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I am perplexed by one of my students. He is 4th grade ESL student whose first language is Spanish. He came to the US at the beginning of last year (so he's been here about 2 years).

He can't identify 12 letters and I don't think he can write the alphabet. He can't read a lot of basic sight words - ex. the, a, I, see, we, are, she, what have, do, where...etc. He does have some though - here, an, look, to...etc. I know that he went to school in Mexico but it was a "rancho" school. I couldn't find out much about what this was like.

How do you determine if there is a challenge beyond not having English as a first language? Are there any signs to watch out for? (I actually have two students like this - another 4th grade girl who has been in the US and in pull-out ESL situations for 3 years). I'm very concerned that we're missing out on something serious and just calling it an ESL issue.



Full Member
From my experience with ESL students your 4th graders with that much time in the states should be able to identify the letters and most sight words. I am by no means an expert, but I have seen students (older and younger) who have been in the states for only a few months who have more of a grip on the English language than that. Also, the Spanish alphabet and the English alphabet are very similar, letters should not be that much of a problem for them. Now if the student came from a different language background where a totally different alphabet was used that would be another story.

I have also found that Latinos/as don't try as hard as other ESL students (ours are mostly Latinos/as, Sudanese, or Vietnamese). I think that this is mainly because they can get away with speaking Spanish. There are enough people out there that understand Spanish that they don't NEED to know English. I have found this frustrating and have seen many ESL teachers hinder their students' progress by allowing them to speak Spanish and speaking with them in Spanish.