Listen to Reading for Multilingual Students


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Pam Schaff and Liliya Stefoglo

Listening, sharing, reading, and processing in a student’s first language allows them to engage at their highest cognitive level. When a student’s vocabulary and comprehension are high, it maximizes their interaction with the text and accelerates their learning. This strategy will have a significant positive effect on multilingual students’ ability to transfer skills from one language to another.

Opportunities to listen to texts in their heritage language, as often occurs in inclusive classrooms, is beneficial to all students. However, for beginning multilingual learners (MLs), this is a critical component of Listen to Reading, because it increases literacy and thinking skills in the heritage language, which ultimately contributes to literacy and thinking skills in English.

If students have no opportunity to listen to a text in their heritage language, then using a text to which they were explicitly exposed during shared/interactive/guided reading can lower their anxiety and increase their confidence. Working with a familiar text allows a multilingual student’s brain to work at its highest capacity while giving them an opportunity to hear correct pronunciation and appropriate language structures.

Another great benefit of Listen to Reading is that it improves students’ expressive vocabulary and ability to use words in their speech. At one stage of language acquisition, learners recognize words that they hear (receptive vocabulary), but they are not yet comfortable enough with those words to meaningfully use them in speech (expressive vocabulary). Multilingual students need to hear a word 10 to 20 times throughout the day before it becomes part of their expressive vocabulary, so implementing Listen to Reading provides a critical structure for their vocabulary development.


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