Cheung & Slavin (Dec, 2012) synthesized research on English reading outcomes for Spanish dominant English Learners and conclude that in the end, instructional quality is more important than language of instruction for English reading. (Of course, we need to remember that language of instruction may not matter if you are only concerned about students learning English, but you'd have to have Spanish instruction as well to become literate in both languages...) However, their research did show that bilingual classrooms did give students an advantage (an effect size of +.21). Whether you are critical of their research or not, it is important to attend to instructional practice and recognize another study that emphasizes it's importance. What does quality instruction include? The interventions that Cheung & Slavin describe with the highest effect sizes for English reading outcomes are: a program with cooperative learning among 4 member teams, a program with peer-assisted learning, and small group instruction. I find it interesting that the higher effect sizes seem to be for interventions that involve students learning with one another. Discussion and interaction are key components of language acquisition theory and may be a key to effective practice.
Here are a few teaching tips and materials that promote interaction:
Reference: Cheung, A.C.K. & Slavin, R.E. (2012). Effective programs for Spanish-dominant English Language Learners (ELLs) in the Elementary Grades: A Synthesis of Research. Review of Educational Research, 82(4), 351-395.
Everyday ELL is now Every Language Learner.