A Critique of “Front Row” for supporting ELLs


The ill-structured problem I wanted to focus on is not necessarily a learning disability, but rather a learning need in our school, and in other schools across the country. This very specific learning need is to increase math proficiency as a result of language acquisition. Based on data from the growing number of students entering the public school system who are learning to speak English, language acquisition is a huge factor in a child’s educational experience. (Rodriguez et. al., 2009) A lot of academic vocabulary is used with math, and in order to be successful, a student needs to understand and be able to use and apply their knowledge within various mathematical concepts. Acquisition of academic language can already be challenging for native English speakers, so it is that much more challenging for students who are still learning English.

I teach math at an urban school in North Carolina. We have an extremely high population of people who are English Language Learners (ELLs) and Limited English Proficient (LEP). Our math scores are improving, but still need to be improved even more. Based on this data, we need to find ways to support our students in developing both academic and social language in various ways throughout the school day.

According to Li, teachers at the schools he observed in North Carolina did not provide adequate instruction or support to students who were learning English. English as a Second Language (ESL) Certification is not required in most states, including North Carolina. As a result, most teachers do not have training in this specific area, nor have the knowledge or experience to teach students with language acquisition needs. (Rodriguez et. al., 2009)

Front Row

As Li states, online technologies provide students who are learning English with experiences and exposure to the language in a safe place. (Li, 2012) Sometimes that language occurs within the classroom, among friends or family members, or sometimes even online.
Since I teach 2nd grade math, I have decided to critique a math website that can be used to support mathematical concept development in English, for people who are learning English. The digital learning tool I chose is called Front Row. It is an interactive website designed to reinforce math skills taught in the classroom. It is 100% based on the common core state standards and it differentiates lessons and games for each student, based on the level they are currently performing on in the website. Front Row also records student data and creates skill based groups, worksheets, independent practice, and report cards for every student based on common core standards.

This website engages students with pictures and sounds, and coins which are earned for correct answers. With these coins, students can shop or play games at the “Piggy Store”, which provides extra incentive for working problems out correctly instead of clicking and guessing. One last function of Front Row is that it provides on screen support with one click. If students cannot read a question, they click a button, and Front Row reads the question and answer choices aloud. If students repeatedly answer a question wrong, Front Row uses the class’ data and suggests 3 “experts” in the standard being practiced and prompts the student to ask the experts in the class for guidance. Another option is to watch a step by step video about how to solve a similar problem. It outlines the steps for solving the problem, and why the problem is being solved in such a way.

Based on the aspects of Front Row, students who are learning English would have the potential to thrive in math by using this mobile app or website. It references problems in real life that a student may have, such as buying cupcakes for a class party, joining a soccer team, or calculating how many miles it is from your home to your place of work. English language experiences with these real life situations help raise the language development and interest level to learn in students who are practicing English. (Li, 2012) All in all, Front Row is extremely engaging, and it provides the language for students who are learning English so that the practice and application of both social and academic English is accessible.

Click the photo to check out my screencast and learn more about Front Row!





Literacy Engagement Through Online and Offline Communities Outside School: English Language Learners’ Development as Readers and Writers. (n.d.). Theory Into Practice, 51(4), 312–318. http://doi.org/10.1080/00405841.2012.726061

Rodriguez, D., Ringler, M., O’Neal, D., & Bunn, K. (2009). English language learners’ perceptions of school environment. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 23(4), 513+. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA204681849&sid=summon&v=2.1&u=msu_main&it=r&p=ITOF&sw=w&asid=146f6625ec678412becf640ff28fe814


One thought on “A Critique of “Front Row” for supporting ELLs

  1. Thank you for sharing this math resource! You did a great job explaining the tool, Front Row, in your blog post and in your screencast. I love the “ask an expert” feature you mentioned! Allowing students to collaboratively work together is so important, and they can learn a lot from each other. I think this is an awesome feature for ELL students. If a child who is an English language learner is struggling with a concept, he/she can ask an “expert” peer for assistance. Maybe this peer can explain the concept in kid-friendly terms that the ELL student will understand. Also, deeper understanding occurs when a child has to explain how to complete a problem. It’s a win-win! This feature is also teaching students not to be so teacher dependent.
    I furthermore like the real world questions used and the text to speech option. Both of these aspects are beneficial to students who are learning English.
    Font Row is definitely a website I’d be interested in using with not only my ELL students, but with all my third graders. Good work! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s