Core Strategies to Support English Language Learners

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Marshall University]On: 19 September 2013, At: 01:19Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office:Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    The Educational ForumPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscriptioninformation:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/utef20

    Core Strategies to Support EnglishLanguage LearnersSheldon Barr a , Zohreh R. Eslami a & R. Malatesha Joshi aa College of Education and Human Development, Texas A&M University,College Station, Texas, USAPublished online: 14 Dec 2011.

    To cite this article: Sheldon Barr , Zohreh R. Eslami & R. Malatesha Joshi (2012) CoreStrategies to Support English Language Learners, The Educational Forum, 76:1, 105-117, DOI:10.1080/00131725.2011.628196

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  • The Educational Forum, 76: 105117, 2012Copyright Kappa Delta PiISSN: 0013-1725 print/1938-8098 onlineDOI: 10.1080/00131725.2012.628196

    Address correspondence to Sheldon Barr, College of Education and Human Development, Texas A&M University, 12506 Fern Vale Ct., Houston, TX 77065, USA. E-mail: sbarr@tamu.edu

    AbstractReading and vocabulary instruction can serve as an instructional process to respond to English language learner (ELL) needs. The purpose of this review of literature was to determine whether reading and vocabulary instruction should be used as core strategies for supporting ELLs requiring interventions as a response to the Texas English Language Profi ciency Assessment System. This review of the literature included peer-reviewed journals and other published studies.

    Key words: elementary education, emerging literacy, English language learners, English as a second language, reading, Texas English Language Profi ciency Assessment System.

    The two fastest-growing populations in the United States consist of the Asian/Pacifi c Islander group and Hispanics. Of the 308 million people, 50.5 million constitute the Hispanic-origin population, and 11.8 million are the Asian/Pacifi c Islander population (U.S. Census Bureau 2010), and both populations are anticipated to continue their near double-digit growth. It is estimated that 76 percent of Hispanics and Asian/Pacifi c Islanders fi ve years and older speak their mother tongue (a language other than English) at home (U.S. Census Bureau 2010). These population groups in the United States that speak languages other than English are identifi ed as English language learners (ELLs), those with English as a second language, or those who are limited English profi cient (National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES] 2009a). The designation ELLs is utilized from this point forward. The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress indicated that on the fourth-grade reading scale, only 30 percent of ELLs were at or above basic (partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills at each grade assessed), compared to 69 percent of not English language learners (NELLs). The report also showed that only seven

    Core Strategies to Support English Language LearnersSheldon Barr, Zohreh R. Eslami, and R. Malatesha JoshiCollege of Education and Human Development, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA

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  • 106 The Educational Forum Volume 76 2012

    Barr, Eslami, and Joshi

    percent of ELLs scored at or above profi cient (solid academic performance for each grade assessed), compared to 34 percent of NELLs (NCES, 2009b). The ELLs on a national basis are performing well below the NELLs.

    The Southern part of the United States had the largest increase in population, along with the largest increase in the Hispanic population, and this statistic was also true for the state of Texas (Texas Education Agency [TEA] 2010; U.S. Census Bureau 2010). According to the Texas state accountability report (TEA 2009a), a little over one-half (56 percent) of ELLs met all of the standards on the 2008 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, compared to 74 percent of all students in Texas meeting the same standards. At Grade fi ve, 59 percent of ELLs met the standard on the state English reading assessment, compared to 85 percent of total students. At Grade nine, 42 percent of ELLs met the standard on English reading, compared to 87 percent of total students. At the exit level (graduation) at Grade eleven, 40 percent of ELLs met the English Language Arts standard, compared to 96 percent of total students. On mathematics, 44 percent of ELLs met the standard, compared to 89 percent of total students. On science, 38 percent of ELLs met the standard, compared to 91 percent of total students. On social studies, 69 percent of ELLs met the standard, compared to 98 percent of total students meeting the same academic standards. The annual dropout rate for Grades nine through 12 was 7.6 percent for ELLs, compared to 3.9 percent of total students. The completion/graduation rate was 39.3 percent for ELLs, compared to 80.4 percent of total students. On the Higher Education Readiness Component, six percent of ELLs met the standard, compared to 57 percent of total students meeting the standard (TEA, 2009a).

    The ELLs, according to the Texas English Language Profi ciency Assessment System (TELPAS; TEA 2006; 2007; 2009b), are required to be annually assessed to determine their academic level and literacy profi ciency, so that appropriate academic and literacy processes can be implemented as needed. A thorough review of the literature shows that reading and vocabulary instruction continues to point the way to English language learning and literacy. This review of literature grounds the argument for reading and vocabulary instruction, particularly for elementary students who need instructional process for the English language as identifi ed through the TELPAS process. Reading and vocabulary instruction and other appropriate strategies support the improvement of English language profi ciency.

    There appears to be a gap between what the state of Texas requires to be implemented by teachers and what is actually supporting student learning relative to the desired outcome of increased English language profi ciency. Reading researchers, such as Washburn, Joshi, and Binks Cantrell (2010), along with others (McCutchen et al. 2002; Spear-Swerling and Brucker 2003), have attributed poor classroom instruction to the teachers lack of basic understanding of the concepts related to English language needed to teach reading skills. According to various researchers (National Reading Panel [NRP] 2000; Buly and Valencia 2002; Carlo et al. 2004), one major determinant of poor reading comprehension for ELLs and other struggling readers is low reading vocabulary. Additionally, the majority of struggling ELLs have inadequate literacy skills, such as fl uency, vocabulary, and other specifi c skills, affecting their text comprehension and their ability to learn new concepts

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  • Strategies to Support English Language Learners

    The Educational Forum Volume 76 2012 107

    and content (Buly and Valencia 2002; Proctor et al. 2005; Biancarosa and Snow 2006; Lesaux, Lipka and Siegel 2006).

    According to Aaron, Joshi and Quatroche (2008), literacy is very complex, and involves coordination of many different reading and literacy skills and attributes, including phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fl uency, vocabulary, text comprehension, and spelling. Targeted instruction aimed at improving performance in any of these components can enhance overall literacy achievement.

    PurposeReading and vocabulary instruction can serve as instructional processes that respond

    to the literacy needs of ELLs. The purpose of this review of literature was to determine whether reading and vocabulary instruction should be used as core strategies for supporting ELLs requiring literacy instruction as a response to TELPAS. This review of the literature included peer-reviewed journals and other published studies. The main question guiding the literature review was as follows: What is the best way to support the ELLs needing instructional process support and intervention?

    Literature ReviewInstructional processes and strategies include both broad and narrow support

    factors. Some broad factors include community resources, sociocultural factors, and psycholinguistic and cross-linguistic factors. Some of the narrower support factors include, but are not limited to, research-based strategies, attitudinal factors, reading instruction, spelling instruction, vocabulary instruction, and specifi c action steps that research studies indicate increase literacy.

    Once children fall behind, they seldom catch up. At any age, poor readers, as a group, exhibit weaknesses in phonological processing and word recognition speed and accuracy (Moats 2001). Reading comprehension is impacted by listening comprehension. Teaching older students to read with comprehension is a challenge: They cannot read well, so they do not like to read; reading is labored and unsatisfying, so they have little reading experience; and because they have not read much, they are not familiar with the vocabulary, sentence structure, text organization, and concepts of academic or conversational written language. Over time, their comprehension skills fall further behind because they do not read, and they also become poor spellers and poor writers. What usually begins as a core reading skill (phonological and word recognition) defi cit, often associated with other language weaknesses, becomes a diffuse, debilitating problem in all areas of languagespoken and written (Moats 2001). If students do not know the words they are reading and cannot derive meaning from context, they must expand their vocabularies and learn a repertoire of comprehension strategies (Moats 2001).

    Current research provides guidance about how to most effectively teach literacy to this varied population of learnerswhether in English-only classes, dual-language programs, or other variants. ELLs, like other children (Resnick 2004; Francis et al. 2006), can quickly learn to decode words on a page. With skilled, explicit instruction, many children who start school speaking little or no English can gain word reading and spelling skills equal

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    Barr, Eslami, and Joshi

    to those of native speakers in two to three years. The second part of becoming a profi cient reader (Dressler and Kamil 2006; Gottardo and Mueller 2009)developing the vocabulary and comprehension skills needed to understand the meaning of textsis much harder and takes longer. Understanding written texts depends on gaining competence in spoken English (Resnick 2004). There are variables to address when making decisions for ELLs.

    In a recent study, Goodwin and Ahn (2010) conducted a meta-analysis of numerous studies with children, including ELLs, which determined that specifi c instructional processes made profound connections in reading, vocabulary, and related reading skill areas. If children receive instruction in phonological and alphabetic skills, and learn to apply that knowledge to decoding words, they are very likely to succeed at reading (Moats 2001). A study by Jongejan, Verhoeven, and Seigel (2007), looking at the impact of basic reading (literacy) and vocabulary skills relative to literacy development for both ELLs and native English speakers, found that many literacy skills are highly correlated to each other and to increased English literacy development. The fi ndings indicate that reading (literacy skills) and vocabulary increased with direct teaching and learning experiences for both the native English speakers and the ELLs.

    Reading strategies that can be offered include teaching vocabulary, cross-age instruction, cooperative learning, and reciprocal teaching (Klingner and Vaughn 1996; Gottardo, Yan, Siegel and Wade-Woolley 2001; Carlo et al. 2004; Francis et al. 2006; Genesee and Geva 2006; Gersten et al. 2007; Snow and Kim 2007; Moats 2009; Podhajski, Mather, Nathan and Sammons 2009; Goodwin and Ahn 2010). The research provides input on the many interventions that positively affect ELLs learning. Reading instruction strategies help identify and diagnose the diffi culties with reading. Knowing the ELLs level of literacy also allows the teacher to work within the students zone of proximal developmentthat area between what the student is capable of at the moment and the point you want the student to reach next (Vygotsky 1978). A teacher can work in a students zone of proximal development by scaffolding literacy developmen, or providing the support a student needs as he or she progresses. Scaffolding is essentially a way to nudge a student toward a higher level of performance. This can be done by providing direct instruction in literacy skills, modeling correct grammar or pronunciation, asking challenging questions, or providing opportunities for reading and vocabulary development (Francis et al. 2006; Hill and Flynn 2006; Carlisle 2007; Coleman and Goldenberg 2009).

    In order to respond to the needs of ELLs as required by TELPAS, what is the best way to support literacy and reading development? There is growing body of evidence that there are defi nitely skills and knowledge that must be taught explicitly and implicitly. Teaching students to read in their fi rst language promotes higher levels of reading achievement in English (Short 1991; Moats 1999; NRP 2000; Snow, Griffi n,...

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