Monday, June 15, 2015

Monday Musings: Magna Carta and ELLs

Today is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta by King John and forty English barons at Runnymede.  England in 1215 was completely different from the United States in 2015 but the concept of the rule of law that was established by the Magna Carta has resonated through the centuries and some of its ideas are enshrined in the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.
The Magna Carta, Lau v. Nichols & ELLs
King John signing the Magna Carta; source: Pixabay
The clause that has had the most impact is the one guaranteeing the right to justice and a fair trial.  This has had an effect on English Language Learners because they have had to go to court in some states before they were given the right to receive an appropriate public school education.  Lau v. Nichols is the most famous case; in 1974, it established that students who were not fluent in the English language had to be educated in a manner in which they could understand what they were being taught.  This led to bilingual and ESL programs being developed and implemented throughout the U.S.  Without the concept first laid down in the Magna Carta that even 1800 Chinese students in San Francisco, on whose behalf lawyers brought the lawsuit all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, are entitled to justice, current English Language Learners might still be forced to “sink or swim” in school.

Here are some websites about the Magna Carta and its anniversary today:
* Magna Carta: Foundation of Liberty
* Magna Carta: An Introduction (includes a short video suitable for students about the Magna Carta)
* Featured Documents at The National Archives: The Magna Carta
* New York Times article: Magna Carta, Still Posing a Challenge at 800
* A fun, 10-question quiz about the Magna Carta (I got 6/10--guess I need to read more English history!)

And here is a product that can help ELLs access the mainstream curriculum so they can be successful in school.  It’s a series of vocabulary words in the content areas, which I used as word walls in my classroom. According to the teachers I consulted when developing this for my room, these are the most important academic subject words for middle school students to know.
The Magna Carta, Lau v. Nichols & ELLs
Click HERE to find out more; source: The ESL Nexus
Happy Birthday, Great Charter!