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  • Writer's pictureRon Budd

21st Century Visual Supports: Supports Literacy Amongst ELLs

Updated: Sep 28, 2023


I wholeheartedly endorse the following assertions: "For English Language Learners (ELLs), the process of acquiring English reading skills transcends mere translation from their native language. While a dictionary can be a valuable tool, it alone is insufficient." I believe that virtually every teacher would concur. The challenge with relying solely on translations and dictionaries lies in their inability to provide ELLs with the necessary contextualization for words. Without proper contextualization, understanding the true meaning becomes a daunting task. ELLs, with the guidance of their teachers, can effectively transition into English language proficiency by building bridges between their existing contextual knowledge and new textual materials. One approach I employ to facilitate this transition is by implementing visual aids.

I place significant emphasis on the inclusion of visual representations alongside our lessons. Visual aids are indispensable for helping students establish meaningful contextual links. My objective is to move beyond mere translation and guide my students towards producing nuanced rephrasings that facilitate effective second language communication. In this digital age, I am fortunate to have access to a plethora of visual resources via the internet.

When I present ELLs with images or videos related to our subject matter, it instantaneously contextualizes the topic. This contextualization empowers ELLs to draw upon their prior knowledge and experiences as they embark on the learning journey. The inherent capacity of visuals, such as pictures and videos, to convey information tacitly makes them invaluable teaching tools. Whenever feasible, I endeavor to provide my students with an abundance of visual aids, as I believe it to be one of the simplest and most effective scaffolding techniques.

It's worth noting that a variety of scaffolding tools are at our disposal. Specific visual scaffolding tools encompass graphic organizers, videos, pictures, and charts.

Looking ahead, my goal is clear: to ensure that my visual tools remain current, relevant, and aligned with the evolving cognitive landscape of my target student population. Many educators tend to rely on the same traditional teaching aids over time. Regrettably, these tools can lose their relevance as the educational landscape changes. An outdated or irrelevant visual support loses its capacity for effective instruction. More importantly, if the accompanying imagery is outdated or incomprehensible, it hinders students from utilizing visual aids to enhance their understanding of concurrent textual or oral communication. This failure of visual aids to support learning can obstruct students' progress towards achieving higher English language proficiency and a holistic understanding of the language.

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