The expression ‘English as a second language’ (ESL) describes a person who speaks a language or languages other than English at home. As an Australian, all students have the right to learn how to communicate effectively in standard Australian English. They have the right to learn how the English language works and to learn and think using English. One of the main reasons as to why children learn to speak English as their second language is because it is the language used within schools. ESL learners are expected to do all this within a school and its’ curriculum. Children who speak English as a second language have been found to generally come from low socioeconomic status areas and have a higher number of dropouts in comparison to people who speak English as a first language (Ovando, Combs, & Collier, 2006). Studies found that ‘in 2006, 20% of children between the ages of 5-17 spoke a language other than English at home, and 5% spoke English with difficulty’ (Planty et al, 2008, page 12).
A recent study has found that teachers with ESL learners that have special educational needs in their classroom expose them to restricted curriculum while attempting to fit their teaching practices to meet the needs of a variety of individual differences within their classroom (Wedin, 2009). To accommodate for students in a classroom that has English as their second language, teachers must understand the importance that language and culture have when it comes to learning, teaching and socialisation. A teacher must be sensitive to individual student’s learning needs and interests in respects to language and culture. To help students with ESL to engage better with a lesson and get more out of a lesson, as teachers we must be able to create outcomes that can adapt for the needs of students who are in need of improvement of English as an additional dialect relevant to learning and socialisation. To do this we must be able to create lessons which an ESL student can participate in and be assessed on relevantly in terms of systems of language and culture.
When dealing with ESL learners the first thing that needs to be done is to assess their needs and gain and understanding of their existing knowledge. It is important as to not ignore their existing knowledge as you can build off that knowledge and use it to link into other areas of learning. One way to support ESL learning is the use of technology within a classroom. Tools such as blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos and wikis are easily accessible resources that can be used in activities to boost social networking and help the ESL students further develop their first language which is important to the ultimate success of them developing in their second language (Langer de Ramirez, 2010; Thomas & Collier, 2001). There are tools such as information communication technologies out there that can in fact help to motivate, further engage and encourage ESL students to participate actively within their classroom.