A large number of immigrant students have come to Canada in recent years. Statistics Canada reports that most do not speak either of Canada’s official languages as their mother tongue. As a result, effective English as a Second Language (ESL) literacy instruction has become the focus of an increasing number of schools and districts, and a growing number of AISI projects across Alberta.
A variety of teaching strategies for ESL students have been found to be effective – collaborative reading, systematic phonics instruction, multimedia-assisted reading and diary writing are examples of a few. There is general agreement in the literature that for ESL students learning content-based language, instruction in a student’s native language is beneficial and that transfer of literacy skills almost always occurs to the second language. It has also been shown that ESL literacy instruction carried out in classrooms, rather than in pull-out programs, has been the most successful.
The need for cross-cultural awareness among educational practitioners working with ESL learners has been emphasized in much of the literature. Cultural reciprocity empowers both teachers and parents, promotes ongoing discussion and increases student/parent participation in schools.