Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Using English Language Learners' Native Language: Bringing Their World Into The Classroom

Here is a presentation on using English Language Learners native language within the classroom. This presentation is contributed by Dr. Allen Lynn and Dr. Eleni Pappamihiel.

No L1 Required: Coding Text

Coding the Text
Contributed by: Dr. Allen Lynn
            As teachers and students move into more complex readings, often ELLs have difficulty reading large amounts of text. In fact, as ELLs begin to transition from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’ this extra reading can be a significant challenge. It can take much longer for an ELL to read a piece of text than it will for many native English speakers. This extra work places a significant linguistic burden on ELLs that is often unnecessary. Consider how much reading an ELL does for a social studies assignment when the objective of the assignment is content-related rather than a language arts exercise. One chapter covering the reasons for the American Civil War, for example, could contain a multitude of discussion points requiring extensive explanation. Whereas reading a chapter out of “The Red Badge of Courage” for comprehension would be a task more easily completed. By helping ELLs highlight main ideas ahead of time teachers can reduce the linguistic burden placed on ELLs, especially when the focus of the reading is content learning. Teachers can identify the sentences or paragraphs that contain the important points of a text that are related to the lesson objectives and place sticky notes or blank thought bubbles onto the ELL’s copy. The ELL can then fill in the bubbles and notes with L1 notes. This strategy helps ELLs develop schematic connections that are meaningful to them on both linguistic and cultural levels (Brooks & Karathanos, 2009).
            In this classroom example Mr. Fiveash teaches a fifth grade social studies class. Yadira, a new arrival from the Dominican Republic, has a limited working proficiency of English. While she is able to function in the classroom without much difficulty, she does not completely understand some of the more demanding texts. With this in mind, Mr. Fiveash prepares a copy of the chapter on exploration of the Americas by Europeans for Yadira using thought bubble notes above the most pertinent passages. Yadira, knowing that these sections are important, is able to fill in the bubbles with notes in her L1. Later she can use these notes to create graphic organizers and other helpful notes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

No L1 Required: L1 Dialog Journals

L1 dialog journals
(contributed by Dr. Lynn)
            Dialog journals are journals that are set up to facilitate communication between teachers and students. Traditionally, they are a form of interactive writing where students write on a topic and then their teachers respond in writing. Ideally, they are written conversations. They have been used with both native and non-native speaking students and have multiple benefits for both groups (Peyton, 1993). They are not something we normally think of using as a L1 strategy. However, we propose an alternative use for them in the mainstream classroom. One of the authors observed this type of dialog journal used with great success with 3rd grade level elementary ELLs who were on grade level in their L1, Korean. When the year began, the journals were almost exclusively written in Korean, but as the year progressed this balance shifted to the point where the journals were almost completely written in English.
            In these dialog journals, ELLs write in their L1, using English when they know the approximate words and illustrations to scaffold their message. Teachers and students can then find a few minutes each week to review the journals, asking the ELL to explain to the best of his/her ability, what is happening in the journal entry. The teacher can then write a response to the ELL’s journal, highlighting new vocabulary using the ELL’s own illustrations. This type of strategy allows the ELL to take advantage of fluid writing time without spending so much time with the dictionary, constantly searching for unknown words.

            For example, in Mrs. Williams’ 5th grade language arts class there is a student from Burkina Faso  who has low literacy skills in English but has a high proficiency in French. Mrs. Williams does not speak or write French. However, twice a week she and Ismael sit down and discuss his dialog journal entry using the limited English language skills that Ismael possesses at the moment. Through rough sketches, a bilingual dictionary, hand gestures and mimicking they are able to discuss the dialog journal entry. Mrs. Williams later prepares a feedback response to their exchange, providing new vocabulary as well as clarification of any misunderstandings that arose. Ismael is able to review Mrs. Williams’ comments later at his own pace and use those comments in his next dialog journal entry.


Monday, February 4, 2013

No L1 Required: L1 study buddies

 L1 study buddies
(contributed by Dr. Lynn)
            One of the most common L1 strategies that can be used is a L1 study buddy. This strategy is most easily implemented when there are several children who share the same L1. In this strategy, teachers can take advantage of L1 peers whose English language proficiency is more advanced than others. In these cases L1 Study Buddies can be used when the whole class is doing a group assignment or when the teacher is working with a particularly challenging topic that may involve an exorbitant amount of time developing new vocabulary. Teachers should note, however, that dialectal differences can impact the effectiveness of this strategy. Before implementing this strategy, teachers should ensure that students do share enough language to make this a feasible accommodation.
            Vocabulary development can be particularly trying for ELLs, especially when learning new vocabulary where there may not be an extensive existing schema or context. Cardenas-Hagan (2012) recommended six steps for effective vocabulary development. She suggested that students be allowed to have extended discussions with the word and that bilingual glossaries can help reinforce newly learned vocabulary. Using L1 Study Buddies can allow ELLs the opportunity to develop schema for new vocabulary that can then be transferred into the English speaking environment of the class.
            Say, for example, that a 3rd grade teacher is introducing the concept of Fahrenheit and Celsius in a science lesson. This teacher, Mr. Jones, can allow his three Spanish speaking ELLs the opportunity to discuss the topic in Spanish for a few minutes if he knows that one of the students, Jesus, has a high enough English proficiency to understand Mr. Jones’ explanation. Jesus can then have a fairly in-depth conversation with his lower proficiency level classmates (Marta and Alvaro), helping them to build schema for these two new vocabulary terms. When the class comes together to complete a hands-on project, not only has Jesus further developed his knowledge by teaching something to his peers, but Marta and Alvaro are able to take better advantage of the demonstration and hands-on activity done by Mr. Jones. The important part of this strategy is the extended discussion.