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Writing

A Cognitive Strategies Approach to Reading and Writing Instruction for English Language Learners in Secondary School

Summary: Cognitive strategies, such as predicting, summarizing, and reflecting — strategies used by experienced readers and writers — are vital to the development of academic literacy, but these strategies are too rarely taught explicitly, especially to English Language Learners (ELLs). This study reports the results of a California Writing Project study in which 55 teachers implemented a cognitive-strategies approach to reading and writing instruction for their ELL secondary students over an eight-year period and includes a detailed description of a teacher's cognitive strategies "tool kit."

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Tags: Comprehension; Curriculum; Instructional Programs; Intervention; Motivation; Reading; Writing;

Copyright 2007 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Used with permission. Olson, C.B. and Land, R. (2007). A Cognitive Strategies Approach to Reading and Writing Instruction for English Language Learners in Secondary School. Research in the Teaching of English, 41(3), http://www.ncte.org/pubs/journals/rte/articles/126617.htm.

Approaches to Writing Instruction for Adolescent English Language Learners: A Discussion of Recent Research and Practice Literature in Relation to Nationwide Standards on Writing

Author: The Education Alliance-Brown University; Fogelman, C., Harrington, M., Kenney, E., Pacheco, M., Panofsky, C., Santos, J., et al.

Summary: With increasing and higher standards set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and changes in the SAT writing assessment, students are required to show proficiency using a variety of writing styles both in school and eventually the workplace. Yet as the ESL field has focused more on oral language and language structures rather than writing proficiency, ELLs — and their instructors — are often unprepared to successfully complete intensive writing assessments. As a result, the authors of the report argue that there is a need to pinpoint and understand a knowledge base for teaching writing to adolescent ELLs.

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Tags: Curriculum; Instructional Programs; Language of Instruction; Language Proficiency; Motivation; Reading; Struggling Readers; Transfer of Literacy Skills; Writing;

Target Population: Middle, High School, Post-Secondary

Research Questions the Report Poses:

  • What is the available research base and practice literature to help teachers prepare ELLs to meet the standards?
  • What is the quality and quantity of the research base?
  • How does it contribute to efforts to improve pedagogy, curricula, and programming?
  • Is there a common set of standards for writing across the nation, and if so, what is it?
  • Does the research and practice literature connect to the standards? If so, how?
  • Where are the gaps, if any, between the research and the standards?

Findings:

  • The field of ESL is based on applied linguistics, which has historically focused on oral language and language structure, rather than writing composition. The assumption that oral language precedes and leads to written language ignores the possibility that written language can be a source for oral language development.
  • Second language learning research has focused on young or elementary age learners or on higher education and international students but rarely on adolescents, especially U.S. resident and immigrant ELLs.
  • The field of composition has focused on native speakers and assumes native competence of writing students, and even when L2 research began to focus on writing, it was in foreign language contexts (EFL and FL teaching) and at the college level.
  • ELLs in U.S. high schools receive insufficient writing instruction in ESL; insufficient oral and structural language support in mainstream English; and insufficient content instruction prior to mainstreaming.
  • Assessment of second language writing is complex and problematic; timed writing often results in significant underperformance of ELLs, and raters are overly influenced by surface level of L2 writing.
  • Motivations for revision and peer interaction are based on context rather than individual learner characteristics.
  • The use of computers can facilitate production and revision of written texts.
  • Teacher feedback varies in effectiveness and is most successful for immigrant and U.S. resident adolescent students when it is specific (rather than global), when it identifies examples from the student's writing, when it asks for specific information from personal experience or texts, and when it uses indirect error correction (identifying error but requiring student to correct it).
  • A disciplinary division of labor exists between the fields of ESL and mainstream English language arts and composition that significantly affects research, curricula, and teacher preparation.

Policy Recommendations:

  • There is a need for studies that can provide a solid knowledge base on both middle and high school ELLs.
  • Substantial research should be done on what works for effective writing instruction of school-age adolescent ELLs.
  • Studies on successful strategies should include: classroom activities, including instruction, interaction, and reading and writing.
  • Writing instruction programs need to be examined against the pattern of school structures, the knowledge base of the ESL teachers and the curriculum of the program, and the knowledge base of mainstream teachers.
  • Students need to be assessed in oral and written proficiency.
  • Students' and parents attitudes on satisfaction with the writing program at their school need to be surveyed.

Fogelman, C., Harrington, M., Kenney, E., Pacheco, M., Panofsky, C., Santos, J., et al. (2005). Approaches to Writing Instruction for Adolescent English Language Learners: A Discussion of Recent Research and Practice Literature in Relation to Nationwide Standards on Writing. Providence, RI: The Education Alliance at Brown University.

Enabling Academic Success For Secondary Students with Limited Formal Schooling: A Study of the Haitian Literacy Program at Hyde Park High School in Boston

Author: Walsh, C.E., Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory: A Program of The Education Alliance at Brown University.

Summary: This publication addresses this concern by documenting a successful literacy program in one Boston public school: the Haitian Literacy Program at Hyde Park High School. In operation since 1988, the Haitian Literacy Program is the longest-running high school literacy program in the region for bilingual students with limited formal education and the only such program that we are aware of in the nation for Haitians. Through a case study approach, the publication examines students' educational success and the program traits that staff and students believe have enabled academic achievement, high school graduation, and higher education participation.

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Target Population: High School

Research Questions the Report Poses: How can teachers design programs that will enable the academic success of English Language Learners?

Findings:

  • While few cities and states collect data on these students, informal estimates indicate that 10-15% of bilingual students in many urban school districts may lack or have major gaps in their formal schooling.
  • According to some school officials in Boston, the number of middle and high school-aged students with limited formal schooling arriving from rural and/or war-torn areas of the Caribbean, Asia, Africa, and Latin America may be anywhere from 40-75%.
  • The most crucial area for improvement is the need for stronger central office support, including better coordination and communication among the central office, the school, and the program; and increased funding for staff, materials, and material development. A second area for improvement is the need to designate program teachers through a specialized position that requires specific preparation and/or training.
  • For students who had no more than several years of formal schooling before entering high school, the fact that at least half of these students graduate and 39% of these graduates go on to college shows success.
  • Accepting that there are students in secondary schools across the nation who lack literacy and basic skills because of limited schooling is a first step in addressing the "all children" agenda. The second and even more crucial step is developing and putting into practice program structures and teaching approaches that best serve the learning potential and unique realities of these students.

Policy Recommendations:
N/A

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
222 Richmond Street, Suite 300 Providence, RI 02903-4226

Walsh, C.E., (1999). Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory: A Program of The Education Alliance at Brown University. Enabling Academic Success For Secondary Students with Limited Formal Schooling: A Study of the Haitian Literacy Program at Hyde Park High School in Boston.

Improving Literacy Outcomes for English Language Learners in High School: Considerations for States and Districts in Developing a Coherent Policy Framework

Author: National High School Center, Nanette Koelsch

Summary: This overview from the National High School Center examines the roles of states and school districts in supporting English Language Learners. Among the key findings: ELL students who access accelerated and enriching academics, rather than remediation, succeed at higher levels. In addition, Latino ELL students are overrepresented in special education. In order to build the capacity of teachers to appropriately identify which ELL students would benefit from special education services and which would benefit from more inclusive strategies, states must be explicit about what is expected of professional development and teacher preparedness.

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Tags: Comprehension; Instructional Programs; Intervention; Language Proficiency; Latino ELL Students; Placement; Writing;

Target Population: Middle, High School, Post-Secondary

Research Questions the Report Poses: What issues should states consider to improve schooling for English language learners?

Findings:

  • ELLs need high quality instruction focused on advanced literacy skills and not just on language acquisition; and
  • Immersion-only programs lead to increased special education placements
  • Latino ELLs are overrepresented in special education and lower tracked classrooms;

Policy Recommendations:

  • States and districts need to redesign literacy work for ELLs in high schools to change from remediation to academic enrichment; and
  • States and districts need to ensure that ELLs participate in rigorous, college preparation courses and receive support so that they can succeed in these courses

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
n/a

Koelsch, N. (2006). Improving literacy outcomes for English language learners in high school: Considerations for states and districts in developing a coherent policy Framework. National High School Center .

Making Writing Instruction a Priority in America's Middle and High Schools

Author: Alliance for Excellent Education

Summary: This policy brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education explores current writing instruction practices in American schools and offers suggestions for improvement. The report warns that middle and high school students currently do very little writing in school, and few receive adequate writing instruction. The Alliance offers recommendations for both teachers and policymakers and provides a list of eleven effective strategies for teaching writing.

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Tags: Curriculum; Instructional Programs;

Target Population: Middle, High School

Research Questions the Report Poses: What are the current writing instruction practices in American schools, and how can they be improved?

Findings:

The authors recommend explicit instruction in the following steps of the writing process:

  • Setting goals
  • Inquiry and analysis
  • Prewriting
  • Planning
  • Revising
  • Editing
  • Summarizing
  • Peer editing and collaboration
  • Sentence combining
  • Writing for different audiences
  • Close reading a variety of models
  • Writing in the content areas
  • Word processing

Policy Recommendations:

The authors recommend:

  • Investing in adolescent literacy at the federal level.
  • Giving schools more flexibility and resources in order to schedule writing instruction.
  • Encouraging states to integrate writing skills into content-area standards.
  • Increasing federal support for the National Writing Project.
  • Increasing federal funding for enhanced assessments that take student writing into account under No Child Left Behind accountability.
  • Supporting enhanced teacher professional development in adolescent literacy.

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
N/A

Alliance for Excellent Education. (2007). Making Writing Instruction a Priority in America's Middle and High Schools. Washington, DC: Author.

Meeting the Literacy Development Needs of Adolescent English Language Learners Through Content Area Learning (Part 2): Focus on Classroom Teaching and Learning Strategies

Author: Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory (LAB), The Education Alliance at Brown University, Julie Meltzer and Edmund Hamann

Summary: Part Two of this report highlights areas of overlap between the research on adolescents' content-area literacy development and literature addressing the academic performance and instruction of ELLs. This process allowed the authors to identify instructional strategies that are beneficial for all students, which they recommend incorporating in future professional development for teachers.

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Tags: Content Areas: Math; Content Areas: Science; Content Areas: Social Studies; Differentiated Instruction; Intervention; Motivation; Placement; Reading; Struggling Readers; Transfer of Literacy Skills; Vocabulary; Writing;

Target Population: Middle, High School

Research Questions the Report Poses: How can teachers and school administrators simultaneously foster all secondary students' academic literacy across content areas and respond to the particular needs of ELLs?

Findings:

  • About six million middle and high school students (more than a quarter of the U.S. student population) are reading below grade level, classified as at-risk or struggling.
  • ELLs are frequently placed in mainstream classrooms with teachers with little to no training. This, posit the authors, is due to the lack of trained ESL instructors, the rapidly growing ELL population, and caps on the number of years students can spend in ELL or bilingual programs.
  • Research indicates that a minimum of four years of English instruction is crucial for the academic success of ELLs. Moreover, native language instruction can have added benefits.
  • Student achievement can be boosted with the use of several key pedagogical practices, outlined in the section below.

Policy Recommendations:

Teacher development and training should target the best practices of both adolescent literacy and ELL research. These include:

  • Teacher modeling and explicit strategy instruction to demonstrate the skills required for a task, and the use of follow-up assessments to measure student comprehension and areas for future growth.
  • Classroom emphasis on building reading, writing, speaking, thinking, and listening skills to provide more complex and challenging learner-centered classrooms.
  • Instruction on cognitive and metacognitive strategies during literacy tasks to strengthen students' ability to evaluate their own work and analyze content.
  • Subject-specific vocabulary instruction and exposure to texts with high level vocabulary.

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
The Education Alliance at Brown
222 Richmond Street, Suite 300
Providence, RI 02903-4226
Phone: 800.521.9550
Fax: 401.421.7650
E-mail: info@alliance.brown.edu

Meltzer, J. & Hamann, E. (2004). Meeting the literacy development needs of adolescent English language learners. Part two: Focus on classroom teaching and learning strategies. Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory .

The Role of English Teachers in Educating English Language Learners (ELLs)

Author: National Council of Teachers of English (ELL Task Force)

Summary: This position paper is designed to address the knowledge and skills mainstream teachers need to have in order to develop effective curricula that engage English language learners, develop their academic skills, and help them negotiate their identities as bilingual learners. More specifically, this paper addresses the language and literacy needs of these learners as they participate and learn in English-medium classes. NCTE has made clear bilingual students' right to maintain their native languages. Thus, this paper addresses ways teachers can help these students develop English as well as ways they can support their students' bilingualism. In the United States bilingual learners, more commonly referred to as English language learners, are defined as students who know a language other than English and are learning English. Students' abilities range from being non-English speakers to being fully proficient. The recommendations in this paper apply to all of them.

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Tags: Comprehension; Curriculum; Language Proficiency; Reading; Struggling Readers; Vocabulary; Writing;

Target Population: All

Research Questions the Report Poses: What are the needs of ELLs? How can teachers address these needs?

Findings:

  • Teachers need to get to know their students and about their home situations in order to be most effective.
  • Writing well in English is often the most difficult skill for English language learners to master. Thus teachers should be aware that English language learners may not be familiar with standard American writing procedure like drafting, revision, editing, workshop, conference, audience, purpose, or genre.
  • The best way to help students learn both English and the knowledge of school subjects is to teach language through content.

Policy Recommendations:

  • Colleges and universities should offer pre-service teachers preparation in teaching ELLs including coursework in language acquisition, second language writing and readings, and culture classes.
  • High school English departments should integrate programs that welcome and help acculturate late-arrival immigrant and refugee students with low literacy skills.
  • The report also provides numerous practical recommendations for strategies in the classroom in various subjects.

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
The National Council of Teachers of English 1111 W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096 Phone: 217-328-3870 or 877-369-6283 Fax: 217-328-9645

NCTE ELL Task Force. (2006). NCTE Position Paper on the Role of English Teachers in Educating English Language Learners. National Council of Teachers of English: Urbana, IL.