Language Development Just for ELs?
As teachers, we regularly emphasize instruction for English Learners in the four domains of language: listening, speaking, reading, writing. We want our EL students to be producing and receiving language; developing language skills is expected instruction. However, do we need to develop language for native speakers too?
Language minority students entering kindergarten with limited oral English have four times the odds of having reading difficulties by third grade compared to native English speakers (Kieffer, 2010). Probably not that surprising, but let’s dig a little deeper into the data.
Comparing language minority students to native speakers from similar socioeconomic conditions, we see English learners have just 1.5 times the odds of reading difficulties by third grade (Kieffer, 2010). Kieffer and Vukovic (2012) found “the effects of language background may be less important than the ecological effects of socioeconomic status and schooling context.” Language comprehension matters for English learners and native speakers alike.
Phonemic Awareness, Phonics – Yes! But don’t forget about language!
Much of our literacy focus in the primary years has been on phonological awareness and phonics. However, as demonstrated above, linguistic comprehension in the early years also matters, and Kieffer and Vukovic (2012) found instruction in vocabulary and listening comprehension is necessary for successful reading.
Strategies to Develop Oral Language
At the most recent Minnesota English Learner Education (MELed) Conference, I attended an outstanding workshop by a group of teachers from Minneapolis’ Richard Green Elementary School who presented on the oral language strategies they have implemented K-5 in their school. They have put together an amazing collection of resources based primarily from the research of Jeff Zwiers and Spencer Kagan and have graciously shared their resources with the community. I spoke with one of the presenters, Christine Kennedy, afterwards, and she gave me permission to post their Google site on this blog. Enjoy! https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B9s4h-poTqUcMmFNRGgwQkg5R2c
Kieffer, M. J., & Vukovic, R. K. (2012). Components and Context: Exploring Sources of Reading Difficulties for Language Minority Learners and Native English Speakers in Urban Schools. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 45(5), 433-452.
Kieffer, M. J. (2010). English proficiency, socioeconomic status, and late-emerging reading difficulties. Educational Researcher, 39, 484–486.