Making Content Comprehensible: Strategies for Helping English Learners (and All Students!) Read Informational Texts Dr. Barbara MossSan Diego State Universitybmoss@mail.sdsu.edu
Nationally…. • 1993-1 in 20 students ELLs • 2011-1 in 9 ELLs • Over 400 languages • 76% born in the US
“Adolescents entering the adult world of the 21st Century will read and write more than at any other time in human history. They will need advanced literacy levels to perform their jobs, run their households, act as citizens, and conduct their personal lives.” IRA Commission on Adolescent Literacy
The Importance of Informational Text Students’ success in and out of school depends upon their ability to read informational texts. (Kamil, 2004)
Why Use Information Texts? • 80% of adult reading is information • Standardized tests are 85% expository (Daniels, 2007) • Need to close the “knowledge gap” (Hirsch, 2006) • Lack of social studies or science instruction (NICCHD,2005) • 95% of websites contain informational texts (Kamil, 2005) • For some students, this is their preferred form of reading • The Common Core State Standards require that students engage in reading more informational text from K-12.
National Assessment of Educational Progress (2011) • 70% of ELLs in the US were below basic • ELL scores on informational text were 30 points below non-ELLs
Why do students do so poorly? • Recent immigrants • Limited schooling and support • Long term ELLs • Lack of teacher preparation in teaching students to read informational texts
Think Pair Share • Have you ever learned a foreign language? What facilitated your language learning? • What did you learn that could help you in teaching English language learners?
Developing Academic Literacy • Oral fluency takes 2-3 years to develop (BICS) • Academic literacy takes 7-10 years to develop (CALPS)
What Research Says and Doesn’t Say About Teaching English Learners (Goldenberg, 2008) Effective teaching requires: 1) Explicit instruction 2) Meaningful opportunities for students to use language 3) Teachers who teach language and content at the same time
TEACHER RESPONSIBILITY “I do it” Focus Lesson Guided Instruction “We do it” “You do it together” Collaborative “You do it alone” Independent STUDENT RESPONSIBILITY Gradual Release of Responsibility, (Fisher & Frey, 2008)
Four Ways to Support ELLs in Reading Informational Text • Build Background --for genre --for content • Teach Academic Vocabulary • Develop Oral Language • Encourage Wide Reading
Build Background Knowledgefor Genre Students exposed to a variety of genre 1) have higher average reading scores 2) understand how texts work; have schema for each genre they encounter
Narrative Text • Eggs flew past us and pelted Mr. Kosdinski’s back door. Just as the boys ran away the door flew open. Mr Kodinski glared straight at us! “You there,” he yelled. Why do you kids do things like this?” “It wasn’t us,” Stewart tried to say, but Mr. Kodinski wouldn’t listen to us.
Expository Text • In some areas ospreys have become pests by nesting on power poles. Their large nests can damage the wires. Or even worse, the birds can touch their wings to the two wires at once, killing themselves and shorting out the power. Some companies solve this problem by putting up spiked poles where the birds can’t nest.
How Are These Texts Different? • Informational Text • Narrative Text
Understanding Genre • Informational books tell the truth. It is like the news because they tell the truth also. In fiction books they just make up stories to entertain children. • A lot of times informational books have a lot of big weird words like envirdibra (sic). You get more vocabulary. • I don’t like informational books because they have no adventure and are boring like history and all that encyclopedia stuff.
Build Background for Content: Table of Contents Prediction • Step 1: Present a book cover • Step 2: Teacher models thinking aloud about possible first chapter title and recording it • Step 3: Students think pair share, predicting what is in the table of contents for Chapter 2, Chapter 3 etc. • Step 4: Students record their answers • Step 5: Compare the actual TOC with the one students created
Comparison of TOC My Prediction • Where Do Hurricanes Happen? • Why Do They Happen? • When Do They Happen? • What Damage Do They Cause? Actual TOC • A Deadly Storm • The Hurricane Begins to Develop • Waiting for the Storm • Mitch Hits • Recovery
Teach Academic Vocabulary “ELLs are more likely to learn words when they are directly taught..embedded in meaningful context, and provided with opportunities for repetition and use.” Goldenberg, 2008
Social vs. Academic English What is Social English? Language for everyday oral and written communication • What is Academic English? Language of school Write a description Compare and contrast Categorize these items Language of a discipline Science-area, crust, mountain, globe, hemisphere Social studies-community, harvest, native, settlement 26
The Four Most Frequently Asked Vocabulary Questions… • How many words can I teach in one lesson? One year? 2. How many encounters are necessary before a student “owns” a word? 3. What words should I teach? 4. How can I effectively TEACH vocabulary? 27
The Answers… • How many words in a Lesson? 5-8 In a year? 400-700 2. How many exposures? 8-10 3. Which words? Tier 2 words Tier 3 words 4. How do I teach vocabulary? -In the context of texts 28
The California Gold Rush John Sutter owned a large fort on a river in California. James Marshall worked at the fort. On January 24th, 1848, Marshall found a shiny rock in the river at Sutter’s Mill. It was gold. News about the gold traveled fast, and by 1849, 100,000 people migrated to California to find gold. Some became gold miners. They came from all over the world. Some came by boat, some came by covered wagon, and others came by foot. Gold changed California. Because of the discovery of gold, cities sprang up. Today California is called the Golden State. Do you know why? 29
Teaching New Words • Point out the word gold. • Pronounce the word with the children. • Define the word. Gold is a metal. • Show a picture of the word. • Create a new sentence using the word. She wore a gold chain. • Engage students with the word. • With your partner, talk about what you know about gold. 30
Four Square Word Cards • 3x5 cards divided into 4 sections • Provide a visual cue for learners • Includes student-generated definition • Can include examples, opposites • Less useful for more abstract words • Great for word study, word sorts, etc. 31
Oral Language Development Students need the chance to talk • Before sharing out • Before reading • Before writing Float the classroom on a sea of talk!
Linda Hoyt Video • What does Linda do in this video to support language learning for these students?
Students Need To Read Independently In and Out of School • Anderson, R. C., Wilson, P. T. & Fielding, L. (1988). Growth in reading and how children spend their time outside of school. Reading Research Quarterly, 23, 285-303.
Trade Books Can Provide: • Content area texts that students can read • Exposure to exposition • Visual support for learning • Motivation for reading • Culturally authentic learning
Kids Need to See Themselves in Books! • “I don’t want to read books about white kids.” Munroe Clark Middle School Student
Picture Book Biographies • Provide visual support for ELLs • Reveal important people in different cultures
Informational Books • Help students: 1) see themselves in the real world of today 2) connect with members of their cultural group from the past and present 3) learn content
English language learners need: MORE • Background Building • Scaffolding of Vocabulary • Oral Language Experiences • Real Relevant Trade Books • Excellent instruction!