New programs help English-language learners

Lexia recently completed a two-year study in Ennis, Texas, where ELL students using Lexia Reading showed significantly better skill acquisition than ELL students who did not use the program. The program has been expanded to all K-2 students in the district.

“We need a more intensive and structured environment to practice and acquire skills, because [ELL students are] trying to make a transition from understanding their own spoken language to understanding and reading English,” McCabe said.

Lexia Reading provides ongoing assessment of reading skills and progress, enabling educators to hone in on students’ needs and differentiate instruction: Teachers are quickly able to identify where students excel and where they need more help.

The program is web-based, providing on-demand access in homes, libraries, after-school programs, community centers, and summer schools. It also offers printable scripted lessons and practice sheets to help students further develop their reading skills. Students generally use Lexia Reading three to four times per week, for about 20 to 30 minutes per session.

MindPlay’s My Reading Coach, another program that can help ELL students learn, was developed to target students within the lowest 30 percent of reading ability.

“It was basically geared toward the lowest 30 percent in our school systems. These are the kids that generally can’t make it for any reason. It might be that they’re English-language learners, it might be that they have some kind of learning disability, it might be that they just missed the instruction or they weren’t ready when the instruction was happening,” said Judith Bliss, chief executive officer of MindPlay. “And it just so happens that a lot of ELL students are in that category.”

My Reading Coach provides each student with a virtual reading specialist in a one-to-one teacher-student environment. The program offers comprehensive, direct instruction and specific intervention that focuses on phonemic awareness, grammar, phonics, spelling, fluency, and reading comprehension.

The program consists of lessons that teach each student correct sound pronunciation and letter formation, rules, easy-to remember strategies, and how to spell English words by learning underlying patterns instead of memorization. It is targeted to anyone from second graders up to adults.

Math for ELL students

While many products focus on helping ELL students develop and strengthen their reading and speaking skills, a growing number of programs are focusing on ELL math skills as well.

Math Solutions has introduced “Supporting English Language Learners in Math Class: A Multimedia Professional Learning Resource,” which helps schools implement effective professional development and instructional practices for ELL students in math.

According to the October 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), fourth-grade math scores have stagnated, and racial gaps in test scores have remained without dramatic changes.

More than 10 percent of U.S. public school students are learning to speak English, and those language barriers prevent important math gains, according to 2007 data from the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition.

Teaching math to ELL students presents a bigger test, said Rusty Bresser. Bresser, who authored the Math Solutions resource, is supervisor of teacher education at the University of California San Diego.

“The challenge of teaching math to English-language learners lies not only in making math lessons comprehensible to students, but also ensuring that students have the language needed to understand instruction,” he said.

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