Preparing English Language Learners (ELLs) to “Play the Game”: Examining the Conceptualizations of Language that Inform Our Practice
How is learning an additional-language similar to or different from the learning/development of other types of complex competencies? Are languages similar to other ordinary school subjects like chemistry or history? Or is additional-language use more similar to other types of skilled performance activities such as playing a musical instrument or engaging adeptly in a particular sport.
When “teaching” English to ELLs, then, should we focus primarily on practicing skills such as dribbling and passing and shooting (using a basketball metaphor), or should we give our new players the opportunity to play the game? In this presentation I invite you to consider why language is not an ordinary school subject that can be “curricularized” easily or successfully. I begin by describing the challenges faced by students who are bureaucratically categorized as English language learners in developing the language that they need for “doing” school. I then describe and deconstruct the mechanisms informing the current practice of language curricularization (Valdés, 2018; Valdés & Parra, 2018) and invite you to examine the underlying perspectives (theories, conceptualizations, unexamined beliefs) that may inform your instructional choices.
You can find Dr. Valdés' keynote here.