Skip to main content

ESL in the mainstream classroom

1 May 1998


The purpose of this qualitative study is to answer the question: how do Spanish-speaking students use their native language in an English-speaking classroom? More specifically, how do Spanish-speaking students use their first language, or Ll, during classroom activities and with monolingual peers? I based my study on the previous research of Long and Porter (1985). They recognized the importance -of group work in L2, or second language, learning. Such activities maintain students' Ll while developing communication and L2 skills. Therefore, I studied group, teacher-led, and social classroom activities to find out how Spanish is used during these class times. This study took place in a K-6 elementary school in a suburb of Portland, Oregon. This school contained a high ESL population, mostly students of Hispanic backgrounds. The participants were fourth grade children. I observed their classroom activities, interviewed students informally and formally. and then surveyed other 4th, 5th, and 6th grade teachers. In order to protect the participants' anonymity, I have given all participants pseudonyms. After analyzing observations, transcribing interviews, and organizing surveys. I noticed patterns similar to Long and Porter's findings and other researchers in the field. Most obviously, I recognized the varying amount of Spanish, or Ll, being used during various classroom activities. Spanish was spoken most during times of transition and socializing and during group activities. Little Spanish or other communication was noted during times of teacher-led instruction. Instead, students' attention wandered. With knowledge of these findings, educators may develop more beneficial activities and learning environments for L2 learners.


Files are restricted to Pacific University. Sign in to view.