Nav: Home

Language literacy in kindergarten important for success in learning English

October 22, 2015

CORVALLIS, Ore. - English learners are more likely to become proficient English speakers if they enter kindergarten with a strong initial grasp of academic language literacy, either in their primary language or in English, a new analysis from Oregon State University has found.

"This study shows that building literacy skills, in English or the child's native language, prior to kindergarten can be helpful," said Karen Thompson, an assistant professor of cultural and linguistic diversity in OSU's College of Education. "Having those academic language skills - the kind of language used in school to retell a story or explain a math problem - is likely going to set them on a path to success."

The new study, published recently in the journal Educational Policy, is part of an emerging body of research examining the role that language reclassification plays in a student's education.

For the study, Thompson reviewed nine years of student data from the Los Angeles Unified School District to better understand how long it takes students to develop English proficiency. The findings could provide new insight as educators re-shape education policy around the language reclassification process, Thompson said.

About one in five children in the United States speak a language other than English at home, and about half of them are not yet considered proficient in English. Students who do not speak English proficiently when they enter school are considered English learners.

When English learners master the language, they are "reclassified" and no longer receive specific services to support their language development. Prior research has found that it takes roughly four to seven years for most students to master a second language.

Students who do not master English in that typical window, generally by the upper elementary grades, are less likely to ever do so. Those who do not master the language and remain English learners tend to score lower on academic tests and graduate high school at lower rates than their native-English speaking peers.

About 25 percent of students do not master English after nine years in school, Thompson found. Of those students, nearly a third are in special education programs. The finding indicates that reclassification rules may need to be adjusted for special education students, so there is a reasonable and sensible plan for them to meet language requirements, Thompson said.

"If a special education student's language has developed to a point that is comparable to an English speaking student with the same disability, let's take that into account," Thompson said.

The research also showed boys, native Spanish speakers and students whose parents had lower levels of education were less likely to be reclassified than their peers. And reclassification varied dramatically based on a child's initial language skills, in their native language and in English.

The findings highlight a pressing need for new curriculum and professional development for teachers to help students, and English learners in particular, to develop their academic language skills, Thompson said.

Under federal education policy, states must set, and try to meet, targets to ensure that students are becoming proficient in English. There is no uniform standard for determining proficiency and with transitions to new assessments in many states, including Oregon, policymakers are in the midst of changing the criteria for determining whether a student has become proficient.

Understanding how long English mastery actually takes, and factors that influence it, can help states establish appropriate and realistic targets, Thompson said.

"These targets need to be grounded in what's possible," she said.
-end-


Oregon State University

Related Language Articles:

How effective are language learning apps?
Researchers from Michigan State University recently conducted a study focusing on Babbel, a popular subscription-based language learning app and e-learning platform, to see if it really worked at teaching a new language.
Chinese to rise as a global language
With the continuing rise of China as a global economic and trading power, there is no barrier to prevent Chinese from becoming a global language like English, according to Flinders University academic Dr Jeffrey Gil.
'She' goes missing from presidential language
MIT researchers have found that although a significant percentage of the American public believed the winner of the November 2016 presidential election would be a woman, people rarely used the pronoun 'she' when referring to the next president before the election.
How does language emerge?
How did the almost 6000 languages of the world come into being?
New research quantifies how much speakers' first language affects learning a new language
Linguistic research suggests that accents are strongly shaped by the speaker's first language they learned growing up.
Why the language-ready brain is so complex
In a review article published in Science, Peter Hagoort, professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Radboud University and director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, argues for a new model of language, involving the interaction of multiple brain networks.
Do as i say: Translating language into movement
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a computer model that can translate text describing physical movements directly into simple computer-generated animations, a first step toward someday generating movies directly from scripts.
Learning language
When it comes to learning a language, the left side of the brain has traditionally been considered the hub of language processing.
Learning a second alphabet for a first language
A part of the brain that maps letters to sounds can acquire a second, visually distinct alphabet for the same language, according to a study of English speakers published in eNeuro.
Sign language reveals the hidden logical structure, and limitations, of spoken language
Sign languages can help reveal hidden aspects of the logical structure of spoken language, but they also highlight its limitations because speech lacks the rich iconic resources that sign language uses on top of its sophisticated grammar.
More Language News and Language Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.