In my teacher preparation courses at Bridgewater State University, I studied how to meet the needs of students with diverse backgrounds, readiness levels, and learning styles. During the Fall 2019 semester in particular, I had the opportunity to spend time in a grade 1 Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) classroom. In this classroom, all 25 students were English Learners (ELs). During my time in this classroom, I observed the teacher employ strategies to not only help the students achieve academic goals, but also to help build their confidence and learn American social practices. For example, every morning the class began with each student shaking another student’s hand and saying, “good morning.” This routine not only built a strong, welcoming classroom community, but helped the students practice their English. In this classroom, I was able to learn a lot about how to alter lessons to better serve EL students, how important teacher collaboration is, and also how important it is to acknowledge the students’ diverse backgrounds and cultures. I taught seven math and science lessons in this classroom. Over time, I learned through experience the importance of things like visuals, hands-on activities, and repetition. It was an invaluable experience for me as an aspiring teacher to observe and practice these strategies to help ELs access STEM content. ELs are a rapidly growing portion of the student population in America, and yet many teachers feel they are unprepared to meet their needs. It is estimated that one in four students will be from a household where a non-English language is spoken by 2025 (Stoddart & Mosqueda, 2015). Despite this, one study found that less than 25% of STEM teachers surveyed had any EL-specific professional development. Additionally, none of the teachers in the study had participated in more than eight hours of EL-specific professional development (Besterman, Williams, & Ernst, 2018). Furthermore, the schools ELs often attend are underfunded and with high teacher turnover (Staehr Fenner & Snyder, 2017). These factors lead to ELs experiencing opportunity and achievement gaps, such as lower graduation rates and lesser enrollment in gifted programs (Staehr Fenner & Snyder, 2017). Clearly, it is vital that teachers are equipped with knowledge and strategies to better support ELs in the classroom. Teachers may help support EL achievement in the classroom by employing strategies to support them cognitively, as well as socially and emotionally.
Dr. Nicole Glen, Thesis Advisor
Dr. Andrea Cayson, Committee Member
Dr. Gia Renaud, Committee Member
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Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.
Richardson, Alyssa. (2020). Supporting English Learners in STEM. In BSU Honors Program Theses and Projects. Item 351. Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/honors_proj/351
Copyright © 2020 Alyssa Richardson