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.