Literacy Skills for English Language Learners

Posted February 23, 2017 – AWE Learning Staff
english language learners
English Language Learners (ELLs) are students who are learning English, and for whom English is not their first language. According to ASCD, it is often difficult for ELLs to master STREAM and social studies concepts, particularly because they do not have the necessary literacy skills and vocabulary to comprehend the teaching material.

When it comes to early learners, they require focused instruction and opportunities to develop their skills. While reading comprehension skills are important for all individuals, they are particularly important, and often challenging, for ELLs. English Language Learners often have already acquired literacy skills in their native language. They must also develop literacy skills in English, including phonemic awareness in reading, speaking fluency and increased vocabulary. The integration of blended learning can allow educators to adjust their instruction approach to meet the needs of their early learners.

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. This type of awareness is critical in early childhood, in order to develop the ability to successfully read print. The challenge for ELLs is to discriminate English sounds that are different from their native language. The incorporation of digital learning tools helps early learners increase their exposure to spoken language and their overall familiarity to the English language.

Vocabulary development begins at an early age, especially for ELLs. According to Reading Rockets, the average native English speaker enters kindergarten with a 5,000 word (or more) vocabulary. In contrast, the average ELL may know 5,000 native language words, but will be much more limited in English. As a result, it is that much more important for ELLs to have the resources necessary to build their English vocabulary.

These differentiation strategies are certainly important to meet the needs of English Language Learners. According to the National Education Association, however, it is equally important to encourage parental engagement in school and offer family learning events in the local community, such as the public library or childcare center. In many cases, other members of the family may also need to develop their English language skills.

When families are invited to participate in their child’s educational journey, they feel more welcomed and engaged in the learning process. Programs that are led by community education centers like libraries and afterschool programs encourage the engagement of parents, guardians, siblings, and other family members in the education process. They also help ELLs and their families feel more comfortable in their communities and promote educational values that are critical in early childhood development.

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