Hi friends! This blog is for teachers and families- all for the sheer joy of literacy. When we are enthusiastic about reading and writing our students and our own kids become excited to read and write. I hope that we all can be models for those in our care- how did you show your passion for reading, writing, learning, language, or words today?? It's in those small, daily moments that we teach kids to love literacy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Second Language Acquisition: It Takes Time

As a reading specialist in East Oakland, I work primarily with students that are struggling with language acquisition. A lack of English language knowledge tends to be the most common deficit. Secondly, many of my students do not have access to books and do not read often- which continues to keep them back. When my students' knowledge of  English sounds/patterns/words grow (in concert with a toolbox full of learned reading skills), their reading usually takes off. Makes sense, right? Yes, I have several other students that have visual/auditory processing issues- which are different issues (and hard to sort out especially when they are ALSO learning English!). But again, most of my students need intensive and explicit language and vocabulary instruction. It's hard to read and make sense of the words, when you don't know any of the words and their meaning to start with!

I like this snippet from an article on everythingesl.net (a great site, with great resources for esl/el teachers)-

Stages of Second Language Acquisition by Judie Haynes
It takes students from 4-10 years to achieve cognitive academic language proficiency in a second language. Student at this stage will be near-native in their ability to perform in content area learning. Most ELLs at this stage have been exited from ESL and other support programs. At the beginning of this stage, however, they will need continued support from classroom teachers especially in content areas such as history/social studies and in writing. 

While I'm cognisant that my most of my students are in the process of learning English, I'm still eager for their reading problems to be fixed quickly (as are their classroom teachers, along with the school and district administrators). But as Haynes reminds us, it takes a long time for students learning a new language to be able to be completely proficient in the second language, and she suggests these students will still need continued support. Our school is 95% Latino. Most of students come to Kinder with limited English ability. Again, the process of learning language takes T I M E. So, while I know my students in reading intervention may not be proficient in academic English when they leave me, I can do my darndest to infuse them with as much language learning as possible in our limited time together. If all of our students year after year have teachers that make this commitment- they will be ready to dive into the world of academic English sooner. Agreed?

What do you do as a teacher or a parent to help your child/students as they learn English/another language? I'm eager to hear your ideas!

More great resources from Judie Haynes (I really love all of her lists and strategies!):
Vocabulary Instruction Tips for English Learners
Seven Teaching Strategies for Classroom Teachers of ELLs
Elementary Websites for English Language Learners

Some more online resources:
Language Castle
!Colorin Colorado!
Larry Ferlazzo Websites of the Day
Education Week's Learning The Language Blog
Teaching Diverse Learners
Project G.L.A.D
ELL Materials Great to Have on Hand- from Scholastic

Read on!

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