English Language Learners questions account for 7% of the test.
This section tests your knowledge of researched-based practices appropriate for teaching English Language Learners. This includes but is not limited to:
- second language acquisition
- language biases in standardized testing
- positive and negative language transfer
Take a look at some concepts that may pop up on the test.
Second Language Acquisition
Any student who is in the process of acquiring a second language will need a range of supports. There are five stages of language acquisition that students will go through, and it is important that teachers are aware of those stages, as well as what type of support and instruction is appropriate at each stage.
Look at the appropriate supports for ELLs:
- error correction
- explicit vocabulary instruction
- differentiated instruction
- providing students with a “buddy” in the early stages
Here are the five stages of second language acquisition:
Stage 1: Pre-Production
Known as “the silent period,” this stage is where ELLs may understand some words, but they are not speaking. Some will repeat words you say, but they are not producing language. Teachers should focus on building vocabulary, gesturing, and partnering students with a buddy who speaks their language, if possible.
Stage 2: Early Production
This stage could last up to six months. Students will usually speak in one or two-word phrases, but these phrases will not always be used correctly.
Stage 3: Speech Emergence
Students in the speech emergence stage of language acquisition will ask basic questions, initiate short conversations with peers, be able to understand basic story lines with the support of pictures, and be able to complete some content work with support from the teacher.
Stage 4: Intermediate Fluency
Students at this stage will have a more broad vocabulary and will begin to use more detailed sentences when speaking and writing. They will be willing to express their opinions and will ask questions for clarification. Students at this stage should be able to work on grade level in science and math with some support. Social studies and language arts are still more of a struggle, but students are progressing. Writing errors will be frequent, but they should be able to make inferences from what they’ve learned. It is appropriate to introduce more complex concepts at this stage
Stage 5: Advanced Fluency
Students will spend 4-10 years working to become proficient in a second language. Students in the advanced fluency stage will be fluent in speech, writing, and learning. Most students at this stage have been released from ESL and support programs but will still need support from teachers, especially in social studies and reading.
Language Bias in Standardized Testing
Language bias in standardized testing refers to the fact that there are clear biases in testing for students whose primary language is anything other than English. This should be important to educators, because more and more students are in one of the stages of second language acquisition. Educators need to be able to differentiate between assessing a student’s mastery of a learning target versus a student’s mastery of the English language. At times, the two go hand in hand, but many times they do not.
Positive and Negative Language Transfer
Language transfer refers to the influence of ELL’s native language on second language production.
- Positive transfer– the influence of the native language leads to quick acquisition of English (or any second language)
- Negative transfer- the influence of the native language leads to errors and misunderstandings of the second language
These terms are used as long as the ELL does not speak the second language fluently and translates his/her knowledge to what he/she is intending.
Typically, ESL teachers are only concerned with negative transfer, because that is where corrections need to be made. Most languages share some similarities (some more than others), but ESL teachers need to be aware of how a student’s native language is transferring to English and be sure to correct errors promptly (especially in the early stages of language acquisition).