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May, 2011

Dear Literacy Place for the Early Years Teacher,

This month's tip focuses on supporting English Language Learners: Does LPEY provide suggestions for assessing the literacy skills of English Language Learners? Where can I find supportive strategies for literacy programming for ELLs?

Literacy Place for the Early Years provides suggestions for assessing the literacy skills of English Language Learners in the Program and Planning Guide, the Reading Guide and the Writing Guide.

The English Language Acquisition Continuum for ESL Students on pages 50–51 of the Program and Planning Guide is a very helpful tool. It describes the four key stages of second-language learning. Students will progress through stages at individual rates, may be in different stages in different skill areas, and may demonstrate skills in more than one stage at the same time. Use informal assessments and the descriptors in the stages as a checklist to determine students' stages in each of the English skills areas.

In the Reading Guide, there are suggestions on assessing reading skills and ideas for assessing first language skills. To gather information about reading skills, hold a reading conference upon the student's arrival. The following suggestions provide options for two types of conferences:

For Students with Some Knowledge of English:

  1. Offer the student a small selection of books which have a global theme (e.g., food, family, sports). You may want to include wordless books and picture dictionaries as choices. If the student does not chose an appropriate text, provide one at the student's independent reading level.
  2. Read the title and have the student comment on the cover illustration. Note the student's aural language.
  3. Read the first page or two aloud to the student and then have the student read the remainder of the text silently.
  4. Discuss the text with the student and note the student's vocabulary, recall, comprehension, and ability to sequence, make inferences, read critically, and form opinions. If possible have the student write responses to questions or write a summary of the text. Consider the use of graphic organizers, illustrations, or cloze activities, to help the student express ideas.
  5. Assess the student's oral fluency. What word-solving strategies are used?
For Students with Limited English:
  1. Read a story to the student or use pictures in books to determine their level of comprehension.
  2. Ask simple questions that require pointing to details in pictures and yes/no or one-word responses.
  3. Ask the student to draw the beginning, middle, and end of the story or what could happen next. Pictures from the story could be sequenced and retold by the student.
The Writing Guide includes suggestions for assessing students' first language writing skills as well as assessing English writing skills. It is important to assess proficiency in both areas in order to plan a program that will help further develop writing skills. It can take more than five years for ELLs to catch up to the English proficiency level of their same-aged peers but English Language Learners will become fluent and confident writers.

Once you have determined the stage of literacy proficiency for each English Language Learner, you will find suggested strategies and activities for each stage outlined on pages 4–49 of the Program and Planning Guide. The 'ESL Notes' section in the lesson plans for Guided Reading and Shared Reading texts offer supportive strategies for students requiring an ESL program. There are also many strategies to support English Language Learners in gaining the Writing Guide.

Happy teaching,
Sue Jackson signature
Sue Jackson
National Literacy Consultant
Scholastic Education Canada