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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Action Research:
Parent Involvement & Immigrant Engagement: Pullout or Structured Immersion

What instructional setting can provide the most integrated learning experience for English Language Learner students?


Nationwide, great demands and challenges are being placed on schools with large minority populations. The same challenges occur in schools like Georgetown Elementary, where I am a first-grade English Language Learner (ELL) teacher. One of the greatest challenges that I face is to serve the instructional needs of the ELL students. Instruction to first- and second-grade ELL students at Georgetown Elementary has been primarily provided through a pullout program. In this program, students are pulled out of their mainstream classes for a period of 45 minutes a day for special instruction in the English language. While aimed at meeting the academic and social needs of second-language learners, this program is problematic because the number of students has increased and instructional time has decreased.

Consequently, a new instructional program was implemented, namely, a structured immersion program. In this program, students are taught by an ELL-certified teacher who in most cases is bilingual in self-contained classes. The ELL teacher uses the same curriculum as the other first-grade mainstream teachers, yet adapts it to the students’ needs and sets the pace according to their academic levels.

The research on both of these programs clearly distinguishes the effectiveness that each program has in meeting the needs of ELL students. In the academic arena, students show greater gains by being in the immersion program. Not only academically, but also socially, students demonstrate greater ownership and are less xenophobic about language learning, when they are in an immersion program. English Language Learners feel more empowered when they are in a classroom with students who have their same needs, study the same units, and go to special events at the same time.

In conclusion, for first- and second-grade ELL students at Georgetown Elementary, the immersion program provides a more effective way to become proficient in the English language. Consequently, ELL students show greater ownership when they stay in one classroom, get to know their peers and teacher, and are willing to take chances. ELL students become empowered by this sense of belonging, and this in turn provides them with the ability to be more successful academically and socially.


  • Policy makers should study the results of immersion programs locally and nationally.
  • Immersion programs should be implemented and supported in districts that have a large population of non-English-speaking constituents.
  • The results regarding academic performance and social comfort levels among students in immersion programs should be used to generate policy and educational reform.

Gemma Cabrera

1st Grade
Georgetown Elementary Georgetown

TNLI Affiliate:

If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute--Delaware, please e-mail Michael Rasmussen.



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