Raising Achievement for English Learners

Explicit Instruction Empowers ELs to Thrive

In 2014–15, there were more than 4.8 million English Learners (EL) in the United States. The population of ELs across the country is growing rapidly and effective instruction that meets the specific needs of ELs is critical as these students strive to achieve the highest learning outcomes. Academic research recommends that an instructional reading curriculum for ELs should:

  • Be evidence-based: An extensively tested and proven program is essential for ensuring all students reach mastery
  • Be explicitly taught: An explicit, systematic curriculum is designed to ensure the best learning experience for students
  • Include a systematic curriculum of essential reading skills: With the intensive focus of skill areas such as phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency, students build a strong foundation in literacy

ELs can benefit and derive higher academic outcomes when evidence-based curriculum programs are employed, for example, those following the Direct Instruction methodology. Direct Instruction is a research-validated method of teaching proven to transform all students into confident learners. It is designed with lessons that are explicit, intensive, consistent, and interactive to ensure the best learning experience for all students. The Direct Instruction approach to teaching essential reading skills such as phonological awareness, sound-letter correspondence, and decoding and fluency is highly effective for EL students struggling to reach proficiency in language.

The acquisition of essential literacy skills is important for all students, but especially for ELs. EL students require close attention to their more complex needs as they learn word structures and sounds different from what they know. Areas such as phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency are the key to success for these students. Four guiding principles support ELs as they acquire content and develop language:

  • Provide Specialized Instruction
  • Cultivate Meaning
  • Develop Language in Context
  • Scaffold to Support Access

These areas of focus can help ensure EL students are learning vocabulary in all aspects of language, including writing and speaking. With the intensive focus of each of these reading skill areas, paired with the explicit instruction of Direct Instruction, ELs can achieve mastery in literacy.

Learn more about how explicit instruction can help raise literacy achievement for English Learners, and the four guiding principles mentioned above, here.