English Learners: Creating Language-Rich Instruction for English-Language Learners

Download English Learners: Creating Language-Rich Instruction for English-Language Learners

Post on 28-Jan-2017




12 download


  • English Learners: Creating Language-Rich Instruction for English-Language LearnersAuthor(s): Eurydice Bouchereau Bauer and Patrick C. ManyakSource: The Reading Teacher, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Oct., 2008), pp. 176-178Published by: Wiley on behalf of the International Reading AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20203099 .Accessed: 28/06/2014 18:53

    Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

    .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.


    Wiley and International Reading Association are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extendaccess to The Reading Teacher.


    This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 18:53:51 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions



    Creating Language-Rich Instruction

    for English-Language Learners

    Eurydice Bouchereau Bauer, Patrick C Manyak

    In this particular column, we address the benefits

    of language-rich classrooms for English-language

    learners (ELL). Classrooms that are language-rich

    provide the ideal environment for accelerating ELLs'

    oral language and academic vocabulary develop ment. These classrooms recognize that language de

    velopment, whether in a first or a second language, occurs in social contexts and through purposeful so

    cial interactions. Ernst and Richard (1995) stated it in

    this manner:

    Children learn their first language by using language as a means to communicate with real people and in

    real situations. The same applies for students who are

    learning a second language (p. 326).

    Just as speakers of a first language must engage

    in frequent, meaning-centered interactions with

    speakers of that language, so should ELLs. What we

    describe in this column are ways to support ELLs'

    language development broadly and literacy develop ment in particular. We organize the column in terms

    of teacher approaches that create rich contexts for

    the development of language skills and conversa

    tional strategies.

    Supporting the Development of Language Skills The central element of all instruction for ELLs should

    be to make rich language comprehensible (Garcia,

    2003,2008). Garcia explained that teachers should ac

    company oral explanations and teacher read-alouds

    with visuals, realia, gestures, and dramatization to il

    lustrate key concepts and vocabulary. Teachers must

    find ways to activate and build students' background

    knowledge through the use of visuals, demonstra

    tions, and graphic organizers. Teachers also should

    move away from the old adage that oral language

    precedes written language skills. That means that

    ELLs should be encouraged to read at their appro

    priate levels and have ample opportunities to hear

    rich, visually stimulating stories read aloud. When

    possible, hands-on experiences should precede the

    reading of text. For example, after having second

    graders keep logs of the week's weather, a teacher

    reviewed the content of the weather unit by reading

    aloud Weather by Seymour Simon. The teacher used

    the illustrations in the book to generate talk among

    the students around key concepts and vocabulary:


    Student 1:

    Student 2:


    Student 3:

    Student 1:


    Student 2:





    I heard someone say rain was coming

    because of the clouds. What is another

    word for rain?



    Anything else?



    What does that mean if it is pouring?

    It rains a lot.

    What does it sound like?

    [all made the sound of pouring rain

    by patting their laps with their hands


    How is that different from a rain shower?

    [made droplet sounds using the tip of

    their fingers and changing the tempo]

    The Reading Teacher, 62(2), pp. 176-178 ? 2008 International Reading Association

    176 DOL10.1598/RT.62.2.10 ISSN: 0034-0561 print/1936-2714 online

    This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 18:53:51 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions


  • As the students and teacher discussed the weath

    er terms, the teacher wrote them on the board. It

    is clear from the above example that students are

    learning the concepts related to weather but are

    also developing their English-language skills. During

    instruction, teachers should avoid the use of idioms

    and provide students with ample time to respond to

    teacher questions. Of course, if we are to encourage oral language use, it is imperative that students are

    given the opportunity to use the language resources

    at their disposal. Ultimately, the classrooms must be

    inviting places where language (home language and

    school language) flourish and students are willing to

    take the linguistic risks necessary for their language

    development. It is within this environment that teach

    ers have the best opportunity to observe and support students' reading.

    Another way that teachers can support language

    development is by visually presenting information

    that highlights cognates (Williams, 2001). A common

    error that teachers make is that they presume that

    students will automatically make the connections

    between cognates. One way that teachers can make

    clear the role of cognates as a tool is to extend the

    idea of a word wall. Typically, a word wall is found

    in the lower grades and tends to focus on common

    words that students encounter. In classrooms with

    Spanish-speaking ELLs, teachers would select words

    from the content being studied that share English/

    Spanish cognates and highlight them on the word

    wall. This approach would support students' lan

    guage development and send a strong message re

    garding the importance of the students' first language in the classroom. Whenever possible, teachers should

    repeatedly bring students' attention to cognates dur

    ing content lessons.

    Conversational Strategies According to McCarty, Wallace, Lynch, and Benally

    (1991), when students and teachers engage in mean

    ingful interaction where "students' ideas are sought,

    valued, and incorporated into the [curricular] con

    tent" of the class, the students become verbal and

    respond to questions (p. 53). Perez (1996) suggested that classrooms that support students' interaction

    with peers and the teacher do make use of the collec

    tive knowledge of the class, which enhances students'

    language skills. These classrooms are inherently low

    risk, build on what students bring to the classroom,

    and create the space for the emergence of new ideas

    based on students' interactions with one another.

    Goldenberg's (1992) research offers insights into the role of instructional conversations in ELLs'

    learning. In this type of classroom discourse, the

    students and teachers interact with one another in

    a give-and-take and joint meaning-making process that resembles a dinnertime discussion. Creating a

    context in which ELLs discuss school materials and

    sound natural in that discussion is not easy. For ex

    ample, in the same classroom we highlighted earlier, a student who started school in August 2007 with no

    English skills engaged her classmates in a discussion

    that sounded like talk at the dinner table, but it also

    highlighted her growing content knowledge.

    Teacher: I found the neatest picture in this

    book that I want to show you. [stu dents ignore the invite and take up their own conversation]

    Student 1: How do the meteor...the weather peo

    ple get the weather stuff?

    New Student: Urn, the thermometer thing goes in

    the air balloon and goes up and tells

    the weather and goes up again and

    then into the computer thing.

    Student 1: Are you sure?

    New Student: Yeah, I'm sure.

    Student 3: It's not a regular thermometer, it's a

    special one.

    Student 4: Why they need the big balloon?

    Teacher: Yeah, why do we need a big balloon?

    New Student: You want the balloon bigger, you

    know, it only gets a little of the sky wouldn't know a lot. You want it to go

    in a lot of clouds.

    Teacher: So the meteorologist wants to get in

    formation from the different clouds

    at different points in the atmosphere. Remember when we read about how

    they got their information? So the

    bigger the balloon the higher they can go.

    Goldenberg and Patthey-Chavez (1995) found

    that ELLs who participated in instructional conversa

    tions talked more in class and were able to express

    Creating Language-Rich Instruction for English-Language Learners 177

    This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 18:53:51 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions


  • more. What makes this instruction different from

    the Initiation-Response-Evalutation interaction pat terns (Mehan, 1979) often found in classrooms is

    that during instructional conversations the focus is

    on a theme(s), activating and building on important

    schemata, direct teaching, promoting and support

    ing more complex language, supporting statements

    and propositions, fewer known answers to questions, teacher responsiveness to students' contribution,

    connected discourse, challenging interactions, and

    student-led interactions. It is believed that this ap

    proach can be used with students with varying levels

    of English-language proficiency. In fact, Saunders and

    Goldenberg (1999) stated, "The effects of both litera

    ture logs and instructional conversations on under

    standing of a story's theme are more pronounced for

    limited-English proficient students" (p. 295). This ap

    proach is effective with students with limited English

    proficiency when they are encouraged to write their

    ideas in a literature response log before participat

    ing in the conversation. Having rehearsed their ideas

    in the log makes it easier for them to participate. Teachers who implement instructional conversations

    need to ensure that students are able to discern and

    discuss "their own experiences, the content of the lit

    erary selection, and one or more major themes that

    apply to the selection (e.g., sacrifice, perseverance,

    commitment, justice, cultural identity) (p. 296). In

    regard to promoting comprehension strategies, stu

    dents are asked to "summarize what they have read,

    and formulate and answer...questions about the read

    ing material" (p. 297). The emphasis throughout the

    interaction is on meaning making for real purposes. Martinez-Roldan and Lopez-Robertson (2000)

    also found that open-ended literature discussions of

    culturally relevant books with Spanish-English kin

    dergarten bilingual students revealed their ability to

    live through the experience of the text, make use of

    illustrations and text, explore social issues, and make

    connections to other texts (printed and oral) and life

    experiences. Of particular interest is the students'

    ability to explore social issues in their discussion

    groups. These discussions revealed that students

    were engaged in the texts read and were developing

    a strong sense of the kind of meaning making that

    should take place around text. As noted in this col

    umn, it is important that ELLs' classrooms are rich in

    language that is comprehensible. These suggestions will assist educators in providing language-rich class

    rooms in order to enhance the literacy of ELLs.


    Ernst, G., & Richard, K. (1995). Reading and writing pathways to conversation in the ESL classroom. The Reading Teacher,

    48(4), 320-326.

    Garc?a, G.E. (2003). The reading comprehension development and instruction of English language learners. In A.P. Sweet

    & C.E. Snow (Eds.), Rethinking reading comprehension (pp.

    30-50). New York: Guilford.

    Garcia, G.E. (2008, May). Translating vocabulary research into

    practice with English language learners. In K. Stahl (Chair),

    Engaging learners in vocabulary learning: Practical, research

    based approaches. Symposium conducted at the annual con

    vention of the International Reading Association, Atlanta,


    Goldenberg, C. (1992). Instructional conversations: Promoting

    comprehension through discussion. The Reading Teacher,

    46(4), 316-326.

    Goldenberg, C., & Patthey-Chavez, G. (1995). Discourse processes

    in instructional conversations: Interactions between teacher

    and transition readers. Discourse Processes, 19(\), 57-74.

    Martinez-Roldan, CM., & Lopez-Robertson, J.M. (2000). Initiating literature circles in a first-grade bilingual classroom. The

    Reading Teacher, 53(4), 270-281.

    McCarty, T.L., Wallace, S., Lynch, R.H., & Benally, A. (1991).

    Classroom inquiry and Navajo learning styles: A call for as

    sessment. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 22(\), 42-59.


    Mehan, H. (1979). Learning lessons: Social organization in the

    classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Perez, B. (1996). Instructional conversations as opportunities for

    English language acquisition for culturally and linguistically diverse students. Language Arts, 73(3), 173-181.

    Saunders, W. & Goldenberg, C (1999). Effects of instructional con

    versations and literature logs on limited-and fluent-English

    proficient students' story comprehension and thematic under

    standing. The Elementary School Journal, 99(4), 277-301.

    Williams, J. (2001). Classroom conversations: Opportunities to

    learn for ESL students in mainstream classrooms. The Reading

    Teacher, 54(8), 750-757.

    Bauer teaches at the University of Illinois at

    Urbana-Champaign, USA; e-mail ebbauer@uiuc.

    edu. Manyak teaches at the University of Wyoming,

    Laramie, USA; e-mail PManyak@uwyo.edu.

    The department editors welcome reader comments. Patrick C. Manyak teaches at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, USA; e-mail PManyak@uwyo.edu. Eurydice Bouchereau Bauer teaches at

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA; e-mail ebbauer@uiuc.edu.

    178 The Reading Teacher Vol. 62, No. 2 October 2008

    This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 18:53:51 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions


    Article Contentsp. 176p. 177p. 178

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Reading Teacher, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Oct., 2008), pp. 95-178Front Matter"March of the Penguins": Building Knowledge in a Kindergarten Classroom [pp. 96-103]The Comprehension Matrix: A Tool for Designing Comprehension Instruction [pp. 106-113]Teacher and Parent Scaffolding of Voluntary Summer Reading [pp. 116-125]Teaching Metalinguistic Awareness and Reading Comprehension with Riddles [pp. 128-137]Playing within and beyond the Story: Encouraging Book-Related Pretend Play [pp. 138-148]Teaching TipsInteractive Writing beyond the Primary Grades [pp. 149-152]Moving beyond the Page in Content Area Literacy: Comprehension Instruction for Multimodal Texts in Science [pp. 153-156]

    Children's Choices for 2008 [pp. 157-171]Content Literacy: Motivating Students to Read in the Content Classroom: Six Evidence-Based Principles [pp. 172-174]English Learners: Creating Language-Rich Instruction for English-Language Learners [pp. 176-178]Back Matter


View more >