Getting into the Mainstream: Approaches to ESL Instruction for Students of Limited English Proficiency

Richards, Jack C.
Hurley, Daniel S.
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A MAJOR FOCUS of English as a Second Language programs in many parts of the world is preparing students of limited English proficiency (LEP students) to cope with school instruction in English. In many urban settings, there are large school age populations of children with minimal or restricted English language proficiency, for whom schooling is available only in English. The options available at the school level vary according to school or district policy, school and teacher resources, and the age, background and numbers of children involved. Students may receive an intensive ESL program before being mainstreamed, or they may enter classes which -parallel regular classes in subjects such as science or social studies, but are designed for ESL learners. In their mainstream classes, LEP students are expected to progress in school work at the same rate as other children of their age, despite not having a full command of the linguistic medium through which school subjects are being taught. In designing ESL programs which enable the LEP student to make a successful transition to the mainstream classroom, many issues arise. What is the nature of the mainstream classroom? How can the ESL curriculum support the mainstream curriculum? What demands does content learning place on LEP students? In this paper the nature of these problems will be examined, drawing both on analytic reviews of research on classroom learning, as well as on observations of LEP students in mainstream classroom settings.
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