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 drillsworksheets 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.kyoto-su.ac.jp/information/tesl-ej/ej16/r14.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 (Davidson & Koppenhaver, 1993). Research also shows a link between Sustained Silent Reading (when effectively implemented) and improved reading skills; Flaspeter, 1995; Ozburn, 1995; Pilgreen & Krashen, 1993; Valeri-Gold, 1995). 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 Reading and Writing
The second recommendation from the research is an increased emphasis on reading and writing instruction within the context of content-area learning. The research supports the common-sense notion that time spent reading and writing will improve those skills (Davidson & Koppenhaver, 1993; Duke & Pearson, 2002). For example, regularly scheduled time for sustained silent reading, when effectively implemented either school-wide or as a regular element of a course, has been linked to building a positive literacy culture. Sustained silent reading time supports reading practice, addresses the needs and interests of a variety of learners, and improves reading skills, including among ELL students (Flaspeter, 1995; Ivey & Broaddus, 2000; Mosher, 1999; Pilgreen, 2000; Schoenbach et al., 1999). Effective implementation seems to be a key qualifier, however, because there are some studies in this area that do not show consistent positive gains (e.g., Yoon, 2002).
Chances to practice are not enough; there is growing consensus that to support students' abilities to maximize learning from texts, content-area teachers need to provide content-area reading instruction as part of teaching in the content-focused classroom (e.g., Jacobs, 1999; Langer, 2002; Moore, Alvermann, & Hinchman, 2000; Vacca, 2002). Opportunity and expectations to read and write, while essential, will not by themselves ensure the development of academic literacy habits and skills.
Newer scholarship shows an increased understanding of the ways that reading and writing reinforce one another and contribute to content learning (e.g., Yore, Shymansky, Henriques, Chidsey, & Lewis, 1997). This represents a shift; traditionally, reading and writing have been conceptualized as related but sufficiently different that one could be engaged without conscious reference to the other. The literature differentiates between writing instruction and writing to learn, although both are acknowledged as inextricably related to reading, thinking, and content learning. There is a growing body of research emphasizing the efficacy of using writing to learn strategies. In conjunction with the use of written texts, there is evidence that writing to learn can contribute to improved reading comprehension and content learning (e.g., Boscolo & Mason, 2001; Pugalee, 2002; Spanier, 1992; TePaske, 1982). Thus, both discussion of texts and production of texts are seen as important to developing content-area literacy and learning.
Examples of writing to learn strategies that simultaneously increase content understanding and improve reading and writing skills include paired reading, quick writes, peer conferencing, creation of Reader's Theatre scripts, use of Jigsaw groups to discuss different short readings on the same topic, use of a Readers' Workshop approach, use of a Writers' Workshop approach, rereading assignments for a different purpose, rewriting text from other points of view, use of literature circles, dialogic journals, use of learning logs, and connecting text with other media using a critical literacy perspective. The literature suggests that before, during, and after reading comprehension strategies should be linked to provide scaffolding for struggling and average readers as they work with advanced texts.
Effective writing instruction gives students frequent opportunities to write, accompanied with feedback and opportunities to edit and revise, along with guidance in how to do so (Williams, 2003). However, in lower track high school classes that have more students needing to develop their literacy skills, instruction is much less likely to focus on advanced writing tasks (like revising text and writing based on multiple sources) that would enhance literacy. More likely is a focus on dictations, short answer activities, and other similar tasks that limit writing practice (Harklau et al., 1999; Oakes, 1985). In this context, Callahan's (2005) finding that track placement is a better predictor of ELLs' academic success than their measured English proficiency is not surprising.
Research suggests that opportunities to create, discuss, share, revise, and edit a variety of types of texts helps develop content-area understanding and familiarity with the types of texts found in a particular content area, as well as developing reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. Encouraging students to pursue these opportunities improves written communication skills, thinking skills, and memory (Alvermann & Phelps, 1998; Cotton, 1991; Langer, 1999; Schoenbach et al., 1999). The literature, however, warns that in order to provide helpful feedback to students about their writing, teachers need to know their students' writing strengths and challenges and they need to have a plan for helping students develop academic writing skills. This may be especially true for those students who speak non-standard varieties of English-for example, African American Vernacular English or Appalachian English (Ball, 1998; Ball & Farr, 2003; Baugh, 2002; Moore et al., 2000; Perry & Delpit, 1998).
Several researchers have identified essential components of the classroom that successfully supports increased reading and writing (e.g., Duke & Pearson, 2002; Ivey & Broaddus, 2000; Langer, 1999, 2002; Ruddell & Unrau, 1996). Some have provided explicit descriptions of good instruction that elicits quality reading and writing from reluctant readers and writers by engaging students in their own literacy development (e.g., Schoenbach et al., 1999) or building directly on the literacies that students bring with them to school (e.g., Lee, 2004). However, researchers who have studied the ecological interactions-that is, the combined environmental conditions and discourse patterns that characterize classrooms-note that developing and sustaining a classroom that truly fosters critical reading and writing habits is a far more complex endeavor than the lists of elements cited as part of effective reading and writing instruction would suggest (e.g., Nystrand & Graff, 2001).
Research on Using This Practice With English Language LearnersIn a review of 110 articles on reading English as a second language, Fitzgerald (1995b) found that reading instruction targeting specific student knowledge, such as vocabulary knowledge, background knowledge, and text-structure knowledge was generally effective. Au (2002) notes:
Traditional approaches to teaching reading to students of diverse backgrounds have not been effective. Instead, these traditional approaches, such as grouping and tracking and a heavy emphasis on skill instruction, have formed systems or patterns that put students of diverse backgrounds at a continued disadvantage in learning to read. . . . The solution to the problem seems to be that we must put new systems or patterns in place. . . . We must make sure that students of diverse backgrounds have the opportunity to participate in literature-based instruction and the readers' workshop, following a continuum of teaching strategies that involves them in motivating, meaningful reading experiences. The continuum of strategies is supplemented with intensive instruction, as needed, in areas such as decoding and comprehension (p. 409).
Peregoy and Boyle (2000) note that with intermediate ELL readers, the deliberate and purposeful uses of before (e.g., purpose for reading, activating background knowledge, introduction of vocabulary), during (e.g., teacher and student co-reading, prediction, paired reading, student response logs, use of graphic organizers such as story maps), and after strategies (e.g., mapping, dramatization, creating a mural, writing reader's theatre scripts) are critical for supporting comprehension and content recall (p. 245-246).
Text itself emerges in the ELL literature as a key instructional aid for content-area learning. Scarcella (2002) identifies it as essential input for advanced literacy development. Harklau (2002) notes that the act of producing text (writing) in addition to speaking and listening activities seems to be more effective than lecture or discussion alone for enhancing content-area learning and academic literacy development. She also notes that the reviewability of text is a key and often preferred feature for ELLs. Unlike oral communication (which, unless recorded, disappears as fast as it is spoken), written text is available for ongoing examination, which allows ELLs (and other learners) to reread, to check emergent interpretive hypotheses, to compare to L1 literacy rules and conventions they may know, and to practice repeatedly.
Peregoy and Boyle (2000) note that
Schleppegrell (2004) finds that Silva's (1993) synthesis of 72 research reports comparing the composing processes and written text features of native versus second language adult writers of English and a number of reports on writing by speakers of English as a second language or dialect (i.e., Hinkel, 2002; Kutz, 1986; Schleppegrell, 1996; Shaugnessy, 1977; Whiteman, 1981) all raise an interesting point: In developing an
In another example, Schleppegrell (2004) references how ELLs' writing also can reflect common training and activities from ESL classes. For example, if in such settings students are often encouraged to write personal narratives, it follows that a first impulse in writing in any content area is to write as if the genre calls for a personal narrative (p. 150). She cites Hinkel's (2002) work to support this assertion, adding,
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