Friday, 30 November 2018

Overcoming the Language Barrier

Reading is a challenge for many students, but English Learners in particular have to work twice as hard just to keep up. Improving your understanding of English while also reading to learn in all subject areas creates unique barriers for EL students.

In middle and high school, this disadvantage becomes increasingly significant. Packed schedules and demanding curriculum leave little time to work on improve reading skills and word knowledge. Technology-based learning tools that are designed for self-paced learning can give older EL students access to structured reading practice to improve their reading skills and achieve academic goals.

Chunking it down

Students who can’t read at grade level still need to engage with grade-level text to advance in their learning. One way that technology can be used to enable EL students to work at grade level is to deconstruct text into manageable parts or “chunks.” Using a structured process, students can work from words to phrases and short paragraphs before reading a full text. Starting with the simplest units of text and constructing a passage from the bottom up gives students a progression path that builds skills and confidence with the material. Giving students a way to track and monitor their work keeps them in control of the process.

Modeled reading

Technology tools can also provide support for EL students with “read aloud” options for text. Audio gives students modeled fluent readings of words and paragraphs. Paired with a “chunking” approach, audio supports can help students focus on portions of text and reduce the difficulty of reading new material. Images that reinforce the meaning of words and concepts also strengthen understanding of the text.

Words in context

Many students who struggle with reading have deficits in vocabulary and word knowledge, which increases the difficulty of comprehending text. EL students are learning English words and their meaning as they read content-area material. Technology programs can focus on targeted activities to build and strengthen vocabulary and understanding of how words are applied in a passage. Online dictionaries, usage activities and contextual definitions help to reduce barriers to learning that can arise from underdeveloped vocabulary knowledge. 

Self-paced learning

EL students who are high-performers in their home language are often motivated to practice reading English to improve their capacity to learn, making quick strides towards proficiency. Self-paced learning environments are ideal for students to advance at their own pace – accelerating when possible and remediating when necessary. Access from home or outside the traditional classroom setting expands learning time and lets students practice anywhere they have an Internet connection.

1:1 feedback

As students progress in their reading practice, technology platforms can monitor progress with every keystroke. Teachers can view missed learning objectives and error data to spot trends that can assist in 1:1 and small-group feedback sessions. Remediation tools to target areas of weakness can also help to reinforce concepts and provide additional instruction.

Learn how BrightFish Reading can be used with EL students here.

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