Developing Oral Literacy Skills in English Language Learners to Improve Oral Communication Skills

As the number of English learners enrolled in US schools continues to rise and the gap in achievement between Native English speakers and English Language Learners continues to grow, educators seek to find successful ways to meet the diverse language needs of our EL’s to close this gap and provide more opportunities of academic success. This study seeks to answer the question: to what extent are English learners able to demonstrate the use of classroom norms for listening and speaking in structured conversations to help improve their English language development? The observational data collected from the twenty, fourth grade, English language learners, ranging in language proficiency levels of level one to level three, supports prior research done by Wilson et al., (2016) that supports providing EL’s with opportunities to practice using oral language skills as a means to increase their use of academic language and deepen their understanding of content across all disciplines. Observational data for this study were collected over a course of six weeks. A three-week intervention period, where the students took part in creating, practicing, and applying the listening and speaking norms that would be used in the data collection phase of the study. Observational data were collected by the researcher over the course of three visits to the science lab. The researcher tallied the number of times students demonstrated using the norms as they were engaged in academic conversations around science. An analysis of the data showed that students across all language levels demonstrated an increase in their ability to use the norms over the course of the three observation sessions. The findings of this study support the need for further research in developing oral literacy skills for our EL learners as a means of supporting their English language development and creating improved academic outcomes across all content areas.