English Language Learners are becoming more and more common throughout the public school system, and while many districts have been proactive in providing these students with support staff such as ELL teachers and aides, more can be done by mainstream teachers to ensure academic success for this growing group of students. Literacy is the base of academic achievement but literacy skills are difficult to achieve when a student is unfamiliar with the English language. Classrooms need to be implementing additive literacy to enhance the learning experience for ELL students, creating an environment that is open to meeting the different cultural needs of its students, and promoting shared learning within the classroom.
Using additive literacy instruction in the classroom would provide English Language Learners a plethora of benefits. Not only are students encouraged to use both their native language and their secondary language in completing assignments, but by using additive literacy they are able to connect their background knowledge of skills and concepts that they have mastered in their native language and build upon those skills and concepts by making connections in their secondary language.
“Students used texts in multiple ways to meet their needs, students had an opportunity to gain academic and content knowledge, and students used their literacy in one or both of their languages to think about the world. Across the two learning environments in this study, what is most salient is the emphasis on students exploring language in ways that enables them to develop the skills in and the appreciation of their first language as a resource on which to build. In these classrooms, students add to what they already know as opposed to surrendering their first language for another.” (p. 447)
Teachers need to support and embrace the different languages of their students for additive literacy to be successful. They need to encourage their students to use their native language and encourage students to utilize both languages when completing assignments. While this may at times add more work for the teacher and support staff, it will be a positive learning experience for the student who will feel accepted and respected when they choose to use their native language in the classroom.
Another focus that teachers with ELL students need to focus on is creating a classroom that promotes acceptance of all students, regardless of the language barriers that may be present. Teachers need to be equipped with the resources and knowledge to be able to identify the special needs that their ELL students may require and not rely on specialized ELL teachers and aides to promote student learning with students are not native English speakers. A study was conducted on the role of teacher participation with ELL students and the correlation with the engagement of the ELL students in their classroom. The observations and results documented in this study clea...