School districts have the flexibility to decide on the education approach that best meets the needs of their LEP students and leads to the timely acquisition of the level of English proficiency the students need to succeed in school. Presented here is a brief description of federal law describing districts’ responsibilities for selecting programs as well as an overview of different approaches used in Ohio.
The Immersion Approach
The immersion approach is an alternative that might be considered especially by those districts where a large number of LEP students reside, but there are not enough of one or more language groups to justify the establishment of bilingual education classrooms.
In immersion classrooms, all of the students are LEP students. The focus is on teaching subject matter. Although the students are taught in English, no formal attempt is made to teach the language as an end in itself. The subject matter is introduced in a way that can be understood by the LEP students. The teacher adapts the language of instruction to the level of the students’ linguistic and cognitive capabilities. Also, the teacher makes frequent use of visual aids, concrete experiences and manipulative materials. In this approach, students have the opportunity to develop the oral and written language skills they need to make academic progress.
Pull-Out English as a second Language (ELL) Classes
School districts may provide ELL instruction to LEP students as a means of helping them acquire the English skills they need to be successful in the school. In Ohio, ELL programs are used either as the principal component of the special language instructional program or as a complement to bilingual education. If the ELL class is the main component of the program, it is recommended that, when possible, the native language support services provided to supplement the ELL instruction, at least for students whose English is very limited. For example, bilingual instructional assistants could be hired to work with the regular classroom teacher during the school day, or bilingual volunteers could assist the teacher by clarifying or reinforcing what is being taught.
ELL classes may focus on teaching formal English grammar or on promoting natural communication activities (free conversation, games, discussion on certain topics). Reading and writing should be practiced as well as oral communication skills in English.
In-class or Inclusion Instruction
In this approach, LEP students are together with their native-English speaking peers in the same classroom, but an ELL or bilingual education specialist is available in the classroom to support the LEP students. For example, the ELL or bilingual education specialist may provide guidance to the LEP students as they are working on a group project or individual assignment.
Another response that might be considered when there are very few LEP students enrolled in a school district is individual or small-group tutoring sessions. Tutors may range from trained professional ELL or bilingual education teachers to volunteers who work under the supervision of specially trained teachers. The tutoring sessions may focus on promoting basic English communication skills or focus on English for academic purposes.
Note: Additional information about different approaches for instructing LEP students, including a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of each approach, can be found in the Ohio Department of Education publication titled Strategies for Developing Language Programs for National Origin Minority Students (1990).