Friday, October 16, 2015

English Learner Tool Kit

The Department of Education has published the English Learner Tool Kit. This document contains 10 chapters covering issues ranging from identification to services for English learners (ELs) with learning disabilities (LDs) to program evaluation. Each chapter is begins with a key points box, followed by a summary of information about the topic od the chapter, a set of tools to use to accomplish the chapter's objective and then an annotated resource list.

As a teacher, the most valuable component was a multipage chart that looks at a problem and then characteristics that distinguish between a "typical" EL and one with LDs.

Learning behavior
Indicators of a language difference due to 2nd language acquisition
Indicators of a possible learning disability
Student does not respond to verbal directions.
Student lacks understanding of vocabulary in English but demonstrates understanding in Language 1(L1)
Student consistently demonstrates confusion when given verbal directions in L1 and language 2/English (L2); may be die to processing deficits or low cognition
Student delays responses to questions
Student may be translating question in mind before responding in L2; gradual improvement over time.
Student consistently takes a longer time period to respond in L1 & L2 and it does not change over time; may be due to a processing speed deficit.
Student is unable to decode words correctly.
Sound not in L1, so unable to pronounce word once decoded.
Student consistently confuses letter/words that lo ok alike; makes letter reversals, substitutions, etc. that are not related to L1; may be processing or memory deficit
Student has difficulty generating a paragraph or writing essays but is able to express his or her ideas orally.
Student is not yet proficient in writing English even though they may have developed verbal skills; student makes progress over time and error patterns are similar to other 2nd language learners.
The student seems to have difficulty paying attention or remembering previously learned information; the student may seem to have motor difficulties and avoids writing; student may have attention or memory deficits

excerpted from Chapter 6 pages 6-8.
This chart is very useful for looking at the root of the problem.

Another item from this chapter I found interesting was the idea that in order to identify a LD in an EL a person needs to identify proficiency in native language. A student will have an LD in both languages even if their home country does not identify students with learning disabilities. This emphasizes the importance in families, even if they do not speak English, to participate in language activities such as story telling and conversations. It also showcases the usefulness of evaluating students in both home language and English. Unfortunately, people fluent in assessing in individual languages may be few and far between.

While this reference has some valuable information, I found it surprisingly lacking in specifics in how to alter instruction to help ELs. Frequent references to evidence based practices were not backed up with much in the way of what these practices are and with where someone might find them. I found this disappointing. Perhaps if I search through the references, I will find more information to use. At this point, however, I do not find a large quantity of helpful information in the tool kit.

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