Immigration reform is motivating educators to focus more of their attention on helping immigrant children learn English in the classroom. Studies have shown that non-English speaking children of immigrants are an important demographic for educators to spotlight because their understanding of the English language will impact their grades, career opportunities and their understanding of sociocultural expectations, including naturalization and assisting family members when applying for citizenship. English language teachers are using different methods to help these students’ needs.
Cultural expression strengthens the learning environment
Allowing students to explore and express their ethnic identities helps to create a community within the classroom, which in turn helps children feel more comfortable asking for guidance from the teacher or their peers. Incorporating the culture and heritage of immigrant students into the learning environment helps to strengthen their language skills. By celebrating the differences of each student, a culture of acceptance and exploration can be maintained that emphasizes the respect of students’ abilities, backgrounds, interests and dialects.
English as a second language (ESL) classes are beginning to place more emphasis on teaching the language that supports the students’ other academic classes. Rather than focusing on traditional conversational English, effective ESL classes are adopting new curricula that will help non-English speaking immigrants succeed elsewhere in school. ESL teachers are encouraged to know the academic demands as well as the linguistic requirements students need to know to develop necessary skills in other academic fields, from biology to computer science.
Benefits of bilingualism
Studies are being done on the benefits of bilingual programs versus English-only language classes. There is evidence that helping immigrant students maintain their bilingualism will aid them in the future in the job market, where it is becoming increasingly valuable to be proficient in two or more languages. Helping students preserve their cultural identity through their language can also benefit them socially by helping them maintain their connection to their immigrant community and their country of birth.