English Language Learners

Same, Different and Diverse: Understanding Children Who Are English Language Learners

Bank Street College and Education Development Center, Inc. (2014) Same, Different and Diverse: Understanding Children Who Are English Language Learners, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start, National Center on
Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness.

One third of the children enrolled in Early Head Start and Head Start are Dual Language Learners (DLLs). They are a diverse group who have different languages, experiences, strengths, and gifts. Recent research points out the similarities among ALL young children — those who are leaning one or several languages (e.g., children are born with natural capabilities for language and for learning); differences between children growing up with one language (monolinguals) and children who are DLLs (e.g., children may learn some ideas such as counting, in one of their languages but not the other); and diversity among children who are DLLs (e.g., individual differences of temperament, interests,etc.). Early Head Start and Head Start programs can best support the school readiness for Dual Language Learners when they understand each child's unique characteristics and needs.

The Magic of Words

Susan B. Neuman and Tanya S. Wright (Summer 2014) American Educator, Vol. 38, No. 2, American Federation of Teachers.

From the beginning of schooling, children from various socioeconomic groups differ greatly in their vocabulary knowledge; those from high-income families tend to know many more words than those from low-income ones. Research shows that certain practices for teaching vocabulary — an important building block for learning — such as making connections among words and repeatedly exposing students to content-related words, can accelerate young children's oral vocabulary development, regardless of family income.

Culture Counts: Engaging Black and Latino Parents of Young Children in Family Support Programs

Shannon Moodie, Manica Ramos (2014) Culture Counts: Engaging Black and Latino Parents of Young Children in Family Support Programs. Child Trends: Bethesda, MD.

This report provides an overview of family support programs and aims to identify the features and strategies that may be most effective for reaching and engaging black and Latino families, with the ultimate goal of supporting young children’s development. The report presents a synthesis of available research on parent engagement — as well as potential barriers to their engagement — in family support services and programs, and recommendations, for both policymakers and practitioners, for designing, adapting, and evaluating culturally-relevant family support programs and services.

Pre-K-3rd: Challenging Common Myths About Dual Language Learners

Espinosa, L.M. Pre-K-3rd: Challenging Common Myths About Dual Language Learners. New York: Foundation for Child Development, 2013.
Since 2008, when the first edition of Challenging Common Myths About Young English Language Learners was published, knowledge of how children acquire two languages during the PreKindergarten through Third Grade years and the positive consequences of growing up with more than one language has greatly advanced. This update presents two new and updates five commonly held beliefs about the development and learning of young children who are learning English as their second language. The brief offers recommendations for educational policy at the federal, state, and local levels that can better guide policies and practices for young DLL children.

Teachers' Instruction and Students' Vocabulary and Comprehension: An Exploratory Study With English Monolingual and Spanish–English Bilingual Students in Grades 3–5

Silverman, Rebecca D. , Patrick Proctor, C. , Harring, Jeffrey R. , Doyle, Brie , Mitchell, Marisa A. , & Meyer, Anna G. (2013). Teachers' Instruction and Students' Vocabulary and Comprehension: An Exploratory Study With English Monolingual and Spanish–English Bilingual Students in Grades 3–5. Reading Research Quarterly, 49(1), 31–60.

This study explored the relationship between teachers' instruction and students' vocabulary and comprehension in grades 3–5. The secondary aim of this study was to investigate whether this relationship differed for English monolingual and Spanish–English bilingual students. The researchers investigated how the frequency of different types of instruction was associated with change in students' vocabulary and comprehension across the school year. Teachers' instruction related to definitions, word relations, and morphosyntax was positively associated with change in vocabulary; teachers' instruction related to application across contexts and literal comprehension was negatively associated with change in vocabulary; and teachers' instruction related to inferential comprehension was positively associated with change in comprehension. The findings also revealed an interaction between language status and teachers' instruction, such that instruction that attended to comprehension strategies was associated with greater positive change in comprehension for bilingual (but not for monolingual) students.

Head Start and the Changing Demographics of Young Children

Golden, O. (2011). Head start and the changing demographics of young children. NHSA Dialog, 14(1).

Head Start and Early Head Start programs have always understood that high-quality services are grounded in a thorough understanding of the children and families in their communities. And the portrait of our nation's children is changing rapidly. Results from the 2010 Census show a dramatic change in the racial and ethnic composition of children, particularly increases in Hispanic and Asian children and declines in white children (and a slight decline nationally in the number of black children). Other recent national surveys show a sharp increase in the proportion of children, and young children in particular, whose parents are immigrants. Based on these trends and recent Urban Institute research, this paper makes four recommendations about how local Head Start practitioners can best meet the needs of today's young children and their families.

Starting Out Right: Pre-K and Kindergarten

Hull, Jim. Starting Out Right: Pre-K and Kindergarten. 2011 The Center for Public Education: Alexandria, VA

The report looks at the effect of various combinations of pre-k and kindergarten on third grade reading skills, a key predictor of future academic success. Findings show that children who attend pre-k and half-day kindergarten are more likely to have higher reading skills by the third grade than those who attend full-day kindergarten alone. The impact was greatest for Hispanic children, black children, English Language Learners, and children from low-income families.

Reading and Language Outcomes of a Five-Year Randomized Evaluation of Transitional Bilingual Education

Slavin, R.E., Madden, N., Calderon, M., Chamberlain, A., & Hennessy, M. (2010). Reading and language outcomes of a five-year randomized evaluation of transitional bilingual education. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University.

Recently published results from a 5-year randomized study indicate that Spanish-speaking children learn to read English equally well regardless of whether they are taught primarily in English or in both English and their native language. The first of its kind, the study compares English and Spanish language / reading performance of Spanish-dominant children who, from kindergarten, were randomly assigned to Transitional Bilingual Education or Sheltered English Immersion. A summary of the report is available through the What Works Clearinghouse website.

Creating Schools that Support Success for English Language Learners

Stepanek , J, Raphael , J, Autio, E, Deussen, T, & Thomps, L. (2010). Creating schools that support success for english language learners. Lessons Learned, 1(2), Education Northwest.

Lessons derived from Education Northwest's research, evaluation, and technical assistance experiences are intended to address questions that administrators may have about how to mitigate barriers to the linguistic and academic achievement of ELLs. They will also help leaders provide better support to teachers as they learn and implement evidence-based instructional practices for ELLs.

Putting the Pieces of the Puzzle Together: How Systematic Vocabulary Instruction and Expanded Learning Time Can Address the Literacy Gap

White, C.E. and Kim, J.S., Harvard Graduate School of Education (2009). Putting the Pieces of the Puzzle Together: How Systematic Vocabulary Instruction and Expanded Learning Time Can Address the Literacy Gap. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress.

This report makes several recommendations to address disparities in vocabulary and spoken language based on children's family income and English-language proficiency. Schools should use systematic vocabulary instruction throughout the school day and during expanded learning time, sustain a school-wide program, regularly assess student knowledge, and help teachers target the right words during instruction. The report suggests that expanded learning time policies may enhance the effectiveness of systematic vocabulary instruction for low-income children and English language learners.

A Cultural, Linguistic, and Ecological Framework for Response to Intervention with English Language Learners

Brown, J. E., and Doolittle, J. (2008). A Cultural, Linguistic, and Ecological Framework for Response to Intervention with English Language Learners. Teaching Exceptional Children, 40(5), 66-72.

Looking through the lens of culturally responsive practice, we consider how best to implement Response to Intervention (RTI) in a way that will provide equitable educational opportunity for students who are English Language Learners.

Dual Language Learners in the Early Years: Getting Ready to Succeed in School

National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (NCELA) (2008). Dual Language Learners in the Early Years: Getting Ready to Succeed in School. Washington, D.C.: NCELA.

This report reviews the literature on getting dual language learners ready for school. Dual language learners are children from 3-6 years old who are learning a second language while still acquiring their first. The report looks at ways in which families, communities, services and schools can work together to get children ready to succeed in the early years of education.

Scaffolding English Language Learners and Struggling Readers in a Universal Literacy Environment with Embedded Strategy Instruction and Vocabulary Support

Proctor, C. P., Dalton, B., and Grisham, D.L. (2007). "Scaffolding English language learners and struggling readers in a universal literacy environment with embedded strategy instruction and vocabulary support." Journal of Literacy Research, 39, 71-93.

Today teachers are charged with including all students in literacy instruction, even those who have previously struggled in traditional school environments. One group that has struggled in the past is English Language Learners (ELLs). Proctor, Dalton, and Grisham discuss a 4-week study that used supported digital text to assist ELLs with reading comprehension. They found that embedding features did help promote learners' use of comprehension strategies.

Effective Literacy and English Language Instruction for English Learners in the Elementary Grades

Gersten, R., Baker, S.K., Shanahan, T., Linan-Thompson, S., Collins, P., & Scarcella, R. (2007). Effective Literacy and English Language Instruction for English Learners in the Elementary Grades: A Practice Guide (NCEE 2007-4011). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from

The target audience for this guide is a broad spectrum of school practitioners such as administrators, curriculum specialists, coaches, staff development specialists and teachers who face the challenge of providing effective literacy instruction for English language learners in the elementary grades. The guide also aims to reach district-level administrators who develop practice and policy options for their schools.

Program Evaluation

August, D., & Hakuta, K. (1997). Program evaluation. In D. August & K. Hakuta (Eds.), Improving Schooling for Language-Minority Children: A Research Agenda (pp. 139-162). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

From the introduction:
During the 1970s and 1980s, the federal government and advocates were keenly interested in determining which model was more effective. Program evaluations were intended to provide a definitive answer to this question. This chapter examines what we know from program evaluations conducted to date and identifies research needs in this area.

Multicultural Perspectives on Literacy Research

Au, K. (1995). Multicultural perspectives on literacy research. Journal of Reading Behavior, 27, 85-100.

Describes the broad territory covered by researchers whose work reflects various multicultural perspectives on literacy. Discusses four areas of literacy research that reflect these perspectives: critical analyses, cultural difference analyses, bilingual analyses, and literary analyses. Also discusses the foremost proponents of each perspective.

The Relation Between First- and Second-Language Skills: Evidence from Puerto Rican Elementary School Children in Bilingual Programs

Lanauze, M., & Snow, C.E. (1989). The relation between first- and second-language skills: Evidence from Puerto Rican elementary school children in bilingual programs. Linguistics and Education, 1, 323-340.

Writing skills of 38 fourth and fifth graders in a Spanish-English bilingual program were assessed using a picture description task administered in both Spanish and English. The children had been rated by their teachers as ‘good’ or ‘poor’ on the basis of oral, aural, and reading skills in both Spanish and English, producing three groups: children rated good in both languages (GG), children rated poor in both languages (PP), and children rated poor in English but good in Spanish (PG). Measures of complexity, sophistication, and semantic content of the children's writing showed significant group differences, with the GG and the PG groups scoring better than the PP group in Spanish, as would be expected, but also in English. The fact that the PG group wrote longer, syntactically more complex, and semantically more complete essays than the PP group in English as well as in Spanish suggests they were transferring academic and literacy skills from L1 to L2 before their L2 oral-aural skills had developed very far. The poor performance of the PP group in English could be a reflection of their lack of academic and literacy skills in their first language.

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