Language-based literacy intervention for bilingual students

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Academic texts become increasingly challenging in elementary school. By 4th and 5th grade, students have typically established decoding and word recognition skills, but reading comprehension can cause major breakdowns. We know language skills play a HUGE role in reading comprehension, so when the authors of this study designed a reading intervention for bilingual students that targets academic vocabulary, syntax, and morphology— it made perfect sense to us.

The Comprehension, Linguistic Awareness, and Vocabulary in English and Spanish intervention (CLAVES) had positive effects on academic vocabulary and reading comprehension for Portuguese–English and Spanish–English bilingual students in 4th and 5th grades with varying reading abilities. Each of the three instructional units—nature, rights, and immigration—were based on English language arts and social studies texts.

Over the course of 39 sessions (three 13-session cycles), students were instructed in: comprehension and vocabulary, morphology, syntax, writing (planning, drafting and revising, and publishing), interspersed with group discussions (see article for precise schedule).

Check out the appendix of the article for the texts, session goals, and activities used in the study. Here are some examples of activities from the immigration unit:

  • “Facilitate reading of Home at Last with questioning, inferencing, and summarizing.” (comprehension)

  • “Review the text and vocabulary and introduce new words: assimilate and immersion.” (vocabulary)

    • Example task: word webs

  • “Guide the morphology activity in which students identify, analyze, and construct words with -tion/-ation and -sion.” (morphology)

    • Example task: create sentences with constructed words

  • “Guide students to play a sentence combining game in which they practice generating compound sentences given two clause cards and one conjunction card. Encourage students to create sentences using their constructed words.” (syntax)

  • “Guide students to write an article for a local or student newspaper.” (writing)

Of course in the real world we want to use the texts and themes our students are encountering in their own classroom. Still, the many examples in the appendix and throughout the article would be helpful when developing the individualized instruction our students need.

While we think SLPs could totally take this and run with it in therapy, another great thing about this intervention is that it was designed by teacher educators. So this article could make an awesome conversation starter with teachers about literacy instruction for bilingual students in your school—and how you might be a resource as the vocabulary, morphology, and syntax expert!

NOTE: You can also see an example of the curriculum and activities at the CLAVES website!

Proctor, C. P., Silverman, R. D., Harring, J. R., Jones, R. L., Hartranft, A. M. (2019). Teaching bilingual learners: Effects of a language-based reading intervention on academic language and reading comprehension in grades 4 and 5. Reading Research Quarterly. doi: 10.1002/rrq.258.