English is possibly the most complex language in general. The English language has so many rules, if one is not exposed to it at an early age as their second language, the person learning the second language may find it frustrating when trying to learn it. Students who are learning a second language such as English may have obstacles. As educators, it is our job to help them in any way possible when they are trying to become proficient in their second language.
Communicating with students or parents that have a first language other than English can be challenging. If the parents of your student do not speak English, there becomes a barrier when wanting to communicate with the parents. Parents often get frustrated and if there is no one to interpret between the parent and teacher, parents will often get discouraged and not get involved with the school.
Some strategies to help students with language interference can be exposure to sound patterns being taught. Both visual and auditory should be used to help the student when learning a second language. My grade level starts with the very basics, letters/sounds. I think the younger they are exposed to their second language the better. I have noticed that many of my ELL students who have a strong accent have trouble with their vowels and tend to slur some of them and they sound like a different vowel. For instance, when one of my ELL students would say the short sound it often sounded like the short o sound. I have to really enunciate the sound to show them the difference between the two sounds. I use letter and sound DVDs and they are both visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
A student’s phonological skills are very important as they serve as the base when children are learning to read and write. Students are exposed to many phonological rules during their early elementary years in school. If a student who is learning English as a second language does not acquire these skills at an early age it may be difficult for the child when they are older. According to Fromkin (2014), “Children memorize plural forms individually when they acquire English” (p. 226). This shows that early exposure when learning a second language is very crucial.
A teacher can use many resources to tackle phonology. The biggest strategy I use to tackle phonology in my classroom is Heidi Song DVDs. We listen and sing to the Letter and sound DVD for all of the first quarter. By the second quarter, I start to introduce sight words. Another strategy I use is the use of salt trays. I have my students say the sound of the letter on the flashcard as they write it in the tray of salt, they shake the tray and we start on the next letter and sound. I will also play sight word candy land. I have sight words on candy land flashcards, and some have one sight word and others have just one. If the students get the correct answer and can read the sight words, they get to move on their turn
One strategy to identify an ELL students’ needs with phonological awareness is to have a grade-level reading assessment. I would have a variety of leveled assessments to see what level they are currently reading at. This gives the teacher a view as to what phonetic rules they can apply or maybe haven’t learned yet. Another way to identify their needs is to have the student write a short paragraph on a topic they like such as soccer or dancing. Writing can help the teacher see what phonology rules the student has been taught or exposed to.
Support for any student learning a second language is very important. Exposure to the second language in various forms can help the ELL student retain vocabulary and apply it when learning to read and write. Phonology is important for the student to acquire, but the application of it is the most important for the student. The more the student can use and demonstrate their second language the more proficient they will be in it.
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