Early Education Reading Intervention for ELL Students

Researchers: Diana Jemieff, Barb Ludba, and Corey Holowachuk
September 2014

This study examines and attempts to develop the best practices in reading intervention for English language learners (ELLs). As teachers, we are encountering more students who enter school having very few English language skills, and we are not feeling equipped with the strategies to deal with these situations. Saskatchewan is rapidly becoming a more diverse population. According to the Saskatchewan 2011 census, there was a climb in the visible minority population: 6.3 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population was comprised of visible minorities, which jumped from 3.6 per cent in 2006. The majority of visible minorities resides in the two main metropolitan areas – Regina and Saskatoon. Saskatoon is home to 45.3 per cent of Saskatchewan’s visible minority population with Regina being home to 34.7 per cent (Saskatchewan Bureau of Statistics, 2013). With immigration to Saskatchewan increasing, the student population within the classroom is diversifying. 

As a group of three elementary teachers, we try to close the gap in literacy levels and to develop sets of skills that allow us to better teach and educate our students. The three participant teachers have been implementing many diverse strategies to promote growth in literacy and have been reflecting upon the process. We are only as good as the questions we ask ourselves: What is working and what is not working? How can we support each other and what supports do we need in place? 

Each fall we enter the classroom with a general sense of the curriculum and what needs to be accomplished throughout the school year. However, with the increasing demands on classroom teachers, this is no longer a good starting point for adaptive instruction. Teachers are expected to adapt curriculum to suit the individual needs of every student in the classroom. Within each classroom there is a diverse range of needs. One of the greatest challenges is when an ELL student whose skills are significantly below grade level enters the school. The expectation is that a teacher can put an intervention plan in place so the student reaches grade level by the end of the year. We are seeking to discover the most effective instructional strategies that will help our ELL students make significant gains throughout the school year. 

We collected data through various assessments to gain insight into what helps ELL students and developed strategies about what to teach and how to teach. Further, we used The RTI Daily Planning Book, K-6, which is “an approach to instruction that is ultimately designed to support students who have special learning and/or behavior needs” (Owocki, 2010, p. 2).