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ELLs and Their Peers: What They Teach Each Other in the Classroom

Schools all over the country have become a treasure trove of languages, as the numbers of students who speak a language other than English continue to rise.

Many of these students are English-language learners who are increasingly learning in classrooms amid native English speakers, but, depending on the classroom culture and other factors, may not have much in the way of meaningful interactions with those peers.

A group of researchers from the University of Virginia is setting out to investigate what happens to adolescent ELLs who don't have opportunities to engage with their native English-speaker peers during classtime and the impacts that has on them both socially and academically. They'll study 35 middle school classrooms that mix ELLs and fluent English speakers in two schools over the next three years to try and understand how melding language-learners into mainstream classrooms helps support learning for all students.

The lead researcher is Amanda Kibler, an assistant professor at the university's Curry School of Education who used to teach English-as-a-second-language to middle and high school students. Among other things, the team of researchers hopes to shed light on what teachers can do to help promote the integration of ELLs into the classroom.

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