• Teaching Reading in the L2 With Young Learners

    Teaching Reading in the L2 With Young Learners

    Teaching Reading in the L2 With Young LearnersA teacher recently asked: What do you do with young learners who can read in their L1 (English) but don’t know the sound system or have lots of vocabulary in their L2 (Spanish)? Do you go back to the very beginning of reading instruction for L2 even though the students already know how to read in their L1?

    The particular scenario we were discussing was this: A dual immersion Spanish/English first grade class using the 90/10 model.

    Although the students can read in their L1, they are still so young that “going back to the beginning” isn’t such a stretch. Besides, even though they might know the sound system in English they still have to learn the phonemic awareness/phonics for the new system in Spanish. Since they already know how to read, decoding probably won’t be too much of a problem–in fact learning to decode in Spanish will most likely happen quickly. Comprehending what they are reading is going to be the long term focus. So, while they are learning the letter/sound correlation the teacher should also be providing lots of Comprehensible Input. Comprehensible Input can be thought of in terms of two equally important tiers. Tier 1 is the traditional way we think of it; teacher talking and providing rich vocabulary building activities like songs, poetry and shared reading. Tier 2 is more explicit as it consists of understandable and reproducible chunks–language that the students can repeat, mimic and use to create new utterances right away.

    Research tells us that oral language comprehension is vital to reading comprehension. While one precedes the other in first language acquisition, it isn’t necessarily the same for second language acquisition. Receptive and expressive skills in the second language can be developed simultaneously. So, teaching both reading skills (phonemic awareness/phonics) and providing plenty of Comprehensible Input (both tiers) will be invaluable for reading and language learning.

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