English Language Development (ELD) Time: What Works and What Doesn't According to Research


Saunders, Goldenberg, and Marcelletti (2013) just published an extensive review of the research to date on how to implement English Language Development (ELD).  ELD is defined as instruction that specifically focuses on helping English learners acquire English during a separate part of the day from academic content students need to learn.  ELD can happen in mainstream classrooms, sheltered instructional classrooms and in bilingual programs.  The authors explain that there is little research in this area.  The practice is also problematic if students are removed from their mainstream classroom and do not learn academic content that their peers are learning.  The authors claim that given the small body of research on ELD specifically that they have chosen to offer guidelines, but remain inconclusive in their recommendations:

1. Providing ELD instruction is better than not providing ELD instruction.

2. ELD instruction should continue at least until ELs attain advanced English language ability (taking around 5 years or more).

3. Effective ELD programs need focused district and school support.

4. A separate, daily bock of time should be devoted to ELD

5. English learners should be carefully grouped by language proficiency for ELD instruction, but they should not be segregated by language proficiency throughout the rest of the day.

6. ELD instruction should explicitly teach forms of English (e.g., vocabulary, syntax, morphology, functions, and conventions). But the authors explain that explicit instruction need not be just direct instruction: "instruction that explicitly focuses students’ attention on the targeted language form produces higher levels of second-language learning, at least in the short term that the studies examined, than instruction that does not" p. 19.

7. ELD instruction should emphasize academic language as well as conversational language. (It will take 5-7 or more years to attain academic proficiency.)

8. ELD instruction should incorporate reading and writing, but should emphasize listening and speaking. (Focus on listening and speaking fro 50%-90% of the total ELD time each day).  The average ELD time per day was about 40 minutes.

9. ELD instruction should integrate meaning and communication to support explicit teaching of language.  

10. ELD instruction should be planned and delivered with specific language objectives in mind.

11. Use of English during ELD instruction should be maximized; the primary language should be used strategically. 

12. ELD instruction should include interactive activities among students, but they must be carefully planned and carried out. 

13. ELD instruction should provide students with corrective feedback on form. There are a couple of ways to do this: recasting (basically repeating the correct form for the student) or prompting (drawing attention the error and encouraging them to use the correct form).  Choosing whether to use recasting or prompting or a combination of the two should be carefully considered so that the student is supported and encouraged in a positive learning environment.

14. Teachers should attend to communication and language-learning strategies and incorporate them into ELD instruction, for example, repeating a new word to oneself, elaborating n a concept, self-correcting, appealing for assistance etc..

Again, it bears repeating that these recommendations are based on emerging research and analysis and that any program should be carefully monitored and measured for effectiveness.  Additionally, ELD programs in isolation support English language development and say nothing, nor are they concerned with bilingual development.  

Reference: Saunders, W., Goldenberg, C., & Marcelletti, D.  (Summer, 2013). English Language Development: Guidelines for Instruction. American Educator.

Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen
Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen


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