The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: Teaching English as a Second Language: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Dr. James Robinson

Second Advisor

Dr. ChoonKyong Kim

Third Advisor

Dr. James Heiman

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

SLIFE, Latin America, ESL, students, limited education, SIFE


The United States and countries around the world are experiencing a growth of students who have recently arrived with limited or no formal education and minimal or no literacy skills, yet are enrolling in secondary level classrooms due to age. Many of the students arrive from Central American countries with difficult social and economic situations, and therefore have minimal literacy in Spanish and little to no exposure to English (Tellez & Walker de Felix, 1993). The term SLIFE, or students with limited or interrupted formal education, defines these students by the quantity of education, but factors such as educational and cultural values, home life, social situations, past experiences, trauma, and educational expectations also affect the experiences of these students in schools. Past research has focused on cultural differences (DeCapua & Marshall, 2011a; DeCapua & Marshall, 2010b), pedagogical strategies (DeCapua & Marshall, 2010a; Walsh, 1999) and struggles teachers have encountered with these students (Miller, Mitchell, & Brown, 2005; Windle & Miller, 2012), yet few have investigated personal experiences of these students (Brown, Miller, & Mitchell, 2006; Gunderson, 2000), especially students from Latin America countries. This study investigates the academic and non-academic experiences of students who enter schools in the United States with limited literacy skills or educational experience due to limited or interrupted schooling in their home country. These personal stories, shared in interviews, add a new perspective on past research aimed at improving pedagogical strategies and academic achievement of these students by providing educators with large- and small-scale modifications that will positively influence SLIFE from Latin America and around the world who are educated in US classrooms. Interviews with participants indicated some comparisons and contrasts between their past and present educational experiences. Conversations revealed what things are most challenging for SLIFE including instructional practices, literacy challenges, receiving help, technology, lockers, lunch numbers, and attendance policies. These conversations can help guide administrators and classroom teachers make decisions regarding future educational models for SLIFE through an understanding of past education and current experiences.