In education research papers, the subject of learning English as a Second Language is rather new. Yet, the variety of available material for teaching ESL can make it difficult for educators to decide which methods are appropriate. In order to select, evaluate and implement relevant and effective methods of teaching and learning a second language, it is necessary to identify the current accepted approaches of ESL instruction. Research indicates that the most appropriate methods focus on developing those skills laid out in the core ESL standards, include integrated skill instruction and simultaneously foster the native language and culture.
Standards are the newest phase which education is streaming through. During the early 1990’s the number of public school students from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds grew at 10 times the rate of native English speakers, prompting the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) to develop ESL Standards for Pre-K to 12 Students in 1996. These standards revolved around three main goal areas for English instruction to non-native speakers. English should be used
- To communicate in a social setting
- To achieve academically in all content areas
- In socially and culturally appropriate ways
These goals recognize the fact that ESL instruction is about more than academic progress; ESL instruction has a social purpose and ESL students often need direct instruction in social and cultural norms. Any method selected for use in an ESL classroom must take into account these standards and be considered for its value in building appropriate social skills as well as language.
ESL Instruction and Integrated Approaches
Because the world of ESL instruction overlaps so many areas of an individual’s life, integrated instruction can be highly effective. While segregated skill instruction, teaching reading and speaking skills separate from content, can be effective for teaching isolated skills, they are not often transferred to the larger learning environment. This means that students are not being prepared to leave the sheltered environment of a resource room to attend class with their English speaking peers or venture into the community, and the ultimate goal of ESL instruction is not achieved. Integrated approaches, tying language skill acquisition to the acquisition of other relevant skills, are more effective for teaching comprehensive skills that can be transferred to many situations.