The Impact of First Language Use in English Language Learner Classrooms

by Christina Walker
Education
Faculty advisor: Dr. Katya Koubek

This presentation will provide an overview of my experience working with English Language Learners during my undergraduate career. I will also discuss the findings of my action research during my practicum and the impact of using and accepting students’ first language in the classroom. Throughout the course of my practicum experience, I worked with two different kindergarten reading groups in a new, culturally diverse, medium-sized elementary school in the Midwest. One of these kindergarten groups was categorized as primarily non-English proficient (NEP), the other as primarily limited English proficient (LEP). From the very beginning, I noticed significant differences between the two groups. The non-English proficient group was more willing to respond to teacher questions and seemed to be more engaged in the lessons, while the limited-English proficient group would be less engaged in the lesson and need more explicit instruction. I realized the students in the non-English proficient group would often respond to their teacher in their first language, which for most of the students was Spanish. As they practiced responding to the teacher in their first language, they practiced the words taught to them in English and taught the teacher those same words in Spanish. In working with these two different kindergarten reading groups, I hypothesized the non-English proficient (NEP) group would accelerate more quickly than the limited English proficient (LEP) group in second language development due to their confidence, enthusiasm and willingness to communicate in their first language, Spanish.