Language arts instruction for young learners is constantly evolving to meet the needs of today’s students. In the past year, in particular, this field has seen immense change. “States have passed — or begun enacting — laws requiring evidence-based teaching for early learners. Hundreds of thousands of teachers have gone through new training…” writes Sarah Schwartz in her article for EducationWeek. “These shifts all stem from the movement around the ‘science of reading’ — an effort to align practice with methods that research shows are most effective for students.”
Technology and gamification, inclusive materials and translanguaging, integration of social-emotional learning (SEL), professional development for teachers, evidence-based methods and family engagement all contribute to creating engaging and effective elementary language arts (ELA) instruction. By embracing these trends, educators can empower students to become proficient readers and writers while fostering a lifelong love for learning.
Below are six of these ELA trends in more detail:
1. Technology and Gamification
With the increasing prevalence of technology in our daily lives, it’s no surprise that it has also found its way into language arts instruction. Teachers are using educational apps, interactive websites and digital tools to engage students in reading and writing activities. Gamification is another emerging trend where elements of gaming are incorporated into lessons to make learning more enjoyable and motivating. This approach often includes rewards, leaderboards and challenges to enhance student engagement and promote literacy skills.
2. Inclusive Materials and Translanguaging
More and more, educators are incorporating diverse literature, including stories featuring characters from various cultures and backgrounds to reflect the diversity of the student body. This also can include other languages, surprisingly. The technique is called “translanguaging” and involves utilizing students’ native languages alongside English. In multilingual classrooms, this approach fosters language development and builds bridges between students’ home languages and English.
It can also be helpful to students to learn the roots of English words, for example. “Why teach word roots?” asks Alana Domingo from Prestwick House. It sets readers up for success: “Thousands of English words are derived from Latin and Greek roots, prefixes, and suffixes. These linguistic building blocks are what give a word its meaning. With knowledge of word roots, prefixes, and suffixes, students can figure out the definitions of unfamiliar words just by breaking down their parts.”
3. Integration of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)
This trend emphasizes creating a safe and supportive classroom environment where students can express themselves and build healthy relationships. It’s a seamless task to incorporate SEL exercises into ELA instruction by choosing books and articles that address emotions, empathy and resilience and promote discussions that help students develop their social and emotional competencies.
4. Professional Development and Training for Teachers
To stay updated with the latest research and teaching practices, professional development plays a crucial role. Educators are attending workshops, conferences, webinars and advanced degrees focused on language arts instruction.
Programs such as Florida Gulf Coast University’s Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Curriculum & Instruction (C&I) with a concentration in Elementary Education online program are constantly adapting to better equip graduates to anticipate and use trends in elementary language arts teaching. Through core and specialized courses such as Trends in Language Arts Instruction, education professionals are challenged to deal with these new elements that focus on incorporating technology and promoting inclusivity.
5. Reading Science and Evidence-Based Methods
In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on using evidence-based methods to enhance reading skills, such as explicit phonics instruction, systematic decoding and comprehension strategies. These approaches are tried-and-tested and are factually proven to help any student achieve a standard level of literacy. There are plenty of resources about the “science of reading” for teachers who are still unfamiliar with these methods.
6. Family Engagement
The authors of IMSE Journal write that “According to a 2021 report, 85% of parents showed interest in playing an active role in their child’s education. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, parents gained insight into the challenges of being a teacher and how they can work to assist their children’s educators.”
Through read-aloud sessions, book clubs and home reading programs, teachers can include parents in their kids’ literacy journey. This ensures that the instruction extends beyond the classroom and allows parents to also support their children by bringing them new content, words and stories.
Graduates of an advanced education degree in curriculum and instruction and elementary education are equipped with necesary skills in language arts to help young learners build foundaitonal skills.