Literacy Instruction for English Learners

Effective literacy instruction for ELs should be specific to their needs and unique assets.

Earlier this year, the National Committee for Effective Literacy published Toward Comprehensive Effective Literacy Policy and Instruction for English Learner/Emergent Bilingual Students written by Kathy Escamilla, Ph.D., Laurie Olsen, Ph.D., and Jody Slavick, Ph.D. The paper explores language and literacy development for English Learners (ELs), pointing out how the current one-size-fits-all literacy approach is not effective for meeting the unique needs of ELs and fails to use their strengths. As the white paper states, “Second language development is decidedly dissimilar to the development of a first language precisely because it occurs on the bedrock of the first. It is in relationship and comparison to knowledge of the first language that the elements of a new language (such as vocabulary, phonological components, grammatical structures, and writing systems) are learned, and the understanding of the different language systems develops.” 

So what does this mean? Research is showing that developing a second language is not done in the same way as developing a first language. Literacy instruction for ELs needs to leverage their dual language brains—a second (or third) language is developed through connections to the home language. 

We can use this understanding when developing curriculum for ELs, viewing their background knowledge, experiences, and home languages as assets to the development of literacy and achieving academic success. Literacy instruction for ELs should connect to and build on their home language, encourage participation through scaffolded instruction, and emphasize oral language development. 

At CSA Education, we have many trusted writers and editors with curriculum experience and expertise to address the instructional needs of ELs. Most importantly, they are committed to contributing to the curriculum and resources that teachers need to support ELs.