Educating English Language Learners in an Inclusive Environment

reviewed by Lynn Zimmerman - October 11, 2013

coverTitle: Educating English Language Learners in an Inclusive Environment
Author(s): Youb Kim & Patricia H. Hinchey
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, New York
ISBN: 1433121344, Pages: 167, Year: 2013
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This book was a pleasant surprise because it is not just a re-hash of existing research and well-known strategies. In fewer than 150 pages, the authors offer an overview of the issues combined with real life experiences of teachers and students, as well as clear, commonsense suggestions on how to bridge the gaps between what teachers know and what they should know when working with the ELL population. Intended for use in a teacher education classroom, this text takes a critical look at American culture and society and how they shape education in the United States. Since the focus is English Language Learners, the authors examine how American education reflects mainstream American cultural norms, including the use of English in society and the classroom. The book is laid out in six chapters, each focusing on a particular aspect of these issues.

The authors begin by posing the question “Why should we have to learn this?” and seek to draw the reader in by presenting examples of student experiences. The concise explanations of the nature of culture and language as identity, the relationship between language and power, and how schooling reinforces the cultural capital of the mainstream culture highlight the different norms for communication and expectations of education by different cultural groups.  

In Chapter Two, Culture: Beyond Tacos and Lo Mein, Kim and Hinchey present practical ideas for how the teacher can avoid stereotyping and create a bridge between the child’s old and new cultures. Using multicultural literature, learning about the student’s home community, and using the array of resources available on the Internet are ways the teacher can help the student adjust and adapt to the classroom environment. An Appendix with resources also provides books, articles, and online resources to help the teacher learn more about working with ELLs and resources the teachers and students can use in the classroom.

Kim and Hinchey address the questions that many teachers have about how to relate to, and teach, students with whom they have no common language in Chapter Three, Language: You Know More–and Less–Than You Think. They remind the reader that communication is more than language and that anyone can learn to communicate with someone who is not as proficient in a language as they are. They inform the reader that teachers should not expect all the effort for communication to be on the part of the student. The teacher may need to learn more about the structure of English from the student’s view in order to see where the challenges are and how to bridge the gaps.

The fourth chapter, Nurturing Literacy in English: How Does This Magic Happen?, focuses on the implications of literacy in a child’s home language and in English. First of all, they point out that teachers often make incorrect assumptions about a child’s meaningful literacy experiences in their home community because they may be different from those used in English and in American schools. Classroom discourse also tends to be somewhat different from what one uses at home, and may be quite different for students from cultures different from the mainstream.

The authors make the point in Chapter Five, Effective Instruction and Assessment: Good Teaching for ELLs is Good Teaching, that educators have to keep in mind the complexity of teaching and learning, and that there is no magic bullet nor a one-size-fits-all answer for each and every situation. Kim and Hinchey also point out, “[d]espite widespread and uninformed belief to the contrary, effective teaching is not the product of prescriptive pedagogy. Instead, it is the product of an individual teacher’s professionalism, hard work, and creativity” (p. 94). Teachers must create an inclusive classroom; it does not just happen. According to the authors, an inclusive classroom has these elements: respect, a physical environment that reflects the cultures in the classroom, predictability, and relationships between students and the teacher and with peers. The authors also suggest using WIDA (World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment) as guidelines for what to teach and how to differentiate instruction with a variety of strategies. A table or chart showing specific examples of how to use WIDA would have been useful in this chapter.

The final chapter, The Politics of ELL Policy and Programs: What Does It Mean to Be “American”?, is the weakest part of the book. The information about the relationship between philosophies of education and educational policies and implementation could have been incorporated into earlier chapters. Additionally, the authors mention professionalism and allude to advocacy but do not offer concrete suggestions for how educators can not only work within current policy, but also how they can advocate for this student population in the school and larger community, as well as at the state and federal levels.

Despite the shortcomings of the final chapter, I would consider adopting this book for a teacher education class. Using clear and straightforward language, the authors have created a concise overview of the issues that is accessible and interesting. The book is also practical. Students in teacher education classes often complain that textbooks are too long and too theoretical. While based on existing research and critical theory, the book focuses on concrete examples of the issues and offers suggestions that teachers can immediately implement in their classrooms.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: October 11, 2013 ID Number: 17275, Date Accessed: 5/28/2022 8:02:31 PM

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