Language and the Overall Success in School

The article, “Broadening Our Views of Linguistic Diversity” by Debra O’Neal and Marjorie Ringler is a fascinating research piece which shows that learning a second language is not only the focus of children who do not speak the language, but also of children who do. The article gives viewpoints which highlight a prominent challenge in the classrooms of today, which is the fact that teachers must be aware of the background of English proficiency that children bring from the household into the classroom. The article points out language differences, code switching strategies and background knowledge as the precursors to language skills children develop. The primary focus of the article is as follows: “our target language for academic settings is Academic English, and by using the students’ native/home language or dialect, we can bridge the gap and achieve the goal” (O’Neal and Ringler, 2010).


The language differences that are shown with the article are fascinating because they give light to the fact that children may have a different speech pattern because they come from a certain geographic region. For example, the example of the word “snow” to an Alaskan student may mean a variety of things as compared to a student from Florida, who may have never seen snow in his/her life. The way that speech is formed may also be based on the economic level of the household. Studies show that children from impoverished neighborhoods lag behind children of middle and upper class families due to resources available to them. Another factor of language difference may be educational background of the family. The way that parents speak to children may reflect the way that children will develop language in school. Thus, teachers need to take all of those factors into considerations when evaluating a student and his/her English proficiency. Teachers need to be more accommodating and create an interactive warm classroom where the English language is learned properly with respect to the differences which might be seen by the students.


The way that teachers might develop a proper program for teaching English is by code switching. The article points out that code switching is very common and means simply that human being adapt to the environment and children can be taught to adapt to their environment as well with the language that they speak. The authors point out that there is an academic language and a native/home language. When children are taught to see the differences via creative lesson planning, such as the “idiom police” as shown in the article, they develop a sense of understanding where each type of language can and should be used.


Lastly, background knowledge is an important tool for development of language. Children may come to school with a variety of language content because of various causes: social, economic and cultural; thus teachers must assess student learning and begin a process of development in an appropriate context. “For example, students from rural areas, students from poverty, and students from low-literacy families may not have traveled outside the area, may not have met people different than themselves nor been exposed to television, movies, computers, and print materials” (O’Neal and Ringler, 2010).


The article, Broadening Our Views of Linguistic Diversity by Debra O’Neal and Marjorie Ringler gave wonderful insight on the way that English as a second language may not only be for immigrant children, but also for those children who come from various backgrounds and parts of the country. The way that language develops and is used throughout the different parts of the United States is varied, yet it is quite important for children to know proper Academic English to be successful in school and college. The article shows various examples of how language is different in the science and math curricula and that children who are venturing in those field must be exposed to appropriate language, which is thus brought to them within the classroom. The article is a wonderful read and should be introduced to all teachers because it is important for educators to know that even if children do speak English in the home, it might not be the appropriate English that should be used in the school setting. However educators should be respectful to the home language and differentiate when and how both types of language can be used as a form of expression by children.

SSA Team

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