most parts of the world. In Europe, economic migration is pouring children into local schools that need to learn the language *and* keep their own language to succeed at school. In the UK 1 in 6 primary school children do not speak English at home (check NALDIC for good statistics) and other countries are close behind. Pre-service teacher training programs need to address this as a part of initial teacher training, and schools need to address this by providing substantial training to all in-service teachers and support staff. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity!

via Forum: Why educating English language learners means success for everyone.

How Long Does It Take ELLs to Develop English Proficiency? – Learning the Language – Education Week

On average, it took the students 3.8 years to reach English proficiency. But over the course of the study, almost 20 percent of students did not score high enough on the state exam to be reclassified.

This is such a big question in education these days; how long does it take learners to become proficient in a new language through schooling? Most often, children are “graduated” from language support (where available) in a year or two. Very few schools can implement the 3-9 years of language support needed to ensure all children reach proficiency in the school language. This small-scale study in the US shows that learners took, on average, 3.8 years to reach proficiency, living in an English-speaking environment. We could extrapolate from this to presume that learners living in environments where the school language is not supported outside school (in international contexts) would need more time and support. How does your school, or your child’s school, measure up?


How Long Does It Take ELLs to Develop English Proficiency? – Learning the Language – Education Week.

Six Things Principals Can Do To Support Their English Language Learners | Education Northwest

This is a great outline of how administrators and senior leadership are key in setting a school up to provide the best support system for children who do not speak the school language.

For those who don’t want to read the whole article. here are the points:
1. Set a vision for high expectations
2. Make the families feel welcome
3. Ensure that the students receive English language development
4. Provide training for all teachers
5. Monitor content learning and language development (separately!)
6. Provide time (and a system) for classroom teachers to collaborate with language specialists.

These are the key factors that we address in our “Whole School” approach to EAL/ELL – providing all staff with the knowledge to nurture language learners, provide a structure for efficient collaboration across the school, understanding language development separately from content development and most importantly, creating an environment that welcomes learners and their families.

How is you school, or your child’s school, doing?



Six Things Principals Can Do To Support Their English Language Learners | Education Northwest.

Professor Calls for Bilingual Education Services to Go Beyond English Instruction

This is a great article about bilingual advocate Diane Rodriguez. She is working on improving provisions in US schools for newly arrived immigrant children who do not speak English. Schools often see these learners in a very one-dimensional way – they are “English-language learners”, and therefore the focus is on teaching them English. Her point, which is so important, is that these children as so much more than just “ELL”. They are also fluent speakers of another language, and have cultural knowledge and personalities and interests that they cannot tap into in English. They are also learners of culture, a new way of life, new ways of socialising and a new school and school system.

Good support for these children needs to go beyond focusing on the fact that they need to learn English, and consider all the other things they need to learn, without neglecting what they are bringing with them,


Professor Calls for Bilingual Education Services to Go Beyond English Instruction.

New Year, New Bilingualism Projects!

To have another language is to possess a second soul.



As someone who has lived within the academic world since the age of five years old, I always feel like the beginning of September is the “New Year” for me. The last six months have been very busy for me, both personally and professionally (having three kids will do that for you!) and I’ve not been a very consistent blogger…
So here is a new start, with four projects I am working on – What’s happening with CEC (Crisfield Educational Consulting) this year. Continue reading

Most Teacher Preparation Falls Short on Strategies for ELLs, NCTQ Finds – Learning the Language – Education Week

Although US-based, this article points out the same issues that teacher-training programs in Europe present – a lack of training, either complete or adequate, for supporting the needs of language learners in mainstream classrooms. It’s such a wide-spread problem, and so little, institutionally speaking, is being done to address it in a consistent manner.
Our “Beyond EAL” research project in the UK which just finished the pilot phase is attempting to bridge the growing gap between numbers of language learners in schools, and numbers of teachers qualified to support them effectively throughout the curriculum. In my next post I’ll talk more about the pilot project and our preliminary results, and some early-buy-exciting outcomes. Watch this space!

Most Teacher Preparation Falls Short on Strategies for ELLs, NCTQ Finds – Learning the Language – Education Week.

Do your kids know their body parts?

The very first report card my 3.5-year old twins brought home from school was a bit of a shock. They got a “B-” in “knows body parts”. Really? My kids don’t know their body parts? I felt like such a failure as a mother – after all, my oldest daughter certainly knew *her* body parts at that age. Her report cards were all “A”s, from the beginning.
Happily, after a bit of pondering, I realised that it wasn’t my parenting at fault, it was the assessment techniques and standards. Yes, my children knew their body parts (believe me, I checked!). However, the languages they used most at home were English and Dutch. The language of school was French. So, the assessment should read “knows the words for body parts in French”. They knew the parts, they knew most of the words in English, a lot of them in Dutch, but not so many in French.
But this, of course, is the root of the problem. The majority of the schools our (bilingual/multilingual) children attend have monolingual standards of assessment. They don’t care if your kids know things in other languages, and they don’t care if the assessment techniques and standards are biased. In fact, many will argue that they are not biased, because they expect bilingual children to be “the same” as monolingual children in both/all of their languages.
So today I am back to Oxford, for the fifth session of our teacher-training program. And tomorrow we are going to be talking about assessment for bilingual learners; how to figure out what they know before they can express it, how to “evaluate” them fairly and with empathy and understanding of their differentiated language skills. This is one of my most important seminars, I think, because children who are “language learners” in schools so often underachieve in evaluations, which sets the teachers off on a road to blaming bilingualism, or trying to send kids for “special education” and in turn sends parents into a tailspin of questioning their decisions and not knowing how to help their children.

Wish me luck!

And for the record, my kids now know their body parts in French And in English. But they have forgotten a few in Dutch, I think. Such is life in a multilingual household.

Beyond EAL: What’s it all about?

As I head into a new school year, new projects are starting up. This year is a very exciting one here at Crisfield Educational Consulting (well, sounds impressive but it’s only me!). In addition to continuing the work I have been doing with families for almost ten years (seminars, family language planning) I am also launching myself back into the world of research.
Over a three-year span of time (2009-2012) I worked closely with the British School of Amsterdam, creating a bespoke training program that addressed the whole-school need for knowledge about bilingualism and practical applications for schools with high numbers of non-native speaker learners. Many of you may have experienced this situation yourselves, either having children at a school where the language was new, or having children who went to a school with many children who were “language learners”. As numbers of new arrivals increase across Europe (and in many other areas), schools are increasingly finding it a challenge to best serve all their students, both native speakers and non. The goal of this multi-seminar/workshop in-service training program is to enable all school staff to both understand and respond to the varying language needs in their classrooms. The program is entitled “Beyond EAL” (English as an additional language) because this is the term used in the UK for children who are learning English in school. However, the program content is suitable to any situation, not only for learners of English (also, for example, NTT (Dutch as a second language), FLE (French as a foreign language) etc.
This year, in cooperation with Oxford Brookes University and an Oxford-area primary school, we are piloting the training program as a whole-school, whole-year study.
I am very excited about this venture; it’s the culmination of many years of hard graft and it’s gratifying to be able to put it into motion in a new environment. I will talk about it some here on the blog, but not overly, as I recognize that most of my readers are here as parents, not as educators. If, however, you would like more information about the program, for your school, your children’s school, or for yourself, please feel free to contact me.