Program models in schools vary depending on staff availability and school-wide resources. Across the United States, most schools use the below 5 English language learner programs to teach English language learners. Some models are more effective than others and vary from district to district and sometimes from school to school.
The type of program design used in a school determines the quality of language instruction students receive. What is done within programs and services is what provides English learner students the necessary English language skills that students need. These are skills that students must acquire in a timely manner to reach academic standards.
The following is a list of the most commonly used program models often used in elementary schools. The list focuses on pull-out, push-in, co-teaching, dual language immersion, and transitional bilingualism.
The pull-out model has been the most used teaching model by schools for years. In this model, students receive 20 to 45 minutes of pull-out instruction. Pull-out instruction refers to instruction English language instruction that is offered to students outside of their regular classroom often in a designated ESL classroom. The instruction focuses on direct language instruction in listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
ESL teachers, paraprofessionals, or tutors use a school or commercial language curriculum to teach areas of need for the students. Some pull-out models use a language curriculum that aligns with the English language development standards however some teachers create their own instruction using multiple resources. A English language curriculum allows teachers to address language-specific needs when students are grouped based on language proficiency levels.
Collaboration among the content and ESL is necessary to come up with an specific time to provide the pull-out instruction. A time that won’t impact content area learning such as math or English language arts is often the recommended time for pull-out instruction. Pulling out a student during content area learning time is never recommended because this often causes students to miss important classroom instruction.
Regarding research-based models, the pull-out model is the less effective model of instruction for English language learners. This instructional model is less effective because it often isolates English language instruction from content learning. As a result, students often feel isolated and may miss instruction from the regular classroom that they may have to make up. We know that learning a language takes time, and in most cases, more than 20 to 30 minutes of instruction is needed to teach all of the skills a student needs to speak, read, and write the English language.
The push-in model has become very famous over the last few years. This English language instruction model provides immediate intervention and instruction in the regular classroom. The push-in model supports English language arts, math, science, or social studies content learning regularly. A well-prepared ESL teacher uses the English language development standards to align language needs to content area learning during push-in.
When an ESL teacher targets language instruction with content, they simultaneously facilitate language and content growth. This English language learning model allows the ESL teacher to serve more students and advocate for student needs more easily. Push-in is known to be more effective than the pull-out instructional model.
In this model, the ESL and classroom teachers agree on a specific time to serve students in the classroom. Most push-in instruction happens during reading and writing instructional time, such as English language arts. However, some students receive push-in support during math, science, or social studies. Some co-planning may be necessary among the ESL and classroom teachers. This allows the ESL teacher to prepare to teach language skills to support content learning.
Co-teaching is the most effective teaching model for English language learners. During co-teaching, the ESL and classroom teacher co-plan as partners to teach listening, speaking, reading, and writing. During content area teaching, the ESL teacher implements small group instruction with some students. The instruction is based on the student’s academic and language needs. Pre-planning is essential for this teaching model to be effective.
Over time and as the teachers get comfortable with each other, planning time may reduce or become more strategic and specific. For example, a well-prepared ESL teacher uses the English language development standard to align language needs to content area standards. This connection also facilitates language and content growth simultaneously.
Co-teaching happens during core content area learning. The ESL and content area teachers both teach the same content. They both focus on teaching language and content. Some times in small groups and sometimes partner teaching in front of the class. This English language learning program model allows the ESL teacher to serve more students and advocate for student needs more easily.
Dual Language Immersion Model
Dual language program model is the ideal bilingual education instructional model for English language learners. Unfortunately, most dual-language programs are often only available in specific languages. This is because this teaching model requires a lot more resources. In this model, students learn English and another language simultaneously.
For example, in dual language programs students learn math, social studies, and Spanish language arts in Spanish. Spanish speakers that are English language learners succeed in these programs because these students get to learn and develop both languages. The goal of dual language instruction is for students to master their native language and English simultaneously. Immersion programs are an excellent option for newcomer students. Newcomers experience a smoother transition when they can continue learning in their native language while they acquire English.
Dual language immersion programs have a unique way of teaching languages. Instruction in both languages happens throughout the day. Some schools teach core content and specials such as art or music classes in both languages. Others focus on core content in both languages.
Most transitional bilingual programs focus on providing content and language instruction in the student’s native language. This usually happens during the first years of a student’s school. Once a student acquires “enough English,” they transition to another instructional model—such one of the top three models mentioned above.
Transitional bilingual models are available in elementary and secondary schools. Students receive instruction during the day for part of the day in their native language. In addition, some schools choose to offer bilingual education all day for the first years of school.
Parents of English language learners should inquire about the instructional services provided to their children when they arrive at a US school. Discuss with your child ESL teacher to inquire about the educational programs the school uses to service your English language learner.