Teacher Tip Tuesday: English Learner Series Tip #5

Language learning, like many things, is easiest when you start with what you know. English Learners bring a rich understanding of their home language to your classroom. Read on for strategies and resources for using the valuable knowledge students already have to facilitate English language acquisition.

How to leverage English Learners' home language for effective instruction

Start by listening

In all languages, it is crucial to hear the sounds of the spoken language.
This is called phonemic awareness; phonemes are the building blocks of language.
Let’s look at the different phonemes of early English and Spanish language acquisition.


For English, the beginning phonemic awareness games in Footsteps2Brilliance present children with interactive phoneme tiles to build simple consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words.

2 open syllables

In Spanish, the natural gateway to hearing sounds is open syllables (e.g., ma, me, me, mo, mu). When a child toggles to Spanish in Footsteps2Brilliance, they build Spanish words using interactive syllable tiles.

Use cognates

Students can toggle between English and Spanish while learning letter sounds to see how some letters have a consistent pronunciation between languages, while others do not. Emphasizing cognates helps solidify the connection between what students know and what they are still learning.

In the example below, students leverage a cognate (guitar/guitarra) to learn the common pronunciation of the /g/ sound in English and Spanish.

Click here to read Super Sounds G.

Even if the words themselves are not cognates, as in the case of nest/nido below, the common pronunciation of the /n/ sound between both languages is an important connection.

Click here to read Super Sounds N.

Read all the letters in our Super Sounds series, Level 1 (Red)

Not signed up? To learn how to provide your class with access to the Footsteps2Brilliance bilingual literacy program, click here, or sign up to speak to a Footsteps2Brilliance expert here.
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