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Supporting ALL Students with Complex Text: Part Three

Question: I'm struggling with how to support my English language learners (ELLs)s with accessing complex texts. Are there considerations that should be kept in mind related to text complexity and ELLs?  

Thoughts:

While the components that create complexity in texts (e.g. figurative language, syntax, vocabulary, background knowledge, etc.) present challenges for all readers, helping English learners deal with these challenges can be bolstered with specific strategies.  For instance, ELL students come from cultural backgrounds that are rich in language acquisition.  Educators should incorporate the cultural experience and literature of ELL students into their instructional practice.  Locating first language translations of text, in addition to English only text, is one strategy educators can use.  When ELL students are able to become more proficient in their own language, this will help them with the English only text.  Also, using oral tradition in the classroom environment can assist ELL students. When students hear English words orally, they are able to cognate relationships between their first language and English to understand English words.  Finally, when students are able to read literature that is relevant to their cultural experience, reading comprehension can increase; therefore, teachers should be culturally responsive to help their ELL students.

Seeking assistance and professional development to improve your instructional methods will give you the support you will need to help your ELL students.  Supports such as ELL trained professionals, resource specialist and dual language colleagues can provide a great network to help you acquire the necessary instructional skills.

Resources:

Developing Literacy in Second-Language Learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth: Diane August and Timothy Shanahan published this report based on a 4-year process of a 13 expert panel review of quantitative and qualitative research on the development of literacy in language-minority students.   

Instruction for Diverse Groups of English Language Learners: In this article Aida Walqui (WestEd) and Margaret Heritage (CRESST) outline five principles of instruction for English Language Learners. 

Effective Instruction for English Language Learners: This article identifies elements of effective instruction and a review of successful program models for working with English Learners.  

What Does Text Complexity Mean for English Learners and Language Minority Students?: This paper addresses the implications for English Language Learners of the new standards' requirement that students be able to read and understand complex, informationally dense texts.