Can English language learners simultaneously learn about the subject content of Science while learning English as a second language? And can the learning of English as a second language coupled with the learning of the subject content of Science be attained simultaneously with maximum proficiency? And by what means can both subject areas of study attain this maximum proficiency? Learning the subject content of science while learning the language of English as a second language can be a challenging endeavor English language learners, but by exercising communication, accommodation, and collaboration with the following five premises of learning, maximum proficiency for both subject areas can be achieved: Prior knowledge influenes learning; Learning moves from the concrete to the abstract; Learning requires practice in new situations, and an understanding of the fact that effective learning requires feedback.
Commununication, accommodation and collaboration are key proponents in ELLs learning effectively and communication, accommodation and collaboration are perpetuating proponents that bring fourth comprehension and higher order thinking. An effective means of communication servers the social and language barriers that exist between Ells and native English speakers so that both parties can develop complete understanding. Accommodating Ells with a teaching style that incorporates culture and academic activities relative to Ells’ native experiences also heightens Ells’ curiosity and motivation for higher learning. And by an effective means of collaboration, Ells are able to bring together all their communicative, accommodating experiences to develop viable experiential meaning.
Teachers who are often the facilitators of such communication, accommodation and collaboration are able to maximize and capitalize on Ells comprehension by a thorough means of student teacher participation by: directing, defining, advising, requesting, describing, suggesting, questioning, expressing opinions, praising, refusing, agreeing, cautioning, accepting, disagreeing, and encouraging. (Fathman & Quinn, 1989). And by facilitating the aforementioned through teacher demonstration, group investigation and individual investigation, English language learners are afforded the opportunity to hypothesize, establish a concept, and then culminate conceived ideas with new information and applied experiences into a reality. Ells’ prior knowledge is an essential element for influencing Ells’ learning. The Ells’ prior knowledge encapsulates past relative experiences and information that aid and add to the Ells’ new experiences in constructing new meaning, affording Ells who have been exposed to science concepts and science methods in their native language are then fully competent in acquiring similar concepts in a second language (Kessler & Quinn, 1987)
Learning moves from the concrete to the abstract is a concrete experience of visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic experiences that manipulate and illustrate tangible concepts which facilitates understanding (AAAS) (1989). Learning requires practice in new situations enabling Ells to learn how to think, assess, communicate, and make logical arguments critically, where Ells are equipped with applicable tools to use within the contet of new, realistic and authentic opportunities (Rupp, 1992). Effective learning indeed requires feedback, as feedback suggests alternatives ways of thinking, which allows students to reflect, make adjustments, and try again.
In science, language becomes the tool for communicating meanings and solutions. Learning the subject content of science while learning English as a second language is an integrating process that unveils the phenomenons of nature with engaging stimulating English language acquisition activities. The science classroom that engages Ells in these stimulating activities provides Ells with a communicative tool for communicating meanings and solutions in a fashion that permeates intrigue and curiosity, inclusive of effective learning.
Science activities in an ESL classroom or in a classroom where English is being learned provides viable experiences about the biophysical environment for English language learners while providing an excellent atmosphere for developing the kinds of social behaviors students need in order to find solutions for their functioning in not only an American English speaking community but to other parts of mainstream society as well.
In assessing the aforementioned principles that aid in both the acquisition of language and a subject content, it is clear to the writer of this text that because of the similar learning principles that are applied to both the acquisition of language and the subject content of Science, Ells are able to learn both the acquisition of language and content simultaneously with maximum proficiency.
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). (1989) Science for all American. Washington, Dc: Author
Fathman, A. K., Quinn, M. E., & Kessler, C. (1992). Teaching science to English learners, grages 4-8. NCBE Program Information Guide Series, 1, 2007 Number 11. Retreived February 25, 2007 from http://www.ncela.gwu.edu/pubs/pigs/pig11.htm
Kessley, C., & Quinn, M.E. (1982). ESL and science learning. In J. Crandell (Ed.) ESL thorough content-area instruction (pp. 55-87) Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents
Rupp, J.H. (1992). Discovery science and language development. In P.A. Richard-Amato & M.A. Snow (Eds.), The multicultural classroom: Readings for content-area teachers. White Plains, NY: Longman.