English Language Learners

Featured FAQs

Question 1: I teach English as a foreign language. What is the best way to teach kids how to read English?
Question 2: Why is RTI an important strategy for addressing disproportionality of racial and language minorities in special education?


I teach English as a foreign language. What is the best way to teach kids how to read English?


Reading is a very complex process, which requires decoding, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. Decoding alone is also a complex process involving many sub-skills, including alphabetic knowledge, phonemic awareness skills, phonics skills, and sight word recognition. All of these components are necessary for successful reading. It is important to be sure that there isn't anything standing in the way, such as difficulty with one or more of the skills necessary for easy and accurate reading. The decoding components of reading must be solid, or the reader will spend too much effort sounding out words and will not be able to derive meaning and enjoyment from the story.

The following articles will give you more information concerning the processes involved in reading:

You might also find helpful information in our "Launching Young Readers" Series.

If you work with more than one student at a time, the following articles may help give you ideas for ways you can diversify your instruction to reach all of your students:

The most helpful advice about specific teaching strategies usually comes from other teachers. If you haven't done so already, talk with your colleagues, especially those who have worked with your students in the past, as well as specialists (such as special education teachers, reading specialist, speech clinicians and occupational therapists) who are currently working with some of your students. They can share with you the strategies that they have found to be helpful for the students in your class.

While we cannot endorse any specific reading programs, the following articles from our site address several different programs and their benefits:

Reading Rockets has two sister-sites: LD OnLine and Colorin Colorado. Colorin Colorado is a Spanish language site, and contains several articles which can be viewed and printed in English or Spanish. You can sign up to receive the Colorin Colorado newsletter in Spanish or in English through the site.


Why is RTI an important strategy for addressing disproportionality of racial and language minorities in special education?


Disproportionality or the over and under representation of racial and language minorities in special education is an extension of the achievement gap in that we typically see high numbers of students of color, low-income students and English language learners in certain disability categories and we also see low numbers of these same groups when we look at indicators that are linked to academic success including gifted and talented programs, high school graduation, college enrollment and rates of proficiency on state achievement tests. So, similar to RTI, or Response to Intervention, it's important to view disproportionality in the context of what supports are available in general education and not just looking at it as a problem specific to special education.

RTI becomes very important for educators to use as a tool for addressing disproportionality because of its focus on data-based decision making. Starting with a district by district, school by school review of data on special education referrals and identification we can drill down and identify specific groups of students that are at the highest risk levels for being identified as having a disability. The goal then becomes to make sure that these students have access to coordinated early intervening supports that can prevent the escalation of learning or behavioral challenges.

Now the use of early intervening supports for high-risk students extends to other components of RTI that we consider to be essential. Screening and Progress Monitoring allow teachers to identify any learning or behavioral challenges while students are still in the regular classroom setting and they also allow them to modify or differentiate their core curriculum to focus on the identified areas for improvement. The use of tiered interventions is part of a multi-level prevention system, which is also an essential component, provides teachers with the instructional resources to respond to student learning or behavioral challenges in a regular ed setting. This system of support then becomes an alternative to a quick or unnecessary referral for special education evaluation.

Finally the use of tiered instructional interventions that are evidence-based and culturally responsive ensures that the RTI framework provides students with supports that are appropriate for their learning or behavioral needs. All of the resulting data on students response to instruction or to intervention then becomes useful data that can help identify those students who need additional support from special education. In this way we reduce the number of students that are inappropriately identified for special education and reserve that level of support for those students that need it most.

— Dr. Darren Woodruff, Principal Research Analyst at the American Institutes for Research

"Reading is not optional." —

Walter Dean Myers