Rationale and Question
I currently teach secondary mathematics in a small Yup’ik Eskimo village in western Alaska. About 95% of our students are English Language Learners (ELL). Once a year, our students are administered the WIDA Access for ELL tests, which consist of four parts: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Along with a composite score of English proficiency, the test results show the students proficiency level according to their academic language. Academic language proficiency generally refers to the types of language proficiencies that are necessary for learners to perform successfully in academic contexts. It is no surprise that students who are not proficient in English are also struggling with their attainment of a strong academic language. I feel that this is one reason that my middle school ELL students struggle in my mathematics classroom. My research question is to determine how the implementation of dual language strategies in my junior high math classroom will increase the understanding of their academic language and learning of math?
The participants of this study will by my junior high math students – grades seven and eight. Out of 23 students, I have one student who has tested proficient on the WIDA Access for ELL.
I plan to give a survey to students to get an opinion of their understanding middle school math in general and their comfort level with using their native language in the math classroom. As I implement the chosen dual language strategies in the classroom, the teacher aides and myself will observe the students use of the strategies and its effects on their learning. After the research period, I will give my students a questionnaire to get their opinions of the strategies used and how they feel about how, or if, the strategies increased their understanding of the academic language and learning of math. The data collection period will last approximately three weeks.
The study will implement dual language strategies in different ways. A dual language word wall will be created for frequently used academic math vocabulary. The word wall will display the English and Yup’ik version of each term. Students are also placed in dual language pairs based on both their academic level (using MAPS test scores administered at the beginning of the school year) and Yup’ik fluency (using Yup’ik Proficiency Test (YPT) scores, which are also administered annually). I plan on utilizing two native-speaking teacher aides in my classroom. Both aides will assist students when needed in their native language using the academic math vocabulary from the dual language word wall.
The purpose of this research study is to determine if these dual language strategies will increase student understanding of the academic language of math and learning of the complex math content.