The growing number of English language learners (ELLs) has stimulated some schools to adjust the old programs and create new ones for the effective English learning for bilingual students. Definitely, the main discrepancy between the ELLs and their native-English speaking peers lies in the exposure to both high-frequency and low-frequency vocabulary. In addition, teachers usually have to even the achievement gap regardless of the level students actually reached. Thus, future literacy and developed word knowledge are postponed throughout the years in school.
Nevertheless, effective vocabulary development is critical in raising literacy because it plays a significant role in reading proficiency, developing independent learning through extended instructions, and students’ future education.
Reading proficiency is one of the key benefits that advancing vocabulary level may yield. It depends on such factors as vocabulary acquisition and word knowledge. Braker realizes the growing number of ELLs and the necessity to understand the learning challenges that these students face. According to the author, to be literate necessitates and supports a rich vocabulary meaning that word-consciousness and reading proficiency are strongly related. One of the main challenges in reading proficiency is in acquiring high-frequency words and low-frequency words. The students have to build both conversational and academic vocabulary, which might be overwhelming at the beginning. Breaker also suggests improving vocabulary level and eventually developing word knowledge or applying the learned meaning of a word to everyday situations.
Another point is to increase the already gained vocabulary through cognates or words that two languages such as English and Spanish share.
Furthermore, independent learning is one of the key tools in achieving literacy. One of the ways it can be acquired is through teachers extended instructions and vocabulary development. August, Artzi, and Barr conducted a study on third-grade and fourth-grade ELLs who are not advancing their vocabulary over the course of an academic year. Several insights regarding ELLs learning and vocabulary acquisition were discovered. Namely, with the assistance of highly-contextualized texts, students were acquiring the vocabulary without purposefully learning it. For example, they were given instructions using low-frequency academic vocabulary. In such a way, ELLs were exposed to sophisticated words and acquired them faster than theme-specific vocabulary presented through glossaries or flashcards. Moreover, various subject-specific contexts and situations developed independent learning through extended instructions to these activities. Eventually, vocabulary development contributes to independent learning and developing literacy.
Finally, ELLs vocabulary level has a considerable influence on students’ ability to proceed from secondary to high school. In the article on secondary teachers and ELLs, Rubinstein-Avila and Lee state that the dropout rate and academic achievement in secondary schools are on a critically low level. Regrettably, such levels are related to the vocabulary level gained over the years of secondary school whereas the academic vocabulary requirements for high school remain high.
The school program were designed without considering the fact that many students are non-native speakers with a small English vocabulary. In addition, ELLs are often enrolled in the 10th grade due to their age while they only have had four or five years of formal instructing in their home countries. Indeed, in order to pass the tests and proceed to high school, many ELLs have to eliminate enormous academic vocabulary gaps, which do not allow them to continue their education. Certainly, vocabulary development plays a crucial role in students’ literacy and their future education.
In conclusion, vocabulary acquisition plays an important role for ELL students’ literacy level. It is a complicated and multi-faceted process that involves increasing vocabulary level and reading proficiency that builds on the background knowledge and cognates. Independent learning can be developed through extended instructions and unintended vocabulary acquisition. Finally, literacy level and vocabulary are vital to students’ future education. They can help a considerable number of ELLs to overcome challenges when transferring to a high school. Overall, vocabulary development is a crucial part of teaching literacy practices for ELL.