Tag Archives: English Language Learner

The English Language Learner and the adolescent brain


Can you read this?

I cnduo’t bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghhuot slelinpg was ipmorantt! See if yuor fdreins can raed tihs too.
(I got this off the web but I apologise for not remembering where)
Our brains are magnificent muscles in which they ‘stretch’, grow, build and rebuild connections over our lifetime., Unfortunately, to a deteriorating degree at a certain point!
According to the Stroop paradigm, a literate brain cannot help but decode the symbols we see. That means, once we are exposed to reading – be it in English, Korean, French, Spanish – we can’t help but decode what we see.
However, making that link between what we read and what we try to write is another thing altogether.
And besides, the text at the top might be what English looks like to some ELLs!!The teenage brain is a work in progress. The ELL’s (English Language Learner) brain is doing a few linguistic functions at the same time. Turning what they can read into written work is challenging when the expectations is not on social every day language but a rigorous academic one.

What can mainstream teachers do to help ELLs?
1. Set the context of any topic or activity so ELLs know what they are doing and where the activity is headed.
2. Before a ‘big’ listening/reading/writing/speaking task, scaffolding activities¬† are useful. Provide some pre- activities like pictures, a prediction task, a during- activity that is focused/controlled to provide successful outcomes for the students and post- activities that allow the language or skill to be recycled through check questions, a dictionary race or writing a summary.

Helping ELLs does not mean helping them with only grammar. It means providing a series of activities which would allow them to access the topic/knowledge/skill that is being presented.