Monday, March 12, 2012

Supporting English Language Learners through the Literacy Collaborative Framework

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.

Instructional Implications

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:
  1. 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.
  2. Lessons should have a focus on standards.  Through literature, teachers can teach strategies for learning the language and literacy.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Writing extends the thinking and discussion in the classroom.  Engaging students in the writing process will further support understanding of the language.
Connection to Literacy Collaborative Framework

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:
  1. ELLs are expected to learn all the nuances of literacy while learning the English Language.
  2. ELLs are expected to learn skills in the same sequence as their English speaking peers.
  3. Most often ELLs are immersed in English without the support of their known, their native language.
Despite these challenges, we often remove children from the classroom in order to provide opportunities for skill and drill practice.  The greatest support we can offer students who enter our classrooms who are learning English is to immerse them in our already literature-rich communities.
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.


  1. In a recent coaching session with a first grade teacher (just last week), this teacher voiced her concern over an ELL student who lacked English language to be able to benchmark at a level appropriate for her ability. She was 2 reading levels lower than her lowest guided reading group and just was not sure what to do. She is a smart first grader and her ELL sessions with the ELL teacher were not enough.

    We came up with a plan to have her be included in the guided reading group, but to meet with a volunteer grandma previous to each new book introduction. The classroom teacher would mark places in the book for the grandma and student to have conversation around putting emphasis on new vocabulary and sentence structure. This allowed the student to have plenty of prior knowledge of the story and the concepts before she met with her in her guided reading group.

    With awesome teachers like we have who care so deeply about the learning of every student, anything is possible! :-)

  2. Shari:
    Sounds like a great way to support building background knowledge for the student! Let us know how this is supporting her.

  3. the student to read, memorize, and set it flip over so their friends can not read it. Then the teacher ask all of students ask to their friends about their new names. Above all, the teacher can use this method to teach other material. baguio english schools