Content Literacy Instruction for K-8 ELLs
Are you teaching and supporting English language learners (ELLs) as they acquire academic vocabulary, learn from increasingly complex informational texts, and tackle analytical writing? If so, you will want to review the Institute of Education Science’s practice guide, Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners in Elementary and Middle School (Baker et al, 2014). You can view the guide here.
The guide is IES’s first upgrade for ELLs since 2007 and it is aligned to the Common Core literacy standards. It expands the scope to middle school and shifts the focus away from “beginning reading” and early reading intervention to academic language and academic vocabulary.
Though the guide was initially created for students with limited proficiency in English, the strategies employed are equally relevant to any student struggling to learn content reading and writing.
The guide offers four primary recommendations, and not only provides details on the degree of evidence to support each, but also delivers practical tips on implementation, valuable exercises, and solutions to overcome key roadblocks in easy-to-understand language:
- Teach a set of academic vocabulary words intensively across several days using a variety of instructional activities.
- Integrate oral and written English language instruction into content-area teaching.
- Provide regular, structured opportunities to develop written language skills.
- Provide small-group instructional intervention to students struggling in areas of literacy and English language development.
I am pleased to see that IES’s summary of the research acknowledges that many of the strategies for teaching content literacy to ELLs are the same strategies that are embedded in Keys to Literacy’s vocabulary, comprehension, and writing professional development programs.