English Language Learners’ and Native English-Speakers’ Spelling Growth after Supplemental Early Reading Instruction

Tess Dussling


English language learners (ELLs) are the fastest growing population of students in U.S. schools, and, unfortunately often experience lower levels of reading and spelling achievement than native English-speaking students. There is growing evidence showing that early reading interventions, which have been effective with native English-speakers, can also be effective with ELLs, although the majority of the research focuses on students who are native Spanish-speakers. Additionally, much less is known about spelling growth for ELLs, especially ELLs who speak a native language other than Spanish. Thirteen first grade students who were struggling with early literacy skills (seven non-Spanish-speaking ELLs and six native English-speakers) were selected for participation. The students were placed in three small reading groups, with four to five students each (at least two of whom were ELLs). The groups met five times a week, for approximately six weeks, for 30 minutes per session (totaling approximately 15 hours of supplemental instruction). The small group instruction was designed to reinforce phoneme awareness skills and help students understand the relationships between spoken sounds and written letters. Analysis of pretest to posttest gain scores showed significant growth in spelling ability. Non-Spanish-speaking ELLs with varying levels of English language proficiency benefitted from the intervention. All students demonstrated growth in their understanding of letter-sound correspondences. Evidence-based practices focusing on phonological awareness and the relationships between written letters and spoken sounds can be effective in terms of spelling ability growth when used in small groups comprised of both non-Spanish-speaking ELLs and native English-speakers.


Early Literacy Intervention, Spelling, English Language Learners

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijels.v.8n.1p.1


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