Why do some kids learn English more slowly?

Discussion in 'ESL/ELL' started by waterfall, Sep 18, 2011.

  1. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Sep 18, 2011

    Just curiuos. I'm assuming if a student has a learning disability, that would impact their ability to pick up the new language as quickly, right? Are their other specific reasons though? I have a little girl that I've been seeing for writing. She's in 3rd grade now, but she's been at our school since K and she's WAY behind all of the other kids in language acquisition. She doesn't seem to have a learning disability or anything though- in fact she seems to be really bright. She writes almost entirely using spanish phonics and spanish grammar or incorrect English grammar (the other day I simply could not get her to see on her own that "I sleeped on the house of Aria" was incorrect. I know the "sleeped" and "house of Aria" is common, but I was surprised I couldn't get her to understand the "on" thing). She likely doesn't speak English at home, but neither do most other students at my school. I also have another 3rd grader who I absolutely believe has a learning disability (we're testing her soon) who has been incredibly slow to pick up the language at all. She came back from summer literally barely able to put a few words together in English. Yet the other kids (about 45 of them) seem to be progressing so much faster. Is it just harder for some kids or is there a concrete cause-something we can help them with?
     
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  3. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

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    Sep 19, 2011

    Writing is always the last thing that ELLs pick up. That is very common. I think that the spanish language is a difficult transition for some. I had a student that spoke no english. She only spoke french. She came to America. Within 3 months she was writing beautiful english. Her experiences at home were vastly different from the child you describe. The parents of the child spoke five languages fluently. The child was spoken to english at home even when she spoke to the parent in french. After the child was fluent in english, the family spoke dutch at home because it was the language of the children's grandparents. The children would answer the parents in english. The children went to American schools for 3 years and were highly successful. They also had french classes at night. When the family returned to France, the children were all fluent in english both in speaking and writing.

    Now I would guess that the student you speak of gets either spanish only or broken english at home. That is her model and what she hears most of the time. Therefore she perpetuates that model. At school because she is speaking at an understandable level and her english while not perfect is perfect enough, she is doing fine in most areas of speaking and listening. However, when ELL students are actually tested on what they know academically, they do not fair very well. Where is the gap? The gap begins with vocabulary. Many ELLs do not understand academic vocabulary. And yes, while the student is very bright and appears to be bright, he or she is not doing well on standardized tests because while they APPEAR to comprehend what the teacher is saying only about 30% of what the teacher says and teaches is actually fully understood. The lack of vocabulary development is tremendous. Then on top of this lack of understanding, we ask the ELL student to write in good english. However, what does the child hear on a regular basis??? Broken english at home as well as their own broken english... which is perfectly acceptable in a speaking environment but not so much when written down. So, we as teachers, show the student how the writing SHOULD look. However, we have missed an important step. We have to get the child to SAY what they should be writing. We have to get the child's brain retrained to thinking in GOOD ENGLISH. The child is writing exactly what he/she hears in his/her mind. Again, vocabulary and speaking are often overlooked when teaching ELLs and yet, they are the biggest culprits to lack of success.

    Again, I think it goes back to their home experiences. If the parent is working with the child and supporting the english teacher, we see more progress and we see it much quicker. The parent is still the key to the overall success of the student. SOMEBODY keeps leaving them out of the equation and they are such an integral part of student success.
     
  4. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Sep 19, 2011

    SC's post is excellent, so I can't add much to it. I would like to suggest, though, that in addition to speaking only broken English at home (at best), they very well probably speak poor SPANISH at home, too. If she's never heard *either* language constructed properly by anyone, then she's going to have a tougher time.
     
  5. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    Sep 19, 2011

    I agree with all of the above :thumb: I was going to say that one big issue that can make or break ELLs is their grasp of their home language. Being fluent in speaking, reading and writing in your native language sets you up for success in a new language.
     
  6. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    Sep 19, 2011

    I was an ELL student when I was in school. My first language was German and sign language. For me, I learned English fairly slowly. I think the primary reason is because I'm not an oral learner. I am very hands on, kinesthetic. Language is definitely not my forte. So, some may take longer to learn English just based on the fact that they are not "language people". Also, back then, I was in a sink/swim situation. We didn't have ELD classes. I stayed in my class all day long, the only time I was pulled out was for speech (due to being raised by a deaf mom, I had a "deaf" accent, which one doctor said I still had, but no one else can hear it... meh)
     
  7. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Sep 19, 2011

    I know both of these students struggle because English isn't spoken at home (or broken English is spoken), but the thing is that's pretty much the same situation in all of our ELL families- they either speak no English or attempt some, but since the parents don't know it very well either it's not the best model. So why are all these other students who either don't hear English outside of school or hear poor English outside of school fairing so much better than these two?
     
  8. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Sep 19, 2011

    It also depends on where they are in the learning process. The process for CALP is much, much longer than acquisition of BICS.

    Look up Krashen's 5 Hypotheses of Language Acquisition. It will help you target where your students are in the process.
     
  9. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Aug 30, 2012

    Some things I've noticed are that if the child is outgoing, she is much more likely to pick up a new language than a student who doesn't talk or socialize much. The truly withdrawn don't learn at all, or at a snail's pace.

    Since we have so many hispanic students, they have many more opportunities to speak nothing but Spanish but I've not really noticed that they don't learn as fast--depends on the kid. The speakers of other languages are much more motivated to learn English though, so they can talk to people but we had a Chinese boy last year who was completely withdrawn and I believe depressed, and he has not been back this year. We tried to work with him and his family but I think he just wanted to go back home.

    I think that kids with ADD have trouble with the listening part too b/c they almost always have auditory processing disorder along with the attention deficit and that can surely have an effect on language learning. I have this and I'm not even sure I'd pass the listening portion of WIDA!
     
  10. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Aug 31, 2012

    I'm sure that there are inter-individual difference in language acquisition, and I'm sure it's related to a variety of learning/memory/processing issues, but I'm not sure how language acquisition would differ from other skill sets. I'm not sure if there are particular neurological functions that are particularly important? Would be interesting if anyone knew.
     
  11. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    Sep 2, 2012

    I'm not sure if someone already mentioned this, but whether or not the child is literate in their first language is a huge factor. I get lots of students who are from Spanish speaking countries. Last year I got a student who was in a private school where she not only read and wrote in Spanish but she was learning English sight words. Then I had another student who was in a public school and wasn't even going to school regularly. He couldn't even write his name. Obviously their experiences and abilities by the end of the school year were much different. The girl was speaking English decently and reading at about a 2nd grade reading level. The boy was still reading at a preschool or kindergarten level and really not speaking any words in English without prompting.
     

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