Community-Building in Secondary ESL Classrooms
The goal of this paper is to help teachers of secondary English Language Learners (ELLs) construct welcoming environments in diverse classrooms, which has been shown to contribute to the success of these students. This paper will address the specific needs of adolescent ELLs in developing English proficiency, particularly the necessity of frequent, authentic interaction with peers, good feedback, and participation in a low-risk, friendly classroom, as well as the benefits of cultivating a strong sense of community in English as a Second Language (ESL) courses in terms of furthering student language development, and will provide instructional suggestions for integrating community-building into the physical classroom, the curriculum, and assessment. It aims to provide a definition of community-building as it can apply to a classroom at the secondary level, as well as the instructor-driven practices that contribute to the success of students by allowing them to participate in meaningful, authentic ways with peers of other language backgrounds. The paper will showcase one ESL class in particular, through observations conducted on two separate occasions in a classroom whose teacher has been identified as maintaining a strong sense of community, and will compare the observations with research on good practices for secondary-level ESL teachers. It will also discuss the results of three interviews conducted in this class, one with the teacher and two others with ninth-grade students, addressing their ideas of good community-building practices and how these contribute to their language development. It will then outline practical suggestions for teachers of ELLs in secondary classrooms who are striving to enhance their students’ participation and sense of belonging in the classroom community.