How STEM Impacts English Language Learners

Posted by Tahlea Jankoski on August 12, 2016



As STEM curriculum continues to expand throughout educational institutions, interest has developed in understanding how this form of learning may impact English language learners (ELL). Does STEM accelerate or hinder ELL students in learning how to read, write, speak, and listen in English? When it comes to STEM lessons, it may be considered more challenging to add scientific terms to learning basic vocabulary. However, the various modalities and forms of learning that come from STEM lessons are offering a way for ELL students to more quickly comprehend the English language. Here are some key ways that STEM lessons can be supportive of ELL students. 


Individualized Learning

STEM instruction focuses on individualized learning to help each student progress at the pace that works best for them. Through integrated technology and self-paced lessons, students are able to repeat the lessons until they fully understand and feel comfortable moving on to the next. Students are also encouraged to voice their own questions and concerns, which can help the student and teacher guage how they are doing. It also helps the ELL student facilitate their own learning. 

Promoting Exploration

Through STEM curriculum, students find an increased curiosity for learning and understanding the material as they explore the many applicable topics. Not only do students learn from a textbook, but they participate in hands-on learning that can help ELL students understand how the classroom curriculum is applied. A variety of modalities are used in STEM lessons to apply visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning. This can assist ELL students in making connections between STEM curriculum and the English language. 

Real-World Application

Making real-world connections in learning is highly valuable for students when it comes to gaining greater understanding of the materials. ELL students can improve their English language skills even more through real-world applications that are taught in STEM lessons. Students are encouraged to explore beyond the materials to recognize how the lessons apply to their daily lives. 

Student Engagement

Student engagement is facilitated through classroom interaction and hands-on, real-world application. This is true for ELL and non-ELL students taking STEM courses. Teachers are finding greater improvements in the learning process through using a variety of modalities. Kevin Sotomayor, principal of Madison Park School in Phoenix, Arizona, has found that ELL students in their classrooms are more excited to learn and more confident in developing STEM skills. He considers it more effective than traditional curriculum alone for teaching ELL students. 

As teachers have more interaction through STEM curriculum, ELL students will gain necessary skills faster than when learning science-based topics through a traditional class setting. ELL students are able to make stronger connections between educational learning and the English language through the various modalities and techniques that applied in the classroom when it comes to STEM curriculum.


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