All students learn in different ways and at different paces. Sometimes factors beyond one’s control, such as socio-economic status, family hardships, or debilitating circumstances, contribute to delays or gaps in learning. Varying proficiency levels in English can also affect how much English/multilingual learners (MLs) learn each year in school, especially if the learning material does not specifically address language proficiency processes and needs. However, students who are exposed to a strong literacy program from an early age are more likely to stay on or near grade level than those who enter school already experiencing an achievement gap. Also, MLs who receive instruction with materials that are geared toward English proficiency as well as academic progress have a higher chance of making gains each year in both proficiency and literacy skills.
Students benefit from curriculum that gives them the opportunity to connect their own experiences and background knowledge to overarching themes, which then helps them transfer information to create a strong foundation to build upon. It is important that lessons focus on the four literacy domains—listening, reading, speaking, and writing—in addition to vocabulary and grammar in order to provide a well-rounded educational experience for all students. Furthermore, students benefit the most when their lessons include words and concepts that are scaffolded and recycled to help them connect literacy concepts, as well as words and information, between different subject areas, such as math, science, social studies, music, and art.
Oftentimes, striving readers are able to understand English verbally before they can understand printed texts. Audio components provide models of pronunciation and inflection for students to hear as they are learning English and literacy concepts. This allows students who are striving readers to have the support they need in order to fully comprehend a text as they follow along and pick up additional words and concepts as they listen.
Other supporting materials, such as checklists and modeled answers for writing, give students extra support to close any learning gaps they may have. Periodic check-ins can provide teachers with data on student progress and on areas where additional support or reteaching is needed prior to any formal assessment.
With these tools and strategies in mind, Vista has developed two programs for English/multilingual learners and striving readers to ensure that students have a strong foundation in English and literacy as they progress through school. The Connect program, for students in grades K-6, and the Bridges program, for students in grades 6-8, give students the opportunity to reach their language and literacy goals and close achievement gaps before they even have a chance to open.
By: Angela Padron