9.2 Emergent Bilinguals

The term English Language Learner (ELL) has been used predominantly as a label to students who are developing their language proficiency in English. ELL is also the preferred term by state and federal agencies since it used to determine protected status for students who fall under this category. However, the term ELL tends to devalue the language(s) in which these students are proficient. The term emergent bilingual has begun to replace the term ELL because it values the funds of knowledge and language competencies the students already have while celebrating their identity as someone becoming bilingual. Bilingualism or the students’ emerging bilingualism is shown as an asset rather a deficit.

As an educator, it is our duty to ensure students acquire the content standards for all students as well as the academic language proficiency within all content areas for emergent bilinguals as well. Non-specialists or non-ESOL teachers need to scaffold and support the language development of emergent bilinguals in their classrooms. Sheltered Instruction (Center for Applied Linguistics, 2018) is an effective instructional model for teachers to use across content and grade levels. There are eight interconnected components for each lesson that uses sheltered instruction:

  • Lesson Preparation
  • Building Background
  • Comprehensible Input
  • Strategies
  • Interaction
  • Practice/Application
  • Lesson Delivery
  • Review & Assessment

For more information on lesson activities and research that use sheltered instruction, please visit http://www.cal.org/siop/resources/.

In addition to sheltered instruction, the Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence from the University of California outlines five standards for effective education of all students (Teaching Tolerance, 2019):

  • Joint productive activity: Teachers and students producing together
  • Language development across the curriculum
  • Contextualization: Connecting school to students’ lives
  • Challenging Activities: Teaching complex thinking
  • Instructional Conversation: Teaching through conversation

For more information and to see a list of indicators that demonstrate these standards, please visit https://www.tolerance.org/professional-development/five-standards-of-effective-pedagogy

Emergent Bilingual Activity

For this activity, you will experience how emergent bilinguals feel in a classroom learning content, biology in this case. You will watch the video and take the quiz at the end of the video. Please try your best.

After watching the video and taking the quiz, answer the following questions:

  1. How did not being fluent (or being fluent) in Spanish make you feel? Why?
  2. In what ways did the instructor help support the content to someone who might not understand Spanish?
  3. How well did you do on the quiz? How did that make you feel?
  4. How might you apply these new understandings of being a non-fluent speaker of a language to you teaching emergent bilinguals who are not yet fluent in academic English?