The science of reading also applies to students learning English as a second language

0 24

Credit: Andrew Reed / EdSource

Do you trust EdSource? If so please Make your donation today.

As California pushes schools to adopt research-based approaches to teaching children how to read, often called “the science of reading,” some teachers and English language learner advocates have expressed concern that methods used to teach reading in English may not work for their mother tongue. For students learning English as a second language.

But a closer look at the science behind how language develops reveals an interesting parallel between the science of reading and second language learning. In fact, the science of reading can certainly provide support when it comes to teaching students whose first language is not English.

The science of reading and the science of language learning both require a clear and structured approach to reading to help answer a long-standing question: How do I teach English academic skills to a student with no oral English?

A key strength of the Science of Reading approach is its focus on both language (speaking) and literacy (reading) in the same teaching area. Gone are the days of encouraging separate subjects in English language arts, where reading and writing and oral fluency are taught as separate entities. Science-based approaches encourage teaching language and literacy to go hand-in-hand, supporting and building on each other based on each child’s growth and development. This focus is effective for all students, but especially English learners who need to learn oral skills at the same time as they learn academic subjects. When you hear the word, you are learning what the word means.

The common separation of oral language and reading skills in English leads to increased “scaffolding” support for native English speakers—and even more so for non-native English speakers. Already pressed for time, teachers often find themselves in need Oral Skills in reading, just to turn around and add what is needed Reading and writing Skills in oral language learning. By teaching the two skills separately, teachers spend more time on each skill as they are developmentally interconnected.

Literacy approaches these skills as interconnected, giving equal importance to both oral language and writing instruction in the same space. This immediately reduces the need for support and emphasizes viewing language and literacy through the lens of knowledge and development rather than repetition and memorization.

Teaching oral, comprehension, and vocabulary skills along with language structure and syntax is a must for teaching English learners. Take Marco, an English student, for example. Marco can say the word “net” correctly and can recognize the sight word (usually used like “she”, “be” or “had”) when reading. But does he know what these words mean or how to apply them in context? Is he even given the chance to find out? Most of the time Marco has no idea. He gets a “high five” for simply solving one word correctly and knowing another without any understanding because that was the skill focus for that lesson. Marco continues in the learning process, he learns certain skills only with a certain feeling and is not completely complete and practical.

This not only limits Marco’s ability to read in another language, but also his language skills. Language comprehension, vocabulary expansion and active skill application are lost due to this fragmented approach.

Marco needs both practical application and general skills to learn purposefully and associatively, and he needs to do this in the same lesson period where the concepts are still fresh and relevant.

The fact that this integrated approach to language and literacy is now being promoted in whole-group and small-group teaching settings in reading science is an important step forward.

Looking at reading and the science behind it from a cognitive perspective gives us a fairer approach to teaching because it is fundamentally—and practically meaningful—in the brain’s information processing, which is universal. How the meaning of words develops, along with the signs and sounds in reading and writing, is simultaneously developed in all language and literacy.

The science of reading challenges teachers to look beyond spoken language and take a deeper look at how it works. On the surface, it’s easy to fear that teachers won’t be able to help or support English learners if they don’t speak the students’ language. However, by applying the plain language of reading and the science of literacy, teachers remember how they themselves made meaning and developed English literacy. Yes, they spoke English, but they still had to learn the structure and form of writing and how to read English in class, just like their English language students did. The main difference is that an English learner may not have any early English oral skills, but these skills can be developed along with writing instruction.

Applying the science of reading alone does not provide all the solutions to the complexities of teaching English learners, but a clear focus and equal importance to language and literacy development can provide teachers with an objective starting point.


Rachel Hawthorne He has experience in language education and has taught Pre-K-5th grade bilingually for many years. She now works as an English Learner product developer. Really great readingA company that provides literacy support for teachers.

The opinions expressed in this review are those of the author. If you want to submit a comment, please review our Instructions And contact us.

Source link

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More