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What are common program models for ESL education?

Pull Out Model

As with other special services, such as Title I, Speech, or Special Education, ESL programs are often designed as a pull out program where the students leave the classroom to meet with the ESL specialist. Although it is difficult to coordinate schedules around specials and lunch times, this type of model may allow the ESL specialist to group students across classrooms or grade levels who are at a similar level of English proficiency for ESL support. This program model is especially effective for beginning ELLs who need to develop “survival” English skills. As students advance in their English language proficiency the ESL specialist may take responsibility for teaching a specific subject area, providing background information for upcoming lessons, or reviewing difficult content. However, grouping intermediate ELLs across grade levels or even across several classrooms from the same grade level for instruction bring challenges in effectively supporting students in content area learning.

Inclusion or “Pull IN” Model

Rather than pulling students out of their grade level classroom, this program model brings the ESL specialist into classrooms. The specialist may work with students individually at their seats or as a group someplace in the classroom. The specialist may assist ELLs with the same lesson that the rest of the class is doing or modify the lesson or assignment in some way. The ESL specialist could also assist while the classroom teacher instructs the whole class by displaying pictures, keywords, or providing other aids to comprehension. In this type of model the ESL specialist can sometimes even provide an extra set of hands in a way that is useful for the entire class.

Team Teaching Model

They ESL specialist may spend several hours a day in an elementary classroom when this model is implemented. As the name implies, when team teaching approaches are used the ESL specialist and grade level teacher work as a team both to plan and deliver instruction to all students in the class, the classroom teacher as the content expert, and the ESL specialist as the expert on effective strategies for ELLs. Though they could work together to teach the entire class at once or break up the class into two flexible groups, in this model all students receive the same high quality instruction. It is important that the team teaching occur in the curriculum areas in which ELLs would need the most language support. Because this model involves so much time in one classroom, it is most often used in schools with large populations of ELLs.

Other Program Models for Language Instruction

  • Transitional bilingual education: ELLs may receive instruction in both English and their home language for one to three years, but the goal is to develop English language proficiency as soon as possible.
  • Maintenance bilingual education: ELLs receive instruction in both English and their home language throughout elementary school and into the upper grades. The goal is to develop full bilingualism and biliteracy for English learners.
  • Structured English immersion: ELLs learn English through content area instruction in English. The goal is full English language proficiency.

As ESL specialists or schools consider which program model to employ, there are four essential factors for them to consider.

  • Curriculum Coordination: How can the ESL specialist best support ELLs in learning the academic content for their grade level?
  • Social Integration/Stigmatization: How can ELLs most feel a sense of “belonging” in school?
  • Scheduling Issues: How can time be negotiated to fit students in multiple grade levels?
  • Teaching Facilities: Is there space for a separate ESL classroom?

Resource Guide for Working with ESL Students
Who are English Language Learners? What does legislation say about educating and assessing ELLs? The Politics of Language What patterns does English language development typically follow? What are common program models for ESL education? What does the ESL specialist need from me? How can I support ELLs in my classroom? Conclusion Resources Appendix 1: Declaration of Rights for Parents of English Language Learners under No Child Left Behind Appendix 2: Legislation of the 108th Congress concerning Foreign Languages and International Education Appendix 3: Six Levels of Minority Language Policy