Date of Award


Degree Name

Education (M.Ed.)


College of Education

Academic Year



In the United States, Spanish-speaking English Learners (ELs) represent a growing and significant portion of the student population. ELs require targeted instructional strategies and classroom environments in order to fully acquire language and learn content. Studies in bilingual and second language education have demonstrated how students’ native language (i.e., first language, or “L1”), once believed to be a limitation that should be kept separate from students’ use of the target language, can instead serve as an asset benefitting English acquisition. However, educators who are unfamiliar with Spanish and components of language transfer may not be able to fully support students in this endeavor. In the US, “less than 3% of educators have a specialization for teaching English learners and only 38% of teachers report having coursework regarding this population of students” (Cárdenas-Hagan, 2018 p. 14). Even if instructors are not fluent in a student’s L1, “it is necessary to explore, understand, and integrate the commonalities between the native language and English,” (2018, p. 20). With the proper supports and training, teachers can recognize and encourage students’ native language use in the classroom in order to facilitate cross-language transfer of linguistic, academic, and cognitive concepts to strengthen ELs’ success in school. Emphasis is given to the areas of vocabulary knowledge and phonological awareness as avenues for cross-language transfer in Prekindergarten to 1st grade. This project proposes the development of a website reference guide and in-service training to empower teachers to better support their ELs by building on their linguistic strengths.