Filmore snow 2002


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Filmore snow 2002

  1. 1. 6 What Teacher.; Need to Know About languageFeldman points to another important curb on incorporating educational lin-guistics into teacher preparation: Most teacher education departments do nothave faculty to teach the prescribed content, and faculty in the arts and sci-ences may not be interested in developing courses for teachers. Eaca andEscamilla point out that expanding linguistic knowledge for teachers cant bedelegated solely to teacher education:Attending to language must be taken upelsewhere in higher education and in K-12 schools, as Fillmore and Snowassert. The energy with which the commentaries discuss barriers to changingthe education ofteachers seems to reflect the climate of criticisln and frustra-tion surrounding the current focus on teacher quality, a particularly sensitiverulnension of the demand for educational reform. Everyone wants goodschools, but making changes anywhere in the vast educational enterpriseexposes deeply rooted, interwoven constraints.Explicating the challenge of altering teacher education, each conunentaryalso discusses possibilities for making changes. Chapter authors agree withFillmore and Snow that the standards initiatives ofstates and professional asso-ciations--standards for students learning and standards for teaching-offer apotent opportunity. Because the standards represent some level of consensus,because some sets of standards are tied to testing, and because standards areassociated with change, they may provide an opening for enhancing learningabout language. Furthermore, as Gollnick and Feldman show, there is con-gruence between the Fillmore and Snow work and several associations stan-dards. So whatever is being done to meet those standards provides a naturalhOlne for implementing Fillmore and Snows recommendations.Carolyn Temple Adger, Washington, DCCatherine E. Snow, Cambridge, MADonna Christian,Washington, DCMay 25,2001ReferenceAmerican Federation ofTeachers. (1999). Teaching reading IS rocket science:Whatexpert teachers ofreading should knolV and be able to do. Washington, DC: AFTEducational Issues Publications.Chapter OneChapter OneWhat Teachers Need toKnow About LanguageLily Wong Fillmore, University of California at BerkeleyCatherine E, Snow, Harvard Graduate School of Education7Todays teachers need access to a wide range of information to function wellin the classroom.The competencies required by the various state certificationstandards add up to a very long list indeed. Perhaps because this list is so long,teacher preparation programs often do not make time for substantial attentionto crucial matters, choosing instead a checklist approach to addressing the var-ious required competencies.The challenge of providing excellent teacher preparation and ongoing pro-fessional development for teachers is enormous at any time.At a time like this,when the nations teaching force is encountering an increasing number ofchildren from immigrant families--children who speak little or no English onarrival at school and whose families may be unfamiliar with the demands ofAmerican schooling-the challenge is even greater.The U.S. teaching force isnot well equipped to help these children and those who speak vernaculardialects ofEnglish adjust to school, learn effectively and joyfully, and achieveacademic success. Too few teachers share or know about their students cul-tural and linguistic backgrounds or understand the challenges inherent inlearning to speak and read Standard English. We argue in this paper thatWords with underlining and bold are defined in a glossary, p. 44.In C. T. Adger, C. E. Snow, & D. Christian (Eds.)(2002). What teachers need to know aboutlanguage. McHenry, IL: Center for AppliedLinguistics and Delta Systems Co, Inc.
  2. 2. 8 What Teachers Need to Know About Languageteachers lack this knowledge because they have not had the professionalpreparation they need.The challenges of preparing teachers to work with immigrant and languageminority children have been addressed previously. A book by Josue Gonzalezand Linda Darling-Hanul1ond (1997), New Concepts for New Challenges:Prifessional Developmentfor Teachers ofImmigrantYOHth, provides an excellent dis-cussion of professional development models that have been shown to workand the kinds of adaptations teachers of immigrant youth need to make. Butthe book deals only in passing with issues of language and literacy.These issues have been brought to the foreground by changes in educationalpolicy and practice over the past decade. Society has raised by quite a fewnotches the educational bar that all children in the United States, includingnewcomers, must dear in order to complete school successfully and, ulti-mately, to survive in the economic and social world of the 21st century. Theadoption of Goals 2000 (1994) has raised curricular standards to levels that are1110re consistent with those in other societies. We have also adopted a systemof bendunark assessments to evaluate the progress schools and students aremaking toward Ineeting those goals. In many states, policymakers havebecome ilnpatient with the apparent failure of schools to educate studentsadequately at each level. They have ended the practice of"social promotion"whereby students are passed to the next grade each year whether or not theyhave met academic expectations. PoliCYlnakers in more than two dozen stateshave adopted high school proficiency examinations-tests of mathematicsand English language and literacy-with high school diplomas at stake.Finally, there are signs that categories such as race and ethnicity, languagebackground, and gender will no longer be considered in admissions decisionsin higher education or in hiring. The assumption is that everyone will bejudged stricdy on their own merits and in comparison to universally appliednorms. For university entrance, this means scoring at an acceptable level onstandardized tests. For advancenlent in the university, it means passing writingproficiency assessments. Increasingly in the workplace, it means being a compe-tent user of Standard English and being fully literate (Murnane & Levy, 1996).Chapter One 9These policies place tremendous pressure on children to become skilled usersoflanguage in school in order to achieve the levels of language and literacycompetence required to pass through the gateways to high school graduation,college admission, and a good job. As it stands now, language minority stu-dents are not faring well under this pressure-but then, many other studentsare not doing so well either. Does this mean that the new standards and assess-ments are unreasonable? Are students not motivated or smart enough to han-dle higher levels of instruction What do teachers need to know and be ableto do in order to support their students success? Do teachers lack the knowl-edge and skills necessary to help students We will argue in this paper thatteachers need a thorough understanding of how language figures in educa-tion, and for that reason they must receive systematic and intensive prepara-tion in what we will call educatior/al linguistics. A thorough grounding ineducational linguistics would support teachers undertakings overall, and inparticular their capacity to teach literacy skills (see Snow, Burns, & Griffin,1998) and to work with English language learners (see August & Hakuta,1997). If approached coherently, such preparation would also, we contend,cover many of the items on that long list of desired teacher competenciescompiled from state certification standards, relating as it would to skills inassessing children, in individualizing instruction, and in respecting diversity.We begin here by presenting a rationale for current and prospective teachersto know more about language. We then turn to a brief specification of thesorts of knowledge that teachers need. This section first discusses requisiteknowledge about oral language, then oral language used in formal and aca-demic contexts, then written language.The final section of this chapter sug-gests courses that teacher preparation programs n1ight offer to teachercandidates to cover the competencies required. This course list might also beseen as specifYing aspects of an integrated, in-depth professional developmentprogram for in-service teachers.We use the course list, though, more to spec-ify the range and types of information needed than as a prescription forteacher education programs, each of which will need to grapple with themechanisms and formats for making the necessary information available.
  3. 3. 10 VVhat Teachers Need to Know About LanguageWhy Do Teachers Need to Know MoreAbout Language?We distinguish five functions for which prospective educators need toknow more about language than they may be learning in teacher educa-cion programs:teacher as COtnnlUtllCatorteacher as educatorteacher as evaluator• teacher as educated human being• teacher as agent of socializationTeacher as CommunicatorClearly, conununication with students is essential to effective teaching. Toconununlcate successfully, teachers must know how to structure their ownlanguage output for maximum clarity. They must also have strategies forunderstanding what students are saying, because understanding student talk iskey to analysis of what students know, how they understand, and what teach-ing strategies would be useful. In a society that is experiencing increasinglydiverse classrooms, teachers are increasingly likely to encounter students withwhom they share neither a first language or dialect nor a native culture. Anunderstanding of linguistics can help teachers see that the discourse patternsthey value are aspects oftheir own cultures and backgrounds; they are neitheruniversal nor inherently more valid than other possible patterns.Without suchan understanding, teachers sometimes assume that there is something wrongwith students whose ways of using language are not what they expect.Geneva Smitherman (1977) relates a poignant example of how teachers whodo not recognize the validity of other ways of speaking can undermine theirstudents confidence in their own cotnmunicative abilities:Student (excitedly): Miz Jones, you remember that show youtole us about? Well. me and my momma nem-Teacher (interrupting with a "warm" smile): Bernadette, startagain. Im sorry, but I cant understand you.Chapter OneStudent (confused): WeU, it was that show, me and mymomma-Teacher (interrupting again, still with that "warm" smile):Sorry, I still cant understand you.(Student. now silent, even more confused than ever, looks at£loor, says nothing.)Teacher: Now Bernadette, first of all, its Mrs. Jones, not MizJones. And you know it was an exhibit. not a show. Now,havent I explained to the class over and over again that youalways put yourself last when you are talking about a groupof people and yourself doing something? So, therefore, youshould say what?Student: My momma and me--Teacher (exasperated): No! My mother and I. Now startagain, this time right.Student: Aw. thats okay. it wasnt nothin.(Smitherman, 1977, pp. 217-218)11Studies of discourse patterns in American Indian (Philips, 1993), NativeHawaiian (Boggs, 1972), Puerto R.ican (Zentella, 1997), and AfricanAmerican (Heath, 1983) homes and conUl1unities have shown that the speechpatterns that children bring to school from their homes can be quite differentfrom the ones that are valued at school.These speech patterns are nonethelessessential to functioning effectively in their home conU11Unities. Acquiring theacademic discourse patterns of school is an important part of the educationaldevelopment of all students, but it is neither necessary nor desirable to pro-mote it at the expense of the language patterns children already have. In fact,Mrs. Jones pedagogical approach to language development is more likely tosour children like Bernadette to the whole experience of schooling than it isto instruct them.In as diverse a society as ours, teachers must be prepared to work with chil-dren from many different cultural, social, and linguistic backgrounds. Manyschools serve students who are learning English as a second language.Understanding the course of second language acquisition, including such
  4. 4. 12 What Teachers Need to Know About languagematters as the sorts of rrllstakes English language learners are likely to makeand how much progress can be expected in a Ulut of time, helps teachersconunurucate with these students more effectively. Even advanced speakers ofEnglish as a second language may use conversational patterns or narrativeorganization that cliffer from those of the mainstream. Understanding howtheir language use rrllght cliffer from that of native European AmericanEnglish speakers is crucial for effective teaching. In their function as inter-locutor. teachers need to know sometlllng about educational linguistics.Teacher as EducatorTeachers are responsible for selecting educational materials and activities atthe right level and of the right type for all of the children in their classes.Thisrequires that they have the expertise to assess student accomplishments andthe capacity to distinguish between imperfect knowledge ofEnglish and cog-nitive obstacles to learning. [11 order to teach effectively, teachers need toknow which language problems will resolve themselves with time and whichneed attention and intervention. In other words, they need to know a greatdeal about language development.Language is a vital developmental domain throughout the years of schooling,whatever the childs linguistic, cultural, or social background. Textbooks onchild development otten claim that by age five or six children have alreadymastered the granmlar oftheir native language and that although they expandtheir vocabularies in school and add literacy skills, for the most part childrenhave acquired language before they go to school. Such a characterization oflanguage development is far from accurate. All children have a long way to godevelopmentally before they can function as mature members of their speechcommUluties (Hoyle & Adger, 1998). As they progress through the grades,children will acquire granunatical structures and strategies for the moresophisticated and precise ways of using language that are associated withmaturity, formal language use, and the discussion of challenging topics.Teachers play a critical role in supporting language development. Beyondteaching children to read and write in school, they can help children learnand use aspects of language associated with the academ.ic discourse of thevarious school subjects. They can help them become more aware of howChapter One 13language functions in various modes of conununication across the curricu-lum. They need to understand how language works well enough to selectmaterials that will help expand their students linguistic horizons and toplan instructional activities that give students opportunities to use the newforms and modes of expression to which they are being exposed. Teachersneed to understand how to design the classroom language environment soas to optim.ize language and literacy learning and to avoid linguistic obsta-cles to content area learning. A basic knowledge of educational linguistics isprerequisite to pronloting language development with the full array of stu-dents in todays classrooms.Teacher as EvaluatorTeachers judgments can have enorn10US consequences for childrens lives,from the daily judgments and responses that affect students sense of them-selves as learners to the more weighty decisions about reading group place-ment, promotion to the next grade, or referral for special education evalu-ation. American school culture is greatly concerned with individual differ-ences in leartung ability, and judgments about ability are often based onteacher evaluations of childrens language. Arnerican educators take seriouslythe idea that people differ in abilities and aptitudes, and they believe that suchdifferences require different treatment in schooL1A lot ofattention is given tosorting children by ability as early as possible. Children entering kindergartenare given readiness tests to determine which of them meet the developmen-tal e"1>ectations of school and which do not. Some schools have develop-mental or junior kindergartens for children who are judged not quite readyfor school frmn their penorn13nce on these readiness tests. In many kinder-gartens, children are grouped for instruction according to the notion of abil-ity on the basis of such tests. If they are not grouped in this way inkindergarten, they certainly are by first grade (Michaels, 1981). Thus, wellbefore children have had a chance to find out what school is about, they canbe declared to be fast, nuddling, or slow learners (Oakes, 1985).Such grouping is pernicious if it sorts children globally into differentiatedgroups. Once sorted this way, children typically receive substantially differentinstructional treatInent and materials, reinforcing any initial differences amongthem in speed of learning and eagerness to learn. Later on, students who have
  5. 5. 14 What Teachers Need to Know About languagebeen in classes for academically talented children behave like gifted and tal-ented children: They are bright, verbal, and enthusiastic about school. Thosewho have been in lower groups behave precisely as one would expect low-ability students to behave: They are poorly motivated, low achieving, and lessenthusiastic about school than they should be.We do not mean to suggest here that children should never be sorted for anypurpose. It is vety effective for teachers to form small groups ofchildren whoneed more time with particular instructional foci (e.g., digraphs or vocabu-lary enrichment or long vowel spellings). It can also be helpful to group chil-dren who read at a sinillar level so they can discuss their books with oneanother. But the key to such grouping is that it be targeted (i.e., used for aparticular instructional purpose), flexible (i.e., as soon as individual childrenhave acquired the targeted skill they leave that group), and objective (i.e.,based on well-specified criteria directly related to the instructional target, noton global measures of readiness).A serious worry about global tracking decisions is the questionable validity ofthe original assessments on which these placement decisions are made.Judgments of childrens language and social behaviors weigh heavily in theseassessments (Oller, 1992). Guided by a readiness checklist, kindergarten andfirst-grade teachers answer questions like the following about the children intheir classes: Do they know their first and last name? Can they follow simpleinstructions Can they ask questions? Can they answer them? Do they knowthe names ofthe colors in their crayon boxes? Can they produce short narra-tives? Do they know their mothers name? Can they count to 1O? Theassumption is that all children at age 5 or 6 should have the specific abilitiesthat are assessed, and anyone who does not is not ready for school. In reality,such abilities and skills are hardly universal nor are they indicative oflearningability. There are rather great differences across cultures in the kinds of lin-guistic accomplishments believed to be appropriate for children at any age.The kinds of skills that children bring from home reflect those differences inbelief In some cultures. for example, children are encouraged to listen ratherthan to ask questions of adults. Only rude and poorly reared children wouldchatter away in the presence of an authority figure like the teacher. Whenchildren do not perform as expected on a test, it does not necessarily meanthat they are lacking in ability-particularly ifthey do not know the languageChapter One 15in which the questions were asked. Given the diversity in our society, it isimperative to recognize that young children may differ considerably in theirinventory of skills and abilities, and these differences should not be treated asreflecting deficiencies in ability.To make valid judgments about students abilities, teachers also need to under-stand the different sources of variation in language use--whether a particularpattern signals membership in a language community that speah a vernacu-lar variety of English, normal progress for a second language learner ofEnglish, normal deviations from the adult standard that are associated withearlier stages of development, or developmental delay or disorder. The over-representation of African American, Native American, and Latino children inspecial education placements suggests that normal language features associatedwith a vernacular variety ofEnglish or with learning English as a second lan-guage are often misinterpreted as an indication ofdevelopmental delay (Ortiz,1992).The high percentage ofspecial education referrals for English languagelearners and vernacular dialect speakers may simply reflect teachers strategiesfor getting these children extra help, often from a speech-language patholo-gist w ho is relatively well trained in language development issues. But ifteachers knew nlore about language, they could institute instructionalprocesses in the classro0l11 to address these childrens needs.Considering the potential harm of misconstruing childrens language use,investing in educational linguistic training about the course of languagedevelopment and about language variety seems a wise use ofteacher prepara-tion resources.Teacher as Educated Human BeingTeachers need to have access to basic information about language for thesame reasons that any educated member of society should know sOln ethingabout language. Understanding the basics of how ones own language workscontributes to proficient reading and writing. R ecognizing the differencebetween nouns and verbs, consonants and vowels, or oral and literate forms isas basic for the liberally educated human being as is knowledge about addi-tion and subtraction, nutrition, or the solar system. Students educated in theUnited States should also know something about differences between the
  6. 6. 16 What Teachers Need to Know About languagestructure of English and that of other languages just as surely as they shouldknow about the tripartite organization of the U.S. government. It used to bethe case that English granumr was taught to students beginmng in about thefifth grade and continuing through eighth grade in what was then calledgrammar school. Such insrruction was largely discontinued in the 1960s,except in Catholic schools. At least one foreign language would often also beincluded in the core curricuJum. Not only are such subjects no longerrequired, in some places they are not taught at all. For some titne now wehave had teachers who had little exposure to the study ofgrammar when theywere students.Teachers who have not had the opportunity to study the structure ofEnglishor to learn another language understandably do not feel very confident talk-ing about language. English is the language of society, it is the language mostteachers use exclusively in their teaching, and it is the language that manyteachers teach about to some extent. But how much do they know about it?Do they know its history? Do they know what languages are related to it? Dothey know how it has changed over time, especially since the advent of theprinting press Do they know why there are so many peculiar spellings inEnglish? Do they know how regional dialects develop? Teachers have practi-cal, professional reasons to know these things, but we suggest that the atten-tion to grarrullar and rhetoric that was characteristic of the lower level of aclassical education was neither premature nor exaggerated. All of LIS shouldunderstand sllch matters, and we will not learn them unJess teachers under-stand them first.Throughout the United States, there is a real need for research-based knowl-edge about language teaching, language learning, and how language functionsin education. We also need educational leadership to ensure that this knowl-edge is widely shared. Several recent events involved public discussions, withparticipation by teachers and other educators, that were alarmingly unin-formed and uninsightful about language issues. These events include the pas-sage of Proposition 227 in Califorma in 1998 and subsequent attempts inother states to limit or eliminate bilingual education. Discussion ofProposition 227 revealed a dismaying lack ofunderstanding about the facts ofsecond language learmng and the nature of bilingual education. Similarly, theEbonies controversy that resulted from the Oakland School Districts decisionChapter One 17in 1996 to treat Mrican American Vernacular English as a first language formany students raised issues that most people were ill-prepared to discuss in aninformed way. Finally, the willingness ofschool disrricts and parent groups toembrace inappropriate methods for teaching reading in response to low per-formance on reading tests, to abandon theoretically sound methods for teach-ing English in the face of disappointing language achievement scores, and toadopt unproven approaches to foreign language teaching reminds us that toofew people know enough of the basics about language and literacy to engagein reasonable discussion and to make informed decisions about such matters.Ideally teachers would be raising the level of such discussions by referring toresearch-based interventions.Teacher as Agent of SocializationTeachers playa unique role as agents of socialization-the process by whichindividuals learn the everyday practices, the system of values and beliefS, andthe means and manners of conmmnication in their cultural communities.Socialization begins in the home and continues at school. When the culturesof home and school match, the process is generally continuous: Building onwhat they have acquired at home from family members, children becomesocialized into the ways of thinking and behaving that characterize educatedindividuals. They learn to think critically about ideas, phenomena, and expe-riences, and they add the modes and structures of academic discourse totheir language skills. But when there is a mismatch between the cuinlres ofhome and school, the process can be disrupted.We have discussed some waysin which mismatches between teachers expectations of how children shouldbehave commumcatively and how they actually do behave can affect teach-ers ability to understand children, assess their abilities, and teach them effec-tively. In fact, what teachers say and do can determine how successfullychildren make the crucial transition from home to school. It can determinewhether children move successfully into the world of the school and largersociety as fully participating members or get shunted onto sidetracks that dis-tance them from family, society, and the world ofleaming.For many children, teachers are the first contact with the culture of the socialworld olltside of the home. From associations with family melnbers, childrenhave acquired a sense of who they are, what they can do, what they should
  7. 7. 18 What Teachers Need to Know About Languagevalue, how they should relate to the world around them, and how they shouldcommunicate. These understandings are cultural-they differ from group togroup and even within groups. Children of inunigrants and native-bornAmerican children from non-majority backgrounds may encounter a starkdisjunction between their cultural understandings and those ofthe school. Forexample, Mexican children generally have a sure sense of self within theworld of the home, The center of this universe is not the individual but thefamily itself. Each member is responsible for maintaining, supporting, andstrengthening the family; its needs come before the needs of any individual(Valdes, 1996). For Pueblo Indian children, the central unit is the community,and its needs and requirementl take precedence over those of the individual(popovi Da, 1969).When children from these cultures begin school, they encounter a culturethat has a very different focus, one that emphasizes the primacy of the indi-vidual and considers family, group, and community needs subsidiary to indi-vidual needs. They soon discover that the school culture takes precedenceover the home culture. Administrators and teachers do not accept as excusesfor school absence the need to care for younger siblings when the mother issick or to participate in a religious ritual in the conununity. Children learnthat at school, work and progress are regarded as individual endeavors, andthey are rewarded for the ability to work independently, without help andsupport from others.In the area of language and communication, children who enter school withno English are expected to learn the schools language of instruction asquickly as possible, often with minimal help. Children discover very quicklythat the only way they can have access to the social or academic world ofschool is by learning the language spoken there. The messages that may beconveyed to children and their parents are that the hOIlIe language has novalue or role in school if it is not English, and that parents who want to helptheir children learn English should switch to English for communication athome. For parents who know and speak English, this is not difficult (thoughit may be undesirable); for parents who do not know English well or at all, itis tantalnount to telling them they have nothing to contribute to the educa-tion of their children.4Chapter One 19The process of socialization into the culture of the school need not be detri-mental either to the child or to the family, even when there are substantial dif-ferences between the cultures of home and school.When teachers realize justhow traumatic the assimilation process can be for immigrant and native-bornchildren fronl non-majority backgrounds, given the adjustInents and accom-modations they must make as they move from the world of the home to theone at school, they can ease the process considerably. If teachers respect theirstudents home languages and cultures and understand the crucial role theyplay in the lives ofthe children and their families, they can help children makethe necessary transitions in ways that do not undercut the role that parentsand families must continue to play in their education and development.5What Should Classroom Teachers KnowAbout Language?In this section, we outline a set ofquestions that the average classroom teachershould be able to answer, and we identifY topics that teachers and other edu-cators should have knowledge of. We focus first on oral language, then onwritten language. These questions and topics are not arcane or highly techni-cal. We are certainly not proposing that all educators need to understandUniversal Grammar, Government and Binding Theory, MinilnalistPhonology. or other topics ofinterest to the professional linguist. Rather, weare identifYing issues of language use in daily life, issues that require only abasic understanding of the descriptive work that linguists engage in and theconcepts that they use. Decisions about how to segment the information wecall for-that is, how to distribute it over preservice courses and inservicelearning-and how to ensure that it will be acquired go well beyond ourbrief. We simply provide a (no doubt incomplete) listing ofissues and a briefjustification for the relevance to classroom practice of each, in the hope thatthose with greater expertise in teacher education can think about how tomake this knowledge available to classroom practitioners.Attention to educational linguistics might be assumed to be of particularimportance to the educator specialized in dealing with language learners-the bilingual or English as a second language (ESL) teacher. We certainlyagree that prospective ESL and bilingual teachers would benefit from inten-sive and coherent preparation in educational linguistics. But we contend that
  8. 8. 20 What Teachers Need to Know About Languagesuch preparation is equally important for all classroom practitioners and.indeed, for administrators and educational researchers-though of course thespecifics of more advanced preparation will vary for rhese groups. Expertiseon language issues related to teaching and learning is important for all educa-tors, increasingly so as rhe percentage ofEnglish language learners and speak-ers of vernacular dialects increases among American students.Oral LanguageWe begin by attending to oral language because in their native language (andoften in a second language), children develop oral proficiency first. Oral lan-guage functions as a foundation for literacy and as the means of learning inschool and out. However, despite its importance for learning, many teachersknow much less about oral language rhan rhey need to know.What are the basic units of language?Teachers need to know rhat spoken language is composed of units of differ-ent sizes: sounds (called phonemes if they function to signal different mean-ings in the language), morphemes (sequences of sounds that form thesmallest units of meaning in a language), words (consisting of one or moremorphemes), phrases (one or more words), sentences, and discourses. Crucialto an understanding of how language works is the idea of arbitraril1ess.Sequences ofsounds have no meaning by themselves; it is only by conventionthat meanings are attached to sound. In another language, a sequence ofsounds that is meaningful in English may mean nothing at aU or sOlnethingquite different.Furthermore, each language has an inventory of phonemes that may differfrom rhat of other languages. Phonemes can be identified by virrue ofwhether a change in sound nlakes a difference in meaning. For example, inEnglish, ball and van constirute two different words, which show that [b] and[v) are different phonemes. Similarly, hit and heat are two different words,showing that rhe short vowel sound [I) of hit is different from rhe long vowelsound [i) of heat. In Spanish, however, the differences between [b) and [v] andbetween [I) and [i) do not make a difference in meaning. Native Spanishspeakers may be influenced by the phonemjc inventory ofSpanish when rheyare speaking English. They might say very good or bery good to mean the sameChapter One 21thing. Similarly, it is little and eet eez leetle have the same meaning. Dialects ofEnglish show different phonemic patterns as well. In southern US. varieties,for example, the vowels in pill and pen sound the same, but in northern vari-eties they sound different. It is clear that such contrasting phonemic patternsacross languages and dialects can have an impact on what words childrenunderstand, how rhey pronounce them, and also how they might be inclinedto spell them.The morpheme is the smallest unit oflanguage that expresses a distinct mean-ing. A morpheme can be an independent or free unit, like jump, dog, or happy,or it can be a prefix or suffix attached to another morphelne to modify itsmeaning, such as -ed or - illg for verbs (ju11Iped,jllmpillg) , plural-s or possessive-s for nouns (dogs, dogs), or - I) or - /less added to adjectives to turn them intoadverbs or nouns (happi/ll happiness). In other words,jllmped is a single wordthat contains two morphemes, jump and -ed. Units like -ed or - Iy are calledbound morphenles because they do not occur alone. The relevance of boundmorphemes to teachers understanding emerges most strongly in the domainof spelling, discussed below. But it is worth noting here rhat English, reflect-ing its origin as a Germanic language, features many irregular forms (seePinker, 1999) rhat can cause problems. Children may produce ungranunaticalforms using regular morpheme combinations, such as past tense bringed andplural marls. And just as it is inforIllative to study contrasts in phoneme pat-terns across dialects, teachers should also be aware of dialect variation in mor-pheme combinations. For example, in African Anlerican Vernacular English,the plural form of man can be mellS.Teachers need to understand that granunatical units such as bound and freemorphemes, words, phrases, and clauses operate quite differendy across lan-guages. The locative meanings expressed by prepositions such as in, on, andbettveCll in English are expressed by noun endings (bound morphemes) inHungarian, but they are often incorporated into the structure of the verb inKorean. In Chinese, plurality and past tense are typically expres,ed by separatewords such as several and already rather than bound morphemes (-s and -ed),but these words may be omitted ifthese meanings are obvious in context.Thenative Chinese speaker who treats plurals and past tenses as optional rarherthan obligatory in English is reflecting rhe rules of Chinese. Of course such alearner needs to learn how to produce grarrunatical English sentences. But
  9. 9. 22 What Teachers Need to Know About languageunderstanding the variety of structures that different languages and dialectsuse to show meaning. including grammatical meaning such as plurality or pasttense, can help teachers see the logic behind the errors of their students whoare learning English_ When 2-year-olds produce forms like I s1lJil/ged already,we consider it charming; we need to see that the errors of older second lan-guage speakers reflect the same level of creativity_Finally, teachers need knowledge about the larger units oflanguage use------sel1-renee and discourse structure-that are fundamental to understanding theunique features of academic language_ We have pointed out that teachersexpectations for students participation in classroom talk may be based on theteachers own cultural patterns. Such simple rhetorical tasks as responding toquestions require making a hyporhesis about why the question is being askedand how it fits into a set of social relationships that may be specific to a cul-ture. Can YOH opel tlie door? might be a question about physical strength orpsychological willingness, or it might be a request_ If a child gives a puzzlingresponse to a question, the teacher who knows s0I11ethlng about cross-lin-guistic differences in the rules for asking questions and making requests mightwell be able to analyze its source. It is critical that interpretations oflanguageuse as reflecting politeness, intelligence, or other characteristics of the studentbe informed by this understanding oflanguage differences_Trouble can occur at the discourse level when students do not understandteachers expectations about academic discourse patterns that the teachersthemselves learned in school. For example, in the interactive structure typicalof direct instruction, the teacher initiates an interaction, often by asking aquestion; a student responds; then the teacher evaluates the response. Asking aquestion in the response slot can risk teacher censure (Zueng1er & Cole,2000)_ It is unlikely that teachers are aware of their expectations for studentsparticipation in classroom discourse. Implicit norms for language use are partof what it means to know a language well_ When teachers have explicitknowledge of rhetorical structures, they have the tools for helping childrenunderstand the expectations associated with school English_Chapter OneWhats regular and what Isnt? How do forms relate toeach other?23By virtue of being proficient English speakers and effortless readers, mosradults take for granted language irregularities that can be enormously puz-zling to younger and less fluent learners_ Is there any diiference between divedand dove? Can one similarly say both weaved and wove? Why do we say embar-rassment, shyness, likeliness, and likelihood, not emharrassness or emharrasshood, shy-menl, shyhood, or likeliment? Such questions may seem odd, but they arisenaturally during childrens language development_ Answers lie in principles ofword formation rooted in the history ofEnglish_An inlportant part of acquiring a vocabulary suitable for academic contexts islearning how to parse newly encountered words into their component parts,rather than simply treating complex words as long words_ In many cases, thecontext in which a word is used and the recognition of familiar morphemesassist in interpreting and remembering words_ There are probably thousandsof words that most people learn in context without help, for example, dish/-herit, pre-established, and decaJfeillated. The key here is that there are regular pat-terns for how word parts (morphemes) can be combined into longer words_Teachers should be aware of the principles of word formation in Englishbecause such knowledge can aid their students in vocabulary acquisition.They should be aware, for example, of such patterns as the dis alternation inpairs of related words like evade and evasive, collell/de and cO/ldl/sive_ When theyknow trus principle, students can learn tvo new words at once. Teachersshould be aware ofcertain accent-placement regularities involving the suffixeswritten -y and -ic, so that they can help students learn groups of wordstogether: for example, SYNollym, syNONymy, sYlloNYMic; PHOtograph,phoTOGraphy, photoGRAPHic; ANalog, aNALogy, "/aLOGic, and so on_ Amastery of the connections between the patterns of word formation and therhythms of English speech should equip teachers to point out such patternsin academic language and enhance students vocabulary growth_Spanish-speaking children can be taught to use correlated morphologicalstructures in Spanish and English to understand sophisticated English lexicalitems and to expand their English vocabularies_ Consider the advantages forSpanish speakers who discover that a Spanish noun that ends in -idad almost
  10. 10. 24 What Teachers Need to Know About languagealways has an English cognate that ends in -ity (,lQIividad and IIotivity, pom-posidad and pomposity, atriosidad and curiosity) or that nouns ending in -idul1Ibrerelate to nouns eniling in -itude (certidumbre and certitude, servidumbre and servi-tilde). If they already know the Spanish words, the parallel to English can bepointed out; if they do not know the word in either language, the parallelSpanish and English words can be taught together.Students who come to English as native speakers of other Indo-Europeanlanguages may find it helpull to be aware of the intcrnational vocabulary ofscience and technology (e.g., photosynthesis isJotos/ntesis in Spanish,jotoshltez inRussian; computer is comptaador or colllplitadom in Spanish, kompYHter inRussian). This could involve learning basic correspondences, the notion ofcognate and how to distinguish cognates from false cognates and loan words,enough about the history of English to be able to judge whether an Englishword is likely to have a cognate in the students first language, and cross-lin-gtlistic comparisons. In order to teach these matters, teachers must understandthem deeply and know how to support their students explorations when theteacher does not know the other language involved.How Is the lexicon acquired and structured?Almost every classroom teacher recognizes the need to teach vocabulary (thelexicon), and most teachers do so. U sually, technical or unusual word" used intexts are targeted for instruction. Definitions for each one are solicited fromthe students or are supplied by the teacher before the text is read in interac-tions along these lines:Teacher: Digestion: Who knows what digestion means?Student: I know, I know. When you eat.Teacher: Thats right! When we eat, we digest our food. Thatsdigestiml!Often, the definitions given are rather superficial and sometimes even mis-leading, as in tlus example.The definition offered here would work better foringestion than for digestion. Presumably the text itself and the ensuing class dis-cussion would clarify the meaning of digestiOlI, but the initial instructionaleffort probably added little to the childrens understanding. It takes manyChapter One 25encounters with a word in meaningful contexts for students to acquire it(Beck, McKeown, & Omanson, 1987).What does it mean to acquire a word? What do we know when we know aword? Knowing a word involves knowing something of its core meaning. Inthe case of digestion, the core meaning is the process by which the food oneeats is converted into simpler fornIS that the body can use for energy. But fewwords are unidimensional in meaning or use, so knowing a word goes wellbeyond knowing a definition of it. Knowing a word requires also an under-standing of how it relates to similar forms (e.g., digestion, digest, ingest, digestive,indigestion), how it can be used grammatically (i.e., its word class and thegranlmatical constructions it can be used in), and how it relates to otherwords and concepts (e.g.,food, tlutrient, stomach, digestive juices, esophagus, intes-tilles, digesting jaets, Readers Digest). Vocabulary instruction could be moreeffective if teachers understood how words are learned in noninstructionalcontexts, through conversational interactions, and through encounters withwritten language. Knowing individual words more deeply is as important asknowing more words.For children growing up in English-speaking families, rapid English vocabu-lary acquisition is the rule. According to George Miller (1976, 1987), betweenages 1 and 17, children add 13 words per day to their growing vocabulary,adding up to around 80,000 words by the time they are 17.Very little of thisis achieved with the help of teachers or dictionaries. Vocabulary acquisitionhappens most easily in context and related to topics that children care about.The teachets responsibility lies mainly in setting up exposure to language ina vivid way and encouraging reading of material that children care about.For second language learners, it is perhaps most valuable to stage exposure tonew vocabulary items in related groups, since many words are Olore mean-ingfill when they are understood in connection with other words related tothe same general topic. (For an accessible discussion of how the mental lexi-con is thought to be organized, see Aitchison, 1994; for a discussion of howbilinguals and monolinguals differ in their treatment of words, see Merriman& Kutlesic, 1993.) Thus, talk about Inothers andjathelS should include talk aboutblGthelS and sisters,gralldjathelS and grandmothers; talk about bJlying should includetalk about selling,paying, money,and gettiJlg ehaJlge. Some understanding of how
  11. 11. 26 Nhat Teachers Need to Know About languagetranslations can differ from one another in subtle aspects of meaning and usecan aid in supporting the lexical acquisition of the second language learner.Are vernacular dialects different from "bad English" and,If so, how?Given the diversity in social and cultural backgrounds of the students theyserve, practitioners and researchers whose work or study focuses on teachingand learning in schools lllUSt have a solid grounding in sociolinguistics and inlanguage behavior across cultures. Like other languages, English has dialectsassociated with geographical regions and social classes and distinguished bycontrasts in their sound system, grammar, and lexicon. Standard dialects arcconsidered morc prestigious than vernacular dialects, but this contrast is amatter ofsocial convention alone.Vernacular dialects arc as regular as standarddialects and as useful. Facts about normal language variation are not widelyknown, as demonstrated by the misunderstandings about language, languagebehavior, and language learning revealed in the national response to theOakland (CA) School Boards Ebonics proposal.The proposal amounted to adeclaration that the language spoken in the homes of many of its AfricanAmerican students should be regarded as a language in its own right andshould not be denigrated by teachers and administrators as slang, street talk, orbad English. It further declared its support of the school districts efforts toseek funds for the Standard English Proficiency Program, which uses chil-drens home language to teach school English.This idea was certainly not rad-ical, but the Ebonics story continued to be news for nearly 2 months. It wasthe focus of talk shows on radio and television. It was featured in front-pagenewspaper stories for nearly a month and even longer in editorial pages, polit-ical cartoons, and news magazines.The U.S. Senate held special hearings.TheOakland School Boards proposal was denounced, ripped apart, and ridiculed.Why was it controversial? This is how Lisa Delpit (1997) responded whenasked, "What do you think about Ebonies Are you for it or against it"My answer must be neither. I can be neither for Ebonies noragainst Ebonics any more than I can be for or against air. Itexists. It is the language spoken by many of our African-American children. It is the language they heard as theirmothers nnrsed them and changed their diapers and playedpeek-a-boo with them. It is the language through which theyChapter Onefirst encoWltered love, nurturance and joy. On the other hand,most teachers of those African-American children who havebeen least well-served by educational systems believe thattheir students life chances will be further hampered if theydo not learn Standard English. In the stratified society inwhich we live, they are absolutely correct. (p. 6)27Schools must provide children who speak vernacular varieties of English thesupport they need to master the English required for academic developmentand for jobs when they have completed schoo!. The process does not workwhen the language spoken by the children- the language of their familiesand primary conununities-is disrespected in school. This is as true for a ver-nacular variety ofEnglish as it is for another language such as Navaho,Yupik,Cantonese, or Spanish. A recognition of how language figures in adults per-ceptions of children and how adults relate to children through language iscrucial to understanding what happens in schools and how children ulti-mately view schools and learnjng.How do dialect differences affect language learning and literacy development?Even jf practitioners have enough knowledge to prevent speakers of vernac-ular dialects from being misdiagnosed and nusplaced in school programs, theyneed a good understanding about language variability in order to make edu-cational decisions that ensure effective instrLlction. Knowledge of the naturalcourse of language acqujsition and of the capacity of the individual to main-tain more than one dialect is crucial in making such choices.What is academic English?Although there is a lot ofdiscussion about the need for all children to developthe English language skills required for acadenuc learning and development,few people can identify exacdy what those skills consist of or distinguishthem from general Standard English skills. To the extent that this matter isexamined at aU, observers have usuaUy pointed to differences between w rit-ten and spoken language. However, academjc English entails a broad rangeof language proficiencies. We must ask w hat linguistic proficiencies arerequired for subject-matter learning. Is academ.ic language proficiency just amatter of vocabulary learning, or is it more? Cunmuns (1981b, 1984) hasdescribed academ.ic language as cognitively demanding, its most obvious fea-ture being that it is relatively decontextualized. It relies on broad knowledge
  12. 12. 28 What Teachers Need to Know About Languageof words, phraseology, grammar, discourse structure, and pragmatic conven-tions for expression, understanding, and interpretation.A recent study of prototype test items for a high school graduation examina-tion for one of the 26 states that require students to pass an exam in order toreceive a diploma revealed that whatever else is being assessed, competence inthe register that we refer to as academic English is necessary to pass (Filhnore,1999).The language used in this test is the language ordinarily used in text-books and discussions about science, l1uthemarics, literature, or social studies.To pass this test, students have to be able to do the following:Sununarize texts, using linguistic cues to interpret and infer the writersintentions and messages.Analyze texts, assessing the writers use of language for rhetorical and aes-thetic purposes and to express perspective and mood.Extract meaning from texts and relate it to other ideas and information.Evaluate evidence and arguments presented in texts and critique the logicof arguments luade in them.• Recognize and analyze textual conventions used in various genres for spe-cia! effect to trigger background knowledge or for perlocutionaryeffect.Recognize ungranunatical and infelicitous usage in written language andmake necessary corrections to granunar, punctuation, and capitalization.Use granunatical devices for combining sentences into concise and nloreeffective new ones, and use various devices to combine sentences intocoherent and cohesive texts.Compose and write an extended, reasoned text that is well developed andsupported with evidence and details.Interpret word problems-recognizing that in such texts, ordinary wordsnuy have specialized meanings (e.g., that share equally among them llleans todivide a whole into equal parts).• Extract precise infornlation from a written text and devise an appropriatestrategy for solving a problem based on information provided in the text.The production and understanding of academic English are issues for Englishlanguage learners and for native speakers ofEnglish alike. Few children arriveat school fully competent in the language required for text interpretation andChapter One 29for the kind of reasoned discourse we assume is a key to becoming an edu-cated person. Possible exceptions are the children of academics and otherhighly educated professionals who use this register even at home, read a lot totheir children, and engage thenI in discussions about a wide range of topics.For the most part, however, academic English is learned at school from teach-ers and from textbooks. Written texts are a reliable source of academicEnglish, but they serve as the basis for language development orily withinstructional help.Teachers provide the help that students need to acquire thisregister when they go beyond discussions ofcontent to discussions ofthe lan-guage used in texts for rhetorical and aesthetic effect.To provide such instructional support, teachers need to know somethingabout how language figures in academic learning and recognize that all stu-dents require instructional support and attention to acquire the forms andstructures associated with it.This is especially true for English language learn-ers. Often, explicit teaching oflanguage structures and uses is the most effec-tive way to help learners. A focus on language is crucial, no matter whatsubject is being taught. Children n1Ust engage in classroonl discussions ofsub-ject matter that are nI0re and more sophisticated in form and content. Andteachers must know enough about language to discuss it and to support itsdevelopment in their students.Academic language is learned through frequentexposure and practice over a long period of time-from the time childrenenter school to the tinIe they leave it.Why has the acquisition of English by non-English-speaking children not been more universally successful?It appears that non-English-speaking students may be having a harder andharder time learning English.Although it used to take them from 5 to 7 yearsto learn English to a high level (Cummins, 1981a; Klesmer, 1994), recentstudies suggest it is now taking 7 to 10 years (Ramirez, Pasta,Yuen, Billings, &Ramey, 1991).There are students who begin school in kindergarten classifiedby their school district as limited English proficient (LEP) and who leave it asLEP students 13 years later.Inadequacies in English lead to academic problems, of course, and many stu-dents drop out of school or are pushed out well before graduation (Olsen,Jaramillo, McCall-Perez. & White, 1999). Surprisingly, though, some of these
  13. 13. 30 What Teachers Need to Know About Languagestudents do rather well academically-well enough in math and sciencecourses to be admitted to the University of California systenl, for exanlple.But R obin Scarcella, who directs the English as a Second Language Programat the Irvine campus of the University ofCalifornia, reports that in 1997, 60%of the freshmen who took the English composition competency test failed.Of this group, one third had m!ior problems with English language skills thatrequired enrollment in ESL classes designed to help them acquire academicEnglish. Ninety-five percent of the 603 students enrolled in these ESL classeshad lived in the United States for more than 8 years. O n average, they hadtaken 1 year ofspecially designed English classes for nonnative English speak-ers in elementary orjunior high school.Most ofthe students had earned hon-ors in high school, ranking among the top 12% of their high schoolgraduating classes; 65% of them had taken honors and Advanced PlacementEnglish courses. Nevertheless, their English writing indicated that they didnot have a slIre sense of how English works. Consequently, they had seriousproblellli meeting the language demands of university-level work (Scarcella,in press).Why are their language and writing skills so poor?The public, the press, and many educators have blamed bilingual educationfor the slow rate of English learning and poor outcomes of English languagelearners.But as the case cited above suggests, the problem is not limited to theapproximately 30% of English language learners who have studied in bilin-gual programs; those in all-English instructional settings show similarly disap-pointing outcomes (Hakuta, 2001).California, with its very high incidence of English language learners--cur-rently 1.4 million, or 25% of the school population (California StateDepartment of Education, 2001) -was the first place that bilingual educa-tion was attacked as contributing to problems of students learning English. In1998, Californias voters passed Proposition 227, essentially banning bilingualeducation in that state.Many people who voted for this initiative believed thatbilingual education made it possible for English language learners to avoidlearning English (Fillmore, in press). However, several studies (e.g., Collier,1992; Collier & Thomas, 1989;R amirez ot al., 1991) have found that studentsin well-designed bilingual programs master English more rapidly (5 to 7years) than do students in English-only programs (7 to 10 years).Chapter One 31It is often assumed that students who do not learn English rapidly or well aremostly Spanish speakers whose everyday interactions, even in school, are withother Spanish speakers.These students do not thrive academically, we are told,because they are not motivated to learn English or to do the work that schoolrequires. A close look at these students suggests that tlus assunlption is notvalid. Non-Spanish speakers are well represented among the group that docsnot learn English well, including many Asians who have been in English-onlyclasses since the time they entered schooL Furthermore, many of these Asianstudents no longer speak their first languages even at home with family mem-bers (Schmida, in press; Schmida & Chiang, 1999).Whether or not English language learners manage to survive in school, fewcan learn English at the levels required for success in higher education or theworkplace without well-designed instructional intervention, particularly iftheonly native English speakers they encounter in daily life are their teachers.Butfor many years, teachers who work with these students have been unclearabout what instructional role they should play in second language learning.O ver the past two decades, some teacher education programs and in-serviceworkshops have suggested that there is no need for teachers to provideexplicit instruction in English granmlar, vocabulary, and so forth. Instead,teachers have been told by experts that they should speak to children in waysthat help them understand and teach them subject matter using simplifiedEnglish. T hey should use pictures, gestures, demonstrations and the like toallow children to acquire English naturally and automatically, and they shouldavoid indicating that they notice students English language errors so thatlearners will not be self-conscious and inunobilized in using the language.The message is this: Direct instruction can do nothing to change the courseof language development, which is determined by internal language acquisi-tion mechalusms that allow learners to sort things out eventually.Are these approaches effective? Examining how children acquire English in avariety of settings, Fillmore (1982, 1991) found that certain conditions mustbe met if children are to be successfill. They must interact directly and fre-quently with people who know the language well enough to reveal how itworks and how it can be used. During interactions with English learners,expert speakers not only provide access to the language at an appropriatelevel, they also provide ample clues as to what the units ill the language are
  14. 14. 32 What Teachers Need to Know About languageand how they cOIllbine to conm1l1n.icarc ideas, information, and intentions.Learners receive corrective feedback as they negotiate and clarify commu-nicative intentions (Long, 1985; Pica, 1996). The acquisition process can goawry when the conditions for language learning are not met, especially whenlearners greatly outnumber people who know the language well enough tosupport acquisition, as in schools and classrooms with high populations ofEnglish language learners.When there is no direct instruction in such situations, children can eithermake little progress learning English, or they can learn it from one another(Fillmore, 1992). The outcome is "Learnerese," an interlanguage pidgin(Sclunida, 1996) that can deviate considerably from Standard English.Students who speak this variety, sometimes called "ESL Lifers," have settledinto a variety ofEnglish that is fairly stable and that many of them speak flu-ently and with confidence.They are no longer language learners, because theyare no longer working out the details ofEnglish.The following text, producedin an exchange between Schlnida and a student she calls Ti-Sang, exemplifiesLearncrese.Ti-Sang had said that she does not find it easy to comnmnkatewith her parents, because she can hardly speak Kluner, and they do not speakEnglish. Asked about her cousins who had inu11igrated not long before fromCambodia, Ti-Sang responded,Hmm ... they-they, like, speak Cambodian more becausethey more comfortable in it. They dont want to talk Englishsometime because-when they go to school they dont, like,really talking, right? But when at home they chatter-talk.Cause they kind of shy, you know, like, when the teacher callon them and they dont know the answer, sometime theyknow the answer but they shy to answer. If you ask them, askthem so quietly, they answer.At age 12,Ti-Sang had been in English-only classes for 8 years, from the timeshe entered school.We argue that tl,e poor language outcomes for English language learners inCalifornia and elsewhere could have been avoided had teachers knownChapter One 33enough about tl,e conditions for successful second language learning to pro-vide e:Xllicit instruction in English. Educators I1lUSt know enough about lan-guage learning and language itself to evaluate the appropriateness of variousmethods, materials, and approaches for helping students make progress inlearning English.Written LanguageWritten language is not merely oral language written down.To help their stu-dents acquire literacy, teachers need to know how written language contrastswith speech. Here we disclIss questions about written language that teachersshould be able to answer.Why is English spelling so complicated?Since the first sound in sure and sligar is different from the first sound in Sfmand so"p, why arent these words spelled differently? Why dont we spell thelsi sound in electridty with an s? Why are there so many peculiar spellingsamong highly frequent words like have,said, lIIight,and collid How can 00 spellthree different vowel sounds, as in the vampires favorite line that mosquitoessay when they sit down to dine, "Blood is good food ?These and other peculiarities of English spelling reflect two facts aboutEnglish orthography:Unlike French, Spanish, Dutch, and many other languages, English hasnever had a language academy charged with regular review and reform ofspelling to elinullate inconsistencies and reflect language change.English generally retains the spelling of morphological units, even whenthe rules of pronunciation mean that phonemes within these morpholog-ical units vary (e.g., electric, electricity, electrician).These two forces have led to what is called a deep orthography for English-anorthography in which the match of sound and spelling is complex anddependent on many factors.This is not to say that English spelling is illogical,irrational, or impossible to teach. However, sonle insight into the forces thathave generated English spelling patterns can help teachers teach more effec-tively and understand childrens errors.
  15. 15. ...34 Nhat Teachers Need to Know About languageIt is helpfill to consider the wide array of writing systems that exist in theworlds languages (see Daniels & Bright, 1996). Some languages, such asChinese, represent morphemes or semantically meaningful units with theirgraphemic symbols. Others, sllch as the Japanese katakana system, representsyllables instead. Both of these systems (morphemic and syllabic) have theadvantage of being rather easy for young children, since morphemes and syl-lables Jrc psychologically morc accessible units than phonemes, which aresimply sounds and often difficult to segment. In alphabetic writing systems,letters typically represent phonemes. R epresenting sounds alphabetically isfairly straighrforward in languages that have experienced spelling reform,suchas Spanish, and those that have adopted writing rather recently, such asHmong. English, though, like Danish and German to some extent, oftenignores phoneme identity to preserve the spelling identity of l11orphenles. Forexample, in English the spelling 5 is used for plural morphemes whether theyare pronounced / s/ or Iz/-even though in other contexts, such as at thebeginning of words, the l si and /zl sounds are spelled distinctively. Comparethe spelling and pronunciation of dogs and cats to that of zoo and Sue.Similarly, the root form electricis retained even in forms where the final c rep-resents quite a different sound from the Ikl in electric, including the l si ofelec-tricity and the IV of eLectriciall.The fact that the spelling electric is retained in all related word forms acruallymakes reading and inferring word meanings easier. Similarly, there is anadvantage to writing I in both complele and COlllplelioll and in both activity andaction, even though the sounds that it stands for vary. The spelling makes iteasier to see that the two word<; are morphologically related. For the samereason, it is probably good that we use the same letter for the three differentvowel sounds between p and t in the words compete, competitive, and competitioll.Other aspects ofEnglish spelling are less helpful. For example,g" in words likeHight, throllgh, and thought is left over from a sound that has long since disap-peared from English. Such spellings signal etymological relationships withwords in other Germanic languages.English also tends to retain spellings thatindicate the source of borrowed words, e.g., ph for If! and y for l ail inGreek origin words (phone, hypothesis). Such patterns increase the informa-tion available to the reader, but they do exacerbate the problems ofdecodingand spelling.Chapter One 35Some understanding of such complexities in English ortllOgraphy can helpteachers take sensible approaches to teaching the alphabetic principle inEnglish.Teachers should know about clle sound system of English and the his-tory oflanguage contact and development that has affected our writing sys-tem, because these factors can make simplistic phonics approaches inadvisablein teaching English reading.Errors in spelling English can result from writers inclination to write whatthey hear. Second language speakers spelling errors can reflect inadequateexposure [Q written English forms, lack of adequate instruction in the natureof the English orthographic system, or transfer of general spelling strategiesfrom another language. Some languagcs with alphabetic systems, such asArabic or Tigrinya, are basically syllabic in their written represcntation:Theyfocus on spelling the consonants in syllables, designating the vowels sketchilyor omitting them entirely. Some languages, such as Spanish, with spclling sys-tems that are quite phonenlic, adjust spcllings to reflect pronunciation even inclosely related words (compare, for exanlple, the related forms saco and saqlle).O thcr languages represent historical £lcts in their spelling, retaining informa-tion about the source language of borrowed lexical items.Japanese is one ofthese. Knowing how the orthographies of different languages are organizedcan help teachers figure Ollt what sorts of spelling rules learners are likely tofind easy or hard, what first language skills learners can rely on, and why stu-dents make certain types of errors. Understanding that there can be substan-tial differences in how symbols are used to represent sounds in differentlanguages will help teachers be more effective in working with students whohave had some prior literacy instruction in their native languages---studentswho have learned to read in Spanish,Vietnamese, French, and so forth, beforeentering an English reading program. The relationship between sounds andsymbols can be relatively simple and straightforward in one language andmuch more complex in another.Why do some children have more trouble than others indeveloping early reading skills?The problems beginning readers encounter can seem overwhelming andincomprehensible to a tcacher who has not had a chance to learn about thecomplexities of the reading process. Knowledge about language is crucial inhelping teachers do a betterjob ofteaching initial reading (Snow et aI., 1998).
  16. 16. 36 Nhat Teachers Need to Know About languageEffective reading instruction requires integrating attention to the system ofphoneme/grapheme mappings with arrcntion to meaning. Children mayencounter difficulties because they do not understand the basic principle ofalphabetic writing-that letters represent sounds-or because they cannotsegment the sounds reliably, or because they dont know the words they areexpected to be reading. Second language learners are particularly likely tohave difficulty producing, remembering, and distinguishing the targetphonemes and to lack the knowledge ofpronunciation that would help themin decoding (Ruddell & Unrau, 1997).An additional problem arises when teachers who do not understand the com-plexities of English reacling give tutors or teacher aides the responsibility forteaching reading to children who need the most help. These individuals arefar less qualified to reach reading than arc teachers. Even morc problematic.teachers may assign English language learners to peer tutors for help withreading on the grounds that children can comnlllnicatc more effectively withother children than with adults. But it takes a solid understanding oflanguageto teach reading effectively, especially to children who are having the greatestdifficulty grasping the abstract and complex relationships berween sound andprint, and who may be unfamiliar with the ideas the print is trying to convey.Teachers cannot make the learning of reading in English effortless, but theyshould be clearly aware of where and why the difficulties exist.Why do students have trouble with structuring narrativeand expository writing?All students need to learn the rhetorical structures associated with story-telling and expository writing in English. However, some students bring tothis task culturally based text structures that contrast with those expected atschool.The emphasis in nuinstream English stories is on getting the order ofevents correct and clear. This emphasis can seem so obviously right to amonolingual speaker ofEnglish that the narrative of the Latino child, whichemphasizes personal relationships more than plot, or of the Japanese child,who may provide very terse stories rather than recounting all of the events,may be dismissed as incomprehensible (McCabe, 1995). Different culturesfocus on different aspects of an episode. Understanding a childs storyrequires knowing what information the child considers most important; suchknowledge can help teachers guide students in acquiring the story structurevalued at school.Chapter One 37Similarly with expository writing, argument structures vary considerablyacross cultures. There is no best way to nuke a point: Different ways makesense in different cultures.The topic sentences, paragraphs, and compare-and-contrast essays that are staples of English prose may be more difficult to learnfor students w hose language experience includes other structures.Understanding the absence of some of these concepts in literacy traditionsassociated with other languages or the extremely differing conceptions ofhow any of them should be structured can prevent teachers from mistakenlyattributing language or cognitive disorders to students who have transferred anative language rhetorical style to English.How should one judge the quality and correctness of apiece of writing?Educators must have a solid enough knowledge of granunar to support chil-drens writing development. They need to make use of information aboutgranmlatical structure to pinpoint the problems many students have in writ-ing or in interpreting text, and they need to be able teach students about lan-guage structure that they can draw on in their writing.Partly because teachers feel insecure about their own knowledge ofgranullar,and partly because teachers ofwriting are sOlnetimes reluctant to correct stu-dents writing, students may not get the kind of informative feedback theymust have in order to become more effective writers. The problem is partic-ularly acute for learners of English as a second language.We have discussedabove the problems encountered by many students learning English at theIrvine campus of the University of California. Some of these studentsreported that they had not previously received any of the explicit help withEnglish or writing that they were getting at the university. Few had any ideathat they could not write in granunatically or stylistically appropriate English.It was shocking for those who had been honor students to find themselves inremedial English courses, learning some of the fundamentals of Englishgranullar and conlposition.This state of affairs is not confined to UC Irvine or to students learningEnglish. Across the 22 campuses of the California State University System, allentering freshmen take a placement test in English and math.The failure rateon the English Placement Test across the canlpuses in 1998 was 47%; at one
  17. 17. 38 What Teachers Need to Know About Languagecampus, it was 80% (California State University, 2000), Students who fail thetest arc required to take and pass remedial English courses that focus onacquiring the language and literacy skills required for university-level work.To provide the kind of feedback that students need to polish their writing,teachers need to understand English structure, discuss structural features ofwritten language with their students, and explicitly teach them hm towrite effectively.What makes a sentence or a text easy or difficult tounderstand?Many educators associate simple, short sentences with ease in understandingand interpretation. For that reason, texts that are prepared and selected forEnglish language learners and other students who have trouble reading areoften composed of short, choppy sentences. The result is unnatural, incoher-ent text conveying less substance than regular texts. One teacher described thematerials being used with fourth-grade ESL students as "first grade materials,very basic-it isnt see Spot run, but its close" (Gebhard, 2000), Do greatlysimplified l1uterials help or hurt comprehension? Examination of text; thathad been modified according to the readability formulas used by textbookpublishers found that such texts are often more difficult to interpret (Davison& Kantor, 1982).These texts require the reader to infer how sentences relateto each other, because to lnake sentences short, words and gramnuticalstructures that show rhetorical or narrative connections between ideas areoften eliminated.The following text exemplifies the modifications found in simplified text-books for low-achieving and ESL students:Using limestone to make other thingsWe can use limestone to make other useful materials. To dothis we have to use chemical reactions.Limestone is a rock that is made mostly from calciwn car-bonate.Chapter OneIf you heat limestone strongly you produce a gas called car-bon dioxide, The substance left behind is called calciumoxide,Calcium oxide is also called quicklime. (Milner, Martin, &Evans, 1998, p, 174)39Text simplification is achieved by restricting the nU111bcr of words used. Tinstext contains just 61 words distributed among 7 sentences, including theheading. The average nunlber ofwords per sentence for tills text is 8.7.Whentexts are prepared with tight constraints on length, that becomes a greaterconcern than any other criteria that might guide the preparation of such atext, such as informativeness, relevance, coherence, naturalness, and grace. Theend result is that such texts are not only uninspiring and insulting to thereader, but often less readable than the normal texts for that grade level.Because simplified texts are often unnatural, they cannot serve as exemplarsofwritten academic English.Well-written texts with grade-level appropriatelanguage can give students access to the register of English that is used inacadenlic writing. With teachers help, students can use these texts to learnthe vocabulary, gramrnatical structures, phraseology, and rhetorical devicesthat are associated with that register. Learning to understand and produceacademic English is a goal not only for English language learners but fornative speakers of English too. But teachers 111ust be able to call studentsattention to good examples of how language is used in text in order to sup-port better student writing.Teachers and school administrators playa nontrivial role in determining howtextbooks are written. Because textbook publishers can stay in business onlyif states and school districts adopt their materials, they tend to be attuned towhat educators want. In the process of designing a series or an individualtextbook, publishers produce prototype materials that they l1urket test onschool administrators who they hope v.rill purchase the texts and on teacherswho they hope will select them. Educators need to develop a sure sense aboutwhat is appropriate for students at different grade levels so that they can makewise decisions in selecting and using text tllaterials. To do that, they need toknow enough about language to assess the appropriateness of the language
  18. 18. 40 What Teachers Need to Know About Languageused in texts, particularly for students who are learning English or who arehaving difficulty learning to read.Courses Teachers Need to TakeAlthough it would go beyond our brief to propose any specific curriculumfor teacher education, we offer here a listing of possible courses or coursecomponents that together cover flmdamental issues in the education ofEnglish language learners and other students for whom literacy and languagelearning in school contexts might be problematic.Language and LinguisticsTllis course would provide an introduction to linguistics motivated by theeducational considerations we have mentioned-language strucnlre, languagein literacy development, language use in educational settings, the history ofEnglish, and the basics of linguistic analysis. We envision a language and lin-guistics course for educators that is different in focus from an introductorycourse for students oflinguistics. Each area of linguistic study would be intro-duced by educational situations in which language is an issue. For example,the study of phonology could begin with an examination of interferenceproblems that English language learners might have with the English soundsystem. It might include investigation of topics such as why speakers ofCantonese or Spanish have problems with consonant clusters at the ends ofEnglish words like sixths, which contains four consonants in a row: IsIk8s/.Language and Cultural DiversityThis course would focus on cultural contrasts in language use, particularlythose likely to be encountered in teaching and learning. It would address suchquestions as what children learn when they acquire a language and culture,why some groups ofchildren appear reluctant to participate in classroom dis-cussions, and how differences in discourse styles can be acconullodated in theclassroom.This course would also examine different types of communicationsystenls, including the language of deaf COllU11unities.Chapter OneSociolinguistics for Educators in a LinguisticallyDiverse Society41A sociolinguistics course for educators would focus on language policies andpolitics that affect schools, including language attitudes in intergroup rela-tions that affect students and language values. It would also address languagecontact, language shift and loss or isolation, and the role and the history ofbilingualism in schools and society. Students wouJd gain fundamental under-standings about the nature ofdialects and their connection to social identity.Language DevelopmentTillS course would introduce issues in language development, with a specialfocus on academic language development in school-age children. It wouldaddress language development in native speakers of vernacular and standardEnglish dialects, as well as in those who speak other languages.The coursewould address the role ofliteracy in the development oflanguage skills and theacquisition ofthe structures and vocabulary required for literacy development.Second Language Learning and TeachingFocusing on theoretical and practical knowledge about how second languageacquisition proceeds and the factors that affect it, this course would comparesecond language learning to first language learning and examine the role ofthe primary language in second language learning. It would address secondlanguage instruction and subject-matter instruction in the language that stu-dents arc acquiring. The course would also address the question of how pro-ficient children must be in a second language before they can learn to readand write in that language.The Language of Academic DiscourseThis course would focus on the language used in teaching and learningschool subjects, especially the structure of acadelnic discourse and how thisregister contrasts with that of informal cOlnnlunication. The course wouldshow how language production and language understanding interact withcontent learning--science,social science, math, and so on---and how childrens
  19. 19. 42 What Teachers Need to Know About languagelanguage development is promoted or not depending on how language islIsed in instructional activities.Text Analysis and Language Understanding inEducational SettingsA course like this would examine how language strucrures and style in writ-tcn texts affect comprehensibility. It would guide teachers in deciding whataspects of text to target for instructional attention. A special focus of thiscourse would be the needs of English language learners and vernaculardialect speakers in processing text.ConclusionWe have sketched here the reasons that educators need to know about lan-guage, the kinds of knowledge about language that they need, and an inven-tory of courses or course topics that would cover this crucial core ofknowledge. This proposaJ may strike some readers as utopian. We acknowl-edge that we have formulated it without thinking about the structures andconstraints of traditional teacher education programs. Nonetheless, we areenergized by the current political situation surrounding debates about bilin-gual education and the rather frantic search for better methods of teachingreading.The substance of these debates gives striking testimony to the histor-ical paucity of relevant expertise on language among those who are in thebest position to improve public knowledge-educational practitioners (see,for example, Pressley, 1998; Snow et al., 1998).It is dear that many ofthe challenges we face in education stem from the £1CCchat ours is a diverse society. Students in Ollr schools come from virnlallyevery corner of the planet, and they bring to school diverse outlooks, lan-guages, culruraJ beliefS and behaviors, and background experiences.Teachersin our schools have not always known what to do with the differences theyencounter in their classrooms. As a society, we expect teachers to educatewhoever shows up at the schoolhouse, to provide their students the languageand literacy skills to survive in school and later on in jobs, to teach them allofthe school subjects that they will need to know about as adults, and to pre-pare them in other ways for higher education and for the workplace. WhatChapter One 43does it take for teachers to handle this challenge? We must be clear aboutwhat teachers have to understand about language learning and teaching ifthey are to work effectively with their students. We have argued that basiccoursework in educational linguistics is essential-the bare minimum forpreparing teachers for todays schools.
  20. 20. 44 INhat Teachers Need to Know About languageGlossaryCognate A word related in form, meaning, and etymology to aword in another languageDialect A language variety in which sounds, grammar, andvocabulary identifY speakers according to region orsocial classDigraph A letter combination that signals one sound, e.g., thD iscourse A language structure longer than a sentenceEtymology (a) the study of the hisrorical origins of words; (b) withreference to a particular word, its historical origin(s)Grapheme The smallest unit of a written language, e.g., tIndo-European A family of related languages including English,languages thought to have originated in the CaucasusInterlocutor Participant in a discourseLexicon T he vocabulary of a languageLocative A ternl mat expresses locationMorpheme The smallest meaning-bearing language structure, e.g.,dog, -IyO rthography Conventions for spellingPerlocutionary Intended effects of a stretch oflanguage, e.g., persuasioneffectPhoneme T he smallest meaning-distinguishing structure of thesound system, e.g., for English, [sl [51, see, shePhonology The system of rules for manipulating sounds in alanguagePhraseology Typical orgallization of words in a particular languageinto phrases and longer expressionsChapter One 45AcknowledgementsThe authors are grateful to coUeagues who contributed comments on an ear-lier version of tlils paper and supplied examples: Carolyn Temple Adger, EveAgee, Kathleen Brown, Maria Carlo, Donna Christian, Charles J. Fillmore,Peg Griffin, Matita HopmalUl,Joy Kreen Peyton, Nicolas Zavala, and the par-ticipants in Lily Wong Fillmores Fall 1998 Language Studies for Educatorscourse, especiaUy Laura Alamillo, Maren Aukerman, Marco Bravo, Laura R uthJohnson, Nathan Keene, and Betty Paznillio.
  21. 21. 46 What Teactlef1 Need to Know About languageNotes,Trus is where the problem lies. Most people recognize that there can be con-siderable differences across individuals in ability, but not all cultures treat themdifferent1y in school. In most Asian societies, for exanlple, children are placedin heterogeneous classrooms and are expected to learn the same curriculum,irrespective of any differences in ability Those who need more help dealingwith the materials get more help rather than an entirely different curriculum. There are cultures (Wong Fillmores for one) in wruch children are not toldwhat their mothers name is, and if a child were somehow to learn it, shewould never speak it or acknowledge even that she had such information.3 We are grateful to Mary Eunice ROInero for this reference. Popovi Da, aPueblo leader, conmlenting on the relationship between the individual andthe conm1Unity, wrote: "Each person in Indian [pueblo] society is born intorus place in the community, wruch brings with it duties and responsibilitieswruch he must perform throughout his life. Each member, old as well asyoung, has an important part to play in the organization of the tribe. .. . Towork closely with the COl11Jllunjty gives strength and continuity to our cul-ture and shows itself by the individual putting himself into the group, andputting the good of the group above his own desires" (1969). Richard Rodriguez (1982) offers a revealing account ofwhat happens whenparents are advised to switch to a language they do not speak easily or well forthe sake of their children. He describes how the lively chatter at dinnertimewas transformed into silence and how the silences in his home grew as theparents withdrew from participation in the lives of the children after teacherstold them that the continued use of Spanish in the home was preventing thechildren from learning English. In her remarkable autobiography, first published in 1945, Jade Snow Wong(1989) describes how teachers, from elementary school through college,helped her find her way and her voice as an American scholar, writer, and,artist without forfeiting her Crunese language and culture.Chapter One 47 National statistics for students designated limited English proficient (LEP) arehard to obtain and rarely up to date (see, for example, Hopstock & Bucaro,1993). State education agencies (SEAs) report numbers of LEP students, butthe criteria used [0 identify them vary across states, making cmnparisons dif-ficult.The most recent national analysis of LEP student data reported by SEAs(Macias, 1998) reports a total enrollment of 3,378,861 LEP students, with1,381,393 reported for California (41% of the national total). CaliforniasState Department ofEducation reported a total of 1,406,166 LEP students inCalifornia out of a total national LEP student enrollment of 5,727,303(24.6%) for school year 1997-98 (California Department ofEducation, 2001).
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