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A Guide to English Learner Instruction in Cyber School

Graphic: A guide to english learning instruction in cyber school

What Does It Mean to Be an English Learner?

Millions of K-12 students in the United States are English learners (ELs). According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 10% of public school students were ELs in 2017. Spanish was the most commonly reported home language of ELs, followed by Arabic and Chinese. In Pennsylvania alone, there are over 61,000 ELs.

Although ELs learn the same way as their native-English-speaking peers, they have specific educational needs, such as different instructional and assessment methods, to become proficient in English and succeed academically. Teachers and parents work together to ensure EL students’ needs are met, so they can have the same academic opportunities as non-EL students and thrive in the classroom.

What Is the Definition of an English Learner?

In general, an English learner is anyone who isn’t a native English speaker and is currently learning the English language. Some states, like Pennsylvania, use EL to describe multilingual students, while others use the former term English language learner or ELL.

According to Pennsylvania state regulation, every school needs to provide a program for students whose “dominant language is not English” to help them attain proficiency and meet academic standards.

ELL vs. ESL definitions

What Is the Difference Between EL and ESL?

English as a second language (ESL) is a program designed to teach students English language skills, whereas EL refers to the student. An ESL program uses specific techniques and methods to teach English language skills like reading, writing, and speaking. Usually, ESL instruction is in English and does not involve much use of a student’s home language.

How Can Distance Learning Help EL Students?

Online programs for EL students offer unique benefits. When students attend cyber school, they can learn at their own pace, have easy access to English learners’ resources, and interact with other students across the state. Also, because virtual lessons are recorded, students can revisit them as often as they need to understand the material. Online learning also gives ELs time to practice their spoken academic English by recording their voices over and over until they feel comfortable in asynchronous tasks. Overall, online learning helps ELs navigate a new language and learn different customs without becoming overwhelmed.

What Will I Learn in This Guide?

This guide focuses on EL instruction in cyber school and how teachers and parents can support students. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover topics such as:

  • The different levels of English language proficiency.
  • The Can Do Philosophy and descriptors.
  • Common challenges ELs face.
  • How to create a welcoming online classroom and a supportive home environment for ELs.
  • What a day of cyber school looks like for ELs.

If you’re ready to learn more about online EL instruction in Pennsylvania, contact Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA) for more information or start your enrollment application today.

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