National Writing Project

Best Practices for Adolescent ELLs

By: Judith Rance-Roney
Date: April 2009

Summary: Judith Rance-Roney, a teacher with the Hudson Valley Writing Project, argues that the nation's ELL population is more heterogeneous than is generally acknowledged and that this diverse population will benefit from reforms such as a team-oriented faculty, extended learning time, and the monitoring of individual students' learning.



Contrast Filip with Ben, who emigrated from the Sudan at age 16 after experiencing the trauma of civil unrest and a severe interruption in formal schooling, which resulted in a limited foundation in literacy in any language. Rosaria, unlike either Filip or Ben, is a U.S.-born English language learner. Although her home language is Spanish, at 17, her social language outside the home is English. However, her writing exhibits many of the linguistic differences of an immigrant English learner, and she reads at the 5th grade level.

The common label adolescent English language learner, applied to all three of these students, may tempt us to assume that their academic needs are essentially the same. In reality, there is a patchwork quilt of English language learner profiles—a quilt rich with diverse life experiences, but loosely woven with common learning needs.

About the Author Judith Rance-Roney is assistant professor in the TESOL teacher education program at the State University of New York at New Paltz and has taught ELL students both in the United States and abroad. She is a member of the Hudson Valley Writing Project at SUNY New Paltz and is on the English Language Learner Leadership Team of the National Writing Project.

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