Preparing adolescent English learners for school success : an ethnographic portrait
- Various programs exist to serve the needs of secondary English learners. Typically, English learners are enrolled in an English language development (ELD) class and in sheltered content courses which are taught in English. Although such placements are in compliance with laws and policies established to serve English learners' academic and linguistic needs, they are not appropriate for students at every level of English proficiency. This study employs ethnographic methods to provide answers to the following research questions: What must beginning English learners at the secondary level be able to do in order to survive and thrive in an English-only academic environment, and what kind of instruction gets them there? Over the course of an academic year, the teacher-researcher followed the progress of five Spanish-speaking adolescent boys, all beginning-level English learners enrolled in a 9th grade sheltered Academic Literacy class. Data collection included field notes of classroom observations and interactions with students, written lesson plans, student work samples, classroom assessments, standardized test scores, and information from students' cumulative files. Student interviews were also conducted. All five students experienced significant difficulties in their sheltered Academic literacy class. Having been designed for English learners with intermediate to advanced levels of proficiency, the language demands were beyond the abilities of students at the beginning level. To better address students' needs, the five boys were "pulled out" of the Academic Literacy class and provided separate instruction. Preparing students for re-entry into the sheltered class focused primarily on reading comprehension and listening skills instruction. Strategies such as the use of visuals, the use of section headings, the use of context clues, attention to organizational structure, text annotation, and skimming and scanning proved helpful in teaching reading comprehension centered on four types of reading tasks: reading and comprehending simple English narratives, reading and comprehending a variety of expository texts, reading for information, and reading and comprehending adolescent fiction. Students' lack of familiarity with the layers of cultural literacy and background knowledge presented a significant challenge when reading adolescent fiction as did limitations in their ability to interpret dialogue, humor, and figurative language. Listening skills instruction was focused on the comprehension of oral stories and explanations. As with the selection of reading material, careful attention was paid to the "grading" of listening material and question types to match students' developing abilities. As reflected in the data, the distances that English learners must travel in order to benefit from grade-appropriate English-medium instruction are immense and the pace at which beginning level English learners acquire language relative to the demands of the curriculum is slow. Results of this study indicate that academically disadvantaged beginning English learners should not be placed in sheltered classes until they have achieved a minimum level of proficiency in English. Traditional programs of ESL, due to their focus on form as opposed to meaning, are not appropriate either. Alternative placements for beginning English learners, such as newcomer programs which include a strong content-based ESL component and primary language instruction in the content areas, should be considered.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Stanford University, School of Education.
|Lunsford, Andrea A, 1942-
|Lunsford, Andrea A, 1942-
|Statement of responsibility
|Martha Inez Castellón.
|Submitted to the School of Education.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2010.
- © 2010 by Martha Inez Castellon
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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