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Some might question the need to create an entire handbook specifically to guide general elementary teachers through issues relevant to English language learners (ELLs), thinking that perhaps the school ESL specialist can take care of any special needs these students have. However, I believe this is an area of significant importance for all elementary teachers and will increasingly become so over time as the United States population continues to grow in diversity. According to the year 2000 U.S. census, approximately 18% of Americans age 5 and over now speak a language other than English at home. Some would argue that most of those Americans live in states like California, Texas, or New Mexico and ask why this census data would matter to the predominantly mono-cultural northeast. However, the 2000 census indicates that ELLs are definitely not confined to southwestern states. The following figures identify the percentage of people over age 5 who speak languages other than English at home in several surrounding states here in the northeast:

  • Delaware – 9.48%
  • Maryland – 12.58%
  • New Jersey – 25.48%
  • New York – 27.95%
  • Pennsylvania – 8.42%
  • Virginia – 11.11%

Clearly there are large numbers of speakers of languages other than English, many of which lie in the school-age population. Based on these demographics, the purpose of this handbook is twofold:

  1. To more clearly establish the need for general elementary teachers to take an active role in the education of ELLs;
  2. To equip elementary teachers with some initial strategies for modifying instruction and assessment for ELLs.

This handbook should in no way be interpreted as all-inclusive, but rather as an introduction to the policies, instructional models, strategies, and political issues related to elementary ELLs.

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