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A summary of the National Literacy Panel’s findings with regard to evidence based literacy instructions for English Language Learners and suggestions for clinicians and educators.
Summary: This book is a report of the National Literacy Panel on language-minority children and youth. The Panel investigated and discussed recent research on the following domains: 1) development of literacy in language-minority children and youth, 2) cross-linguistic relationships, 3) sociocultural contexts and literacy development, 4) instruction and professional development, and 5) student assessment. The reviewers determined that focusing literacy instruction on phonemic awareness, decoding, oral reading fluency, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing, is extremely beneficial for all students, including second language learners. Authors stressed that literacy instruction should focus on these curricular components for all students, but some adjustments should be made to meet the needs of second language learners effectively. For example, for students whose L1 does not use all phonemes of English or does not permit combinations of these phonemes (such as Spanish), instruction should put a greater than normal focus on phonemic awareness for those particular phonemes. Another notable finding was that successful literacy instruction approaches are usually not as beneficial for ELLs as they are for monolingual English speakers. For these students, instruction must focus on both oral English and English literacy skills together. If oral English skills are not fostered, these students will likely develop appropriate early reading skills; however lag behind later in reading comprehension and vocabulary. Additionally, regarding assessment, authors found that typically developing English dominant bilingual students have lower vocabulary skills than native English speakers. Therefore, it is not sufficient to use vocabulary tests to identify disability with them. Alternatively, low cost cloze tests based on students’ literacy and content area are capable of assessing vocabulary, grammar, and discourse skills more appropriately.
Importance: This book explains what elements of literacy education should be focused on during ELL instruction. Literacy instruction for these students should include adjustments based on the children’s specific needs and L1 characteristics. Clinicians should understand that these children may still be in the process of second language acquisition and will only succeed in higher-level literacy skills, such as comprehension and development of academic vocabulary, if their literacy instruction combines oral language skills. For example, teaching phoneme production in combination with phonemic awareness. The book also highlights the problems associated with standardized vocabulary tests with this population, and provides more alternatives appropriate for literacy and language assessment, such as cloze tests and dynamic assessments (pre-test-teach-test). Clinicians who do not make adjustments in the assessment, instruction, and intervention for ELL students are failing to meet the needs of their students. This report provides clinicians and educators with evidence-based practice with regard to literacy instruction of ELLs.
August, D., & Shanahan, T. (2008). Developing reading and writing in second language learners. New York, NY: Routledge.