Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Strategies for Teaching Reading to English Language Learners with Learning Disabilities

In Strategies for Teaching Reading to English Language Learners with Learning Disabilities, Cheryll Duquette and Mary Land describe two effective approaches. They discuss research and briefly describe RTI or tiered learning, reciprocal teaching and Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) as ways to meet the needs of English Language Learners (ELLs).

Response to Intervention (RTI) or a tiered approach is recommended based on research with primary students. In RTI students are exposed to primary instruction. Those who fail to make adequate progress are advanced to Tier 2 interventions, small group instruction delivered for 50 minutes per day every day. Those who fail to make adequate progress are advanced to tier three interventions which are individualized and sometimes occur under the umbrella of special education.

Second tier interventions focused on vocabulary, phonics, spelling and decodeable text. It utilized visuals, gestures, direct instruction, balanced literacy (reading text, alphabetics, writing, word study), and elaborations of responses. In order to develop oracy ( the ability to express oneself fluently and grammatically), the research recommended Read-Alouds with the following steps: overview, focus on key vocabulary, read portion to the students looking at comprehension, reread focusing on identified key vocabulary, summarize, question and summarize, ongoing links with vocabulary on a daily basis. While the study recommending this approach for ELLs with LD is very small, this structure embodies elements of good instruction.

Reciprocal instruction has been addressed in some of my previous blogs here, here, and here, among others. It is a comprehension strategy that has shown promise in developing skills in LD students as well as for the general population. This article cites research supporting the use of reciprocal teaching with middle school students. It involves teaching four strategies- prediction, summarization, questioning, and clarification- in small group settings. Small group instruction has been advocated for ELLs because it provides lots of opportunity to communicate and listen to modeling of language.

PALS is a program that has research supporting its use in intermediate elementary and middle school levels. It is a reciprocal program used in the whole class. Strong students are paired with weaker students. Students serve as both a tutee and tutor in a cycle. For five minutes, stronger students begin reading aloud to partner with the partner listening for errors. Then the weaker partner retells the passage with the other partner prompting. Next the pair engage in paragraph shrinking: read for five minutes and summarize in 10 words or less. Third is a prediction relay in which  pairs alternate predicting content, read half a page, prediction checking and paragraph shrinkage. Similar to Reciprocal teaching, this approach uses summarization (a Marzano identified highly effective teaching strategy) and peers (an effective approach with ELLs).

What this really demonstrates is the lack of depth in research for ELLs with LDs. It also suggests that peer discussion, summarization and direct instruction are critical component of instruction for this group. The fortunate thing is that these are important elements of good instruction.

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