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Language Barriers in a Classroom of First Generation
English Language Learners
Thang Xiong, Mentor: Dr. Lila Waldman
University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, Department of ITBE
• Studies the language barriers of English as a Second Language
(ESL) teachers and first generation English Language Learners (ELL)
as they learn English and retain their native language
•Based primarily on first generation students in English as a Second
Language (ESL) classes
•The first stage: study and evaluate the methods and strategies of
ESL teachers
•Second stage: Milwaukee Public School teachers of secondary
education who work with ELL students will be interviewed
•Assess similarities and differences
•Results: indicate there is more than one method of teaching ELL
students and future changes to some pedagogical approaches
Barriers in the Classroom of ELL Students:
1896 Plessey Vs. Ferguson
Teacher-ELL Student Relationship
•Limited number of qualified English as a Second Language
•Teacher favoritism
•Teacher categorization of students’ abilities, based on
individuals and ethnic groups or social status
Teacher-ELL Parent Relationship
•Difficulty in co-partnership to aid the students’ learning at home
•Language barrier at parent-teacher conferences
Non-ELL Students- ELL Students Relationship
•Levels of proficiency in English
•Language Shocks: the content of a word holds different
meanings in different contexts
ELL Students –ELL Student Relationship
•Conflicting cultures
•Language barriers
•What are the methods and strategies that
current teachers use and how do
students respond to them?
•What is the teacher-student ratio of
qualified ESL teachers to ELL students and
what is the relationship between them?
Previous Methods Used
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•Do the cultures and backgrounds of students affect their learning
styles and, if so, in what ways?
•What role should parents play as part of the learning process?
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•Story Book Weaver: using computers which allows ELL students to
connect a picture with its name and form a story
•Homeland Project: having students use their language,
technology, and cultural skills to research their countries and
present them using media
•What changes can be made so ELL students are able to learn
English without losing their native language?
•Multiple language books: allowing students to refer to their native
language when they stumble on an English word
•Group work: letting students work together and communicate in
both their native language and English
•Teaching Experience
•Ex: What is your educational background?
•In the Classroom
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•Ex: How do you incorporate the students’ culture/language into
the classroom/class lesson?
1968/ Bilingual Education Acts: Funding provided for schools
1974 to & establish programs for students with limited English
1974 Brown Vs. Board of Education:
Overruled Plessey Vs. Ferguson)
Education Opportunity Act
Lau vs. Nichols: Challenged the
Education Opportunity Act in
Supreme Court to include race,
color, gender or national origin
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1975 Lau Remedies: Basic guidelines established for schools with
LEP student (ended during Reagan Administration)
1980 Civil Right Language Minority Regulation: Bilingual
instruction must be given by qualified teacher
•Oral histories: permitting students to interview their family
members about their life experiences in war or other historical
contexts as an asset in their history classes
Questions are based on four sub-groups:
1964 Title VI: Students have right to effective instruction and
be discriminated against in federally funded programs
•Reading logs: having students document their readings by writing
letters to friends and teachers about books they have read
•Book selections: reading books that pertain to the cultures of the
ELL students
1981 Idaho vs. Migrant Council: State Development of Education
responsible for overseeing programs for LEP students
1996 Public boycott of Ninth Street Elementary in Los Angeles:
Sparked Proposition 227
1998 Proposition 227 : Allowed students to learned English after 3
decades of being in Spanish-only classes
2000 Proposition 203: Arizona adopts California’s 227
2001 No Child Left Behind Act: Standardized testing enacted
2009 Budget Bill in Wisconsin: Eliminates English learning programs
and replaces them with bilingual-bicultural courses
Future Research
During the next academic year, I plan to take my research to
the Milwaukee Public Schools district. Where I plan to interview
teachers, who are currently working with ELL students, in order to
identify their methods. My plan is to include the role of parents in
this particular learning context. Bilingual students require continued
support so that, not only can they successfully integrate into
American culture, they will not have to sacrifice their immediate
families’ cultural backgrounds.
•Parent Teacher Relationship
•Ex: Do the parents of your students regularly attend Open House
and/or Parent-Teacher Conferences? If not, do you know why
•Ex: Currently, in the State of Wisconsin, there is a bill being
endorsed to changing English as a Second Language Classes, to
Bilingual Classes. This would mean the classes would be
integrated into two languages, English and the native language
of the ELL students. If this bill passes, how will this affect your
teaching and your classroom?
Works Cited
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Barbieri, Maureen. (2002). “Change my life forever”: Giving voice to English language learners. Portsmouth, New
Hampshire: Heinemann.
Butler-Pascoe, Mary E., Wiburg , Karin M. (2003). Technology and teaching English language learners. Pearson
Education, Inc.
Mora, Jill K. (Jan. 26, 2005). Legal history of bilingual education. San Diego State University. Retrieved on June 17,
2009, from
Toonkel, Ron. (June 4, 2009). Wisconsin budget bill could eliminate successful English learning program. U.S. English.
Retrieved on June 15, 2009, from
•McNair Program and its advisors for the opportunity to research
this topic and for all the support, new ideas, and exposure to other
•My mentor, Dr. Lila Waldman, for her time, wisdom and guidance.
•My parents, family, and friends for their unconditional support.