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  1. 1. What Reading Teachers Should Know about ESL LearnersAuthor(s): Mary J. DruckerSource: The Reading Teacher, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Sep., 2003), pp. 22-29Published by: International Reading AssociationStable URL: 08/10/2009 09:37Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTORs Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTORs Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact International Reading Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Reading Teacher.
  2. 2. MARY J. DRUCKER What reading teachers should know about ESL learners Good teaching is teaching for all. These speakers of English and continue by offering sug gestions and strategies that can support students as strategies will help English-language learners, they strive to acquire English-language skills. The but they will help typical learners as well. order of the factors presented is not hierarchical. Any one may be more important than the others,According to figures released by the U.S. on the specific circumstance. I have in depending Census Bureau, the foreign-born population cluded a Table give you an idea of when that will of the United States was 31.1 million in (before, during, or after a student reads) and for 2000. This figure is 57%more than the 1990 figure whom these activities have proven useful in the and 11.1% of the total population. of using an ap represents past. You may see the possibility Classrooms across the United States have English at a different time in your lesson, or for proach Language Learners (ELLs) who are learning to learners at different levels than those that I sug speak, read, and write in their new language. These gest. Feel free to adapt strategies for your particular students offer a rich resource of diversity that can situation if your learners differ in age or need, as enhance classroom At the same time, dynamics. they surely will. they present a special challenge to classroom teach Imust add one pedagogical note here. You may ers and reading specialists alike. Out of nearly 3 to wonder, as you read, if a strategy de begin million public school teachers surveyed by the scribed as being helpful for one category (devel National Center for Education Statistics, 41% report cultural for example) be oping schema, might teaching limitedEnglish proficient (LEP) students, equally useful in another, such as helping a student while only eight or more hours 12.5% have received The answer is a re gain academic proficiency. of training (NCELA Newsline Bulletin, 2002). linked to various cat sounding yes. The strategies There are some similarities between reading are illustrative, not prescriptive. egories They in a first language and reading in a second one. represent best practices and so are often able to Accomplished readers in their first language tend support students reading development in a number to use many of the same strategies that successful of different areas. native English-language readers do?skimming, guessing in context, reading for the gist of a text? when they are reading in a second language. But it would be a mistake to think that learning to read Conversational versus in a second language is simply a mapping process academic proficiency during which the reader uses the same set of strate as a second the same manner. An English language (ESL) learn gies in precisely er may appear able to handle the demands of func tioning in an English-only classroom because she or he is competent in a variety of school settings? Support for students talking with a friend in the corridor, playing ball on In this article, I list some of the factors that can the playground, or speaking with the teacher one the reading process for nonnative on one. Itmight seem natural to assume that a child complicate ? 2003 International Reading Association (pp. 22-29) 22
  3. 3. Suggested strategy implementation English language level When to implement Young English- Beginning Transitional Advanced Before During After Strategy language learners readers readers readers reading reading reading Previewing Choral reading Shared reading Paired reading Books with tapes Multicultural literature Language experience Interactivewriting Total physical response Narrow reading Read aloudlearning English as a second language becomes contextual cues. You can help by providing confully fluent quickly. But researchers have found text for your students before they begin reading textthat, although ELLs can develop peer-appropriate that may prove challenging for them. One helpfulconversational skills in about two years, developing technique is previewing reading sections beforeacademic proficiency in English can take much students read. Chen and Graves (1998) provided a here refers to the model for previewing that can easily be used inlonger. Academic proficiency to use language classrooms with ELLs. It is also an excellent stratability not only for reading andwriting but also to acquire information in content egy for native speakers whose reading skills are notareas. In most cases it takes an English-language yet on a par with their conversation skills. learner as long as five to seven years to perform as Previewing works well with students in grades 3well academically as native English-speaking peers through 12. Start by making a few statements or asking (Collier & Thomas, 1999; Cummins, 1989). This some rhetorical questions that hook the students lag occurs because the initial gap between native and ELLs continues to persist. "Native interest. Then, relate the passage students are goingspeakers to read to something that is familiar to them. Next,English speakers are not sitting around waiting for provide a brief discussion question that will engageESL students to catch up. They are continuing to the students and, after that, provide an overview ofmake 1 years progress in 1 years time in their and in every school the section they are about to read. Name the selecEnglish language development & Thomas, tion, introduce the characters, and describe the plot subject" (Collier 1999, p. 1). English (up to, but not including, the climax). Last, direct language learners have to gain more language pro the students to read the story and look for particularficiency each year than their native-speaking peers information. Chen and Graves (1998) provided the in order to catch up and close the gap. following example based on "Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry: "Now, read the story and find out whyWhat you can do in the classroom Delia went into this shop, what she did there, and In conversation, the setting, body language, fa what happened later to the young couple on thiscial expressions, gestures, intonation, and a vari Christmas Eve" (p. 571).ety of other cues help English-language learners Providing so much preparation prior to readingunderstand meaning. Academic English has fewer is one way to ensure that students are receiving What reading teachers should know about ESL learners 23
  4. 4. comprehensible input (Krashen, 1981). Compre spondences) versus shallow ones (having mainlyhensible input is spoken or written language that regular sound-letter correspondences) might causeis delivered at a level the child can understand. At difficulty for some nonnative readers of Englishthe same time, the level should be enough of a chal (Grabe, 1991; Paulesu et al., 2001; Wade-Woolley,lenge that the child needs to stretch just a bit above 1999). Paulesu et al. examined the connection behis or her current abilities. Krashen called this im tween dyslexia and cultural conventions in orthogportant level "I + 1,"with "I" standing for input. raphy. The researchers found that although dyslexia McCauley andMcCauley (1992) suggested is a genetic disorder, its occurrence appears unchoral reading as a means of providing compre evenly distributed across languages. For example,hensible input for ESL students. Choralreading the prevalence of dyslexia in Italy is about half thatinvolves the recitation of a poem or short text, of the United States. Beginning with the acceptedalong with motions and gestures that help the chil assumption that there was a causal link betweendren dramatically act out the meaning. The many deficits and brain abnor phonological processingrepetitions of reading a selection provide an op researchers looked at the orthography of mality,portunity to recycle the language, and the dramat various in relation to their phonetic ma languages ic gestures and motions provide contextual clues terial. They concluded that dyslexies in languagesabout the poems meaning. Choral reading is ap such as Italian that have a shallow orthography maypropriate for students in kindergarten through sixth be less affected in their ability to read. The dyslexgrade. For students in kindergarten or first grade, ia, in effect, remains hidden. In deep orthographychoral reading can be enhanced through the use of languages such as English, literacy impairmentsrebus symbols. may be aggravated. What you can do in the classroomOrthography and phonology Shared reading provides English-language and reading are closely connected. learners with an opportunity to hear language while ListeningAt its most basic level, reading is the phonological observing its corresponding phonological repre sentation. McCarrier, and Fountasdecoding of written text, and written text is the rep Pinnell, (2000)resentation of sounds heard when is defined shared reading as "you and your students languagespoken. Ehri and Wilce (1985) separated native read[ing] together from a single, enlarged text" (p. into groups ac 18). Naturally, the writing should be large enoughEnglish-speaking kindergartners to their ability to read words. Prereaders to be seen from a distance, and the text should becordinghad not yet learned to read at all; two other groups positioned so that it is in clear view of all of thehad learned to read only a few words or several dif children. Aside from its obvious support for learn The children were ers of English who need help in word-by-wordferent words. taught to readwords with two different kinds of spellings: simpli matching, shared reading also helps children learnfied spellings that corresponded to sounds and vi left-to-right directionality (McCarrier et al.). This that did not extra dividends for ELLs whose nativesually distinctive words with spellings may give at all to their sound. Prereaders with orthography differs from Englishs left-to-right,correspondno previous reading experience were able to read top-to-bottom directionality. Shared reading can bethe visual spellings more easily than the phonetic used in the early elementary years, from kinderspellings. The other children, with some experience garten through third grade. As always, choosingreading, were more able to learn the phonetic reading materials with an appropriate reading lev spellings. In other words, children who had begun el is a criticalfactor. For kindergarten and first learning how to read had already started moving to grade students, rebus symbols can be used in placeward an orientation incorporating sound/symbol of some or most of the text.correspondence. Li and Nes (2001) found that paired reading Researchers have also noted that differences was also useful in helping ESL students read morebetween languages with deep orthographic struc fluently and accurately. They paired ELLs with atures (having many irregular sound-letter corre "skilled reader" who read a portion of text aloud24 The Reading Teacher Vol. 57, No. 1 September 2003
  5. 5. while the language learner read along. The lan Consider the following passage offered by Eskeyguage learner then reread the same text aloud. The (2002): "It was the day of the big party. Mary wonresearchers found that paired reading was an dered if Johnny would like a kite. She ran to hereffective intervention that improved the students bedroom, picked up her piggy bank, and shook it.fluency in reading aloud, as well as their pronun There was no sound" (p. 6). Eskey asked us to conciation. Paired reading works well with students sider a series of questions about the reading:who have developed some independent social skills when the story took place?past, present, orand task follow-through. In general, students in 3 through 8 can pair-read future;grades successfully. students require more structure. what Mary wondered;Younger Studies of learning-disabled students have the meaning of would;found that children benefit from the simultaneous the definition of kite;listening and reading of audiotaped stories (Conte& Humphreys, the definition of piggy bank; 1989; Janiak, 1983). Rasinski(1990) found that listening while reading was ef the nature of the party in the text;fective in improving reading fluency. Casbergue ifMary and Johnny are adults or children;and Harris (1996) noted that audiobooks "provide a how the kite is related to the party;means for engaging youngsters who are not habituated to print" why Mary shook her piggy bank; and (p. 4). Although the typical ESL student is not learn what Marys big problem was. ing disabled, the sound/symbol correspondence inthese studies is interesting. Consider providing The point that Eskey made with this exerciseELLs with books and corresponding audiotapes. is that the first five questions posed can be anBooks and tapes work well with any student who swered by directly searching the text, as long as thecan independently read text (grades 2 through 12). reader knows the vocabulary and English strucFor kindergarten and first-grade students, books tures. The second five questions, however, are farand tapes provide an opportunity to hear the sounds more difficult to answer unless the reader possessof English as well as learn basic es the schema of a childs literacy practices birthday party in thelike page turning, tracking left to right, and mak United States. The questions cannot be answered ing meaningful connections between words and il without this specific cultural information. A native lustrations. The can be recorded the is easily able to con tapes by speaker of English, however,teacher or by other students in the class. Providing struct a correct interpretation of the text.exposure to books and corresponding tapes gives Other studies have noted the importance of cullanguage learners an opportunity to simultaneously tural differences and schema. Carrell (1987) studiedhear the sounds and see the corresponding graphic 52 ESL students: 28 Muslim Arabs and 24 Catholicrepresentation. The word simultaneous is the key Each student read two different Hispanics. texts,here. Students need many opportunities to both one with aMuslim orientation and the other with ahear the spoken word and see its graphic represen Catholic orientation. The researcher found that thetation. Children who have listened to and read a students better remembered and comprehendedstory many times can be encouraged to read aloud those texts most similar to their native cultures.along with the tape while listening to the story. Droop and Verhoeven (1998) studied third graders becoming literate in Dutch both as a first and second language. The children read three difCultural differences and schema ferent kinds of texts: texts that referred to Dutch Schema a texts that referred to the cultures of the im theory holds that comprehending culture,text involves an interaction between the readers migrant children, and neutral texts. It is not surbackground knowledge and the text itself (Carrell prising that the researchers found that the children& Eisterhold, 1983). In other words, comprehen had better reading comprehension and reading effi sion requires more than linguistic knowledge. ciency with texts that were culturally familiar. What reading teachers should know about ESL learners 29
  6. 6. What you can do in the classroom Illustrations should realistically depict indi viduals of different ethnicities. When possible, choose texts that will match the cultural schemata and background Stories should be appealing. knowledgeof your English-language learners. Folk tales thatare translations of stories children may have heard Another way to be certain that students fully in their native language are especially helpful. share the context of the material they are readingStudents will be able to relate more easily to books is through the Language Experience Approachthat depict characters that are similar to them. Two (LEA; Rigg, 1981). Language learners of all agesconcept books for kindergarten and first-grade chil enjoy this approach, but in a classroom containing a Dragon and Round Is a Mooncake native English LEA is generally moredren, Red Is speakers successful with in grades students 1 through 3. (Thong, 2000, 2002), have delightful illustrationsof Asian children and simple language introducing LEA involves having students tell the story of an colors and shapes. The Ugly Vegetables (Lin, 1999) experience they have had. The teacher acts as is a picture book suitable for grades 1 through 4. It scribe, writing down the words so that the students tells the story of a young Chinese can see what they look like. If the students have had girl who feelsdifferent from her American friends because of the a shared experience, such as a field trip or a visitor her mother to the classroom, parts of the story come from all ofstrange vegetables grows in their garden. When the vegetables the students a story has been in the class. After ripen, her mother makesa delicious in the neighborhood completed, the teacher can copy it onto a large soup that everyone and the girl learns to value her culture as a sheet of chart paper so that students can practiceenjoys, result. reading it together. The rationale for using LEA can Another be summed up in these lines: picture book good for first throughthird grade, The Iguana Brothers (Johnston, 1995), What Ican think about Ican talk about.tells the tale of two lizard siblings in English, with What Ican say Ican occasional word in Spanish. The Spanish vo What Ican write Ican read.cabulary can be easily understood through context Ican readwhat Iwriteby native English speakers. However, the Spanish and what other people write forme to read.language and culturally appropriate illustrationsmay provide native Spanish speakers with a cul (R.Van Allen & G. Halvoren, as cited inCantoni-Harvey, tural context that makes the meanings that much 1992, p. 178)more accessible. Multicultural is a positive literature addition Interactive writing (McCarrier et al., 2000), in to the classroom which children share the pen with their teacher, for all students in all grades, from also allows children to share in the writing of a textkindergarten through high school. Native speakers that grows from their own experiences. In interacof English "need to be familiar with quality litera can give the reader a realistic tive writing, the teacher and the children negotiate ture which look at the meaning of the text together and work together those many cultures" (McDonald, 1996, p. 1). In to produce it; the children are invited to contribute increasingly diverse U.S. classrooms, it is critical to the writing of the text on the basis of their for books to reflect the cultural backgrounds of all instructional needs. students. Shioshita (1997) has culled informationfrom several sources on how to select quality mul The idea is to help children attend to powerful examples ticultural literature and offers the following tips: that can enable them to learnsomething about the writing process that they can incorporate into their own writing. Books should be accurate and contain current As children gain control of the process, the examples and information. areas of focus shift. (McCarrieret al., p. 11) Books should not reinforce stereotypes, but rather they should reflect the experiences of Interactive writing has been successful in the early individuals. grades, generally first through third. 26 The Reading Teacher Vol. 57, No. 1 September 2003
  7. 7. Labeling tends to be more successful with studentsVocabulary who have a greater ability to work independently, On a very basic level, vocabulary is critical tothe reading process. Fluent first-language readers generally grade 4 through high school. We can also explain meanings, or add synonyms for words thathave large recognition vocabularies. There have seem to cause (or seem likely to cause) difficulty forbeen numerous studies attempting to quantify the some of the students, as challenging words appearactual number of words second-language readersneed to know in order to comprehend a text. It is not during the shared reading exercise described earlier. that some researchers have found that Schunk (1999) suggested a different approachsurprising learners need approximately the to vocabulary acquisition. She found that elemensecond-languagesame number of words in their lexicon as first tary school children (kindergarten throughgrade 5) who in singing as a form of language re language readers (Goulden, Nation, & Read, 1990). engagedThis need presents a particular challenge because of hearsal, paired with sign language, improved on re the large amount of prerequisite information ELLs ceptive identification of targeted vocabulary. Thismust learn in order to be at a reading level compa is reminiscent of a language approach teachingrable to their peers. W. Nagy & P. Herman (as cited known as total physical methodology response inBell, 1998) found that students between 3rd and (TPR). TPR is "built around the coordination of 12th grade learn up to 3,000 new words each year. and action; it attempts to teach speech languageClassroom teachers are simply unable to teach this through physical (motor) activity" (Richards &amount of vocabulary item by item. Rodgers, 1998, p. 87). Encouraging children to act In addition, many of the standard vocabulary out songs such as "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and havingteaching approaches have been ineffective with them play games associated with language likeESL learners. Freeman and Freeman (2000) notedthat although ELLs SimonSays are other examples of this approach. enjoy vocabulary exercises, Having children physically act out songs, poems,they have trouble applying the information they or readings?all forms of TPR methodology?is anmemorize in context. According to Yeung (1999), effective way to support vocabulary development. a separate Given glossary, when readers encounter an un Schmitt and Carter (2000) suggested narrow familiarword, they need to leave the text, turn to the vo reading as an effective method for developing vo cabulary list, temporarily store itsmeaning, and then revert to the text and try to incorporate themeaning into cabulary. In narrow reading, learners read authen the text. (p. 197) tic writing about the same topic in a number of different texts. By doing this, students are exposedYeung posited that the difficulty with providing to a common body of vocabulary. In this way, thesestudents with preteaching vocabulary exercises or words are recycled and ultimately integrated withglossaries creates a cognitive load that splits the the learners There is not clear agree vocabulary.learners attention. He found that when definitions ment about the number of times that a languageare placed next to the challenging lexical items, learner must encounter a new lexical term before itstudents were able to learn the meanings better of is actually learned, but Zahar, Cobb, and Spadaunfamiliar words. He suggested that in this inte (2001) found that estimates range between 6 andgrated format, students attention is not split, and 20 times, depending on the context in which expothe cognitive load is lowered. sure to the word occurs. Depending on the materials available, students in grades 2 or 3 all the way upWhat you can do in the classroom school can engage in narrow reading. through high Although we cannot edit the materials our stu Schmitt and Carter (2000) suggested the foldents use so that vocabulary definitions are inte lowing kinds of narrow-reading activities to supgrated with the text, it is possible to encourage port vocabulary acquisition.students to write word meanings on labels that areplaced in the margins or as near the challenging Collect newspaper storieson a continuing item as possible. This may help to reduce the cog topic for students to read. Be certain eachnitive load and enhance vocabulary acquisition. story is one that will to them. appeal What reading teachers should know about ESL learners 27
  8. 8. Ask to bring in magazines students on sub environment for all students. Williams (2001) jects they like. Have them read several arti suggested asking yourself, "Would I want to be a cles from the magazines. student inmy classroom?" (p. 754). Use the Internet?there is a wide of The strategies listed are not in in this article variety texts available on almost tended to be prescriptive solutions for particular any topic. books for the students to read. The vo issues in literacy development. They are a few of Assign that can be useful for many possible approaches cabulary in any given novel tends to recycle. all students, both native speakers of English as well Have students read texts written by a single as English-language learners in the classroom. Like author. native speakers, "Second language learners benefit from reading programs that incorporate a range of Finally, do not underestimate the power of contexts, both social and functional, and in whichread-alouds in supporting vocabulary development. and is used as a means reading begins, develops,Freeman and Freeman (2000) pointed to a study in of communication" (Nichols et al., 2000, p. 2).which teachers read aloud a story to students three It is also important to remember the concept oftimes a day for a week. Group vocabulary scores Krashens I + 1 (1981), mentioned earlier. Textsrose by 40%. "The key was finding interesting must be at a level appropriate to the students abilibooks and coaching teachers to use reading tech ty. Recall also that academic language proficiencyniques such as pointing to pictures, gesturing, and takes much longer to develop than be sure students understood the "In other words, encourage students to proficiency. story" (p. 123). read at their reading level?not at their oral profi ciency level" (Williams, 2001, p. 751). There is nothing like reading to promote reading. "Read aloud to students every day. This practice supportsMany possible approaches well as literacy devel In classrooms that are becoming language increasingly opment" (p. 751).diverse,culturally relevantteaching is an important to of literacy instruction. Culturally rele Finally, give students plenty of opportunitiescomponent read independently. learn to read, and tovant is "the kind of teaching that is de "People teaching read better, by reading" (Eskey, 2002, p. 8). signed not merely to fit the school culture to the Students learn to read well when they are engaged students culture but also to use student culture as the in reading materials that are not only at an approbasis for helping students understand themselves priate level but also interesting and relevant toand others, structure social interactions, and concep them. tualize knowledge" (Ladson-Billings, 2000, p. 142). Effective literacy instruction is not simply acollection of strategies and approaches that will Drucker teaches education courses at Utica learners succeed in main College of Syracuse University in Utica, Newhelp English-languagestream classrooms. The environment York (1600 Burrstone Road, Utica, NY 13502 in which 4892, USA). E-mail study and learn is at least as important as themethods, strategies, and approaches you may Referenceschoose to employ. Using a culturally relevant Bell, T. (1998, December). Extensive reading:Why? And how? teaching approach means that students second lan The Internet TESOL Retrieved March 7,2001, Journal, /1/(12).guages can be viewed as an additive to the class from environment, rather than as a deficit that htmlneeds to be remedied. Realize that academic lan Cantoni-Harvey, G. (1992). Facilitating the reading process. In P.A. Richard-Amato & M.A. Snow (Eds.), Themulticulturalguage proficiency in a second language takes a classroom (pp. 175-197).Reading, MA:Addison Wesley. long time to develop. To facilitate that process, per Carrell, P., & Eisterhold, J.C. (1983). Schema theory and ESLmit students to use their native languages when reading pedagogy. TESOL Quarterly, 18,441-469.necessary (Nichols, Rupley, & Webb-Johnson, Carrell, P.L. (1987). Content and formal schemata inESL read2000). The classroom needs to be a validating ing.TESOL Quarterly, 21,461-481. 28 The Reading Teacher Vol. 57, No. 1 September 2003
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