Supporting English Language Learners through the Literacy Collaborative Framework
By: Jenny McFerin, K-2 Literacy Collaborative Trainer
Reflection on Research
I have been reading the book, English Learners: Reaching the Highest Level of English Literacy, edited by Gilbert G. Garcia (2003). The book is a collection of chapters written by various authors and is a great resource for understanding the needs of English Language Learners. Through this reading I have learned about different instructional approaches schools use to support English Language Learners (ELL). I have also recognized that the Literacy Collaborative framework for teaching and learning are connected to those instructional approaches that are most effective for our ELL.
In the chapter, Revisioning the Blueprint: Building for the Academic Success of English Learners (Garcia & Beltran, 2003), it is proposed that ELL students can succeed in classrooms that provide strong teaching with frameworks that are research based. One approach is the implementation of a ‘Fifth Reading Block.’ This instructional approach is grounded in literacy and offers multiple opportunities for discussion about content.
There are several connections between our framework for teaching and learning and what Garcia and Beltran define as the fifth reading block (Garcia & Beltran, 2003). They state, “The key to success is that students must be required to produce oral language in each phase of the day’s lesson appropriate to their level of language acquisition. Interaction is an essential ingredient of each phase: Cooperative activities that promote collaboration between and among students are staples of this instruction (p.213).” Some key components of instruction during this block are:
- Lessons should be literature based. Literature is a strong model for language, it provides opportunities to connect to content, and it provides opportunities for discussion.
- Lessons should have a focus on standards. Through literature, teachers can teach strategies for learning the language and literacy.
- Strategies should be modeled and taught explicitly through teacher think-alouds. English language learners need repetition and redundancy in order to take on new learning.
- Oral Language is essential. Students need opportunity to talk with peers and with the teacher. Through discussions and cooperative activities, students can experiment with the language they are learning. Readers Theatre is another opportunity to practice language.
- Strategies for tapping into schema and building vocabulary should be incorporated. Building background knowledge through multi-media resources, primary language translations, or concrete examples will only provide a richer understanding for students.
- Writing extends the thinking and discussion in the classroom. Engaging students in the writing process will further support understanding of the language.
Upon reading this I immediately connected to our framework for teaching and learning. Two facets that stood out to me were Read Aloud and Interactive Writing (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996) and encompass all of the components listed above.
During Interactive Read-Aloud and Literature Discussion the teacher promotes thinking Within, Beyond, and About the text (Pinnell & Fountas, 2001,2008) by choosing intentional stopping points in the text. During these stopping points, the teacher engages students in conversations. The teacher can either model her thinking or have students talk together.
Through Interactive Writing (McCarrier, Pinnell, & Fountas, 2000), students can extend their thinking and understanding about the texts that have been read aloud. This process supports both comprehension and word work (Pinnell & Fountas, 2001,2008).
There are several challenges English Language Learners (ELLs) face when entering our classrooms:
- ELLs are expected to learn all the nuances of literacy while learning the English Language.
- ELLs are expected to learn skills in the same sequence as their English speaking peers.
- Most often ELLs are immersed in English without the support of their known, their native language.
How are you supporting English Language Learners in your classroom?
Fountas, I. C., & Pinnell, G. S. (1996). Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children. Portsmouth: Heinemann.
Garcia, G. G., & Beltran, D. (2003). Revisioning the Blueprint: Building for the Academic Success of English Learners. In G. G. Garcia, & G. G. Garcia (Ed.), English Learners: Reaching the Highest Level of English Literacy (pp. 197-258). Newark, Delaware, USA: International Reading Association, Inc.
McCarrier, A., Pinnell, G. S., & Fountas, I. C. (2000). Interactive Writing: How Language and Literacy Cometogether, K-2. Portsmouth: Heinemann.
Pinnell, G. S., & Fountas, I. C. (2001,2008). The Continuum of Literacy Learning Grades PreK-8: A Guide to Teaching. Portsmouth: Heinnemann.