Kent Primary ENL Students Star in a Reading Comprehension Lesson

It takes time to build vocabulary in a new language.

For English as a New Language (ENL) students at Kent Primary School, a reading passage about the stars in the sky introduced both new vocabulary and reading comprehension skills. The focus of the lesson, led by ENL teacher Sarah Albrecht, was how to identify main ideas and supporting details.

Students raise hands above their head to mimic supporting a table

Albrecht used the example of a table with the students, where the tabletop is the main idea of a story, and the legs of the table are the supporting details. After reading the passage about stars – or estrellas – the students created their own paper tabletops, filling in the main idea and details that they identified together.

The main idea of the story and top of their paper tables: stars are in the sky.

Albrecht then asked the students to recite one detail that they found in the passage to add as legs to the table.

"Some are big, and some are small,” recalled student Randall Quezada.

“There are many stars,” said student Lesly Lanchimba.

Student Monserrath Cedillo added: “The sun is a star!”

The students were also able to bring their own learned information about stars to the discussion, which reinforced their comprehension of the reading.

“When you are far away, stars look very small but when you get closer, they are really very big,” said student Vale Montenegro.

Throughout the lesson, Albrecht added new vocabulary words to the board as the students encountered them in their conversations. Some words included “details,” “lamp,” “enter,” and “telescope” – words not included in the reading passage but related to the group’s conversation. The students recognized these English words as cognates – words that sound or look alike with similar meanings – in Spanish.

“The idea is that you use speaking, listening, reading and writing in English every day and you are building vocabulary and grammar through that,” said Albrecht of the ENL lessons. “To reach full language proficiency, it takes people 7-10 years, no matter when you start learning.”

ENL students at Kent Primary receive support based on their level of English proficiency. While all ENL students spend time with their ENL teachers in their main classroom every day, those who are not as proficient also get dedicated daily time outside of the classroom to focus on language learning.

With the support from Albrecht and the other dedicated ENL staff in the district, the district’s ENL learners are making great strides in their proficiency every day.