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FM-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page i
FM-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page ii
FM-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page iii
FM-Nessel-45540.qxd     3/21/2008      4:58 PM       Page iv              Copyright © 2008 by Corwin Press              Al...
FM-Nessel-45540.qxd    3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page v              Contents                      Preface                    ...
FM-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page vi
FM-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page vii              Preface              W        e have had considerable su...
FM-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page viii       viii   Using the Language Experience Approach With English Lan...
FM-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page ix                                                                       ...
FM-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page x
FM-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page xi              About the Authors              Denise D. Nessel, PhD, has...
FM-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page xii
Ind-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   12:31 PM   Page 1                         Introduction to                          the ...
Ind-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   12:31 PM   Page 2         2    Using the Language Experience Approach With English Lang...
Ind-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/22/2008   2:44 PM   Page 3                                                                       ...
Ind-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   12:31 PM   Page 4         4    Using the Language Experience Approach With English Lang...
01-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:57 PM   Page 5                                                                        ...
01-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:57 PM   Page 6         6    Using the Language Experience Approach With English Langua...
01-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:57 PM   Page 7                                              The Value of LEA for Engli...
01-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008       4:57 PM    Page 8         8    Using the Language Experience Approach With English L...
01-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:57 PM   Page 9                                              The Value of LEA for Engli...
01-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:57 PM   Page 10        10    Using the Language Experience Approach With English Langu...
01-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:57 PM   Page 11                                              The Value of LEA for Engl...
01-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:57 PM   Page 12        12    Using the Language Experience Approach With English Langu...
01-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:57 PM   Page 13                                              The Value of LEA for Engl...
01-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:57 PM   Page 14        14    Using the Language Experience Approach With English Langu...
01-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:57 PM   Page 15                                              The Value of LEA for Engl...
01-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:57 PM   Page 16        16    Using the Language Experience Approach With English Langu...
01-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:57 PM   Page 17                                              The Value of LEA for Engl...
01-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:57 PM   Page 18
02-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page 19                                                                       ...
02-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page 20        20    Using the Language Experience Approach With English Langu...
02-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page 21                                                       Reading From Exp...
02-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page 22        22    Using the Language Experience Approach With English Langu...
02-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page 23                                                      Reading From Expe...
02-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page 24        24    Using the Language Experience Approach With English Langu...
02-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page 25                                                      Reading From Expe...
02-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page 26        26    Using the Language Experience Approach With English Langu...
02-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page 27                                                      Reading From Expe...
02-Nessel-45540.qxd   3/21/2008   4:58 PM   Page 28        28    Using the Language Experience Approach With English Langu...
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Transcript of "81819938 using-the-language-experience-approach-with-english-language-learners-strategies-for-engaging-students-and-developing-literacy"

  1. 1. FM-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page i
  2. 2. FM-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page ii
  3. 3. FM-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page iii
  4. 4. FM-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page iv Copyright © 2008 by Corwin Press All rights reserved. When forms and sample documents are included, their use is authorized only by educators, local school sites, and/or noncommercial or nonprofit entities that have purchased the book. Except for that usage, no part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. For information: Corwin Press SAGE Pvt. Ltd. A SAGE Company B 1/I 1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area 2455 Teller Road Mathura Road, New Delhi 110 044 Thousand Oaks, California 91320 India www.corwinpress.com SAGE Ltd. SAGE Asia-Pacific Pte. Ltd. 1 Oliver’s Yard 33 Pekin Street #02–01 55 City Road Far East Square London EC1Y 1SP Singapore 048763 United Kingdom Printed in the United States of America. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Nessel, Denise D., 1943– Using the language experience approach with English language learners: strategies for engaging students and developing literacy / Denise D. Nessel, Carol N. Dixon. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-4129-5504-1 (cloth: acid-free paper) ISBN 978-1-4129-5505-8 (pbk.: acid-free paper) 1. English language—Study and teaching—Foreign speakers. 2. Language experience approach in education. I. Dixon, Carol N. II. Title. PE1128.A2N374 2008 428.0071—dc22 2007052913 This book is printed on acid-free paper. 08 09 10 11 12 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Acquisitions Editor: Cathy Hernandez Editorial Assistant: Ena Rosen Production Editor: Veronica Stapleton Copy Editor: Youn-Joo Park Typesetter: C&M Digitals (P) Ltd. Proofreader: Gail Fay Indexer: Kay Dusheck Cover Designer: Rose Storey Graphic Designer: Karine Hovsepian
  5. 5. FM-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page v Contents Preface vii Acknowledgments viii About the Authors xi Introduction to the Language Experience Approach 1 1. The Value of LEA for English Language Learners: An Overview 5 2. Reading From Experience for Beginners 19 3. Reading From Experience for Intermediate Students 43 4. Reading From Experience for Advanced Students 63 5. Vocabulary and Word Recognition in an LEA Program 91 6. Writing in an LEA Program 113 7. Putting It All Together 139 Appendix A: LEA and Selected State Standards 155 References 163 Index 169
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  7. 7. FM-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page vii Preface W e have had considerable success through the years teaching students to read and write with the Language Experience Approach (LEA), and we have helped many teachers use it in their own classrooms. We have found the approach to be particularly effective with English language learners (ELLs) because it is so responsive to the needs of these students, including their varying levels of English proficiency and their unique experiences and perspectives. This book presents both a rationale for using LEA with ELLs and detailed practical suggestions that will help classroom teachers successfully implement the approach. Our introduction gives an overview of LEA, including a brief history of the approach, an enumeration of its major features, and a summary of its advantages for ELLs. We also briefly discuss here the primary theoreti- cal and practical considerations that point to LEA as a particularly effec- tive instructional methodology. In Chapter 1, we give a more detailed discussion of the value of LEA for ELLs, with attention to the specific needs and characteristics of these students. In addition, we explain the key features of LEA, focusing on the creation and use of student-dictated accounts that are based on the students’ experiences and that reflect the students’ level of English usage. In the process, we explain how using LEA leads to teaching reading as a communication process and to integrating the teaching of reading with the building of oral language skills and the development of students’ writing abilities. In Chapters 2, 3, and 4, we discuss specific LEA strategies for, respec- tively, ELLs who are just learning English (beginners), those who have achieved intermediate levels of fluency and confidence with English, and those who are advanced in fluency and have high levels of confidence but still need support to refine and extend their reading and writing abilities. These three chapters include detailed, practical suggestions for imple- menting LEA along with examples of student work and teacher–student dialogues to show LEA in action. In Chapter 5, we discuss the ways in which students’ vocabulary and word-recognition skills are developed in an LEA program, putting this vii
  8. 8. FM-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page viii viii Using the Language Experience Approach With English Language Learners information in a separate chapter to give it the special attention it deserves. We present general principles of word study that are the same for begin- ning, intermediate, and advanced students, and we also give specific sug- gestions for developing skills in these areas for students at all three levels of English proficiency. In Chapter 6, we focus on overarching principles of developing writ- ing abilities, discuss how reading and writing are closely connected, and explain how they are most effectively taught in conjunction with one another. We also present a framework for oral and written expression, dis- cuss how students’ writing abilities can best be developed in tandem with their speaking abilities, and present general guidelines for teaching writ- ing. In addition, we give specific suggestions for writing instruction and writing activities for students at all three levels of English proficiency. Chapter 7 contains three sample plans that show how listening, read- ing, speaking, and writing activities are coordinated in LEA programs for students at all three levels of English proficiency. In addition, the chapter includes examples of several different applications of LEA in a variety of classrooms. Taken together, the examples show how LEA can be tailored to meet the needs of a wide range of ELLs across grade levels. Some of the descriptions and examples included here appeared in our earlier book, The Language Experience Approach to Reading (and Writing), which was published by Alemany Press in 1983. We are pleased to have this opportunity to share our enthusiasm about LEA with a new genera- tion of ELL teachers while providing an updated perspective to those teachers who are already familiar with it and who may even have read our earlier book. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Through the years, we have collaborated with many teachers who have been interested in using the LEA with their students, including ELLs. We have been gratified to see the positive difference they have made in the lives of so many students and thank them for inviting us into their classrooms, for sharing their successes with us, and for giving us many opportunities to learn from them as well as share our knowledge with them. Corwin Press gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers: Rhoda Coleman Director, Urban Learning Resource and Literacy Center California State University, Dominguez Hills
  9. 9. FM-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page ix Preface ix Thomas S. C. Farrell Professor of Applied Linguistics and Department Chair Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada Marta Gardner Literacy Expert Los Angeles Unified School District, California Mileidis Gort Assistant Professor of Teaching and Learning University of Miami, Florida Janet Hammer Clinical Assistant Professor of Teaching, Learning, and Culture Texas A&M University, College Station Elena Izquierdo Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and Bilingual Education University of Texas at El Paso Kimberly Kyff Fifth Grade Teacher Jamieson Elementary School, Detroit, Michigan Eugenia Mora-Flores Assistant Professor of Education University of Southern California, Los Angeles Reynaldo Reyes Assistant Professor of Bilingual Education University of Texas at El Paso
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  11. 11. FM-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page xi About the Authors Denise D. Nessel, PhD, has worked as a secondary English teacher, elementary reading specialist, reading clinician, university professor, dis- trict-level curriculum supervisor, co-director of a statewide staff develop- ment project, curriculum manager at educational software companies, and consultant to schools around the country and abroad. She has conducted numerous workshops and demonstration lessons for teachers and admin- istrators and has served as a consultant and writer for educational pub- lishers and multimedia firms. She has written and co-authored several books and classroom resources for teachers and a number of articles for professional journals. As an associate of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, she focuses on teaching reading and writing as think- ing processes in grades K–12. Carol N. Dixon, PhD, has worked as a reading clinician, university professor and administrator, and consultant to schools and universities around the country and abroad. In her role as a university faculty member, she directed a reading clinic and an MA in Reading/Reading Specialist Credential Program for 20 years. She has frequently conducted workshops and demonstration lessons for classroom teachers and has made numer- ous presentations at scholarly conferences in the United States and inter- nationally. She has written and co-authored books and journal articles as resources for teachers as well as over 50 research-based articles for profes- sional publications. In her current work, she focuses on classroom research that investigates the teaching of reading and writing as thinking processes, particularly to English language learners. xi
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  13. 13. Ind-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 12:31 PM Page 1 Introduction to the Language Experience Approach T he Language Experience Approach (LEA) to reading instruction is based on principles of learning that have been documented and discussed for many years (Huey, 1908; Smith, 1967). The experience-based chart stories described by Lillian Lamoreaux and Doris Lee (1943) and Sylvia Ashton-Warner’s (1963) work with Maori children in New Zealand are examples of how LEA helped students learn to read. Teacher education textbooks have recommended its use and variations have been explored and described by many (Nessel & Jones, 1981; Tompkins, 2003; Vacca, Vacca, Gove, Burkey, Lenhart, & McKeon, 2002). Educators have also advocated the value of LEA for English language learners (ELL), including elementary, secondary, and adult ELLs (Dixon & Nessel, 1983; Dorr, 2006; Nelson & Linek, 1999; Wurr, 2002). In all forms of LEA, the central principle is to use the student’s own vocabulary, language patterns, and background of experiences to create reading texts, making reading an especially meaningful and enjoyable process. Traditionally, LEA techniques involve these steps (Nessel & Jones, 1981; Stauffer, 1980): Step 1: The teacher and the students discuss an experience in which all have recently participated, such as a school field trip or the examina- tion of an unusual object. As the teacher and the students discuss their observations and reactions, the students’ understanding of the experi- ence is deepened while oral vocabulary and language skills are devel- oped and reinforced. Step 2: As students formulate and express their ideas, the teacher guides them in creating a dictated account. Students offer statements that they 1
  14. 14. Ind-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 12:31 PM Page 2 2 Using the Language Experience Approach With English Language Learners want included in the account, or the teacher selects statements from the ongoing conversation and suggests that these be used. The teacher records the students’ statements on chart paper, constructing the text while the students watch. Seeing their words written down, students connect what they just said to what appears on the paper. Step 3: The teacher reads the account to the students, modeling the sound of fluent, expressive reading. Students then read it several times, with teacher help as needed, until they become familiar with it. Step 4: With the teacher’s guidance, students learn to recognize specific words from the account and develop the decoding skills of context, phon- ics, and structural analysis, using the account as a resource. Students may also write their own thoughts to supplement and extend the dictation. Students create and work with a new dictated account each week while continuing to work with past dictated accounts to strengthen their reading and writing skills and to build confidence. As students become comfortable with composing (oral and written) and reading, they begin reading other-author texts. Eventually, the use of dictated accounts is reduced and eliminated as students use other-author texts to refine and extend their reading skills and increase their expressive skills with more complex and challenging writing and speaking activities. An important advantage to this approach is that, from the start, students learn to recognize words in print that are orally very familiar to them. For many students, learning to read their own words, in the mean- ingful context of their own dictated accounts, is easier than grappling with the unfamiliar language and contexts of a published reading program. Although dictated accounts and the selections in a published reader may be similar in some ways, learners will invariably perceive the dictated accounts to be more relevant, significant, and engaging because they are so closely connected to the learners’ own experiences and because they are created while the students watch. Because students compose the account, comprehension is inherent to their interaction with the text, leading them to expect written language to make sense. As a result, they expect other-author texts to contain meaning- ful ideas and comprehensible language. Dictation also develops and strength- ens students’ skill at composing their thoughts in writing. Reading skills and composing skills develop in tandem in an LEA program. The flexible nature of LEA allows each teacher to tailor instruction to the specific interests and needs of individual students. For example, students’ personal and cultural backgrounds are readily reflected in their dictated accounts and in their writing, especially when they are encour- aged to base their accounts on their experiences outside of school. This individualization occurs within a structure that is the same for everyone: discuss, dictate, read, write, and develop skills. Two students can dictate
  15. 15. Ind-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/22/2008 2:44 PM Page 3 Introduction 3 different accounts and yet work together on the same skill-building activities. Also, LEA lends itself to such cooperative learning activities as reading dic- tated accounts to classmates, working collaboratively on word-recognition activities, or responding to peers’ writings. Despite its many advantages, LEA is not currently in widespread use. Most schools use published programs for literacy instruction. With their many useful features, these programs are considered well-organized and well-controlled systems for teaching literacy. They are designed by experts to provide systematic instruction. The teachers’ guides provide detailed plans, and components such as workbooks provide ready-made practice exercises. For many busy teachers, these programs are preferable to an approach such as LEA that involves more planning and decision making. However, theoretical and practical considerations generate perennial interest in LEA. Linguists have argued for meaningful input as a prereq- uisite for language acquisition (Krashen, 1981; Krashen & Terrell, 1983; Lightbown & Spada, 2006). Psycholinguists have focused on the relation- ship between language acquisition, reading, and writing (Goodman & Fleming, 1968; Peregoy & Boyle, 2005; Samway, 2006). Researchers have noted that reading is easier when the text closely matches the learner’s own oral language patterns and is aligned with the learner’s experiences (Tierney, Readence, & Dishner, 1980) and have pointed out that reading, writing, listening, and speaking develop in tandem (D. J. Cooper, 2000). These perspectives provide theoretical justification for choosing LEA as the foundation for literacy instruction for all students and suggest its par- ticular strength for students who do not make good progress when paced through a standard published program. In addition, many teachers are faced with students from other cultures whose languages and experiences have little, if anything, in common with the characters and situations portrayed in American literacy programs. Stories or writing topics about American families, American historical events, and American culture have little relevance for many students from coun- tries in which English is not spoken as the primary language and where knowledge of America is limited. Educators with particular interest in ELLs have specifically recommended some form of LEA for use with these students (Crandall & Peyton, 1993; M. Taylor, 1992; Thomas, 1999; Tompkins, 2003). In addition, LEA has been recognized as a useful approach for ELLs by centers for education research and practice (e.g., Birdas, Boyson, Morrison, Peyton, & Runfola, 2003; J. D. Hill & Flynn, 2004; and Reed & Railsback, 2003). Furthermore, the skills that students learn in an LEA pro- gram are closely aligned with the skills described in the instructional stan- dards for ELLs that have been set by state education authorities. Appendix A provides examples of state standards that can be met within the context of the LEA framework. This text will introduce, or reacquaint, teachers with LEA, a natural way of helping learners of any age acquire language, reading, and writing
  16. 16. Ind-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 12:31 PM Page 4 4 Using the Language Experience Approach With English Language Learners skills and one that is particularly well suited to the needs of ELLs. Although LEA can be used to teach students to read and write in any lan- guage, we focus here on its value for helping students read and write English. In explaining the most effective strategies, we concentrate first on the creation and use of dictated stories to teach reading, then on instruc- tion in word-recognition strategies, then on engaging students in writing. We address these components separately to achieve greater clarity in pre- senting basic principles, but we also show how they are effectively com- bined in an LEA program and, in the last chapter, we focus on how all of the components work together.
  17. 17. 01-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:57 PM Page 5 1 The Value of LEA for English Language Learners An Overview W e have long advocated the use of the Language Experience Approach (LEA) with students whose native language is not English. This instructional approach for English language learners (ELLs) makes sense as a method and works in the classroom. It is based on what is known about how oral language is acquired and about how the skills of reading are most easily learned. As a flexible approach, it meets the unique and varied needs of students who are learning English. In this chapter, we present the rationale for LEA and the key elements of the methodology. Succeeding chapters elaborate on and extend this overview. LANGUAGE ACQUISITION AND READING The process of language acquisition cuts across language and cultural bar- riers (D. E. Freeman & Freeman, 2004; Krashen, 2003a; Lightbown & Spada, 2006; Pinker, 2000; Ritchie, 1978). A first language is acquired in informal, 5
  18. 18. 01-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:57 PM Page 6 6 Using the Language Experience Approach With English Language Learners nonacademic settings through nonthreatening daily interactions with family and friends. Early acquisition can be hindered in settings where the language user is frequently corrected or reprimanded for incorrect speech (Gary, 1978); it is enhanced by adults’ eager attention to and acceptance of the child’s language use. Acquisition occurs most effectively when there is a need to know, the chance to try, and the freedom to err without penalty. Several principles are as true for acquiring a second language as they are for acquiring a first language (D. E. Freeman & Freeman, 2004; Krashen, 2003a; Lightbown & Spada, 2006). Initially, second language acquisition takes place most effectively in informal, real-life settings where the learner freely interacts with fluent speakers of the target language. The more meaningful and purposeful the situations are to the learner, the better. For example, conversation about making needed purchases in a store is likely to further acquisition more effectively than a textbook exercise with little relevance to the learner’s life. Beginners need to use the new language in supportive, nonthreatening environments in which mistakes are accepted. For example, the novice benefits by talking with friends who ignore errors, focus on the intent of the communication, and encourage further speech. The novice must also have many opportunities to listen without being forced to respond, a situation that affords the chance to become familiar with the sound of the language; grasp as much as possible; and benefit from seeing gestures, intonation, and facial expressions as well as hearing words. Free to concentrate on listening rather than formulating a response, the language learner has a better chance of comprehending. Those who have learned to read and write in their native language are likely to have an easier time learning to read and write in English because they already understand the purposes of these forms of communication and are adept at using them (Education for All, 2006, p. 203). Those who have not yet learned to read and write their native language have simul- taneous challenges: learning English, understanding the processes of read- ing and writing, and developing skill in these processes. Some have additional challenges because the oral and written forms of their lan- guages serve different purposes: Oral skills are not fully useful for com- prehending written communications and vice versa. Learners who have become literate in such a language need to acquire new skills and per- spectives when gaining literacy in English, a language in which the oral and written forms have similar features and serve similar purposes. If the native language of a learner does not have a written form, the learner has the additional challenge of getting used to the concept of written language while learning to read and write English. In general, the reading process is mastered most easily when beginners read texts that are relevant to their lives, when the words of the texts are in their listening and speaking vocabularies, when the grammatical struc- tures of the texts are similar to those they use orally, when they are learn- ing in a supportive environment, and when they have many opportunities
  19. 19. 01-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:57 PM Page 7 The Value of LEA for English Language Learners 7 to practice with reading materials of their own choosing. These principles hold true when individuals are learning to read a new language. LANGUAGE LEARNERS’ CHARACTERISTICS AND NEEDS Learners of a new language share some characteristics despite their cultural and linguistic diversity. Their native language is no longer adequate for their daily needs or for the more complex language requirements of school or workplace. They must learn a new system of sounds and symbols that is somewhat, perhaps even radically, different from the system they have pre- viously known. Younger learners, who usually acquire second languages with ease, may adapt readily to the new sound and symbol system (Ritchie, 1978). Older learners, however, may have never heard certain sounds in the new language, may have difficulty discriminating these unfamiliar sounds from other sounds, and may consequently have more difficulty reproduc- ing those sounds. They may also be hesitant to attempt to use the new lan- guage if they feel self-conscious about their efforts. Several English sounds are difficult for certain ELLs. For examples of cross-language comparisons, see Refugee Educators’ Network (1997) and Trager (1982). Aspects of students’ cultures can also influence their progress in learn- ing English. For example, consider two students from the same country who speak the same native language but whose backgrounds differ. Although they share some cultural similarities, one has grown up in an iso- lated rural area where the people have little access to newspapers, books, or broadcast media, and the other has lived in an urban area, surrounded by books, magazines, television, and the Internet. The parents of the first have had little need to read and write and are not comfortable learning English, whereas the parents of the second are highly literate in their native language and are determined to learn English. Both sets of parents want their children to become fluent in English and achieve well in school, but they cannot provide equivalent language-learning support at home. When learners have minimal responsibilities and can concentrate only on learning a new language, as is true for many young children and for older students who do not have family responsibilities, the learning can be enjoy- able and satisfying even when the process is difficult. However, learners’ basic survival may depend on their use of the new language, as is true for many older students who are supporting families or who are the designated members of their families to master the new language. With such added pres- sures, learners’ lives are challenging and may even be frightening. Not only are they faced with mastering another sound and symbol system, but they must also understand new vocabulary and idioms as quickly as possible while adapting to American culture. Even if they have relocated with high hopes for a better life, they will experience at least some difficulties as they
  20. 20. 01-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:57 PM Page 8 8 Using the Language Experience Approach With English Language Learners adjust. The older the student, the more unnerving the situation may be and the more unwilling the student may be to interact with native speakers, the very behavior that will increase the learner’s fluency. On the other hand, older individuals who are learning a new language may have more extensive life experience, greater motivation to learn, and more resourcefulness as learners, all of which can mitigate the challenges they face. In addition, their learning may be easier to the extent that they can make meaningful connec- tions between their native language and the language they are learning. In sum, although learners of a new language may share some charac- teristics, they also vary considerably, depending on their age, their past experiences, their motivations, their current life situation, and key features of their native language. As Crawford (2007) points out, it would be best not to think of ELLs as a subgroup of learners at all, given that they vary on so many dimensions. Figure 1.1 contains a summary of key character- istics of ELLs that are salient in an instructional setting. Figure 1.1 Characteristics of English Language Learners Familiarity with English Motivation to use Functional use of English English Willingness to Opportunities to use English use English Familiarity with the Need to use English processes of reading and writing As indicated by the graphic, each characteristic interacts with all the others. The result is a unique pattern for each individual. To illustrate how different patterns of these characteristics lead to diversity within a popu- lation of ELLs, here are some examples of recently arrived immigrants: An eight-year-old boy is the youngest in a family of six. The parents have conversational fluency in English, having taken classes in the
  21. 21. 01-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:57 PM Page 9 The Value of LEA for English Language Learners 9 language before they immigrated to the United States. He has learned some English because his family members speak English as much as possible at home. They also socialize with the English- speaking families in the neighborhood, two of whom have eight- year-old sons who are in the boy’s class and who interact with him frequently in school and at home. The boy likes these friends, eagerly converses with them, and must use English when interact- ing with them. An eight-year-old girl is the oldest of three children whose father speaks some English but has two jobs and is away from home much of the time. The girl’s mother speaks no English, is preoccu- pied with caring for the two other children, and relies on the eight- year-old to make telephone calls and handle other necessary communications, including exchanges with an English-speaking doctor who is treating one of the younger children. The eight-year- old girl has few English skills, but she knows her mother counts on her and willingly enters into conversations in English when she is needed. However, because many of the inhabitants of her neigh- borhood speak her native language, she does not have to speak English often. An eight-year-old boy is one of five children whose mother and father speak a little English and who are eager for their children to learn the language and teach it to them. The boy is the most out- going of the children, has made many friends at school, and uses English with them and with his teachers as often as he can. He is learning the language rapidly and prides himself on being able to teach his parents and siblings what he knows. He gives informal English lessons from time to time at home. When parents and sib- lings watch American television, they expect the boy to explain what is being said. A sixteen-year-old girl is an only child. Her parents moved to the United States when the father was invited to be a guest professor at a university. He speaks English fairly well; the mother and girl are learning English with the help of a private tutor. The father’s colleagues invite the family to social events regularly, and through these activities, the girl has made one friend her age whom she sees in school. She is somewhat shy, and although she attempts to respond in English when addressed directly, she does not initiate interac- tions with native English speakers. Outside of school, she hears English primarily during her tutoring sessions. A sixteen-year-old boy is the only child of a family that left their homeland as refugees with only a few possessions. They are being
  22. 22. 01-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:57 PM Page 10 10 Using the Language Experience Approach With English Language Learners helped financially by a local church group, but neither parent has found work and both are having a difficult time adjusting to their new life. The mother and father stay together in their home most of the time and rely on their son to obtain food and other necessities for them. He is having an easier time adjusting to their new life but is often frustrated by not knowing the words he needs when shop- ping. He is an excellent soccer player and is in demand by the boys’ team at his school. Although playing on the team boosts his spirits considerably, the matches afford him few opportunities to hear or practice English. A sixteen-year-old girl is one of three children in a family that has moved from an isolated, rural area in their home country to a densely populated neighborhood in a large U.S. city. The other children, both several years younger, are excited about their new life, but the shy sixteen-year-old avoids interacting with anyone outside the family. She seldom speaks in school and spends most of her leisure time at home, helping her mother with household chores. A young man has just moved with his mother, father, and two younger sisters from a metropolitan area in his home country to a comparable city in the United States. As a high school graduate, he hopes to attend a university in the United States. For now, he works to help support the family. He has also enrolled in English classes at a nearby community college, which he attends two nights a week after work. He studied English for three years in high school and is now eager to refine his oral and written expression in preparation for enrolling in an American university. A young woman has moved with her husband from a small town in her conflict-ridden native country to a small town in the American Midwest. They left behind almost everything and have begun a new life with the help of the members of the church that sponsored their immigration. She and her husband watched American television in their native country and learned some English from those viewing experiences, but neither understands English well and both are hesitant to speak English. They are together attending English classes offered by a local university with which their church has connections. The school may not adequately acknowledge the high degree of diver- sity that exists in the ELL classroom because the primary goal is the same for all: to comprehend and use English fluently as efficiently as possible. The school’s focus is likely to be on teaching rather than on learning—that
  23. 23. 01-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:57 PM Page 11 The Value of LEA for English Language Learners 11 is, on presenting the established curriculum rather than tailoring instruc- tion to the characteristics and needs of the learners. Instruction can best accommodate to diverse learners when the class- room approximates a natural, real-world setting, filled with language. Such a context will give learners numerous opportunities to interact with fluent English speakers in meaningful situations. This is most easily accomplished when ELLs are given daily opportunities to interact directly with English-speaking classmates in pairs or small groups, both to social- ize and to talk about what they are all learning. If most ELL instruction is provided in special language-learning classrooms, the students will need regular opportunities to talk and engage in academic work with English- speaking peers. A particular value of such interactions is that ELLs will hear words and phrases repeated many times. Such repetition ensures retention, and although it can be approximated with textbook drills or classroom exercises, it is much more meaningful and effective if it occurs in purposeful conversation with classmates. Interaction with small numbers of native speakers of English also gives ELLs the chance to practice English. They will make errors in vocab- ulary and usage, and these can lead to embarrassment or frustration if an individual student is speaking in front of the whole class, but if students interact in pairs or small groups, the feeling of performing is reduced. Classroom practice stations or activity centers, designed for use by an individual or a few students at a time, can serve a similar purpose. Such centers can contain videos, audio tapes, computer programs, and popular songs, as well as books, pictures, and objects to stimulate observ- ing, browsing, listening, talking, reading, and writing. Such centers will be especially effective when ELLs and native speakers work with the materials together. Such interactions are aligned with two key recom- mendations put forth for ELLs by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE, 2006): that teachers recognize English language learning as a gradual process that builds on students’ native-language skills and that students in the classroom use English in realistic situations that are nonthreatening. Besides needing many opportunities to hear and practice English, ELLs also need explicit instruction in reading and writing. Ideally, the instructional approach is an integral part of the natural communication setting that has been established in the classroom and is perceived as highly relevant, meaningful, and purposeful, with real communication as its focus. For example, many students will learn the English words to a favorite popular song much more readily than they will learn words pre- sented in a textbook lesson, and they will more enthusiastically write if they are participating in a chat room or updating the class Web site or a personal blog than they will if they are completing a written exercise in a textbook. See Chapelle (2001) and Warschauer (1995, 1997) for examples of digital communication activities and their value for ELLs.
  24. 24. 01-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:57 PM Page 12 12 Using the Language Experience Approach With English Language Learners These principles are aligned with the following selected recommenda- tions made in NCTE’s (2006) position paper on English language learning: • Introduce reading materials that are culturally relevant. • Connect readings with students’ background knowledge and experiences. • Replace discrete skill exercises and drills with many opportunities to read. • Provide opportunities for silent reading (in students’ first language or English). • Read aloud frequently to students so that they become familiar with the sounds and structures of written language. • Read aloud while students have access to the text to facilitate con- necting oral and written modalities. • Recognize that first and second language growth increases with abundant reading and writing. TEACHING READING AS A COMMUNICATION PROCESS LEA meets the needs of diverse ELLs while meeting the expectations of established literacy curricula. Three important features of LEA are central to its success as an instructional approach. First, students use their strengths as speakers and listeners in learning to read and write. Second, balanced attention is given to comprehension, word recognition, sight vocabulary, and composing so that students develop as well-rounded readers and writers. Third, the specific instructional strategies at the heart of LEA are grounded in established principles of learning. Here is a summary of how these features come into play in the creation and use of a dictated account in English, from the shared experience that is the basis of the account to the post-dictation work with the account as the primary reading material: Before Creating the Account • Speaking. Engaging in an interesting common experience, learners offer observations and thoughts, thereby practicing English in a com- fortable, natural setting. They focus on expressing ideas, not on pro- ducing error-free statements. This reduces anxiety students may feel about using English. At the same time, because their English is incor- porated in the dictated account, their efforts are acknowledged and honored. The process is the same whether the students are in the ele- mentary grades, in secondary schools, or in adult classes. The expe- rience and conversation may vary with the students’ age, as will the teacher’s interactions with the students, but the process of formulat- ing and expressing thoughts about a common experience is the same.
  25. 25. 01-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:57 PM Page 13 The Value of LEA for English Language Learners 13 • Listening. As students take turns talking about the experience, they listen to one another. Because all have shared the experience, listen- ers have a good chance of comprehending what the speaker is say- ing. Because their comprehension is not tested, they can concentrate on gleaning as much as possible from the speech of others without worrying about understanding everything or having to demonstrate their understanding for the teacher. Creating the Account • Composing (oral). The dictated account comprises the learners’ own statements; what they say is recorded by the teacher and becomes the text that all read. The statements included in the account are not ordinarily the first remarks students make about the experience. Rather, they are composed orally with the support of the teacher and with the full recognition that they will be captured and preserved in print. Thus, the account reflects not statements spoken casually but statements that have been intentionally formulated or composed. As such, the process of dictation develops skills that students can use when they write themselves. The expectation is not for error-free statements, only statements that reflect the students’ best efforts. The content of the statements, as well as the style of expression, will vary according to the students’ age, background, and interests. For example, eight-year-olds and sixteen-year-olds may both respond well to a classroom experience in preparing food and dictate an interesting account, but they are likely to notice different aspects of the experience and dictate different observations and comments. • Listening and reading. As the teacher leads students through the first readings of the account, the learners hear and read their own words several times. The text is highly meaningful, having been created on the spot by the contributors. At this point, students are relying primarily on their auditory memory of what they dictated, coupled with repetition, to say the words correctly. Although listen- ing to an account and then reading it in unison is, for many people, associated with the primary grades, this step is as important for older students as it is for young children and is based on the same principle of learning: Repetitions of highly meaningful statements help students fix the statements in memory, and that is the first step in learning to read the account on their own. After Creating the Account • Reading. On successive days, learners reread the account with the teacher’s help and on their own. Because these readings are sched- uled over the course of several days, the practice is what is known
  26. 26. 01-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:57 PM Page 14 14 Using the Language Experience Approach With English Language Learners as spaced or distributed practice, which has been shown to be supe- rior to practice that is concentrated into one short period of time (Cepda, Pashler, Vul, Wixted, & Rohrer, 2006). Distributed practice with highly meaningful material proceeds with relative ease. Students’ repeated exposure to the words in their account leads them to recognize and retain many of the words. • Developing word-recognition strategies. As students read the account over successive days, they also engage in a variety of account- related activities that help them learn to use context clues, structural analysis, phonetic analysis, and reference materials such as dictio- naries to identify unfamiliar words. Learning these word-recognition strategies is an integral part of an LEA program and helps students make the transition from reading their own dictated accounts to reading a variety of other-author material. Older students who have learned to read in their native languages may have already acquired a good foundation in these strategies and thus are likely to transfer this learning to reading English. • Writing. Learners are encouraged to use the dictated account and related activities as a springboard for their own writing. When writing original compositions, students again have a chance to use English for natural and meaningful communication purposes. The dictated account has immediate relevance as a reading text since it directly reflects the learners’ own experiences, vocabulary, and language patterns. Attention and motivation remain high, and learners’ self-worth is reinforced when they see their own language in print. Students develop an understanding of phonetic analysis and other word-recognition strategies in the context of these highly familiar texts. From the start, LEA provides ELLs with a meaningful, personally rewarding experience in learning to read English and in supporting their efforts to write English. In using LEA, students are not expected to conform to the sequence and content of a predesigned program. Rather, the teacher plans experi- ences and activities to meet the students’ identified needs and interests. The teacher chooses dictation topics that are likely to be meaningful and frequently consults the students for ideas. The teacher may also suggest to students which of their statements to include in the account or may help students shape their contributions so that the account reflects their best efforts with English, thereby giving them opportunities to develop skill and confidence as users of English. At the same time, errors in oral usage or in reading an account are accepted as a natural part of the process. Expectations are determined by what the student can do at each stage, not by external standards of performance. The same is true for the skills and strategies that learners develop in conjunction with their dictations. Each student’s acquisition of a sight vocabulary, word-recognition strategies, and writing skills proceeds at a pace that is suitable for the student.
  27. 27. 01-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:57 PM Page 15 The Value of LEA for English Language Learners 15 USING THE LEA FRAMEWORK AND LEA STRATEGIES FOR INSTRUCTION It is as much a mistake to give all ELLs the same literacy instruction as it is to give any heterogeneous group of learners exactly the same tasks to do and requirements to meet. ELLs come to school with different degrees of the characteristics, as shown in Figure 1.1, and therefore have different needs. Their pace of learning also varies, as does the extent to which they retain what they learn. In addition, their age, background of experience, and cultural heritage all influence their learning in general and their growth toward English literacy in particular. For these reasons, it is impor- tant to see LEA as comprising both a framework for instruction and a highly flexible set of instructional strategies that can be combined and modified in various ways to suit the needs of the diverse students in any given class from the primary grades through and beyond high school. The LEA framework includes these components: • Shared experiences that afford opportunities for observation and conversation • Accounts about the experiences (dictated by the students to the teacher) that serve as the primary texts for reading instruction • Reading texts (dictated accounts) that reflect the students’ individual and cultural perspectives • Additional texts for reading practice (e.g., books, magazines, and digital texts) • Daily opportunities to practice reading dictated accounts and additional self-selected texts • Regular opportunities to write in English and to build, refine, and extend writing skills • Regular opportunities to build vocabularies for listening, speaking, reading, and writing in English • Instruction in specific word-recognition strategies (phonetic analysis, structural analysis, the use of context clues, and the use of dictionaries) • Instruction that builds students’ skill at comprehending written English, from the comprehension of their original dictated accounts to the comprehension of the additional texts they choose to read and of textbooks and other required readings Specific LEA strategies include: • Planning engaging experiences for students that encourage them to speak English • Facilitating talk among students during and after planned experiences • Taking dictation from students based on a shared experience and reading the account to and with students • Using dictated accounts to build students’ sight vocabulary and reading fluency
  28. 28. 01-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:57 PM Page 16 16 Using the Language Experience Approach With English Language Learners • Using dictated accounts to teach specific reading skills (e.g., the use of context clues and phonetic analysis) • Using the process of oral composing and students’ dictated accounts as the basis for students’ own writing This book provides detailed suggestions for planning and managing LEA instruction for ELLs, with a focus first on developing oral language and creating dictated accounts, then on teaching word-recognition strate- gies and building writing skills. The LEA procedures are suitable for students of any age; it is the specifics that vary depending on students’ ages and interests. A topic that interests a seven-year-old will not neces- sarily engage an adult learner although the students’ skill with English may call for the same instructional procedures. The ways directions are given and students are addressed also vary with students’ ages, as do the types of additional reading materials provided in the classroom. Students’ ages also affect the extent to which they can work independently on vari- ous activities. PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS In advocating an instructional approach that simulates natural language learning and that is tailored to meet student needs, we recognize that our suggestions may not suit the policies and structures of some schools. For example, it is a common practice to form newcomer classes for ELLs taught by specially trained teachers who focus on helping students become fluent with English. Many students in such classes appreciate having a specially trained teacher and classmates who share their excitement, anxiety, hopes, and concerns as new arrivals to the United States. Students in such classes can develop a camaraderie that eases their transition to the new culture and gives them needed encouragement in learning English. At the same time, these classes tend to isolate ELLs from native English speakers, and the greater the isolation, the less chance ELLs have for the natural interac- tions that most effectively and enjoyably increase their comfort and flu- ency with English. Some ELLs keep to themselves even though they would like to socialize with other students because their daily schedule affords them so few opportunities to interact with others. The alternative to having separate newcomer classes is to distribute ELLs across regular classrooms, with the expectation that regular class- room teachers, who may have minimal knowledge and experience with ELL needs, will help them develop fluency with English while attending to the needs of the other students. Such an arrangement may be frustrating to both the students and the teachers. Teachers feel overwhelmed; students withdraw, unable to follow what the teacher and the other students are saying and unable to articulate what they do not understand.
  29. 29. 01-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:57 PM Page 17 The Value of LEA for English Language Learners 17 Ideally, ELLs of all ages need teachers who can help them develop their language skills, meet the demands of the regular curriculum, and use language naturally through interactions with native speakers. To organize such a program while giving equal attention to the academic needs of native speakers is a significant challenge for a school, and solutions are not obvious. We do not claim to have all the answers but will suggest practical solutions when we describe the kind of ELL instruction we believe is ideal.
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  31. 31. 02-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page 19 2 Reading From Experience for Beginners W e define a beginner in an LEA program as an individual of any age who cannot yet read or write English and who has few, if any, oral English skills. A beginner can be a five-year-old, an adolescent, or an adult. Typically, beginners are recent immigrants who attended little or no school in their home countries and who have had minimal contact with English speakers. Many beginners are unable to communicate their most basic needs and concerns because no one understands their language and they cannot express themselves in English. Besides facing a language barrier, they are also adjusting to new living arrangements, a new culture, and per- haps the need to obtain employment and support a family. Students whose oral language does not have a written counterpart need to acquire the con- cept of words in print. Although beginners face these challenges, most are enthused and confident about their new lives, and all have strengths they bring to the American classroom. Some beginners have watched American television, listened to American popular music, and had other exposures to English that can help them learn English. Others have ready access to English speakers outside of school, either in the neighborhoods where they live or at places of employment, a situation that gives them opportunities to use English outside the classroom and thus to develop fluency in meaningful 19
  32. 32. 02-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page 20 20 Using the Language Experience Approach With English Language Learners contexts. Others have had experiences with their own written language that can help them learn to read and write English. For example, they may have been read to or may have learned to recognize some signs and labels in their native language. Many have considerable drive and persistence as learners that help them rise to the challenges they face. All these students must learn to master the English language if they are to participate fully in American society. They need the care and concern of understanding and well-prepared teachers, and they need an instructional program that makes use of the strengths they bring to the classroom while helping them develop the English skills they need. In this chapter, we focus first on the critical relationship between oral language and reading and then discuss how LEA can help beginners learn to read English as they develop their overall English fluency. ORAL LANGUAGE AND READING Typical English-speaking kindergartners have had several years of immer- sion in oral English before receiving formal reading instruction. This back- ground helps them recognize in print many of the words they know orally and use what they know about English syntax to predict upcoming words in written texts with considerable accuracy. In contrast, beginning ELL students (whether six-year-olds, teenagers, or adults) have had limited exposure to oral English and know, at best, only a few words and syntacti- cal structures. Placing them too quickly in a typical reading program can result in frustration for both students and the teacher. The issue is not that students cannot learn to speak and read a new language at the same time; most can easily do so. The issue lies in the definition of reading that under- lies their instruction. The typical reading program is based on the assumption that the learn- ers are fluent in English; are familiar with the themes, topics, and vocabu- lary in the books; and can concentrate on learning to decode the written language. This is not a reasonable assumption for beginning ELLs. These students are likely to have a more difficult time learning to read if they are expected to proceed as if they were simply English-speaking nonreaders. For example, students who cannot yet hear some of the sounds of English are not likely to profit initially from extensive instruction in phonetic analysis of English words. Similarly, the words considered most basic in a structured reading program (high-frequency words such as and, the, what), may not be familiar and meaningful to ELLs orally and thus are likely to be difficult to master. Those who have little or no experience with written language will have the additional challenges described previously. LEA is based on the assumption that students can learn to read the English that they can speak. It allows for the kind of flexibility that enables students to develop their oral English skills fully and to learn to read English in tandem with learning to understand and speak the language.
  33. 33. 02-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page 21 Reading From Experience for Beginners 21 PROCEDURES FOR BEGINNERS Because of the relationship between oral language and reading, LEA for beginners involves an initial emphasis on oral language and introduces reading activities as students gain confidence with oral English. The instruc- tion is tailored to individual needs and interests so that learning is relevant, meaningful, and purposeful. Oral Language Development: Personalized Language Activities The beginner’s program focuses on learning those English words and sentences orally that will be immediately useful for conducting conversa- tions, making requests, responding to directions, asking and answering questions, and for functioning in daily life in other ways. Individual and small group activities introduce vocabulary and common language struc- tures with an emphasis on expressions that are directly related to the people, objects, and events the students encounter in school and at home and that are most interesting and engaging to them. Thus, what can be considered basic vocabulary varies from one beginner to another, depending on the learner’s age, particular surroundings, and unique concerns and interests. The specific words and expressions that are learned are not as important as the conditions associated with the learning. Regardless of the words the students are learning, the emphasis is on rich oral and written English lan- guage experiences and the freedom to make mistakes without penalty. In a regular classroom setting, English-speaking classmates are usually willing to help beginners acquire oral English skills. Fellow students are often the best teachers because of their eagerness to be helpful and make new friends. Classmates also can devote more time than the teacher to conversa- tion with ELLs. Informal chats will often be as helpful to ELLs as teacher- directed activities. If students are assigned to an ELL-only class, it might take some extra planning to arrange activities with English-speaking peers, but the time will be worth taking. ELLs could be scheduled into regular class- rooms for films or other special events, or English-speaking students could be invited regularly to visit the ELL classroom for informal conversations. A Sample Instructional Unit: Naming Objects Orally This sample unit illustrates how a combination of teacher direction and classmate help can be used to teach beginners to name common objects found in the classroom. This plan can serve as a model for instructional units to meet any number of oral language objectives. The instruction also prepares students for more formal reading instruction. Not all beginners necessarily need to start with this activity or need to spend the amount of time on it suggested here. If they are very fluent in their native language and very motivated, a different type of activity or a different pacing may
  34. 34. 02-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page 22 22 Using the Language Experience Approach With English Language Learners be more appropriate. The purpose here is simply to illustrate the place of oral language in reading instruction for beginners in an LEA program. Instructional Unit: Common Classroom Objects Objectives • Students will be able to name and describe at least fifteen objects in the classroom. (This number may be reduced or increased, as seems appropriate for specific students. Since these words have high utility, this number will not be unreasonable for most students.) • Students will see the written names of the objects in association with pictures of those objects. Length of unit One week Target students One student who is willing to try pronouncing English words or a small group of such students. Day 1: Activity 1 Prepare fifteen cards with pictures of objects that are present in the classroom (book, desk, chair, etc.). Involve students in preparing the cards by drawing or cutting pictures out of magazines. Label each card clearly with the most common English word for the object and indicate to students that this is the way the word is written in English. See Figure 2.1 Figure 2.1 Word-and-Picture Card book
  35. 35. 02-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page 23 Reading From Experience for Beginners 23 for an example. The intent is not to teach recognition of the written words but rather to familiarize students with the look of English. Seeing the labels, students can acquire the concept of a written language in a natural manner, just as native English speakers often acquire the concept of read- ing through noting signs and labels around them. If the cards are used often, some students will also learn to recognize words in other contexts. Show five cards to students, one at a time, saying the name of each object when presenting the card. Show and name each card at least twice. Then invite students to say the names, giving help as needed. Go through the cards several times until students say the names readily. Then introduce this exchange: Teacher: What is this? Student: This is a(n) ___. Show each of the cards again a few times, each time asking the question and having the student give the expected reply. Use natural intonation, stress, and facial expressions to simulate a real conversation. Give what- ever help is needed by saying the object names and/or the full reply with the student. After introducing the first five cards in this manner, go through the next set of five and then the last set. If students seem eager and confident, you may wish to turn the activity into a game. For example, give students 1 point for each word they cor- rectly identify after the initial learning rounds. If working with one student, set a target number of points that will indicate a win (e.g., 5 points or 10 points). If working with a small group, give everyone an equal number of tries at identifying words and award a point for each one correctly iden- tified. The one with the most points at the end of the round wins that round. If students remain confident, you may wish to turn the activity into a visual matching exercise. Write the words on separate cards and present them one at a time, saying the word and inviting students to choose the matching word-and-picture card. Provide help as needed. When they choose the correct card, acknowledge their accuracy and say the word again. Day 1: Activity 2 To reinforce learning of object names and expose students to additional oral English, read or tell an anecdote that includes several of the object names. Use pictures or other visual aids (puppets, models, objects, etc.) to help the student understand. Tell the anecdote two or three times to give students a chance to increase their comprehension with each telling. Here is an example of an account that was used with a group that was learning these words: book, desk, computer, paper, pencil. The teacher used the students’ names and enhanced the anecdote by pointing to a picture or a person when pronouncing the words in italics and by using gestures to illustrate some meanings.
  36. 36. 02-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page 24 24 Using the Language Experience Approach With English Language Learners When class started today, everyone sat down at a desk, and everyone had a book. Sonya brought a lot of paper and gave some of it to Desmond. Desmond gave Sonya a pencil because she had forgotten to bring hers. Ravi wanted to work on the computer, and so did Ignatio. They decided to take turns. First Ravi worked on the computer, and Ignatio read his book, then Ignatio worked on the computer, and Ravi read his book. Day 2: Activity 1 Review learning by presenting the original fifteen cards, one at a time. For each card ask, “What is this?” and have students answer, “This is a(n) ___.” Day 2: Activity 2 Walk around the room with students, asking “What is this?” when coming to each of the objects represented in the pictures on the original cards. Help them answer when necessary. English-speaking classmates can also pair up with beginners for this activity. Day 3: Activity 1 Form a group of several learners, including the beginners. Hand out bingo cards on which have been placed drawings or pictures of the fifteen objects in the original card set, labeled with their English names. Call out the names of the objects and have students place markers on the correct illustrations on their cards. Go slowly enough to allow the beginners to make correct decisions. If needed, review the original card set before playing this game. Day 3: Activity 2 Pair beginners with English-speaking classmates and repeat the walk around the room to name objects (Day 2, Activity 2). The classmates may also introduce the names of a few more objects in this manner if their beginner partners seem ready to learn more object names at this time. Day 4: Activity 1 Using the original picture cards, introduce the words for the color and/or size of each object. For example, hold up a card and say, “This is a book. This is a blue book.” Use other aids as necessary to clarify the mean- ing of these descriptive words. For instance, use gestures to indicate size, or other colored objects to illustrate colors. Have students respond with the expanded statements. Day 4: Activity 2 Read aloud or tell another anecdote that includes several of the object names that have been introduced. Use visual aids to help students
  37. 37. 02-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page 25 Reading From Experience for Beginners 25 understand. Tell the anecdote two or three times to give students a chance to increase their comprehension with each telling. Day 5: Activity 1 Review the fifteen objects with students. Go through the picture cards one at a time, having students name each object by saying “This is a(n) ___.” Then have students point out and name the real objects in the room the same way. Encourage students to use the elaborated statements learned the day before. (“This is a door. This is a brown door.”) Interaction with another person is the most effective form of this review, so try to pair English-speaking classmates with beginners for this activity. Day 5: Activity 2 Read aloud or tell another anecdote that includes some of the words learned during the week, using visual aids to illustrate. English-speaking classmates may be invited to read aloud or compose an anecdote for this purpose. The advantage of this sequence is that repetition from day to day is accomplished in a meaningful and pleasant context, helping to cement learning of the words and phrases. The anecdotes reinforce the new vocab- ulary while introducing additional words and language structures, thus enabling the beginners to become more accustomed to the sounds and cadence of English. Learning is further reinforced when learners hear and use the same words and patterns in other situations during the day. Other Oral Language Activities The instructional unit above is only one example of how students can begin to acquire an oral English vocabulary while gaining familiarity with English words in print. Other instructional activities can be planned using the same principles of meaningful repetition, real-world content, and com- munications of immediate value. Suggestions are given below. In these activities, as in the object-naming unit, students can simply listen to the models of English without being forced to respond or participate. Communication in Informal Conversations Have English-speaking classmates enact simple conversations for beginners to observe and then join. Use pictures or objects when possible to illustrate concepts. Gestures and facial expressions will also help to convey some meanings. For example, use conversations to introduce the following: • Greetings (Good morning. Hello.) • Common inquiries (How are you? What time is it?)
  38. 38. 02-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page 26 26 Using the Language Experience Approach With English Language Learners • Common topics of conversation (lunch table exchanges about food, comments on the weather, discussions of sporting events) Communication in Common Social Situations Have English-speaking classmates enact social activities for beginners to observe and then join. For example, plan skits that involve the following: • Ordering a meal in a restaurant (How much is this? I would like to have a hamburger, please. This is to go.) • Talking to a bus driver (I want to go to ___. How much is the fare? Please take me to ___.) • Talking to a medical professional (Can you help me? I do not feel well. I feel ___.) • Attending a recreational event (How much is a ticket? Can you help me find my seat?) • Making a purchase in a store (I would like to buy this. How much is this?) Communication in School Have English-speaking classmates enact school communications, using signs and props to convey meanings, for beginners to observe and then join. For example, introduce situations that involve the following: • Requests to teachers (May I get a drink of water? May I go to the bathroom?) • Communication in different school areas (programs in the audito- rium, the lunch line in the cafeteria, announced or posted rules and regulations, rules and customs in the gymnasium and playground) • Requests for help from different school personnel (communication in the nurse’s office, having a conference with a counselor, meeting with an administrator, interacting with the librarian) • Following teacher directions (Sit down. Turn in your paper. Close your books. Come over here.) Communication in the Larger Community Have English-speaking classmates enact situations that involve signs and symbols commonly seen outside school. For example, introduce situ- ations that involve the following: • Walk/don’t walk signals • Stop signs • Warning signs (Danger! Wrong way! Poison!)
  39. 39. 02-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page 27 Reading From Experience for Beginners 27 • Out of order notices • Fire alarms • Men/women signs • Police station signs • Hospital emergency room signs Besides using specially planned activities, set up centers in the room to allow for independent language practice. Beginners may use these indi- vidually, or they may pair with other ELLs or with English-speaking class- mates. Activity centers may include such resources as the following: • Puppets for extemporaneous puppet shows or to enhance informal conversations with classmates • Prop telephones for practice conversations involving greetings and other common statements • Taped stories with accompanying read-along books • Animations or video clips for viewing on a computer • Collections of objects and pictures for learning and practicing object names As beginners make progress learning English, lessons and activities are extended to increase fluency with oral English. Whenever possible, students should be encouraged to select topics for lessons. A student who is worried about an upcoming trip to the doctor will be interested in learning words such as doctor, nurse, medicine, and shot, whereas one who is helping a family member shop for food on weekends will be interested in learning words for foods on the shopping list (e.g., milk, flour, rice, or chicken). Language Learning With Wordless Picture Books As students’ vocabularies expand, wordless picture books are valuable for extending language learning. These materials have easily recognizable stories or themes that appeal to students of all ages. Students can read and discuss them with the teacher and each other. The following list contains books that were published fairly recently and thus are most likely to be available through a local library. However, many other classic wordless picture books by authors such as Eric Carle, Tana Hoban, and Mercer Mayer are worth obtaining through libraries or the Internet. Books That Tell a Story Aliki. (1995). Tabby. New York: HarperCollins. Anno, Mitumasa. (1997). Anno’s journey. New York: Putnam. Bang, Molly. (1986). Grey lady and the strawberry snatcher. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  40. 40. 02-Nessel-45540.qxd 3/21/2008 4:58 PM Page 28 28 Using the Language Experience Approach With English Language Learners Blake, Quentin. (1996). Clown. New York: Holt. Briggs, Raymond. (2003). The snowman. New York; Random House. Day, Alexandra. (1985). Good dog, Carl. New York: Simon & Schuster. Day, Alexandra. (1995). Carl’s birthday. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Day, Alexandra. (1998). Follow Carl. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Lehman, Barbara. (2004). The red book. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Tafuri, Nancy. (1983). Early morning in the barn. New York: Greenwillow Books. Tafuri, Nancy. (1984). Have you seen my duckling? New York: Greenwillow Books. Tafuri, Nancy. (1987). Do not disturb. New York: Greenwillow Books. Tafuri, Nancy. (1990). Follow me! New York: Greenwillow Books. Wiesner, David. (1988). Free fall. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books. Wiesner, David. (1991). Tuesday. New York: Clarion Books. Wiesner, David. (1999). Sector 7. New York: Clarion Books. Young, Ed. (1991). Up a tree. New York: Harper & Row. Books That Develop a Theme or Event Baker, Jeannie. (2004). Home. New York: Greenwillow Books. Crews, Donald. (1980). Truck. New York: Greenwillow Books. McCully, Emily. (1985). First snow. New York: Harper & Row. Popov, Nikolai. (1996). Why? New York: North-South Books. Sis, Peter. (1990). Beach ball. New York: Greenwillow Books. Sis, Peter. (2000). Dinosaur! New York: Greenwillow Books. Books That Present an Abstract Concept Banyai, Istvan. (1995). Re-zoom. New York: Viking Books. Banyai, Istvan. (1998). Zoom. New York: Puffin Books. Banyai, Istvan. (2005). The other side. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. Hutchins, Pat. (1987). Changes, changes. New York: Alladin Books. Maizlish, Lisa. (1996). The ring. New York: Greenwillow Books. Rohmann, Eric. (1994). Time flies. New York: Crown. Spier, Peter. (1982). Rain. New York: Doubleday Books. All beginners can learn to read English to some extent while they are learning to communicate orally in English. However, the benefit they derive from systematic reading instruction depends on their age, overall language skills, background of experience with written language, and psy- chological readiness. Beginners may take a few weeks, several months, or most of a school year to become comfortable enough with English to ben- efit from formal reading instruction although they may readily learn to recognize some words, learn some decoding skills, and enjoy engaging with books written in English. Others will be eager to acquire reading skills and will profit greatly from instruction when their oral skills are still minimal. The student who seems particularly anxious in school or has had

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