English Language Development
LISTENING AND SPEAKING
Strategies and Applications
The listening and speaking standards for English learners identify a student’s competency to understand the English language and to produce the language orally. Students must be prepared to use English effectively in social and academic settings. Listening and speaking skills provide one of the most important building blocks for the foundation of second-language acquisition and are essential for developing reading and writing skills in English. To develop proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing, students must receive instruction in reading and writing while developing fluency in oral English.
Teachers must use both the ELD and the English–language arts standards to ensure that English learners develop proficiency in listening and speaking and acquire the concepts in the English–language arts standards. English learners achieving at the advanced level of the ELD standards should demonstrate proficiency in the language arts standards at their own grade level and at all prior grade levels. This expectation means that by the early advanced ELD level, all prerequisite skills needed to achieve the level of skills in the English–language arts standards must have been learned. English learners must develop both fluency in English and proficiency in the language arts standards. Teachers must ensure that English learners receive instruction in listening and speaking that will enable them to meet the speaking applications standards of the language arts standards.
For all students, developing skills in reading English begins with a solid under-standing of the relationships between English sounds and letters—the relationships between the spoken and written language. For the English learner those concepts are first developed through the recognition and production of English sounds. Students need to learn first those sounds that exist and then those that do not exist in their first language. Students then are taught to transfer this knowledge to the printed language. As students develop knowledge of the correspondence between sounds and printed symbols, they also develop skills to deal with English morphemes (e.g., prefixes, suffixes, root words). Those word-analysis skills are some of the building blocks students need to develop fluency in English and literacy skills.
Native speakers of English are expected to recognize and produce all the English sounds by no later than first grade. This knowledge is then used in phonics instruction when children learn to match the English sounds with printed letters and use this knowledge to decode and encode words. English learners in kindergarten through grade two are to demonstrate proficiency in those English–language arts standards pertaining to phonemic awareness, concepts about print, and decoding standards appropriate for their grade levels by the time they reach the advanced level of the ELD standards.
Because the English–language arts standards are essential for all students learning to read in English, English learners in grades three through twelve should be proficient in those standards related to phonemic awareness, concepts about print, and decoding no later than at the early intermediate level. Except where it is necessary for instruction to use nonsense words for teaching and assessing students, such as in phonemic awareness and early decoding instruction, care should be taken to ensure that students work with vocabulary and concepts that are meaningful and understandable to them.
For kindergarten through grade two, the English–language arts standards pertaining to phonemic awareness, concepts about print, and decoding/word recognition have been incorporated into the ELD standards. Those language arts standards serve as signs of whether English learners are making appropriate progress toward becoming proficient readers. The ELD standards indicate the grade span in which students are to demonstrate proficiency, the language arts substrand, and the number of the targeted language arts standard. Nonreaders of any age must move through the same sequence of skills when learning to read. Therefore, the instructional sequence for kindergarten through grade two should be used as a guide for English-language development and reading instruction at all grade levels.
The instructional sequence for teaching phonemic awareness, concepts about print, and decoding skills is more specific in the kindergarten-through-grade-two span because the language arts standards for those grades focus primarily on developing literacy fluency. In grades three through twelve, students must greatly increase their content knowledge while learning English literacy skills. Older students with properly sequenced instruction may achieve literacy more rapidly than very young children do.
In the ELD standards pathways are provided that enable students of all ages to build literacy skills. The language arts standards for grades three through twelve have linking ELD standards in each grade span that are designed to help students achieve proficiency in their grade-level language arts standards by the time they reach the advanced level of the ELD standards. Students at the advanced level in ELD are expected to demonstrate proficiency in the language arts standards for their own grade and for all prior grades.
One reason for incorporating the language arts standards for kindergarten through grade two into the ELD standards is to clarify a point: Kindergarten and first-grade students at the advanced level in the ELD standards are also expected to be proficient in the language arts standards for their grade level. No limited-English-proficient student is expected to learn the language arts standards beyond his or her grade level.
Fluency and Systematic Vocabulary Development
As the English learner recognizes and produces the sounds of English, the student is simultaneously building vocabulary. Learning new labels for concepts, objects, and actions is a key building block for the integration of the language. The pathways in the English-language development (ELD) standards lead to the achievement of fluent oral and silent reading. Those pathways are created by building vocabulary and are demonstrated through actions and spoken words, phrases, and sentences and by transferring this understanding to reading. The successful learning of a second language requires that the instruction of students be highly integrated to include all language skills and challenging activities that focus on subject-matter content (Brinton, Snow, and Wesche 1989). Therefore, at the higher proficiency levels, the student is asked to apply knowledge of vocabulary to literature and subject-matter texts and achieve an appropriate level of independent reading.
At the lower ELD proficiency levels, reading materials should be at the student’s developmental level. Grade-level reading materials should be used with students working at the advanced level. In addition to demonstrating proficiency in the ELD standards, students at the advanced level must also demonstrate proficiency in the English–language arts standards at their own grade level and at all prior grade levels. To ensure each student’s success, schools must offer instruction leading to proficiency in the language arts standards. Instruction must begin as early as possible within the framework of the ELD standards. To ensure that all English learners achieve proficiency in the language arts standards, teachers must concurrently use both documents: the English–language arts standards and the ELD standards.
Reading comprehension and literary response and analysis are the two pathways of the ELD standards that lead to mastery of the academic content of the language arts standards. The English learner requires instruction in which listening, speaking, reading, and writing are presented in an integrated format. The ELD standards vary according to the grade level and the age of the student: early childhood (ages five to seven years), middle childhood (ages eight to ten years), and young adult (ages eleven to sixteen years). The speed of acquisition of academic language in English differs within those three groups (Collier 1992). Older children and adults, over the short term, proceed more quickly through the very early stages of syntactical and morphological development (Scarcella and Oxford 1992). Young children proceed less quickly, but in the long run they achieve higher levels of proficiency in a second language than do older children and adults. The influence of age is most evident with younger children who are able to learn a second language and speak that language with nativelike fluency and pronunciation (Selinker 1972). Younger children exhibit few of the inappropriate (e.g., phonological, syntactical, or morphological) forms of the second language that often are problematic for older children and adults and that require extensive remediation.
When English learners reach the advanced level of the ELD standards, they must also be able to demonstrate proficiency in the language arts standards for their current grade level and all prior grade levels. Students at the advanced level of the ELD standards must use grade-level texts; however, students working at lower levels should use reading materials appropriate for their developmental levels. To ensure that English learners become proficient in both the ELD and the language arts standards, teachers must use the two standards documents concurrently and provide instruction leading to proficiency in the language arts standards at a level no later than the inter-mediate level of the ELD standards.
Literary Response and Analysis
For English learners to improve their English skills and reduce the likelihood that those skills will level off before the students reach fluency, they need to learn academic content along with language skills. Instruction in academic areas, such as literature, mathematics, geography, history, government, and science, not only familiarizes learners with the content of the discipline, but also, what is more important, teaches them how to use the language required to communicate in the discipline (Mohan 1986). English learners at all fluency levels are highly motivated by instruction in academic subjects. They immediately see the value of learning to use English to meet their every-day needs and to help them succeed in school as they learn how to communicate in an academic area (Snow, Met, and Genesee 1989). Students whose English is not quite fluent may be motivated to work harder to develop English fluency so that they can communicate successfully in an academic area that they think may be important in their future.
Learning the reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills necessary to achieve English fluency is critical for English learners. Achieving fluency requires learning the basic structure of English (Gass and Selinker 1994). Literature is a critical component for developing fluency in English. Through literature the students are exposed to a broader range of English grammatical constructions and usage than they will generally experience in listening and speaking. Reading and responding to literature are also vehicles through which all students, including English learners, develop rich vocabularies. Teachers will frequently give students writing assignments for which they use literature as a model to produce an independent piece of writing. As English learners study literature, the opportunities increase for them to understand various literary features and use them in their own writing. This development in turn will enable them to move toward demonstrating proficiency in all the English–language arts standards.
At the lower ELD proficiency levels, reading materials should be at students’ developmental proficiency level. Grade-level reading materials should be used with students who work at the advanced level. Students working at the advanced level of the ELD standards should also demonstrate proficiency in “Literary Response and Analysis” skills of the English–language arts standards. To ensure that students develop proficiency in both the ELD and the language arts standards, teachers must work concurrently with the two standards documents and the Reading/Language Arts Frame-work (1999).
Strategies and Applications
As English learners begin to develop language skills in listening, speaking, and reading, they also need to develop writing skills. Linguistic studies note that English learners will transfer language skills from their primary language to English (Odlin 1989), especially if similarities between English and the primary language exist and if students are substantially literate in their primary language. Research also indicates that integrating the four language skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) is crucial for English learners to develop the ability to write effectively (Mangeldorf 1989).
Reading is particularly important because it provides English learners with opportunities to acquire grammar, expand vocabulary, gain increasing fluency with written texts, and improve speaking skills (Interactive Approaches to Second Language Reading 1988). Reading provides students with model sentence patterns and linguistic structures. However, improved writing does not necessarily follow from reading. For English learners to apply their knowledge of sentence patterns and linguistic structures, they must put into practice what they observe from reading by engaging in various types of writing. If these students are to become successful users of English, their integrated instructional program must include numerous opportunities to develop writing skills.
Because English learners working at the advanced level of the ELD standards are also expected to demonstrate proficiency in the language arts standards, it is essential for teachers to use the two standards documents concurrently and to monitor students’ progress on both sets of standards.
The ELD standards identify the stages that English learners must pass through to use the conventions of English effectively in writing. Depending on the degree to which their primary language differs from English in its written form and the degree to which students are already proficient writers in their primary language, English learners face unique challenges as they work to successfully use the conventions of written English.
At all ELD proficiency levels, English learners are to produce writing that includes correct capitalization, punctuation, and spelling of words appropriate to the students’ developing fluency in English. By the advanced level, the students are to demonstrate proficiency in both the ELD and the language arts standards for their current grade level and for all prior grade levels.