In their own words: Native language in the classroom

By Rosita Apodaca, Tabetha Bernstein-Danis and Sara DeMartino
April 2019
Vol. 40 No. 2
In our professional development work with teachers of English learner students, we have identified eight practices that support English learners’ access to complex tasks and text (Apodaca, 2007). Two of these strategies — talk and native language use — are particularly beneficial for their intellectual, cultural, and economic advantages. With professional learning supports, teachers can become knowledgeable about the benefits of these strategies for students and empowered to use them, even if they are monolingual speakers. Research shows that English learners are too often denied access to complex tasks that address grade-level standards (Walqui et al., 2010). Teachers have told us they believe lack of English proficiency makes complex work impossible or that they fear frustrating students into withdrawal. But in our work at the

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Rosita Apodaca, Tabetha Bernstein-Danis, and Sara Demartino

Rosita Apodaca ( is executive director of the Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. Tabetha Bernstein-Danis ( is assistant professor of special education at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. Sara DeMartino ( is a fellow at the Institute for Learning.


Apodaca, R. (2007). Mediating learning For English learners. Unpublished research presented at the General Administrators Meeting in Austin, TX, and at the California Association for Bilingual Education, San Francisco, CA.

Fung, I.Y.Y., Wilkinson, I.A.G., & Moore, D.W. (2003). L1-assisted reciprocal teaching to improve ESL students’ comprehension of English expository text. Learning and Instruction, 13(1), 1-31.

Genesee, F., Lindholm-Leary, K., & Christian, D. (2006). Educating English language learners: A synthesis of research evidence. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Moser, J.S., Schroder, H.S., Heeter, C., Moran, T.P., & Lee, Y.H. (2011). Mind your errors: Evidence for a neural mechanism linking growth mind-set to adaptive posterror adjustments. Psychological Science, 22(12), 1484-1489.

Rolstad, K., Mahoney, K., & Glass, G.V. (2005). The big picture: A meta-analysis of program effectiveness research on English language learners. Educational Policy, 19(4), 572-594.

Walqui, A., Koelsch, N., Hamburger, L., Garrder, D., Insaurralde, A., Schmida, M., & Weiss, S. (2010, May). What are we doing to middle school English learners? Findings and recommendations for change from a study of California EL programs. San Francisco, CA: WestEd.

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Sara demartino
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Sara DeMartino ( is an English language arts fellow at the Institute for Learning, University of Pittsburgh.

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