The Impact of Elementary School ESL Pull-Out Programs on Latino ELLs’ Ethnic Identity Development

For young Latino students learning English in a structured immersion setting, second language acquisition often comes at a cost – the displacement of their native languages and cultures. This outcome disconnects students from their families, results in low ethnic identity, and impacts perceptions of Latino culture at school (Sharon & Vallone, 2007). To counteract and ideally prevent this process, encouraging the development of ethnic identity based in the culture of the child’s native language ensures that during the process of English language learning, additional culture learning about American cultures is additive culturally and linguistically. Overall, this practice then allows children to learn to value and selectively maintain and use both cultural systems, including the use of two languages in a contextually appropriate manner (McLaughlin, 1985; Onchwari, et. all 2008).

Though current research explores culturally relevant teaching practices and pedagogy for engaging ELLs within the general classroom, this research addresses the need to understand how ESL teachers can promote positive ethnic identity development within pull-out ESL instruction (Nault, 2006). Case study data was collected in two phases: first examining current practice to inform the development of the lesson study and second analyzing a new lesson’s implementation. The case studies included classroom observations using Hernandez Sheets’ Diversity Pedagogy Theory as a framework for tracking references to culture in both student learning and teacher instruction, interviews with the teacher about personal culture and pedagogy, and parent surveys on home culture and perceptions of school. An analysis of the first phase revealed that materials promoted cultural awareness but lesson activities could better increase student and teacher references to ethnic identity. Post-implementation data suggests specific learning prompts and activities that successfully promoted students’ ethnic identity development within language and content instruction.

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