Preparing Regular Classroom Teachers to Meet the Needs of American Indian English Language Learners

By: Jioanna Carjuzaa  

Montana, the sparsely populated western state, has the highest percentage of American Indian English Language Learners (ELLs) in the United States (nearly 80%). These American Indian ELLs do not necessarily speak their heritage languages; yet, their academic English skills are inadequate to support content mastery. Students whose first language is an American Indian language and who are learning English as a second language (ESL) are easier to identify as ELLs than students who do not speak their heritage language but have not acquired academic English proficiency. This unique group of ELLs had their English acquisition framed by parents/grandparents or guardians themselves who were ELLs who did not fully acquire Standard English in the oppressive Indian Boarding Schools and therefore, speak and model a non-standard or non-academically proficient variety of English. Recommendations for how to broaden policy perspectives to facilitate comprehensive educational support for the full range of culturally and linguistically diverse American Indians in all classrooms, as well, as insights regarding the challenges and successes in preparing regular classroom teachers to meet these ELLs’ needs are shared. With the implementation of the full inclusion model and a scarcity of ESL teachers, all K-12 teachers need to learn how to enhance their instruction and adapt their materials to make their content comprehensible for ELLs in the regular classroom. The Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education certificate program at Montana State University in Bozeman designed to provide teachers with the knowledge and skills for helping these ELLs develop academic language/literacy skills is highlighted.

Language Diversity Learning
Education and Learning in a World of Difference
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Jioanna Carjuzaa

Professor and Executive Director, Center for Bilingual and Multicultural Education, Montana State University, United States
MT, United States