Sections II and III in the research summary below are direct excerpts from Julie Meltzer and Edmund Hamann's Meeting the Literacy Development Needs of Adolescent English Language Learners Through Content Area Learning, Part II (2005). This is a publication of the Education Alliance at Brown University funded by the Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory.
General Research on Component B: Strategies
The best practices associated with each of the five headings below are based on an extensive research base and must be used synergistically, in combination with one another, in order to be effective (e.g. Alvermann & Phelps, 1998; Davidson & Koppenhaver, 1993; Langer, 1999, 2001; Schoenbach et al, 1999; Tharp, 1999).
Promising Practices Related to the Roles of the TeacherAccording to the research, literacy skills and strategies should be taught in context, as opposed to in isolation; this represents a direct contradiction to the "skills and drills" worksheets often advocated for remediation (Langer, 2001; Schoenbach et al, 1999). There is ample evidence that a number of particular literacy strategies--when explicitly taught, modeled, and practiced--enhance the ability of secondary students to read and write to learn across the content areas (e.g. Alvermann & More, 1991; Rosenshine & Meister, 1994; Rosenshine et al, 1996; Rosenshine, 1997; Schoenbach, et al, 1999). These include pre-reading activities, such as the activation of prior knowledge (see, for example, http://www.ericdigests.org/pre-9219/prior.htm), during reading and post-reading strategies (see, for example, Billmeyer & Barton, 1995 and http://www.indiana.edu/~reading/ieo/bibs/rdcompsc.html). Research confirms the effectiveness of modeling and the use of a literacy apprenticeship framework (Schoenbach et al 1999). It also supports using information from a variety of literacy assessment strategies (Langer, 1999, 2001) to inform instruction.
Promising Practices Related to Reading and WritingResearch supports the common-sense notion that time spent reading and writing will help students to improve those skills (e.g. Davidson & Koppenhaver, 1993). Research also shows a link between Sustained Silent Reading (when effectively implemented) and improved reading skills (see, for example, http://www.angelfire.com/ok/freshenglish/ssr.html, http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/promising/tips/tipfvr.html ). The research also supports the use of the writing process as an integral part of content-area literacy development (e.g. Alvermann & Phelps, 1998; Cotton, 1988; Langer, 2001; Schoenbach et al, 1999).
Promising Practices Related to Speaking and ListeningThe evidence is clear: When teachers purposefully integrate speaking and listening into the content-area classroom, students' reading comprehension and writing skills improve. Effective collaborative learning also contributes to adolescent literacy development. This is particularly true for second language learners (e.g. Alvermann & Phelps, 1998; Collins et al; Krogness, 1995; Palincsar, 1986; Tharp, 1999).
Promising Practices Related to an Emphasis on ThinkingHere the research shows strong connections between adolescent literacy development and the deliberate introduction of, and regular use of, cognitive and metacognitive strategies (see, for example, Collins, 1994; Collins et al; Duke & Pearson, in press; Garner, 1992; Haller et al, 1988; Langer, 2001; Paris, et al, 1994; Rosenshine, 1997; Ruddell & Unrau, 1994; Schoenbach et al, 1999; Weinstein & Mayer, 1986).
Promising Practices Related to Creating a Student-Centered ClassroomAs discussed extensively in Core Principle A, a student-centered classroom is a key component of effective adolescent literacy development. This is a classroom where background information, interests, and experience are built upon--and where it is the norm to have experience-based activities that encourage student choice and involvement. Such characteristics will support reading comprehension, student engagement, motivation, and development of positive literacy identities. In such a classroom, interactive discussions regularly occur, and the teacher uses varied groupings to meet the needs of diverse learners and the goals of a variety of types of teaching and learning experiences (e.g. Alvermann & Phelps, 1998; Collins, 1996; McCombs & Barton 1998; Tharp, 1999; Tierney & Pearson, 1981, 1992).
Research on the Roles of the Teacher: Modeling, Explicit Strategy Instruction in Context, and Use of Formative Assessment
Teachers need to model, explicitly teach, and regularly assess students' literacy habits and skills in order to determine what to further model and teach. This approach to teaching, discussed here in specific relation to developing adolescents' academic literacy habits and skills, is not currently part of most middle and high school teachers' regular repertoire. As the cycle of modeling, explicit teaching, and assessment undergirds the effective implementation of all of the promising practices discussed later in the paper, it is a fitting place to begin the discussion of effective generic literacy support strategies. If the cycle is implemented as described, the research suggests that it can help teachers meet the academic literacy development needs of diverse learners, including ELLs.
Reading and writing are complex skills that vary by context. For example, reading a scientific journal does not require the same skills as reading a historical novel. Likewise, writing geometric proofs, lab reports, short stories, poems, or persuasive letters all require different approaches and skills. Each reading and writing task, therefore, requires overlapping but not identical sets of skills, some of which are highly context, purpose, or genre specific (Grossman & Stodolsky, 1995). Moreover, people who are proficient in some aspects of reading and writing may be novices at others. Yet for all content areas, modeling and using a literacy apprenticeship framework are effective ways to make reading and writing visible and, therefore, to support the development of more sophisticated reading and writing skills (Schoenbach et al., 1999).
Throughout the literature, there is an emphasis on the efficacy of a gradual release model for teaching reading comprehension and other literacy support strategies (Beckman, 2002; Curtis, 2002; Duke & Pearson, 2002; Wilhelm et al., 2001). That is, the teacher models the use of the strategy, practices it together with the students, and has the students try the strategy with one another before expecting them to use the strategy independently. Modeling is a necessary early implementation step for successful strategy instruction. Studies show that teacher modeling has a beneficial effect on student performance (e.g., Alfassi, 2004). According to Curtis (2002),
The use of think alouds is one clear way that teachers can model how they approach extracting meaning from text. According to Duke and Pearson (2002), studies typically have not examined the effect of teacher think aloud by itself,
. . . but rather as a package of reading comprehension strategies. Therefore, although we cannot infer directly that teacher think aloud is effective, it is clear that as part of a package, teacher think aloud has been proven effective in a number of studies. For example, think aloud is part of the Informed Strategies for Learning (ISL) program (Paris, Cross, & Lipson, 1984), reciprocal teaching...[and] the SAIL program all of which have been shown to be effective at improving student comprehension. It is also an important part of the early modeling stages of instruction in many comprehension training routines, for example the QAR work of Raphael and her colleagues (Raphael, Wonnacott, & Pearson, 1983) and the inference training work of Gordan and Pearson (1983). These studies suggest that teacher modeling is most effective when it is explicit, leaving the student to intuit or infer little about the strategy and its application, and flexible, adjusting strategy use to the text rather than presenting it as governed by rigid rules. Teacher think aloud with those attributes is most likely to improve students' comprehension of text. (pp. 235-236)
Originally, think alouds were used primarily as a qualitative research tool to determine what readers do as they read. They are now seen as ways for teachers and students to communicate how they are thinking as they read and how they are approaching a given reading task. Using think alouds, a teacher can model the practice for students and thus can model expectations of how to complete an academic literacy task by providing questions about the task, how to
From a social constructivist perspective, the potential result of participating in a social situation involving reading and thinking about texts is that individual students can draw upon the teacher and other students to help them construct not only an understanding of text ideas, but also an understanding of what it means to read and think about texts. (Kucan & Beck, 1997, p. 289)
There is increasing evidence that student think alouds also have positive effects on reading comprehension. (See the section on
thinkinglater in this section.)
Explicit Strategy Instruction in Context
The research recommends that literacy skills and strategies be taught and used in the context of reading, writing, and learning rather than solely or primarily practiced in isolation. This is the direct opposite of the
When teachers use multiple forms of assessment, it allows them to better modulate instruction to match students' literacy needs (Langer, 1999; Peterson et al., 2000). If assessment purpose and design are shared with students, multiple forms of assessment can help students understand their literacy strengths and areas of challenge, thereby empowering students to take better charge of their learning. Literacy assessment strategies include writing and presentation rubrics; self-assessment inventories; cloze passages; individualized reading inventories (IRI); teacher-created assignments; and, where appropriate or mandated, standardized or standards-based tests.
Ongoing formative assessment provides teacher and student alike with useful information about the student's literacy habits and skills and/or the student's content knowledge and is recognized throughout the literature as critical for improving academic literacy habits and skills (e.g., Biancarosa & Snow, 2004). Use of more than one form of assessment makes it easier for assessment to be responsive to student needs, learning styles, and strengths, greatly improving the chances that, over time, assessments will accurately reflect learning and alert teachers to additional areas for attention (Moore et al., 1999; Quenemoen, Thurlow, Moen, Thompson, & Morse, 2004; Solano-Flores & Trumbull, 2003). Examples of informal assessments that provide teachers with feedback about students' reading comprehension and concept development include quick writes, written and verbal summaries, completion of concept maps, and analytical graphic organizers. These are vehicles that can be used as assessment strategies and modeled as learning strategies for students to adopt (NCTE, 2004). Involving students in rubric development is another way to respond to students' need for voice and input as well as to learn what they value and respect in high quality written work or presentations.
This kind of formative assessment is different from that generated by large-scale, often high-stakes standardized tests. Whatever the merit of such tests, they do not provide the immediate, individualized, nuanced feedback (Sarroub & Pearson, 1998) that we wish to highlight here. Literacy assessment must be conducted in ways that reflect teachers' understandings of the languages spoken in students' homes and communities lest it incorrectly diagnose spoken and written abilities (see, e.g., Ball, 1998; Ball & Farr, 2003; Lincoln, 2003; Walquí, 2004). This is critical whether students speak
Research on Using This Practice With English Language Learners
Research on Using Teacher Modeling with ELLs
Hamayan (1990) asserts that mainstream teachers should see themselves as models of academic use of English for ELLs (or, as she puts it, potentially English-proficient students). In noting this prospective role, she acknowledges both that ELLs are often isolated from native speakers of English and that, even when they are exposed to L1 (first language) English peers, the peers' English might not be a good model of academic English. Valdés (2001) has also been critical of ELLs' frequent lack of access to good models of academic English, noting that the junior high ESL teachers she has observed were both substantially outnumbered (as the only native English speakers in classrooms of 30 or more students) and often
Hadaway, Vardell, and Young (2001) describe the effectiveness of using poetry to scaffold oral language development and serve as an entry to content learning for ELLs. In discussing how to best use poetry as a language, literacy, and learning scaffold, they emphasize the importance of teacher modeling, whether the instructional goal is oral interpretation, analysis or writing of poetry or use of poetry as a bridge between prior knowledge and experience and new content learning.
Curry (2004, p. 7) discusses the necessity of modeling for ELLs within the community college setting with regard to
Hamayan (1990) describes a related role for mainstream teachers of ELLs: that of cultural mediator. She is careful to characterize this role as multi-directional. In other words, modeling academic English should not be viewed as a task of assimilating the students, but rather a task of supporting a student's access to the language, genres, and habits that mark academic success, without sacrificing the student's cultural and linguistic identities. This observation is related to student motivation and engagement (and thus is addressed more in Meltzer and Hamann, ), but it is raised here because of its relevance to effective modeling of academic English.
Research on Using Explicit Strategy Instruction With ELLs
Montes (2002) describes the successful implementation of the Content Area Program Enhancement (CAPE) model based on the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA) in one Texas district. Schools that fully implemented the model were more effective with ELLs, including those at risk of dropping out of school, in terms of student achievement outcomes. The model included intensive professional development for teacher teams and required teachers to change their classroom strategies to encourage more collaborative learning. The model also required teachers to explicitly teach at least one CALLA strategy as applicable at each class session,
In her review of effective instructional practices for ELLs within the content areas, Anstrom (1997) notes the importance of having mainstream teachers make explicit their expectations for student work. Anstrom also notes the special importance for ELLs of learning from purposely varied instructional strategies. That is, ELLs, like many students, learn best when they have a mix of individual, small group, and whole class work. Within those formats, teachers can use direct instruction, guided discovery, cooperative learning, and computer-assisted instruction.
Curry (2004) stresses that effectively communicating requirements and expectations is critical for ELLs' success at the community college level as well. This communication should include the explicit teaching about the meaning of key words in essay questions, modeling and explaining how to approach essay writing, providing written directions and guiding questions for assignments, and explicitly teaching what she terms
In their review of effective practices for teaching reading to ESL students, Nurss and Hough (1992) conclude, as one of seven findings, that the research supports the need for teachers to
Research on Using Multiple Forms of Assessment with ELLs
Assessment, like instruction, should be valid, responsive, and safe. That is not always easy with ELLs (Lucas, 1993; Solano-Flores & Trumbull, 2003). Content-area teachers need to remember that for ELLs, all tests are tests of language proficiency and that interpreting test results from ELLs requires separating language comprehension concerns from content-area comprehension issues (Abedi, 2004, 2005; Abedi, Hofstetter, & Lord, 2004; Jeannot, 2004; Valdés & Figueroa, 1994). For example, Greene (1998) found that bilingual programs resulted in significant achievement gains in math when measured in Spanish but that when students were tested in English, gains were insignificant. Solano-Flores and Trumbull found that ELLs' test performances vary by subject, in terms of the language in which they test better, reflecting perhaps differences in the language they were using for acquisition. It is misleading to presume that a Spanish-speaking ELL who tests better in math if the exam is in Spanish will necessarily do better on a social studies exam that is in Spanish instead of English. Also, the validity of a test in one language of knowledge acquired through instruction in another is questionable (Abedi, 2005). In a study of high school students, Allen, Bernhardt, Berry, & Demel (1988) illustrated that the nature of the language used for a task may affect the difficulty of it because of the genres used for that task. Thus, students learning Spanish as a second language found recalling items from a magazine article the easiest in a comparison of four reading genres, but students learning French as a second language found recall from a magazine article to be the hardest.
Abedi (2005) raises a number of important validity and reliability questions about assessment and ELLs, all of which caution against the current trend of subjecting ELLs to high stakes content-area assessments presented in English. He notes that unnecessary linguistic complexity in content-area assessment can create construct-irrelevant variance among ELLs and between ELLs and other students. He adds that this problem is increasingly likely in advanced grades (i.e., secondary school) because the content being tested becomes more complex. Although he recommends that assessment of ELLs should include accommodation, he highlights a number of irrelevant accommodations (e.g., bigger type) that are offered to ELLs and notes that accommodations can raise their own hazards. How appropriate is it to assess ELLs in their native language on content they have been taught in English? How fair is it to compare ELLs' assessment outcomes on a test conducted in their native language (when instruction was in English) to L1 English-speaking classmates' test outcomes?
Teachers should note that assessments affect how students regard a classroom, a subject, and themselves as learners. It follows that assessment feedback needs to be provided thoughtfully: What is the learner hearing about his/her skill level and needed next steps and will the feedback encourage him/her to pursue the most appropriate next steps? Teachers need to recognize that adolescent ELLs often come to U.S. classrooms with preconceived understandings of schooling and assessment (Olsen & Jaramillo, 2000; Valdés, 2001). Jeannot (2004) notes that these understandings can include assumptions about appropriate ways to demonstrate knowledge on a formal assessment-for example, cultures and schooling systems differ in their embrace of the injunction
However, the literature supports the notion that assessment, at least informal assessment, of ELLs should be frequent in order to provide appropriate and adequate support of ELLs' academic progress (Echevarria & Goldenberg, 1999). In content-area classes taught in English, ELLs are progressing along two dimensions-content knowledge and language acquisition. Thus, the maximally responsive teacher wants to know where a given ELL is on both of these dimensions. Moreover, although they are related, it does not follow that a given ELL's language acquisition and content knowledge acquisition will proceed at the same pace. Thus, over the course of a semester a teacher may need to respond to an ELL's varying struggles with language or content.
At the community college level, Curry (2004) notes that faculty need to be aware of the limitations of the diagnostic gatekeeping and placement decisions based upon the testing of ELLs' reading, writing, and grammar skills in English. She notes how ELLs' responses to multiple choice grammar tests may not provide accurate or useful information about students' abilities to write, yet are often used for ease of scoring. She suggests that unfamiliarity with topics, anxiety about time limits, and inauthentic testing conditions that do not reproduce real world social, academic, or professional contexts may also produce invalid information about ELLs' writing ability. Referencing Hall (1991), Curry comments that ELLs in these conditions often have time to produce only one draft, may focus on surface features instead of substance, and often do not have dictionaries and other resources to use. She advocates that portfolio assessments as well as tests should be used when testing ELLs' writing proficiency if the goal is to accurately understand students' skill levels.
In a paper on recommendations for what mainstream teachers can do with ELLs, Hamayan (1990) raises the notion of assessment as a collaborative teacher responsibility. She notes that ELLs (like secondary students generally) often have multiple teachers who independently assess how much a student knows and how that student is progressing. Hamayan suggests that these teachers confer with each other, sharing their assessments, and thus identifying and perhaps troubleshooting assessment discrepancies that may better reflect the limitations of the assessment instead of the limitations of the learner.
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