246.  Please, could you address the issue of newcomers or L1’s functioning in learning centers.


This is a very good question.   In fact, I still remember the incredibly wasteful time spent by recently arrived Spanish-speaking children [newcomers or English Language Learners who were Spanish Native Language (L1) speakers] in a first-grade classroom in Phoenix, Arizona.   The children, sitting in front of computers that provided ENGLISH-only decoding lessons, needed to select the correct choice, from four pictures given, to match the beginning-sound of the name of one of the four pictures with the beginning sound of an English word provided orally.   I can assure you that these children were ONLY learning how to play slot machines –as they play slot machines in Las Vegas—as a result of this “computer center” activity.  

In the same classroom, there was another “center.”   In this center, two recently arrived Spanish-speaking children –also “newcomers” with L1=Spanish—were “copying” the letters of the alphabet that were posted around the class.   Not knowing what they were doing, the two students decided it was more fun to “paint” themselves using the markers provided at the “center.”   They had “painted” their pants –literally, that is, they used the marker to color the pants they were wearing; they had painted their shirts, their hands and arms. . . . .a mess!

The teacher, oblivious of what these Spanish-speaking newcomers were doing, continued to circulate around the room checking on the English-only speakers most of whom understood what they needed to do at each center and were involved in different activities.   

YES!  Let me remind you of “Lau vs. Nichols,” the court case that precisely defined what ALL students –


Native Spanish-speaking students at the Pre-production level of English

Language Development,

English Learners at ALL levels of English Language Acquisition,

bilingual students,

English-only speaking students—

must be provided:  ALL students must be provided an equal educational opportunity and equal access to the core curriculum.  

Instructional or learning “centers” --where students work by themselves or in small groups-- must be equally accessed by ALL students.   So teachers MUST make sure that ALL students understand what is to be done, what is to be learned in each and every learning center in the classroom.   Moreover, if necessary, the teacher MAY HAVE TO provide --in the newcomers’ L1--, learning centers that teach the same goals, objectives, and standards that other centers teach in English.   For example, the concept of “matching beginning sounds” using four pictures and an oral word to match the beginning sound of the oral word to the beginning sound of one of the words naming the pictures, can be provided in the newcomers’ L1, that is, in Spanish, while the newcomers master the English language in ESL classes and in Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English (SDAIE) content area classes.

Instructional Assistants may need to help newcomers learn how the centers work, what do these centers teach, what is to be done, how the learning is to take place.   The teacher MUST be involved with the newcomers providing instruction related to the learning centers during h(is/er) ESL classes or SDAIE content area classes.  

The key idea in the answer to your question is EQUAL – equal educational opportunity and equal access to the core curriculum.   ALL students are to be informed participants in ALL learning opportunities in the classroom.



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