How to Teach Reading to English Language Learners

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Building Vocabulary in English Language Learners

Teachers who work with English Language Learners know that academic language takes longer to achieve proficiency in than does conversational language. On average, ELL students need at least two years to achieve conversational language and, five to nine years to develop academic language proficiency. Many English words ELL students are exposed to in school, they have not yet learned or even heard in their first language, which makes transference of knowledge impossible. The vast differences in the ability to use conversational versus academic language can be a interference to these students and have lasting effects on their academics and therefore, their lives. I was interested in finding out how teachers can help ELL students to develop this type of vocabulary and whether or not there is a highly effective technique that can benefit every student in class. As classroom teachers we need understand the unique needs of our ELLs. We need to understand that while they are just as capable as our native speakers, they are at a distinct disadvantage because of the amount of information they must process all at once that is in a language they do not fully understand. I have found that there are a number of ways that teachers can foster vocabulary growth in ELLs, I am going to focus on of the most effective: use of graphic organizers.

What are graphic organizers? Graphic organizers are maps or charts that essentially reveal the organization of concepts and relationships of concepts in a straightforward manner. They help to make information more precise by cutting out a lot of the small details to allow focus on key points. This helps to lower the cognitive load on ELLs allowing them to process less heavy amounts of information all at once, (Lee, 2007). This aspect of graphic organizers is critical for ELL students to understand challenging new ideas. It is common strategy to use visual aides with ELL students;...
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