Colorin Colorado: Helping children read... and succeed!

Teachers who work with English as a Second Language learners will find ESL/ESOL/ELL/EFL reading/writing skill-building children's books, stories, activities, ideas, strategies to help PreK-3, 4-8, and 9-12 students learn to read.

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Research & Reports

Phonics

Developing Literacy in Second-Language Learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth

Author: National Literacy Panel, Diane August, Timothy Shanahan

Summary: The National Literacy Panel on Language Minority Children and Youth systematically and rigorously examined the research on acquiring literacy in a second language. This is the executive summary of the full report, which is available for purchase through the Center for Applied Linguistics.

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Tags: Bilingual Instruction; Bilingualism / Biliteracy; Comprehension; Content Areas: Math; Content Areas: Science; Content Areas: Social Studies; Content Areas: The Arts; Curriculum; Differentiated Instruction; Fluency; Instructional Programs; Intervention; Language of Instruction; Language Proficiency; Phonics; Phonological Awareness; Placement; Vocabulary; Writing;

Target Population: Preschool, Elementary, Middle, High School

Research Questions the Report Poses: How do ELL students acquire literacy in a second language?

Findings:

  • Instructional approaches that focus on phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension-have clear benefits for ELLs. Like their native English speaking peers, ELLs benefit from these strategies as well as writing instruction.
  • For students to become literate in English several instructional qualities need to be met including: content coverage, intensity and thorough instruction,
  • ELL specific instruction, monitoring learning, and teacher preparation.
  • Oral proficiency and literacy in the first language can be used to facilitate literacy development in English.
  • Researchers have documented few sociocultural impacts on literacy achievement or development. However, researchers have found that home language experiences can have a positive impact on literacy achievement.

August, D. and Shanahan, T. (2006). Developing Literacy in Second-Language Learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth. Center for Applied Linguistics, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, NJ.

English Language Learners: Boosting Academic Achievement

Author: American Educational Research Association

Summary: With nearly one in twelve public school children receiving special assistance to learn English, researchers are investigating effective ways to teach English literacy and boost academic achievement for ELLs. This American Educational Research Association brief estimates that with explicit phonics instruction and frequent assessment, young ELLs can master the basics of English literacy. To sustain academic achievement, vocabulary and comprehension strategies must continue to develop in a structured, supported, and inclusive learning environment.

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Tags: Bilingual Instruction; Bilingualism / Biliteracy; Comprehension; Fluency; Instructional Programs; Language Proficiency; Phonics; Phonological Awareness; Placement; Spelling; Transfer of Literacy Skills; Vocabulary;

Target Population: Preschool, Elementary

Research Questions the Report Poses: In spite of the debate over bilingual versus English-only education, the fundamental question remains: What are the best ways to teach English literacy to English language learners, and what rate of achievement in English is realistic to expect?

Findings:

  • ELLs need the same kind of reading instruction that works for native speakers, more of it, and they need to be watched carefully so they get help adjusted to their language development needs as soon as they encounter problems;
  • ELL students can learn basic English reading skills in two years, but their chances of falling behind later in school are greater than native English speaking children;
  • There is no evidence that the extra teaching that ELLs need can be effectively offered in "pullout" programs that are not closely integrated with the main literacy program;
  • ELLs benefit from lengthening the school day and/or year; and
  • ELLs need teachers who can deliver reading instruction shown to be most effective, and these teachers need intensive professional development

Policy Recommendations:

  • Give English language learners extra time and instruction in literacy, either through longer school days or extended years;
  • Assign the best teachers to English learners and provide professional development in effective teaching strategies;
  • Use proven techniques for teaching basic word recognition skills, including phonics and phonological awareness;
  • Provide lots of practice reading and frequent assessments to pinpoint children's reading strengths and weaknesses;
  • Provide structured academic conversation, built around books and other subject matter activities to build vocabulary and comprehension; and
  • Provide several years of intensive, high-quality instruction to help students master the vocabulary, comprehension, and oral language skills that will make them fully fluent in speaking, reading, and writing English.

Resnick, L.B., Ed. (2004). English Language Learners: Boosting Academic Achievement. Research Points, 2(1). American Educational Research Association: Washington DC.

Getting Ready for Reading: Early Phoneme Awareness and Phonics Teaching Improves Reading and Spelling in Inner-city Second Language Learners

Author: M. Stuart

Summary: Previous studies demonstrate that phoneme awareness training, particularly when combined with letter–sound teaching, results in improved reading and spelling development. This study builds upon those findings by including children learning English as a second language, who have typically been excluded from previous studies.

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Tags: Instructional Programs; Phonics; Phonological Awareness;

Target Population: Preschool, Elementary

Research Questions the Report Poses:

  • Is it possible to accelerate phonemic awareness and skills in ELL children by using a specified whole class teaching procedure ("Phonics Handbook") for 12 weeks during the first year of formal schooling?
  • If so, does this acceleration lead to more successful development of reading and spelling skills at the end of the second year at school?

Findings:

  • Early, structured, focused and rapid teaching of phoneme segmentation and blending skills and of grapheme–phoneme correspondences does accelerate development of these skills and acquisition of this knowledge in 5–year–olds, including ELLs.
  • Acquiring these skills and developing reading and writing abilities early (at beginning of formal schooling, if not before) gives students a long–term advantage in school.
  • Most children can very rapidly acquire the concepts and knowledge taught, and can do so without the necessity for small–group teaching.
  • Because the materials used here were designed by a teacher for teachers to use, the positive results demonstrate that teachers need very little training or support to use these materials to good effect.

Policy Recommendations:
None given

Stuart, M. (1999). Getting ready for reading: early phoneme awareness and phonics teaching improves reading and spelling in inner–city second language learners. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 69, 587-605.

Para nuestros niños: Expanding and Improving Early Education for Hispanics

Author: National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics

Summary: This report details how increased participation in pre-K programs would benefit ELL students, especially Hispanic ELLs. It has an extensive set of recommendations for a number of different types of policymakers. The report also contains a demographic profile of young Hispanic children, a report on Hispanic educational performance patterns, and some strategies to accelerate progress for ELLs.

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Tags: Instructional Programs; Latino ELL Students; Phonics; Reading; Struggling Readers; Transfer of Literacy Skills; Vocabulary;

Target Population: Preschool

Research Questions the Report Poses: What steps can be taken to increase access to pre-K and early childhood programs for ELLs, particularly Hispanic ELLs?

Findings:

  • Hispanic students have been achieving more and more over the past three generations.
  • o Hispanic students born in the US do better on achievement tests than immigrant Hispanic children
  • Hispanic students are still overrepresented among low-achieving students.
  • Achievement among Hispanic students varies widely according to country of origin. South Americans and Cubans perform almost as well as White and Asian students, while Mexican-American students are far below White achievement levels
  • High quality infant/toddler programs, pre-K programs, and K-3 schooling can contribute to meaningfully higher levels of school readiness and school achievement among low SES students, including low SES Hispanics.
  • R&D is needed to provide better early childhood education for Hispanics. This includes developing and testing new programs, methods, and approaches that are tailored to fit the needs of Hispanic students.

Policy Recommendations:
Recommends that State Governments:

  • Expand and increase infant/toddler programs in their states that serve or could potentially serve large numbers of Hispanic families.
  • Continue to expand state-funded pre-K initiatives in an effort to have voluntary universal pre-K systems in most states within 10-20 years.
  • Increase efforts to disseminate information to Hispanic parents about available pre-K programs.
  • Increase funding for voluntary multi-year summer programs for students with low SES.
  • Create programs to draw more ELL and bilingual educators.
  • Increase pay and benefit levels for pre-K teachers and administrators so that they are equal to their public school counterparts.
Recommends that the federal government:
  • Expand the Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
  • Invest resources to designing, testing, and evaluating pre-K and K-3 language and literacy development strategies.
  • Fund program testing that will yield more bilingual and ELL teachers.
  • Create assessments for ELLs at the pre-K level in both Engish and Spanish.
  • Increase longitudinal studies on Hispanics and other groups who achieve below US norms.
  • Increase US participation in international assessments.
Recommends for private foundations:
  • Fund long-term efforts to design, test, and evaluate pre-K and K-3 language and literacy development strategies for Hispanics from all SES levels and from immigrant/nonimmigrant families.
  • Create foundations that can help provide the above funding.
Recommends that Hispanic organizations:
  • Create recommendations for new approaches to infant/toddler, pre-K, and K-3 programs for Hispanic students.
  • Create proposals on how state governments can increase their ELL/bilingual educators.
  • Create literacy development information, materials, and other parental supports.

Para nuestros niños: Expanding and Improving Early Education for Hispanics. (2007). National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics.

Practical Guidelines for the Education of English Language Learners: Research-based Recommendations for the Instruction and Academic Interventions

Author: David J. Francis and Mabel Rivera/Center on Instruction English Language Learners Strand, Nonie Lesaux and Michael Kieffer/Havard Graduate School of Education, Hector Rivera/Center on Instruction English Language Learners Strand

Summary: After briefly highlighting the characteristics of and how to best identify ELL students, this article shows the importance of effective instruction and intervention not only for academically struggling ELL students, but also for all ELL students including those individuals who are linguistically fluent in English. Before looking into the proposed recommendations the article also briefly looks into the importance of mastering academic language skills as key elements to academic success. The importance of academic language skills is revisited under the recommendations sections for both reading comprehension and mathematics.

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Tags: American Indian ELL Students; Asian ELL Students; Comprehension; Content Areas: Math; Fluency; Instructional Programs; Intervention; Language of Instruction; Language Proficiency; Latino ELL Students; Other ELL Students (Middle Eastern, African, European, etc.); Phonics; Phonological Awareness; Reading; Struggling Readers; Vocabulary; Writing;

Target Population: Elementary School, Middle School, High School

Research Questions the Report Poses: What students are classified as being English Language Learners? How are they best identified, and what recommendations should be made to more adequately instruct possible ELL students to prevent further learning difficulties?

Findings:

  • Statistics for ELLs may be hard to obtain or may be inaccurate since many ELL students go without being properly identified
  • ELL students can better from more individualized instruction
  • Mastery of academic language is necessary for academic success, which can prove to be difficult even for English speaking proficient ELLs
  • In order to provide effective support of reading comprehension to ELLs educators must have an understanding of the child's individual needs
  • In addition to reading comprehension it is crucial for students to become proficient in mathematics

Policy Recommendations:
While the article did not have any specific policy recommendations the recommendations listed in the article could be taken as such and thus included in this section.

Recommendations for Reading Instruction and interventions:

  • ELLs need early, explicit, and intensive instruction in phonological awareness and phonics in order to build decoding skills.
  • K-12 classrooms across the nation must increase opportunities for ELLs to develop sophisticated vocabulary knowledge.
  • Reading instruction in K-12 classrooms must equip ELLs with strategies and knowledge to comprehend and analyze challenging narrative and expository texts.
  • Instruction and intervention to promote ELLs' reading fluency must focus on vocabulary and increased exposure to print.
  • In all K-12 classrooms across the U.S., ELLs need significant opportunities to engage in structured, academic talk.
  • Independent reading is only beneficial when it is structured and purposeful, and there is a good reader-text match.
Recommendations for Mathematics Instruction:

  • ELLs need early explicit and intensive instruction and intervention in basic mathematics concepts and skill.
  • Academic language is as central to mathematics as it is to other academic areas. It is a significant source of difficulty for many ELLs who struggle with mathematics.
  • ELLs need academic language support to understand and solve the word problems that are often used for mathematics assessment and instruction.

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
N/A

Francis, David J., Mabel Rivera, Nonie Lesaux, and Hector Rivera. (2006). Research-Based Recommendations for Instruction and Academic Interventions. Practical Guidelines for the Education of English Language Learners, Retrieved April 11,2008, from http://www.centeroninstruction.org/files/ELL1-Interventions.pdf

Technology and Teaching Children to Read

Author: Diana Sherman, Glenn Kleiman, and Kirsten Peterson

Summary: This article shares strategies for effectively implementing technology within K-6 reading programs. Research-based guidelines from the National Reading Panel report (NRP, 2000) frame the discussion about the potential uses of multimedia digital technology to enhance reading instruction.

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Tags: Comprehension; Fluency; Motivation; Phonics; Phonological Awareness; Reading; Vocabulary;

Target Population: Preschool, Elementary, Middle, High School

Research Questions the Report Poses: What does recent research say about the benefits of technology in helping students learn to read?

Findings:

  • Available research points to many possibilities for technology to enhance reading instruction.
  • Decisions about the effective uses of technology need to be based on an understanding of the school or district reading program.
  • Understanding of the potential uses of technology and a careful analysis of the alignment between the needs of the reading program and the capabilities brought by the technology is vital.
  • Technology can help make a good reading program more effective, but technology's value depends upon the quality of the overall reading program and the thoughtful and careful implementation of technology.

Policy Recommendations:
N/A

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
N/A

Sherman, D., Kleiman, G., and Peterson, K. (2004). Technology and Teaching Children to Read. Education Development Center.

The Teacher's Guide to Diversity: Building a Knowledge Base

Author: Elise Trumbull and Maria Pacheco. The Education Alliance at Brown University. Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory (LAB).

Summary: The Teacher's Guide to Diversity: Building a Knowledge Base (Trumbull, Pacheco, 2005), published by The Education Alliance at Brown University, offers a wealth of information about multicultural influences on human development, culture, cognition, and language. This two-volume set, which is downloadable as a pdf file, covers such topics as: challenging cultural assumptions about parental involvement in school, supporting students' ethnic and academic identity in school, cultural differences in communication style and language use, and factors that influence second-language acquisition in children. (Volume I: Human Development, Culture, and Cognition; Volume II: Language) Also included is a separate presenter's manual with activities for each unit in the two volumes, which makes this publication easy to use for workshops and professional development.

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Tags: Bilingualism / Biliteracy; Fluency; Language of Instruction; Language Proficiency; Phonics; Phonological Awareness; Transfer of Literacy Skills; Vocabulary;

Target Population: All

Research Questions the Report Poses:

VOLUME I:

  • What are the reigning theories of human development, cognition, culture, and the relationship between them?
  • How does identity development intersect with achievement motivation?
  • What is intelligence?
  • How can our knowledge of human development inform our work as educators working with an increasingly diverse student population?
  • What is known about how to work successfully with families from non-dominant cultural groups?

VOLUME II:

  • What is language proficiency and how does it interact with culture, human development, learning, and schooling?
  • How can teachers best support English language learners (ELLs) and speakers of different English dialects?
  • What are the current views of literacy acquisition and best approaches to literacy instruction?
  • How can assessments eliminate bias based on language?

Findings:

  • Most important to the process of addressing the needs of learners from a wide range of backgrounds is a positive, ongoing process of exploration and constructive conversation among the professionals who serve such students and between professionals and students' families.
  • Meaningful approaches to human development and learning have become increasingly multi-disciplinary.
  • Language indexes culture; language symbolizes culture; culture is partially created by language.

Policy Recommendations:
Teacher's Guide to Diversity includes a third volume, "The Presenter's Manual," which provides support for preparing for and conducting classes or workshops. The manual contains activities and suggested homework assignments, organized by the volume with which they are associated.

Trumbull, E., Pacheco, M. (2005). The Teacher’s Guide to Diversity: Building a Knowledge Base. Providence, RI: The Education Alliance at Brown University. Retrieved from http://www.alliance.brown.edu/pubs/teach_guide_diversity/.

What Does Research Tell Us About Teaching Reading to English Language Learners?

Author: S. Irujo, The ELL Outlook

Summary: In this article, Suzanne Irujo discusses the findings of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth in the context of her own experience as an ELL teacher. Irujo organizes her discussion around the five essential components of reading instruction identified by the National Reading Panel (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension) and offers specific recommendations for enhancing ELL reading instruction in each of those areas.

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Tags: Comprehension; Curriculum; Differentiated Instruction; Fluency; Instructional Programs; Intervention; Language Proficiency; Phonics; Phonological Awareness; Reading; Struggling Readers; Transfer of Literacy Skills; Vocabulary;

Target Population: Elementary, Middle, High School

Research Questions the Report Poses: What does research tell us about teaching reading to English Language Learners?

Findings:

  • Literacy in the native language is an advantage.
  • ELLs cannot develop phonological awareness in English until they are familiar with the sounds of English; once phonological awareness has developed in any language, it transfers to other languages that are learned.
  • Systematic phonics instruction can be very effective in helping ELLs learn to decode words: the most effective reading programs for ELLs combine systematic phonics instruction with a print-rich environment that provides exposure to appealing reading materials in varied genres.
  • ELLs cannot achieve fluency in oral reading before they have achieved fluency in speaking: self-consciousness about accents and errors can affect reading fluency.
  • ELLs need more vocabulary instruction than their native-speaking peers, with different vocabulary words and vocabulary teaching techniques.
  • ELLs are more likely than native speakers to lack the background knowledge necessary for understanding texts

Policy Recommendations:

  • Substantial coverage of the five essential elements of reading instruction-phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension-helps.
  • Reading programs for ELLs should include intensive language development as well as instruction in literacy strategies and skills.
  • Instruction needs to be adjusted to meet the needs of ELLs.

Irujo, S. (2007). What Does Research Tell Us About Teaching Reading to English Language Learners? Haverhill, MA: The ELL Outlook.