Myth or Reality: EAL Students

There was a huge debate on this question in my Teaching English as a Second Language – ELNG 326 class last night. I would like your opinion on this question and why?

When an EAL Student is new to the school and does not speak any English I think you need to change your expectations to meet the needs of the EAL Student otherwise they will not get anything out of their learning, not because they are incapable of the subject matter, but merely because they can not understand what you are saying. My prof went on saying that you should not adjust your expectations for them and told the class that you should teach them what they need to know then and now. Which in essence would be adjusting your expectations?

I then said we need to teach them the curricular objectives, if they cannot understand English, I would adapt my expectations for them and put them on an adaptation form until they are able to communicate in English and meet my set objectives for the lesson. She said, no, we don’t need to teach them “the holy curriculum” but rather what is important for them right then and there. I completely agree with her, but at the same time this would be adjusting your expectations, right?

I told her about a personal experience of when I lived in Brazil for Grade 11. I went there not knowing one word of Portuguese and was expected to attend school everyday and participate just as the other students. I ended up failing my first semester because they did not adjust their expectations for me. After about 5 months I became fluent in the language and was able to participate in my classes; however, I failed my first semester, not because I didn’t know the content, but because I could not speak Portuguese. So, in the end if they had adjusted their expecatiations or maybe even their teaching stragegy I may have been able to keep up with the rest of the class. But failed and had to take that class over again. Which contradicts her other point of placing EAL students in their proper grade.

Anyways, I would like your opinion of this whole issue.