For Teachers

How to Determine if Assistive Technology is Right for Your ELL Students

By The Room 241 Team February 13, 2013

Learning the fundamentals of reading is critical for children and anyone learning to comprehend the basics of language acquisition beyond hearing and mimicking sounds, but assistive technology for English language learners, or ELL, may give these students a firmer understanding of what they are reading.

Reading without comprehension has no value for students in the long term; therefore cementing the meaning of words as students learn to read and acquire language is a key component to helping language learners continually build their knowledge base.

One important question for educators to ask themselves is whether or not a student is not grasping the ideas and meaning behind the words due to laziness or whether that student needs some type of additional assistance to further their ability to think critically about what they are reading.

What are Some Assistive Technology Tools Available for ELL Students

Since educators can only give so much individualized attention to any given student in a full and lively classroom, assistive technology is an excellent tool to help support a struggling student’s efforts in increasing their knowledge of the English language. Such tools can be purchased as software by the school system, and online websites and even games are all set to assist a teacher’s efforts to help a student who wants to find the proper tools for reading comprehension and efficient-to-excellent English language acquisition. With all of this, assistive technology helps the teacher understand the progress of a student and helps guide them toward future efforts with a given student.

How to Determine if Assistive Technology is Right for ELL Students

If an educator has a question about a student’s English language learning skills, there are ways to determine the nature of them as well as whether or not assistive technology is right for their ELL students in question. The following are a few ways to help in the determination process.

  • Assess Each Student on an Individual Basis

In order to obtain a full and accurate picture of a student’s language learning ability, it is important to assess that student as an individual, according to their own educational background as well as any strengths, challenges and weaknesses.

  • Take a 360 Degree View of the Student’s Learning Abilities

Enlisting the right team members will be a fair way to assess a student’s learning abilities such as a speech therapist, the parents, the school psychologist, the ESL teacher and the primary teacher for the student. Taking this global approach helps create the clearest possible image of the student’s English language learning capability. A student’s challenges may lie in any one or more of these areas, so it is good to rule out as many mitigating factors as possible with the right professionals on hand.

  • Tap into the Student’s Educational and Personal Background with the Parents

Ask the parents to be an integral part of their child’s English language learning by seeking out details of their child’s previous educational experiences. Trying to learn previous classroom reading and comprehension problems may prove a helpful guide for the teacher by showing them how to proceed. Perhaps a previous teacher found a specific method of teaching that did or did not work to help the student; this information could help reduce time spent on seeking solutions that have already been attempted and either succeeded or outright failed. Parents may also be able to give insight into events or anything that may trigger learning anxiety for their child that may inhibit their ability to acquire and retain vital daily information.

Assistive Technology Tools in Action

If a child is determined to need assistive technology for English language learners, there are plenty of tools available to streamline the process for everyone involved. The following are a few effective assistive technology tools.

  • The SOLO Literacy Suite

With Read:OutLoud, a reading comprehension supportive text reader, spelling tools and a draft writing kit, this package offers a little bit of everything to help those trying to improve their language acquisition skills.

  • WorldWordExchange.com

This online website offers students the chance to interact verbally and gain a deeper insight into the language. Since many times students spend a great deal of a day listening only, it is important to find outlets for them to speak and make sense of the language from their own unique perspective.

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