How do you support literacy for all students including English language learners?

It may not surprise you that more than 700 million people in the world are still illiterate. Illiteracy, however, isn’t a problem reserved for third world countries, problem of people who struggle with their most basic needs and cannot afford going to school because of that. In fact–and this mat actually surprise you, more than 40 million of American adults fall into the illiterate/functionally illiterate category. That’s a serious problem we face.

What’s more, with the climate crisis and immigration issues looming, many elementary school students are English language learners. They find it even harder to comprehend written text, such as the one you are reading right now. Needless to say, school principals are aware of the problem.

When you interview for a teaching job at any elementary or secondary school, they may ask you about your ways of supporting literacy of your students. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question. Below the answers you will find some additional explanations and hints, as well as links to other tricky teacher interview questions.


7 sample answers to “How do you support literacy for all students including English language learners?” interview question

  1. Ability to read with comprehension is a skill like any other one. In order to improve, you have to practice. And that’s exactly my philosophy. I try to read a lot with students, and their homework is often based on independent reading and the comprehension of the text they read. Of course, it is important to choose topics that interest the students, at least somehow, so they do not find their reading excessively boring, and will do the homework.
  2. I’ve taught many English language learners in my last teaching job. And I immediately understood that they need more time for the same length of text, that it simply takes them longer to cover the exercise, be it writing or reading. The most important thing is to give them your attention, make sure that they understand, collect their feedback, and also test their reading and writing skills regularly and monitor their progress, to confirm the efficiency of your teaching methods, and make adjustments when necessary.
  3. This is my first job application, and so I do not have any experience with this yet. But I am aware that many children struggle with literacy, and that we should put more emphasis on independent reading, reading loudly during the lessons, communication between the students, as well as reading & writing exercises. I can assure you that I plan to put emphasis on these things in my classes, and will make sure that each student develops their full potential.
  4. I honestly think that the key lies in building students’ love to reading books. Physical books–classical literature, but also new genres and styles. I support quality and variety in their reading, to make sure that they have contact with a variety of texts, and learn to comprehend the content of these books. It will help them a lot down the road.
  5. Read, read, and read. There’s no better way to support literacy, regardless of whether we talk about native speakers or English language learners. My students spend a lot of time reading and talking about texts they read. Of course, it is crucial to know your lesson plans, and make sure that your reading exercises fit the plans. Once they do, we should motivate the students to read and progress with their reading and writing on a weekly basis.
  6. Illiterate person is easily manipulated and will find it hard to verify facts. We should do all we can to support the literacy of all our students. In my opinion, individual approach is the key. Some students may struggle with alphabet, others with vocabulary. One person may find it easy to read the texts but hard to comprehend the meaning, while another one can struggle with reading itself. It is important to understand our students, and work with each one individually, making sure we address the correct issues. Of course, we can afford such a luxury only if we have enough personnel, paraprofessionals and assistants. It is the case at your school, and it is one of the reasons why I decided to apply for a special education teacher job with you, instead of with some other school in the area.
  7. First of all, I advocate for no-technology policy in elementary education. Tablet, keyboard, and digital book reader should never replace pen and paper–at least in my opinion. As long as children spend enough time reading and writing, and if we progress at a correct pace with each student, we can be sure that we did our best to support their literacy. Of course, some students will progress faster and some will struggle more, regardless of what we do in the classroom. That’s something we have to accept as teachers. You will always have best and worst students. Having said that, achieving 100% functional literacy should be one of our main goals at school.


Your attitude matters more than your methods

When you apply for your first teaching job, or have just few years of experience under your belt, it is hard to know what really works, and how to promote literacy across the board. However, as long as you see functional literacy as your main goal, and ensure the interviewers that you will try what you can to achieve it with all students, you are good to go.

Show them your priorities. Ensure them you won’t give up on students who progress at a slower pace. Once you know what you want to achieve with your students, you will eventually find the means of achieving it. Or you will learn it from teachers with more experience. One way or another, right attitude is the key for your success in the interviews.

Put emphasis on quality reading

Nothing beats quality reading. Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Conrad, Joyce, Salinger–just to name a few masters of the word. Of course, you cannot expect elementary school students to understand such books. But you can always help them pick the right work of art, fitting for their age and level of functional literacy.

Books are hundred times better than some Facebook stories or online news. Ensure the interviewers that you plan to promote reading in your classes. Setting aside time for individual reading, supporting quality libraries, inviting guest readers to the classroom, and introducing various authors to the students are just some ways of promoting reading across the board…

Ready to answer this one? Great! Do not forget to check 7 sample answers to other tough teacher interview questions:

Glen Hughins
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