The comprehension skills of children learning English as an additional language

Burgoyne, K., Kelly (nee Hutchinson), Jane Margaret, Whiteley, H. E. and Spooner, Alice (2009) The comprehension skills of children learning English as an additional language. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 79 (4). pp. 735-747. ISSN 0007-0998

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Data from national test results suggests that children who are learning English as an additional language (EAL) experience relatively lower levels of educational attainment in comparison to their monolingual, English-speaking peers.

The relative underachievement of children who are learning EAL demands that the literacy needs of this group are identified. To this end, this study aimed to explore the reading- and comprehension-related skills of a group of EAL learners.

Sample Data are reported from 92 Year 3 pupils, of whom 46 children are learning EAL.

Children completed standardized measures of reading accuracy and comprehension, listening comprehension, and receptive and expressive vocabulary.

Results indicate that many EAL learners experience difficulties in understanding written and spoken text. These comprehension difficulties are not related to decoding problems but are related to significantly lower levels of vocabulary knowledge experienced by this group.

Many EAL learners experience significantly lower levels of English vocabulary knowledge which has a significant impact on their ability to understand written and spoken text. Greater emphasis on language development is therefore needed in the school curriculum to attempt to address the limited language skills of children learning EAL.

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