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Teaching ELLs: Arkansas Educator Shares His Approach to Language Instruction

Justin Minkel is a 1st grade teacher at Jones Elementary in Springdale, Ark., a school where 85 percent of students are English-language learners.

Many come to school with little to no English skills, but Minkel writes in a new piece for Education Week Teacher that by the time they leave the school in 5th grade, they are " talking confidently about cytoplasm, the associative property of multiplication, and key features of informational texts."

What's going on in his school to explain such successful language and academic development? Minkel boils it down to three simple factors. He writes:

  • Explicit language instruction in structures of English that are invisible to native speakers.
  • High expectations paired with individualized instruction.
  • A school where every teacher is trained in ESL techniques, in a district where everyone from the custodians to the superintendent respects the family, nation, and culture that each child comes from.

Check out his full piece on edweek.org and read an interview with Springdale Superintendent Jim Rollins from earlier this year on how the school district has responded to rapid demographic change as an influx of immigrant families brought a wave of second-language learners into its schools.

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