Writing and grammar is complex and can be especially challenging for English-language learners (ELL). According to the U.S. Department of Education, ELL students make up a significant percentage of the public school system. There were nearly five million ELL students in the system in 2007. It is often assumed that the primary language of ELL students is Spanish. The reality is that there are over 450 languages spoken by ELL students. To help these students master new skills and concepts, teachers can adapt instruction to meet their needs. Voyages in English, a comprehensive writing and grammar program published by Loyola Press, includes many ideas for doing this.
Research suggests that many ELL students follow a similar language acquisition process. In the first stage, preproduction, students gain familiarity with the sounds, the rhythms, and the patterns of language. Teachers can support preproduction students by connecting new learning with previous learning. For example, teachers can connect the pronunciation of an English letter or word with the pronunciation of the letter or word in a student’s primary language. Teachers may also wish to use visual aids, surround students with different types of language, and pair ELL students with students proficient in English who can model correct language use. Many Voyages in English teaching options suggest visual aids teachers can use to reinforce preproduction language acquisition.
As ELL students become more familiar with English and move into the next stage of acquisition, early production, they are able to listen with greater comprehension, repeat memorable language, and use common English expressions. Teachers can help students in this stage by asking questions with yes/no and one-word answers, conducting shared reading, visually reinforcing concepts, and modeling language patterns by exposing students to literature with patterned and predictable language. Voyages in English provides ideas for reading material that can be used to help ELL students improve English proficiency.
In the next stage, speech emergence, students will speak with less hesitation and will be able to produce longer phrases and sentences with fewer grammatical errors. Students will also demonstrate an increased vocabulary and be able to participate actively in group discussions. Students might be able to describe, explain, or retell stories in their own words, and engage in independent reading with occasional prompts. Teachers can help students by providing opportunities for written and oral expression. Voyages in English provides numerous opportunities for this through Warm-Up and Daily Maintenance activities. In discussion, teachers can use open-ended questions. Students will also benefit from exposure to appropriate books, newspapers, and magazines. At this stage, and every stage, it is important to celebrate student success.
Intermediate and Advanced Fluency
In the final stages of language acquisition, intermediate and advanced fluency, students will demonstrate a more advanced vocabulary, and increased accuracy and correctness in writing and speaking. Teachers can support students by continuing to connect new knowledge with prior knowledge, modeling complex language structure, and using additional vocabulary words in context. Sentence diagramming, a core feature of Voyages in English, is another effective way to help promote fluency.
Supportive Teaching Options
The ELL teaching options in Voyages in English pay attention to how students acquire and develop language skills. Examples include paring ELL students with students who are proficient in English and using visuals throughout the lesson. Teaching options in Voyages in English give educators useful ideas for reinforcing learning objectives by using methods that will help English-language learners become proficient readers, writers, and speakers.