L1 in the ELL Classroom: The Ways and Reasons It Is--And Is Not--Used
With a growing number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in school in the United States, the educational needs of this population of students are being scrutinized. Though they are a diverse group, all ELLs bring their native language (L1) into the classroom. Program models for ELLs differ in their approach to incorporating students’ L1 into the classroom. This paper will first explore the ways and reasons why L1 is, and is not, used in classrooms in four areas. The first area, learners, discusses the challenges ELLs face within the classroom and how using their L1 can reduce their affective filter and improve academic achievement. The second area, the learning context, analyzes the approaches different program models take toward L1 usage and the effectiveness of these programs. The third area, curriculum and instruction, describes ways monolingual teachers in English-only contexts can still incorporate students’ L1 into their teaching practice. The fourth area, assessment, discusses the ways L1 might be used in assessment through translated tests or as an accommodation to assessments. The paper then describes and analyzes observations of L1 use conducted in three ELL classrooms. While the three teachers permitted social uses of L1, they limited their instructional uses of L1. The paper concludes with a section about implications for teaching, including the need for more professional development about using students’ L1 instructionally.