LDOnline offers an interesting resource for working with English Language Learners (ELLs) with Learning Disabilities (LDs) by Christine Root entitled A Guide to Learning Disabilities for the ESL Classroom Practitioner. This article highlights the dearth of high quality research for ELLs with LDs, and urges research into best practices to better meet the needs of the students.
After mentioning the challenge of identifying LDs in the ELL population, she lists categories of difficulty (word retrieval, selective attention mechanisms, visual association confusions, and limited concept manipulation and inner language skills) and the incumbent symptoms of those categories. This list is extremely useful for helping pin-point areas of concern. If a student exhibits limited skill at hypothesis generation and testing, appreciation of if-then relationships and generalization you should look at concept manipulation and inner language. If there are challenges with if-then relationships, tendencies toward being excessively attentive to irrelevant details and inferential reasoning, you probably are working with visual association confusions. If you know these are the challenges, it will help you look at the other symptoms to see if they are present as well. This listing is more comprehensive a learning disability listing than any I have seen in a long time.
From a classroom standpoint, they offer 15 ideas for teachers to help students learn better. These include:
- extra time: assignments, quizzes, tests take longer when students are navigating the language and the content
- alternative format tests- oral or computer- What format is the student most comfortable in)
- presenting information with graphic and/or sensory media- make it real to help teach the academic vocabulary and the content
- combining auditory and visual stimuli- similar to 3. Help with vocabulary load while providing content
- using a word processor to reduce the need to rewrite in revision- if language is a problem, then reducing the need to reproduce it provides an opportunity to gain extra time (#1)
- repetition with the SAME LANGUAGE- to help learn the language
- breaking tasks down- prevent information and language overload
- pre-discussion, pre-writing, pre-reading activities- allow to pre-teach vocabulary so that there is less to learn in a session. Anytime you try to learn two or more things at once you reduce your ability to do either. Think of the challenge with multitasking.
- reduce distractions- allow students to focus
- Be explicit, structured and concrete- good instruction is good instruction
- make connections between the individual and the material- build a scaffold on which to hang the content
- cluster material by category- again this helps build schema- areas of similarity and language upon which to anchor learning
- frequent notebook checks- make sure they get the notes and are keeping up with assignments
- balance weaknesses with strengths- give an area to feel good. All students will need to rely on their strengths in order to succeed. An auditory learner can use audiobooks and a student with a strength in math can use that sequential information patterning in history.
- inventory students to enhance metacognition and showcase strengths- this helps with knowing how to focus attention. It also allows teachers to know what students think are areas they can be successful.
The Learning Disabilities Association of America similarly has presented a page of Successful Strategies for Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities that includes direct instruction ( #10), strategy instruction and multisensory approach (#3 and 4).