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Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Across the U.S., teachers are encountering students who are in the process of learning English as a second language. In the past two decades, this student population, known as English-language learners (ELLs), has more than doubled. Because of the linguistic demands of social studies content, ELLs may have particular difficulty understanding this subject area. At the same time, federal and state governments are calling for all students, including ELLs, to demonstrate proficiency on state tests. Teachers are faced with the challenge of finding ways to help ELLs learn content that is presented to them entirely in English, a language they are struggling to master. Social studies may be the most difficult subject for ELLs. Unlike subjects such as math or science, understanding social studies concepts depends to a large extent on language skills. In this article, the authors describe strategies elementary teachers can use to make social studies content more comprehensible to ELLs and engage them to become active participants in their learning. They present three vignettes wherein ELLs are actively engaged in understanding content and acquisition of language skills. They conclude that by providing ELLs with appropriate scaffolding, teachers can facilitate their learning a rigorous curriculum, develop their English-language skills, and promote their active participation in the classroom.