Growing Language & Literacy: Strategies for English Learners

Growing Language & Literacy: Strategies for English Learners by Andrea Honigsfeld is written for teachers of EAL learners from USA grades K – 8 (UK Y1 – Y9). Although written with the US audience in mind it still contains really useful information for teachers of EAL learners in any education system. In the UK you can buy it from Amazon by clicking on this link.

The books’ chapters are separated according to the language proficiency of the EAL student. The introduction which outlines some basic concepts in second language acquisition, the five premises on which the book is based, and how Honigsfeld uses research-informed and evidence-based practices. After the introduction Chapter titles are as follows:

  1. Supporting starting level English Learners
  2. Supporting emerging level English Learners
  3. Supporting developing level English Learners
  4. Supporting expanding level English Learners
  5. Supporting bridging level English Learners

Each chapter has a consistency in its approach in that in each chapter Honigsfeld follows the same format. First of all, she outlines who learners at the different levels of proficiency are. Next she gives an outline of two students (educated in the USA) that you would expect to see at each level of proficiency according to the chapter that you are reading. This section is useful in so much that whilst I was reading the case studies I found myself being reminded of learners that I have taught with similar backgrounds and experiences. It helped me to relate what I read later in the chapter to my own teaching experiences.

After reading about the two learners Honigsfeld then outlines some of the key characteristics of learners at the level. She also gives the different labels that other organisations (mainly from the USA) might use to define a learner at that level. For example, a ‘starting’ level learner might also be called an ‘entering, emerging, or beginner’ level learner depending on which assessment framework is being used.

After this section, there is a section titled ‘what can we learn from research?’ This is a useful section because it relates research according to the level of learner the chapter is about.

After this section there is a really useful section outlining what a learner at that level of English proficiency can do according to the language skill: speaking, reading, writing, and listening. It is really helpful to know what learners at the different proficiency levels can do so that we can plan and prepare appropriate resources and strategies to support these learners in accessing the mainstream curriculum.

The next section is titled ‘what practices support starting level students?’ and this is really helpful because it shows you how we can provide, amongst other things, an inclusive environment that will enable the learner, at that level, to feel they are an integral part of your school and classroom. This is vital if we are to provide a supportive and welcoming environment that enables our EAL learners to flourish in our schools.

As teachers we are always looking for suitable, practical strategies that can support our EAL learners and the next section of the chapter titled ‘what strategies will help (level of proficiency) level students most?’ gives you a range of strategies that you can use at the different levels of proficiency. Accompanying strategies also come with some great colour photos of how different teachers have used the strategy with their students which shows how we can use them in our own classroom practice.

Each chapter ends with a section called ‘when are starting level students ready to move on?’ It’s always really useful to know when and if you students are ready to or have reached the next stage of second language acquisition and this section outlines what you will notice with students moving from one level of acquisition to the next.

Each chapter has a consistency in approach as outlined above which is really useful to us as teachers. I really enjoyed reading her book and found some really useful information that helped remind me of what my own students can do and are approaching doing at each level of language acquisition. Her research informed practices and classroom strategies are really helpful to use as teachers. I love how Honigsfeld talks of EAL students from an asset based perspective as what they bring to the classroom and what they can do rather than focus on the negatives of what they can’t do and what they won’t be able to do. Too often EAL students are seen from a negative perspective and her books helps to debunk this negative view of what our EAL students bring to the classroom. Although a book written with USA EAL students in mind as a UK educator I can still use all of her ideas to sharpen my own practice.

I would highly recommend buying her book as an extremely useful tool to support you in providing inclusive support for all levels of EAL students in your classroom.

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