The growing numbers ofminority language learners, especially Spanish speaking learners being thelargest percent, entering the school system has educational institutionsrethinking on best practices to implement in teaching these studentseffectively.
More rigorous standards haveadded to the academic and language demands on English Language Learners(ELLs). The use of a student’s nativelanguage can be used as a bridge or a tool in the acquisition of oral languageand literacy development. Teachers can alsobuild background knowledge through the primary language of ELLs. Acquisition of Oral Language Most childrendevelop language very efficiently in developmental stages as they begin to besocial beings trying to communicate their needs and wants. However, language development needs to benurtured and children must constantly be exposed to language to expand theirvocabularies and comprehension. It is important to also have a connectionbetween oral language and written language. For young people, their families are their number one source for conversations,questions, responses, providing exposure to print and media and for just listeningto them while they speak or read aloud. Practiceis what helps develop proficient language.
Roleof Home Language The importance of oral language and literacy practiceswithin the home setting is the same no matter what language is spoken. The more language that a child is exposed to,both orally and written, can help with skills like vocabulary, conceptualknowledge, and language comprehension and makes it easier to acquire English moreefficiently (Palacios & Kibler, 2016, p.123). Sometimes the cultural differences make thisdifficult to assess in a child.
Teachersmay have a harder time connecting and communicating with students and familiesfrom some cultures and this can make it difficult to be able to decipher thestudent’s current level of proficiency. BestPractices Rising concerns with the reading skills of languageminority students, prompts a need for screening and early interventions forELLs entering school. In a culturallydiversified RTI model with an additional tier proposed by Klingner and Edwards(2006), an additional tier is added to correctly place ELLs in a classroom witha teacher that is properly trained on how to implement culturally appropriateinstruction (as cited in Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2010, p.
157). School services and interventions would alsoneed to be provided to improve reading skills and continued progress monitoringof those skills would also need to be implemented. As stated in the Teaching Reading Sourcebook (2013), “Instruction in the essentialcomponents of reading is necessary – but not sufficient…”, “ELL students needmore work in oral language development, vocabulary, and text comprehension thannative English speakers” (p. 18). ELLswill need much repetition of English instruction and will benefit greatly tohave a “buddy” with the same native language; this is not always possible. Partner work and small group explicitinstruction can also help immensely.Variations in Phonology Phonology is defined as how speech sounds form patterns.
Each language has its own set of sounds withrules on how those sounds connect with each other to make new patterns. From birth, humans learn distinctive soundsfrom their own language. Phonologicalawareness is the ability to hear what sounds are and how they come together tomake words. Phonological awarenessskills are important in order to develop good reading skills.Effecton Reading and Writing Development It is important to recognize the affect that phonologyhas on the ELLs.
Some phonologicalawareness skills such as larger /smaller units, words / syllable connections, onset/ rimes and phonemes are predictablepatterns within a language and are the same from one language to another(Honig, Diamond & Gutlohn, 2013, pg. 120-121). Recent research has shown thatphonological awareness in one’s own native language predicts successfulliteracy acquisition in the native language and transfers to a second languageeven while those skills are still in the process of being developed (Denney,2001, p. 3). BestPractices Students thathave phonological awareness in their native language have some of the skillsnecessary to learn English. It isnecessary for the teacher to screen students who may be at risk for below gradelevel reading and to determine a starting point for instruction and whichstudents may also need additional support.
Sometimes it is beneficial for screenings to take place in the nativelanguage as well as in English. The COREPhonological Awareness Survey may be a good place to start. Teachers can also encourage families of ELLsto provide reading materials at home in the native language and Englishlanguage. As student’s reading skillsgrow, their writing skills will also progress. Teachers can use spelling assessments to monitor their growingunderstanding of how the written language works. Phonological awareness instruction shouldbuild from easier to more difficult, teach only one to two skills at a time, beconducted in small groups, use manipulatives, be engaging, interesting andoffer plenty of practice with the use of games and interactive activities (Honig,Diamond, & Gutlohn, 2013p. 120-121).Acquisitionof Phonics Phonicsis the process of decoding written words into spoken words; also known asreading.
As explained in Teaching Reading Sourcebook (2013),phonics is the way that letters and sounds work together to allow spokenlanguage to be written down and written language to be read (p. 170). Per the findings of the National ReadingPanel (2000), systematic and explicit phonics reading instruction significantlyimproves all students reading and spelling along with significantly increasingtheir ability to comprehend what they read (as cited in Honig, Diamond &Gutlohn, 2013, p.
171). Effectof Home Language Proficiency ELL studentswith limited literacy skills in their native language may have a difficult timewith phonics instruction when learning to read and write English. If a student has already learned that asymbol (alphabet) has a corresponding sound, this knowledge transfers over whenlearning a new language. Although thereare similarities to learning to read across languages, there are severalinconsistencies in letters and symbols within the English language which canmake it difficult to learn.
ELLs will haveto learn which letters have consistent relationships and which do not and whichrules to use and when to use them correctly. Some letters may have different sounds or meanings in English than theyhave in their native language and they will not have the help of using priorknowledge to help decipher meaning for new vocabulary words. BestPractices Good phonicsinstruction provides ELLs with knowledge of how the English language works andgives them effective decoding strategies to become a fluent reader. Phonics can be implemented into other readinginstruction such as story-time, language activities and small grouptutoring. Once students know three tofour letter associations, word reading and word building activities can beimplemented. This is the beginning ofreading. There are many assessments thatthe teacher of ELLs can administer for screening, instruction, progressmonitoring, and diagnostic purposes.
TheYopp-Singer for phonemic awareness assessment and the Core Phonics Survey forPhonics assessment are good places to start.Acquisition of Academic Vocabularyand Content Many children will learn to decode but will not gainmeaning of text until their vocabularies have expanded. Vocabulary can be learned throughout theentirety of one’s life and is ever-expanding. According to research by Lervag and Aukrust (2009), vocabulary seems tobe a major predictor of early reading comprehension skills in both first andsecond language learners and limited vocabulary in second language learners canexplain the lag in reading comprehension skills (p. 619).
Academic vocabulary are words associated to educationalsubjects that are used to define, identify, name, explain, and understand contentand concepts being taught.Roleof Authentic Use of Language Real life examples of language used in everyday situationsis considered authentic material. ELLsneed authentic material to help them acquire the meaning and use of basic wordsthat do not usually require instruction.
Authentic material in language learning can be more interesting to the learnerand have students use strategies to interpret meaning. This can be, but is not limited to, videos,newspapers, magazines, comics, books, pictures, radio, music, games, websites,clothing, and food to name a few. Teachers have to check for age appropriateness and for content and skilllevel.BestPractices Teachers cansearch basic words from the Dale-Chall List (Chall and Dale, 1995) to find 3,000words that most young readers already know without instruction. However, ELLs may require explicitinstruction for these basic words. Manyof these can be taught visually and using authentic material that helpsconceptualize not only the meanings, but how English language is connected toand used in everyday life. Teachers willhelp ELLs use background knowledge, contextual cues and strategies to help ELLsinterpret the meaning of these basic words. Comprehension tasks can be done in ELLs native language if necessary.
Because vocabulary is continually learnedthroughout a lifetime, students must be taught strategies to figure out themeaning of new words on their own. Inthe book Teaching Reading Sourcebook(2013), there is a vocabulary activity worksheet that helps students learnstrategies and will help teachers monitor their learning (p. 794). Use of Cognates Cognates are words in two languages that have a similarmeaning, spelling, and / or pronunciation. Using a student’s prior knowledge from their native language can helpELLs figure out the meaning of new English words by relating the cognate pairfrom both languages. Knowing cognatesthat connect native language with new learned language is considered a strategyfor learning new vocabulary words. Somelanguages do not share many cognates with English, but Spanish and Englishshare quite a few.Rolein Vocabulary Acquisition Per researchdiscussed in Teaching Reading Sourcebook(2013), ELLs do not usually find and use cognates on their own, but requireexplicit instruction on reliable cognates between their two languages (p.
496). There are false cognates that have similarspelling between two languages but different meanings and teachers should tryto be aware of these for their students. English / Spanish cognates are the most commonly used and can beeveryday basic word pairs. Many of thesecognate pairs are considered high-frequency words in both English and Spanishand can be used as early as Kindergarten or First Grade to help ELLs with the meaningsof these English words.BestPractices Teachers can usestrategies for teaching vocabulary by using cognates in the classroom.
Read alouds and student group or partnerreading can be highlighted with words that are cognates. Look for similar spellings, check meaning inboth languages and pronunciation; if the word is a true cognate pair, and addit to cognate chart in the classroom. Have students match English / Spanish cognate pairs or have studentscircle different letters within these pairs. Also help students pick out false cognates.
Teaching common Greek and Latin roots alsotend to be English / Spanish cognate word pairs and can help with increasingvocabulary; therefore, also increasing reading comprehension. Instructional Implications forEducators With increasing numbers of ELLs in schools, theimportance of standardized measures of addressing the needs of teaching thesestudents have come about. Standards forstudents have increased with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and this has increasedacademic and language demands on ELL students. It will be up to educators to implement more teaching and learningstrategies for literacy and language development to successfully teach thesestudents. Teachers will need moretraining from higher-learning facilities when receiving their degrees, and willneed ongoing collaboration and professional development in language acquisition.
Support teams and support structures willneed to be available to teachers to also help meet these new demands.