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Physics as a Mechanism for Including ELLs in Classroom Discourse Documents

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Physics as a Mechanism for Including ELLs in Classroom Discourse 

written by Enrique Suarez and Valerie K. Otero

English Language Learners (ELLs) are frequently left on the periphery of classroom interactions. Due to misalignment of language skills, teachers and peers communicate with these students less often, decreasing the number of opportunities to engage. Exclusion can be avoided with learning activities that invite all students to participate and contribute ideas. We argue that environments and activities that privilege scientific inductive reasoning increase possibilities for emerging bilingual students to engage. This study investigated first-grade students' discussions about factors that affect how objects float. Students came from a variety of language backgrounds; all were considered beginner/intermediate ELLs. Results show that the goal of inducing principles from actual phenomena encouraged students to communicate their ideas and reasoning, boosting students' confidence in expressing themselves. Following the hybrid space argument of Vygotsky's theory of concept formation, we illustrate that physics can be particularly suitable context for the co-development of concepts and English language skills.

Published February 1, 2014
Last Modified January 31, 2014

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