The Office of English Language Learners partners with the most renowned researchers in the field of ELL literacy development. OELL commissioned Dr. Nonie Leseaux and Dr. Julie Harris of Harvard University, Dr.Michael Kieffer of New York University, and Dr. Diane August and Dr. Erin Haynes to write the following briefs on ELLs and how teachers can support their literacy growth.
Supporting ELLs' Achievement: Oral Language Unpacked
Oral language is the system through which we use spoken words to express knowledge, ideas, and feelings.Developing English Language Learners’ (ELLs) oral language, then, means developing the skills and knowledge that provide the foundation for their listening, speaking, and writing. Broadly, oral language is made up of five components. Click here to read more.
Disciplinary Literacy for ELLs
Disciplinary literacy refers to the specialized skills and knowledge that students use to read and write about content in the academic disciplines, such as science, social studies, mathematics, and literature. Each academic discipline has its own particular ways of making meaning from texts,so the skills and knowledge that help students read and write some texts for particular purposes will not be the same for other texts and other purposes. For instance, math students reading algebra word problems to solve them will use very different strategies, content knowledge, and language knowledge than science students reading a textbook chapter to learn about earthquakes, both of which use different skills and knowledge from history students reading a speech by Abraham Lincoln to analyze his perspective on slavery. Unlike other approaches to literacy across the content areas, teaching disciplinary literacy starts with the authentic goals for reading and writing held by real scientists, historians, mathematicians, and literary critics. All students deserve access to these complex disciplinary practices and ELLs, in particular, need thoughtful and explicit instructional support to learn to use them. Click here to read more.
The Common Core State English Language Arts Standards require that students read and understand texts of increasing complexity. This requirement is in place to help prepare students to be college and career ready, because both college and workplace readings tend to be of greater complexity than those typically found in K-12 programs, and there is a greater emphasis placed on independent reading in both college and the workplace. Click here to read more.
Distinguishing Language Acquisition from Learning Disabilities
The single biggest error made in placing English language learners (ELLs) into special education is misinterpreting language acquisition as a learning or language disability. In this guide, several questions are raised about how to distinguish language acquisition from learning disabilities (LD) and offer answers for each. Click here to read more.
What is Scaffolding?
Both a structure and a process, scaffolding refers to dynamic and responsive supports that enable learners to develop their full potential and eventually become autonomous learners. With appropriate scaffolding for academic practices, students are able to simultaneously build conceptual understandings, academic skills, and the language needed to enact them. Click here to read more.
We label ideas with words: common ideas are labeled with words that children learn very early (e.g., juice, ball), while complex ideas are labeled with words that are rare (e.g., photosynthesis, fusion). We record our ideas in texts and, with only a few exceptions (e.g., a lecture in a college class), texts contain more sophisticated vocabulary than does oral language. To successfully comprehend texts, readers must have a deep and rich vocabulary. In fact, vocabulary is the strongest predictor of success in comprehending texts. Click here to read more.
Middle School Literacy and Leadership Institute on English Language Learners
This nine-day institute (currently five) is designed to address the pervasive challenge for today’s middle school instructional leaders serving linguistically diverse populations: How to ensure that their classrooms and instruction are designed to develop students’ advanced literacy skills, rather than basic literacy skills. The institute, running from October 2013 to May 2014, is designed for middle school principals and their school-based instructional leaders. Click here for more information.
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS, 2010) call for students to be engaged in increasingly more rigorous academic inquiry—often by engaging with multiple, authentic (and more complex) texts on a single topic—has once again made reading comprehension instruction a central concern for all educators of adolescents. Adolescent readers require many kinds of knowledge and skills in order to comprehend these complex texts (for instance, background knowledge and the skill to apply reading strategies). However, the ability to understand the language of academic texts, also called ‘academic language (AL),’ is fundamental. Click here for more information. To view the accompanying webinar, click here.