Curry School of Education


How to Use

student at desk

Building on the idea of Problem-Based Learning (Levin, Hibbard and Rock, 2002), with each scenario you will encounter challenges that teachers may face when working with English Language Learners.

  1. Read the introduction
  2. Watch the video
  3. Answer the questions
  4. Compare your responses to how our experts answered


Scenario 4: ELL Parent Dilemmas

Parents want their children to succeed. When families emigrate to the US, they have often sacrificed a great deal to seek a better life for their children, but they must cope with a new language and an unfamiliar educational system. How can teachers work with these parents to meet their common goal: success and a good life for the children? What would you recommend?

In this video, you will hear about Osman, who is using "bad language" in class, Fatuma, who has stopped doing her homework, and Sabina, whose parents have not answered calls.


Q1. Osman is a 7th grader who makes comments that upset the other students who speak his language, but that the teacher doesn’t understand. The teacher says she feels "powerless". What steps could she take to keep peace in class until the parents can be reached and an interpreter brought in?

Q2. Fatuma didn’t do her homework last week. The teacher learns that contacting the mother directly should work, because she has learned some English. What strategy does the ESOL teacher offer that will help teachers know which ELL parents do speak English?

Q3. Tim expresses frustration because his efforts to contact Sabina’s parents have been unsuccessful. What would the appropriate actions be for him?