- What are the differences in instructional approach and sequencing in English and Spanish language arts? Does this vary by program model and grade level?
- How much coordination should there be in literacy instruction across the two languages? Does this vary by program model or grade level?
- What literacy skills transfer across English and Spanish and which need to be taught explicitly in each language?
- Are there standards for Spanish language arts? Should they be different for L1 and L2 learners?
- What characteristics are important when choosing basal readers and other curricular materials for Spanish literacy instruction in TWI programs?
- What literacy skills are taught through the content areas and what are taught through language arts lessons?
- How do you teach a classroom of students with varying levels of literacy and reading readiness?
- Are any special supports given to students while they are developing literacy skills in their second language as opposed to their first?
1. What are the differences in instructional approach and sequencing in English and Spanish language arts? Does this vary by program model and grade level?
There are few differences in teaching literacy in English and in Spanish, especially as children become more fluent readers and writers. Instruction that highlights comprehension skills and reading fluency is appropriate in both languages.
Probably the greatest differences in teaching Spanish and English language arts occur in the primary grades during initial literacy instruction. These instructional differences are due to internal structural differences in the two languages. Spanish has a shallow orthography, meaning that there is a very clear sound/symbol correspondence: In most cases, each sound is represented by one letter, and each letter represents one sound. In contrast, English has a deep orthography, meaning that the sound/symbol correspondence is less clear. Many sounds can be represented in more than one way, and also many letters (or letter combinations) can represent more than one sound.
These differences affect the way early reading is taught in the two languages. In Spanish, an early literacy program that focuses on learning the sounds associated with letters and syllables can be very successful in teaching children to read. As a result, both English dominant and Spanish dominant children can learn to decode in Spanish effectively through a phonetic, syllabic approach. However, since sound/symbol correspondences are not always as clear in English, early English literacy programs tend to use a balance of phonics and sight word techniques.
In addition, the role of vowels in teaching language arts in Spanish is different than it is in English. Spanish literacy programs frequently start by teaching children the vowels, while in English teachers generally start with consonants.