Benefits of Inclusion for ESL Students

Instructor: Linda Winfree

Linda has taught English at grades 6-12 and holds graduate degrees in curriculum and teacher leadership.

The language barrier presents clear challenges to English as a second language (ESL) students in school. This lesson describes how an inclusion setting benefits ESL students in acquiring language, content knowledge and social skills.

Inclusion for ESL Students

Imagine you are a new student in a new school, encountering new faces and unfamiliar surroundings everywhere you go. Now imagine you are also immersed in a new language. School can be challenging enough for any student; however, for English as a second language (ESL) students, also known as English language learners (ELLs), the language barrier can make an ordinary school day a daunting task.

Building an inclusive classroom environment, though, provides numerous benefits for your ELL students, including greater acquisition of language and content as well as opportunities for important social interactions.

What Does Inclusion for ESL Students Look Like?

In an inclusion setting, ESL students remain in regular education classes. If you are the content area teacher, your ESL students may receive push-in services from the ESL teacher, who will work with you in the classroom in a co-teaching model to provide support for ELLs. In other scenarios, ESL students may receive targeted English instruction in a classroom with their ESL teacher through a pull-out model, while you are primarily responsible for their inclusion in your content area classroom. With either model, the ESL teacher often collaborates with the content area teacher to provide the most beneficial educational experiences for ELLs.

Language Acquisition

Language acquisition is, of course, a key goal for ELLs. In an inclusion setting, ESL students are immersed in conversational and academic English on a daily basis. This daily interaction with language leads to quicker, greater gains in English mastery.

Interaction does not mean that your ESL students will always engage by speaking. If ELLs are very new to the language, they may remain nearly silent as they simply soak in the language around them. Teachers in inclusion classrooms can help students acquire language by labeling items in the room in both their home language and English. Including students in small discussion groups, even if they are not yet capable of participating using English, is another method of immersing ESL students in English.

Content Acquisition

Inclusion is also an excellent model for aiding ELLs in acquiring content knowledge. In a pull-out model, the ESL teacher has limited time with your students, and the teacher's instructional focus is often on acquiring language as well as reading and writing skills. As the content area teacher, you are the content expert in your room, and with the incorporation of various strategies, you can expose your ELLs to more content than they could experience in the pull-out ESL class.

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