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Promoting Literacy Development for English Learners Learning in English: A Case for Explicit Instruction
Diane Haager, Ph.D.
Michelle Windmueller, Ph.D.
California State University, Los Angeles
Reading First and other state and federal reading initiatives call for “scientifically based reading research” to guide reading instruction. It is difficult to argue with the notion of putting research-validated practices into place.
However, what of these practices are validated for EL students? What evidence do we have to guide beginning reading instruction for ELs?
Activities to develop students’ phonological awareness
Systematic explicit instruction in phonetic decoding strategies and spelling
Activities that build fluency in both word reading and reading of connected text
Explicit introduction of strategies for text comprehension
A variety of vocabulary building activities
Are these practices validated for ELs?
School personnel are challenged to find effective methods for schooling EL students, particularly if bilingual instruction is not an option, due to the lack of bilingual teachers or policy mandates limiting native language instruction. The knowledge base regarding effective reading instruction for ELs is incomplete, fragmented and fraught with philosophical and policy-oriented discourse.
A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the best venue for reducing disproportionate representation in both special education and gifted education programs is improvement in the core elements of classroom instruction in the early grades (Donovan & Cross, 2002).
This report makes a strong recommendation for research and development to “carry promising practices and validated practices through to classroom applicability (p. 382)” including research “on educational improvement, particularly in schools with large numbers of children from low-income families (p. 383).”
How do these predict later reading for ELs?
What happens to these predictors in a regression model?
Correlations Between Subscales of Observation Instrument and Composite Reading Scores
1. Explicit Teaching/ Art of Teaching.62
2. Instruction Geared Toward Low Performers.65
3. Sheltered English Techniques.49
4. Interactive Teaching.57
5. Vocabulary Development.51
*All correlations significant, moderate to strong
Models skills and strategies
Makes relationships overt
Emphasizes distinctive features of new concepts
Achieves high level of response accuracy
Ensures quality of independent practice
Engages in ongoing monitoring of student understanding and performance
Elicits responses from all students
Modifies instruction for students as needed
Provides extra instruction, practice and review
Asks questions to ensure comprehension
Provides systematic instruction in phonemic awareness
Provides systematic instruction in letter-sound correspondence
Provides systematic instruction in decoding
Secures and maintains student attention during lesson
Extent to which students are “on task” during literacy activities
Teaches difficult vocabulary prior to and during lesson
Structures opportunities to speak English
Uses visuals or manipulatives to teach content
Provides explicit instruction in English
Three Tiers of Reading Intervention
Tier 3: Special Education
Tier 2: Classroom Intervention
Tier 1: Primary Instruction