Language Domains: Read Speak Listen Write with MLs

Language Domains: Read Speak Listen Write with MLs

Language Domains Read Speak Listen Write with MLs

The four language domains of reading, speaking, listening, and writing are all important components of learning a new language. The domains often overlap. One area can benefit from practice on the same topic in a different language domain. A student’s background knowledge plays an important role in how quickly they progress in these domains during a particular unit. Whenever possible, create lessons that give students practice in multiple language domains.


Learning how to read is complex and made up of multiple components. Scarborough’s Reading Rope divides learning to read into two main strands. The lower strand (phonological awareness, decoding, sight words) and the upper strand (background knowledge, vocabulary, language structure, verbal reasoning, literacy knowledge).

Reading Comprehension

When the focus is on reading comprehension (the upper strand), you may need to read aloud a text that students are not yet able to independently decode. Students use their listening skills to build knowledge that they will later use in reading comprehension. In a mixed ability group some students might read a text while others listen to it. This gives all students access to the same high level information. Some additional supports are to give students a copy of the text to follow along with. Have students listen to a more complex text read aloud and then independently read a modified version or section of the longer text.

morning routine long and short texts


When the focus is on decoding, select texts that are created to use phonics patterns that your students are familiar with. Use decodable texts with high quality pictures. Some older MLs may not need much instruction with decoding if they are literate in their native language. You can use paired texts or larger text sets to help build background knowledge on the topic that the student is reading about.

cherry blossom decodable books
Pair short decodable texts that a student reads with longer books or articles that the teacher reads outloud. This helps build background knowledge about the topic, modle fluent language, and build vocabulary knowledge.


The language domains of listening and reading are both interpretive forms of communication. Ways to builds a students listening skills include interactive read alouds (which gives the student a chance to interact with the story that they are listening to). Also using structured conversations with a partner help students speak, listen, and respond.

  • Create a open ended question for students to answer. Give support such as sentence frames/sentence starters to modle how to answer the question.
  • Create simple questions for students to take turns answering after listening to a read aloud. Give support such as sentence frames/sentence starters to modle how to answer the question.
  • Modle for students how to extend a conversation. Use stems such as “I agree with you AND…” “I agree with you. I want to ADD that….” I disagree with you BECAUSE…” ” I heard you say….is that true?” 
Speaking and listening card, question card, sentence frame.
Use question cards and sentence frames to support students in responding to text that they listen to and listening to and expanding on a partners answers to have a structured conversation.


The language domains of speaking and writing are both expressive forms of communication. Before and after reading and writing, give students opportunities to practice their speaking skills. Speaking is often the domain that students are the most comfterbale with. At the same time, MLs often need structured support to progress in their oral language development. Oral language is made up of the phonological component (rules for combining sounds), the semantic component (the smallest units of meaning that come together to form words), and the syntactic component (grammar rules about creating phrases and sentences).

  • Use pictures to build vocabulary kowledge.
  • Use sentence frames and sentence stems to support oral language development.
  • Create a low stress envierment to lower students affictive filter. This helps them to feel more comfertable taking risks.
morning routine sequencing and vocabulary
Use sequencing words, pictures, and basic vocabuary to support students in talking about a topic.


For younger students and begining MLs, writing is often the most challenging domain. Older students may prefier writing as it gives them more time to organize their thoughts. Writing is made up of multiple components, these include critical thinking, syntax (sentence structure), text structure, writing craft, spelling and handwriting. While a finished writing piece considerars all of these areas, it is best to have one to focus on at a time with young or developing writers.

  • Have students draw and/or talk about their story or writing piece first to generate ideas and practice text structure to support critical thinking.
  • Give pictures for students to write about.
  • Provide graphic organizers to support syntax.
  • Use sentence frames and sentence stems to support syntax.
Writing graphic organizers
Use graphic organizers, pictures, sentence stems to support writing.

Background Knowledge

When students have background knowledge about a particular topic they are able to progress at a faster pace then students that are unfamilar with the same topic. You can support students background knowledge in a number of ways.

  • Have students share their knowledge about a topic at the begining of a lesson.
  • Show a picture on the topic and use the Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM) to label it. Then sort the words into categories (nouns, verbs, adjectives) then create sentences about the picture.
  • Use simple pictures of activities for students to sequence and then use sequencing language (first, next, then, last) to describe the events.


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Read, Speak, Write Sequencing and Retelling Bundle

Decodable Books & Emergent Readers | Nonfiction Information Books

7 Steps to a Language-Rich, Interactive Classroom

The Writing Rope: A Framework for Explicit Writing Instruction in All Subjects

The Writing Rope Resource Hub

Young Children’s Oral Language Development on Reading Rockets

Oral Language Development and ELLs: 5 Challenges and Solutions Colorin Colorado

Using Pictures to Promote Language Development on Multilingual Learner by Valentina Gonzalez

7 Steps to a Language Rich Interactive Classroom Valentina Gonzalez Padlet

What is Scarborough’s Reading Rope? on Really Great Reading

Interactive Read-Alouds on Multilingual Learner by Valentina Gonzalez

WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition pg. 31

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