Literacy Development for English Language Learners

English Language Learners (ELLs) are students who have acquired their primary listening and speaking skills in a language other than English. They require support and attention to their unique needs. In addition to language acquisition, English language learners are asked to merge their cultures, backgrounds, and experiences with those of their new environment in order to achieve academic success.

ELLs develop language proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing interdependently, but at different rates and in different ways. Broward County Public Schools embraces the adopted WIDA’s English Language Development Standards that represent the social, instructional, and academic language that students need to engage with peers, educators, and curriculum in schools. WIDA’s Can Do Philosophy is based on the belief that all students bring established knowledge, skills and ways of seeing and understanding the world from their homes and their communities. Academic language—that is, language use in academic contexts in this framework—is viewed as a vehicle for communicating and learning within sociocultural contexts; the interaction between different situations and people in the learning environment. The WIDA standards framework addresses the four language domains: listening, speaking, reading and writing which help educators plan balanced opportunities for language learning and take advantage of the stronger English language skills in one domain to support development in the other domains.

Instructional Practices for ELL

For ELLs to advance in becoming literate in English at a normal rate, they need instruction that is different in focus and intensity from the instruction provided for native English speakers. ELLs require much more oral language development with a focus on listening and speaking. ELLs require instruction that provides ample opportunities for them to hear and discriminate the words and sounds of English, to increase their vocabulary, and to practice their oral English skills. English language learners need opportunities to build background knowledge. Pre-reading activities can be used to identify gaps in students’ knowledge and to introduce new concepts and vocabulary. There needs to be a focus on the development of formal or academic English as a key instructional goal for English learners, beginning in the primary grades.

Social vs Academic Language

Teachers need to understand the difference between social language and academic language acquisition. Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) are language skills needed in social situations. It is the day-to-day language needed to interact socially. Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) refers to formal academic learning. This level of language learning is essential for students to succeed in schools. Students need time and support to become proficient in academic areas. Developing fluency in a second language depends on many variables. There is no single approach, strategy, or program that will always meet the needs of every student in the classroom.

Click here to access the Supplemental Literacy Plan for English Language Learners.