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 promising 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.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 (Flaspeter, 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).
Creating a Learner-Centered Classroom
A learner-centered classroom is deliberately designed to maximize all students' chances for academic development. The creation of a learner-centered classroom is an important aspect of effective adolescent literacy development, particularly for diverse learners. In such classrooms, teachers expect all students to actively use speaking, listening, and thinking skills across contexts. Interactive discussions and experiential learning regularly occur. A learner-centered classroom builds upon students' background, interests, and experiences. Research suggests that this emphasis supports reading comprehension, student engagement and motivation, and the development of positive literacy identities. Again and again, the research refers to literacy learning as being best supported by the role of the teacher as facilitator, not lecturer (e.g., Langer, 1999, 2001; Wilhelm et al., 2001). Williams (2003), in describing the benefits of a student-centered or workshop approach to literacy instruction, notes:
One result of the workshop approach is that it provides students with the means to assume a more active role in learning. Members of work groups are always busy talking, writing, thinking, researching. Unlike the traditional classroom, in which students assume a passive role as they listen to teacher-talk, the workshop requires teachers to say very little. This approach is referred to as student-centered instruction, and it is a central component of process pedagogy. (p.104)
A key component of a learner-centered classroom for adolescents that supports optimal literacy development is the effective use of collaborative learning experiences (Adams & Hamm, 1990; Alvermann, 2000; Alvermann & Phelps, 1998; Anderson & Roit, 1993; Biancarosa & Snow, 2004; Calhoon & Fuchs, 2003; Collins, 1994; Fuchs & Fuchs, 2000; Guthrie & Humenick, 2004; Kucan & Beck, 1997; Langer, 1999; McCombs & Barton, 1998; Tharp, 1999; Tierney & Pearson, 1981, 1992). Two other aspects of an effective learner-centered classroom referenced throughout the literature are flexible grouping (e.g., Reutzel, 2003) and a focus on inquiry-based learning (e.g., Wilhelm et al., 2001), with or without computer support (Waxman & Tellez, 2002). Used together, these three structures for learning enable teachers to be maximally responsive to students' literacy and learning needs.Based on her review of the literature, Curtis (2002) summarizes:
The types of classroom environments shown to promote literacy development include ones that use a variety of approaches to skills instruction, integrate test preparation into instruction, make overt connections among in-school and out-of-school applications, enable strategy use, engage students in uses of their knowledge and skills, and incorporate collaborative work. (p. 10)(For additional description of classroom learning environments that support student motivation and engagement with academic literacy tasks, see Meltzer and Hamann, .)
Research on Using this practice with English Language LearnersIn her review of effective instructional practices for language minority students, Anstrom (1997) notes the appropriateness of cooperative learning practices for ELLs within the context of teaching and learning social studies:
In a recent study concerning attributes of effective instruction for English language learners, the authors highlight the importance of providing opportunities for and encouraging interaction between English language learners and native English speakers (August & Pease-Alvarez, 1996). Cooperative learning offers language minority students the opportunity to interact with their native-speaking peers in such a manner and to communicate their thoughts and ideas in a supportive and non-threatening environment. When students work cooperatively to complete a task, language minority students receive instruction from their peers that is individually tailored to their language ability and academic needs. Working in structured groups increases the variety of ways information can be presented and related to what is already known. Furthermore, active listening and speaking in cooperative settings, provides a rich language environment for both comprehensible input and practice in speaking that students cannot get in a more traditional classroom environment (Olsen, 1992).
In a quasi-experimental study comparing two college-prep algebra classes with high ELL enrollments in southern California, Brenner (1998) found that in the classroom where students regularly engaged in small group discussions, there was more frequent communication about the subject and students were more comfortable when it came to participating in large-group discussions than in classrooms that did not employ small group work. Speaking about math was related to thinking about and doing math better as measured by performance outcomes. In a study that also looked at math instruction and achievement, Gutiérrez (2002) found that having students work in groups seemed to improve their achievement. This improvement may occur because explaining to peers how they derived an answer or approached a problem requires students to practice clearly explaining themselves and solicit feedback on those explanations. In another example, Davison and Pearce (1992) found that having many opportunities to listen to English language mathematics terms in context was useful for the Crow-speaking Native American students in their study.
In their summary of the literature on effective instruction for ELLs, Waxman and Tellez (2002) assert that collaborative learning emerges as both an important structure for supporting instructional conversations and as a delivery strategy for addressing principles of culturally responsive instruction, such as diversity. They claim that group tasks are crucial for language learning and conclude, "Other aspects of collaborative learning communities like debate and compromise can be developed through aspects of instructional conversation practice. Further, students' language development can be enhanced by having them collaborate while using technology& (p. 2).
Sarroub et al. (under review) describe a high school teacher in a &Midwestern City& who uses the public library to select individually appropriate texts for guided reading with her ELLs (texts she knows will interest her students because she has learned about their lives, interests, and circumstances). A university-based researcher, graduate students, a paraprofessional, and high school student helpers all assist with the program, supporting its individuation. The described class is called
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