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Preparing Teachers to Work with English Language Learners in Mainstream Classrooms

reviewed by Nan Li - October 23, 2015

coverTitle: Preparing Teachers to Work with English Language Learners in Mainstream Classrooms
Author(s): Luciana C. De Oliveira, Mike Yough (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1623969247, Pages: 206, Year: 2015
Search for book at Amazon.com

The book Preparing Teachers to Work with English Language Learners in Mainstream Classrooms is edited by Luciana C. de Oliveira and Mike Yough. It is written for teachers, administrators, and teacher educators looking for innovative ways to prepare teachers for English Language Learners (ELLs). The book engages readers in an active dialogue with first-hand research data to discuss issues that are important and relevant to teaching ELLs in mainstream classrooms. As stated in the Introduction, this book emphasizes “the basic components of effectively working with ELLs” (p. xiii) and focuses specifically on “effective teacher-held attitudes and beliefs that maximize learning for ELLs and that teachers are equipped to use in their respective content areas” (p. xiii).

According to Oliveira and Youngh, two issues are important and have been consistently reflected in the teacher education literature. These issues are: 1) the lack of educator preparation to teach ELLs in mainstream classrooms; and 2) the need for developing ELL teacher preparation from pre-service teachers and throughout their in-service years. This is important for teachers, administrators, and teacher educators to know. The ELL school enrollment has remained the fastest growth rate. Based on the National Center for Educational Statistics, the ELL school population reached 5.3 million in 2010 with an increased rate of 29.7% since 2000 (Li, 2015; NCES, 2012). The NCES data also reveals that general school enrollment across the United States reached 49.5 million in 2010 with an increased rate of only 5.7%. For some states, the ELL growth rate was even higher with 200-700% growth rate found in many states such as South Carolina, Indiana, Nevada, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee (Migrant Policy Institute, 2010a; 2010b). South Carolina experienced 714% of ELL enrollment growth from 1995 to 2005. Thus, an overwhelming majority teacher is confronted with the challenge of teaching ELLs in mainstream classrooms today. These statistics add to the importance of this book with much needed information regarding teaching ELLs.

Preparing Teachers to Work is easy to read and follow. There are two major parts for the book. Part One consists of four chapters that focus on teacher perceptions and beliefs regarding ELLs and teacher preparation. It specifically addresses what teachers should know about educating ELL students from a case study research perspective focusing on how they feel and what they believe about teaching ELLs. Specifically, these chapters explore the experiences and beliefs of immigrant teachers about their roles, the role of service learning in teacher preparation, and the potential of understanding home literacy practices that potentially change teacher beliefs about ELLs. The five chapters in Part Two focus on the necessary skills for teaching ELLs. The chapters focus on Common Core State Standards skills in English Language Arts and Mathematics, L2 writing skills that teachers can draw on to inform their teaching practices, support and challenges in science classrooms, and technological skills that teachers need to develop. Each chapter also discusses the corresponding implications for teacher education and professional development.

Each chapter has a specific focus. Chapter One, Mainstream Elementary Teachers’ Perspectives about Teaching English Language Learners, addresses teacher preparation for ELLs, and provides insight from both theoretical perspectives and practical research aspects. As stated, “Mainstream and ELL teachers working with ELL populations need to create a supportive and academically challenging environment for ELLs” (p. 4). This is important for mainstream classroom teachers to know. Often mainstream classroom teachers are challenged due to the lack of specific knowledge and strategies to work with ELLs. They intend to help; yet without L2 theoretical knowledge, these teachers tend to believe that it is beneficial to lower academic standards and expectations due to the ELLs’ limited L2 proficiency. However, higher expectations and academically challenging environments help all students achieve success. This chapter describes three areas of knowledge, skills, and dispositions that all teachers need to possess: 1) knowledge of learners and their development, i.e., the students’ learning and their human and language development; 2) knowledge of subject matter and curriculum goals, i.e., educational goals and skills, content and subject matters; 3) knowledge of teaching, i.e., teaching subject matter, teaching diverse learners, and issues on assessment and classroom management (Bransford, Darling-Hammond, & LePage, 2005). This chapter presents a case study based on a school district in a small Indiana town that has experienced “a growing Hispanic population and one of the largest ELL populations in the state” (p. 7). This case study focuses on four mainstream elementary teachers regarding what they believe teachers should know, and be able to do, while working with ELLs. The authors conclude that it is important that teachers incorporate “contextual knowledge” (p. 12)—knowledge of school, parents, and learners—within their classroom practice. Having this knowledge can help teachers alleviate sentiments such as feeling frustration or being overwhelmed.

Chapter Two discusses strengths and needs of immigrant teachers who work with ELLs. The chapter explores the experiences and beliefs of six Russian-speaking immigrant teachers in the U.S. It is surprising to know that Russian immigrants are one of the fastest growing groups and reached 292,000 people in 2007. This was a huge increase from 90,000 in 1989 during the period when many left the former Soviet Union. This chapter concludes that immigrant teacher strengths include: interest in ELL student lives, cultures, and languages; high expectations for ELLs; and belief in the importance of out-of-school activities and parental involvement. At the same time, they also have significant needs: opportunities for professional development, learning English as a second language themselves, and learning the U.S. teaching culture. Chapter Three provides recommendations for teacher educators to structure service-learning experiences to promote beliefs and help pre-service teachers develop skills for effective work with ELLs. As Yough, Gilmetdinova and Perea state, “Lack of special instruction for working with ELLs” (p. 37) is evidenced by pre-service teachers who have difficulty understand ELL needs. Service learning experiences can help prepare pre-service teachers by promoting their beliefs—such as a sense of self-efficacy and skills, as well as social perspectives—for effectively working with ELLs. Chapter Four focuses on teacher beliefs regarding immigrant families in their community. This includes Latino/Latina families in Midwest Indiana. The chapter encourages teachers to “talk with parents, to learn from one another” (p. 71). Chapter Five and Chapter Six focus on Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts and Mathematics and provides an analysis on what is possible within classrooms to implement these federal standards with ELLs. Chapter Seven discusses L2 writing for K-12 ELLs and explains that they need to “develop rhetorical flexibility in their writing through properly supported, explicit instruction about language” (p. 127). Chapter Eight discusses a case study regarding supports and challenges when teaching fourth-grade ELLs in science classrooms. This chapter suggests providing explicit attention for ELLs in science classrooms to bridge the “mismatch between the everyday knowledge of ELLs and that of their native English-speaking teachers and peers” (p. 147). Chapter Nine focuses on developing technological skills for teaching ELLs. This chapter provides useful tips for integrating technology that supports ELLs in mainstream classrooms, such as using interactive boards, mobile devices, blog, e-books. It also discusses creating multimedia environments as well as incorporating podcasting, digital games, digital storytelling, and web-based resources into the classroom.

Preparing Teachers to Work with English Language Learners is helpful for teachers working with ELLs in mainstream classrooms, and practical for teacher educators and administrators who need conceptual knowledge as well as useful tips related to working to support students who have specific educational needs. This book addresses important issues that need crucial attention, as the book title suggests, on preparing teachers to work with English Language Learners in mainstream classrooms. I suggest that teachers, administrators, and teacher educators working with ELLs read this book.


Bransford, J., Darling-Hammond, L., & LePage, P. (2005). Introduction. In L. Darling-Hammond & J. Bradsford (Eds.), Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do (pp. 1-39). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Li, N. (2015). A Book for Every Teacher: Teaching English Language Learners. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Migrant Policy Institute (2010a). States and districts with the highest number and share of

English language learners. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/Sung/Downloads/FactSheet_ELL2%20(1).pdf

Migrant Policy Institute (2010b). Number and growth of students in US schools

in need of English instruction. Retrieved from


National Center for Educational Statistics (2012). The Condition of Education 2012 (NCES 2012-045), National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: October 23, 2015
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18205, Date Accessed: 5/19/2022 5:49:16 AM

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About the Author
  • Nan Li
    Claflin University
    E-mail Author
    NAN LI is a professor, writer, and researcher. She has 22 published works that include books, journal articles, chapters and co-authored chapters. Her most recent publication is a book entitled: A Book for Every Teacher: Teaching English Language Learners. This book provides much needed information and strategies for every teacher to work with the ELLs in mainstream classrooms. Dr. Li was the recipient of South Carolina Governorís Distinguished Professor Award along with several prestigious awards, including Exemplary Service to the Teaching Profession Award, Rose-Duhon Sells Multicultural Program Award, and the Innovative Teacher Education Award. Dr. Li also received multiple grant awards, totaling $3.2 million in external funding for professional development to prepare the K-12 teachers and pre-service teachers to work effectively with the ELLs. Dr. Li is currently Associate Professor and Project Director of the ELL Center Project funded by U.S. Department of Education and South Carolina Commission on Higher Education. Dr. Li plays an important role in training teachers and promoting academic success of ELLs. She is working on another book: Teaching English Language Learners: Issues and Strategies, with expected publication in 2016.
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