Monday, August 15, 2016

The Exclusion of the ESL Learner in #Gifted #Education Programs

The Exclusion of the English Language Learners

Gifted Education programs are supposed to provide additional educational support to the intellectually gifted student yet not all gifted students are included in such programming. The largest groups to be underrepresented in gifted education programs are English Language Learners and students from impoverished homes. The problem with identifying gifted students from these two subgroups in our American culture is that they don't fit what is traditionally thought of as what a gifted learner should looked like. Educators try their hardest to provide for all their students' educational needs. More often than not, teachers spend more time with students who have a disability than trying to help the gifted child. There is a preconceived notion that the gifted learner will do alright in their grade level without the teacher's extra support.

Educators are often not taught about gifted learners and their needs while taking their coursework to become a teacher unless they specialize in special education. In most schools, gifted learners are expected to learn in a general education classroom. The gifted learner struggles with their classwork because they can easily become bored. A gifted learner doesn't learn like the rest of their peers. Educators are expected to evaluate their students to determine whether or not the student should be referred for testing so they can be included in the gifted education program. The problem is, some teachers will not refer a student because the student's personality doesn't fit what they believe a gifted learner should act like. Most of the time these are students with a disability, ESL and/or come from impoverished homes.

English Second Language 

Communication is important. But sometimes it can be hard to communicate with a student whose
language or dialect you don't understand.  Gifted ESL students strive harder to learn because they have a language barrier to overcome. Most times, educators will completely ignore a gifted ESL student not because they don't care but because they can't understand what the student is trying to communicate. Here are some tips for educators working with ESL learners.

1) Accept the minor differences in academic writing. 
Academic writing is hard for ESL learners because it is not the same as the day to day oral language they are learning from their peers. When working with an ESL student be mindful of the message they are trying to convey. Have the student tell you in their own words what the paper might say.

2) Be gentle when criticizing. 
ESL learners may be more sensitive than their peers when it comes to written and oral language. Don't just hand a paper back to them saying this and that was wrong. Explain to them what they did wrong and how to correct it.

3) Don't assume the ESL learner can't read.
ESL learners will be reading books at a much lower level than their academic peers only because they are new at learning the language. Just because they are reading at a lower level doesn't mean they don't understand literary and reading concepts. It's important for the teacher to sit down and converse with the student concerning these key concepts.

4) Encourage the student to read and talk in their native language at home.
Mastering a second language can be hard. Students who do not master their native tongue will have a harder time learning a second language. Don't tell the parents and student to stop talking in their native tongues. Encourage it. Ask the student to teach your class a new word in their language every week. Perhaps even encourage the students to share their customs with the class on a special day. They could include parts of their language.

5) Listen and Watch 
It's important for educators to keep an eye on their ESL student's progress. Keep a record of their growth and progress. When they are creating something, pay close attention to the theme. A gifted ESL student will exhibit their uniqueness in different ways. By paying close attention to these students the educator will be able to determine whether or not the student needs a referral for gifted education services.

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