How to Reach ESL/ELL Students with Learning Differences, Part 2

Posted on Mar 19, 2018
How to Reach ESL/ELL Students with Learning Differences, Part 2

The English language can be difficult for non-native English speakers to grasp. For example, there are many rules to pronouncing words, but also many exceptions to these rules. The ‘ugh’ in the word ‘though’ is silent, yet the ‘ugh’ is the word ‘enough’ sounds like the letter ‘f’!

Now, imagine you’re a new English learner who has dyslexia, language processing issues, autism, ADHD, or other learning disabilities. The challenges these conditions pose can frustrate even native speakers as they learn to decode the language for reading and spelling. With new language learners, such differences can complicate the learning process even further.

In Part 1 of this article, we mentioned that it can help students with learning disabilities to use more senses in the learning process. Videos that encourage participation by seeing, hearing, and doing can help cement concepts into learners’ minds more quickly.

But there comes a time when all learners need to learn the more abstract aspects of the English language: the basic concepts of reading and writing. That’s where the seemingly random rules of the language often become a roadblock for English learners with learning challenges.

Start with Word Building Blocks: Vowels

Fun, engaging videos that illustrate concepts in action can help. Since English vowels are often the most confusing—yet essential—parts of English words, engaging students’ multiple sensory levels can help drive the concepts home. Scratch Garden’s “The Vowel Song” uses common English words the students may have already learned (such as “acorn,” and “apple,”) to teach a more abstract concept—the long vs. short sounds of each English vowel.

The letter A has TWO sounds!

Teach Difficult Consonant Combinations

Consonant combinations — also called ‘consonant digraphs’ — can confuse non-English speakers. For example, the ‘sh’ consonant combination makes a brand new sound that is pronounced differently than the two individual letters that make it up!

Scratch Garden uses funny situations and familiar words to help learners recognize and pronounce tricky English consonant blends.  So far, there are videos for the CH, SH, and WH sounds (but more are coming)!

It’s true Charlie, Cheese uses the “CH” sound!

While there are always different approaches to teaching and learning, certain basic concepts (like the sounds that English letters make) can benefit from straightforward practice.  Engaging visuals and repetition can reinforce understanding.

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