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Literacy Strategies for English Learners in Core Content Secondary Classrooms

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Motivate English learners to boost proficiency with confidence. This book focuses on instructional strategies that integrate language, literacy, and content across all subject areas in secondary education. Presenting instructional methods within the framework of the Common Core and other state standards, the authors demonstrate how rigorous instruction can help amplify students’ self-worth and promote more significant learning to ensure all students thrive.

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13 Chapters

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Chapter 1 Classroom Structures

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Traditional classroom structures, especially at the secondary level, have the following characteristics: student desks arranged in rows; teacher-centered, direct (didactic) instruction; ability grouping and tracking; orderly and compliant thinking; disconnected subject areas; and rote learning and memorization. The rigid classroom routines keep students working independently at their seats, limit student-to-student interaction, and eliminate any opportunity for students to gain a deeper understanding of complex language and text through engaging discourse with their peers.

The rapid increase in student populations from diverse socioeconomic, cultural, racial, and language backgrounds has made traditional classroom structures ineffective, as evidenced in achievement data, attendance reports, and low graduation rates. With the rise of accountability, inequities in school districts and in classrooms have become more pronounced, magnifying the achievement gap among subgroups. Unfortunately, in spite of major social and education reforms, social and academic segregation has persisted in schools, and student achievement on standardized measures—especially among ELs—is deplorable. Consequently, orderliness in the traditional classroom can no longer be correlated with effectiveness.

 

Chapter 2 Teaching Vocabulary

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At the most basic level, oral language means communicating with other people. But when we talk about academic oral language development across the curriculum, we mean not just teaching students to speak but, even more importantly, improving their ability to communicate more effectively. At higher academic levels, effective speech and communication involve thinking, content knowledge, and skills development—which require a context for continuous practice and training. Thus, in our work with schools, we define academic language as a combination of words, phrases, sentences, and strategies needed to participate in class discussions, to understand and express complex concepts in texts, and to express oneself in academic writing.

In this chapter, we discuss the importance of academic discourse, oracy, and conversations as well as ideal contexts for collegial discussions in classrooms before jumping into the lesson planning portion of the framework. After discussing the four steps of lesson planning, we explore the first step of lesson delivery: the preteaching of vocabulary.

 

Chapter 3 Reading to Learn and Learning to Read

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The English learners in your classes might have been sheltered too much! As discussed in the introduction, the curriculum for ELs and low-performing students needs to offer more exposure to a range of texts and tasks than has been done in the past. When they don’t read, their vocabularies do not increase. Moreover, ELs are not reading enough. When they do, they pretend to read. They might sound fluent when they read aloud, but they are not getting meaning from the text.

If ELs are to gain adequate access to a range of texts and tasks and the ability to read complex texts in all grades, it is vital that the vocabulary and discourse opportunities in chapter 2 be conducted simultaneously with the complex process of close reading described in this chapter. The Common Core State Standards recommend selecting tier two words and tier three words from passages such as those in appendix A of the CCSS ELA. The following text is from appendix A, and to show the text’s complexity, we have bolded the tier three words, italicized the tier two words, and underlined the tier one words.

 

Chapter 4 Anchoring Language, Literacy, and Content After Reading

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Close reading of expository and narrative text means returning several times to develop students’ ability to comprehend and work with complex text. We’ve covered the first four steps of the twelve-step process in chapters 2 and 3. We’ll continue here with steps 5 through 9 (table 4.1, page 64).

In this chapter, grammar refers to the structures and features of language, particularly the structure and arrangement of words in phrases and sentences (syntax) within written discourse. Understanding grammar and syntax helps students perform basic language tasks such as analyzing paragraphs sentence by sentence and word by word to determine the role these sentences and words play in a paragraph and overall text. When a student is unfamiliar with the grammar and syntax of English—which are closely related—it is difficult for him or her to determine meaning, especially when symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases are involved. Beyond the literal meaning of words on a page, grammar and syntax also help students analyze the author’s purpose in providing an explanation, describing procedure, or discussing an experiment in a text. Thus, these building blocks of language are also the building blocks of understanding for ELs and all students. Unfortunately, many secondary ELs either didn’t receive this instruction or were moved through the grade levels regardless of understanding, so secondary teachers need to ensure these building blocks are in place prior to moving forward with literacy in various content areas.

 

Chapter 5 Mathematics Instruction for English Learners

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By Maria Trejo

Mathematics teachers struggle to develop lessons that incorporate all three instructional components that ELs need: (1) grade-level academic English, (2) mastery of English literacy, and (3) mathematics content. There is often a lack of appropriate instructional materials, timely professional development, and time to learn new strategies. It is difficult for teachers to find free time to meet and articulate instructional goals, discuss commonalities among the high school curriculum, and assess individual students’ needs. Secondary ELs are particularly at risk, as they may have less time to learn academic English, to learn all content from the standards, and to meet graduation requirements.

Yet, according to Talia Milgrom-Elcott (2013), “STEM learning will enable our children to grow our economy, discover new cures, solve old mysteries, and address the most pressing challenges of tomorrow” (p. 2). Why should our ELs not be able to address these challenges as well? The STEM Education Coalition’s (2012) Statement of Core Policy Principles includes a strong emphasis on hands-on, inquiry-based learning activities that could be very successful for ELs, such as learning about the engineering design process, working directly with STEM professionals through internships, and participating in field experiences and STEM-related competitions.

 

Chapter 6 Science Instruction for English Learners

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By Maria Trejo

Low performance in science mirrors the low performance in English language arts and mathematics for ELs. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States, 2013) require a more sophisticated level of academic language, and if ELs have poor or limited literacy and academic skills in English, they cannot participate in scholarly and engaging lessons.

ELs need multiple opportunities to solve problems, generate hypotheses, make effective connections between ideas, incorporate visuals and graphics, construct and answer high-level questions, and gain a sense of accomplishment (Chamot & O’Malley, 1994). Teachers must provide them more time and opportunities to read and comprehend informational texts and write grammatically correct expository essays. Instruction for ELs should focus on academic vocabulary development, small-group instruction, cooperative learning strategies, and additional time to practice new skills and new language. Where possible, science instruction should also incorporate ELA, ELD, and mathematics standards.

 

Epilogue Next Steps

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Education reformers have been searching for decades to find the silver bullet that fixes the system and creates a learner-centered, differentiated, integrated, interactive, and inclusive learning environment that better prepares the diverse student population to be college and career ready.

We should know by now that there is no silver bullet. Yet, as we have discussed in these pages, there are still ways to achieve our dream of education reform. We just need to be smart about how to select the best approach for all of our students. As you reflect on the various chapters of this book, consider the following five questions.

1.What CCSS, SEL competencies (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making), and 21st century skills (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) can you integrate with your regular teaching strategies?

2.Does this approach align with the academic standards and incorporate SEL and 21st century skills?

 

Appendix A Text Features and Structures

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The reproducibles in this section help ELs complete peer summaries and writing assignments and participate in class discussions. Students can carry these in their folders or tape them to their desks or tables when they work in teams. Some teachers also like to laminate them and put them in bins where all students can access them during discussions and writing activities.

Text Structure

Tier Two Words and Phrases
(Also known as signal or transition words)

Description

•Denotes a specific topic and its attributes

•Rich and descriptive details support main ideas

above, across, all, also, appears to be, as an example, behind, below, beside, by observing, characteristics are, for example, for instance, in addition, in back of, in front of, it means, most, most important, near, on top of, looks like, over, some, such as, to the left or right

Sequence and Process

•Provides information and events in a specific order

 

Appendix B Summary Rubric

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Students can use this rubric to assess or keep track of their summaries based on text structure. During partner summaries, while one student reads and summarizes, the other can check the list and look for other possible additions or corrections. Teachers can write each of these categories on separate cards, laminate them, or place them in a binder for easy use.

Idea and details:

•Did I include all the main ideas?

•Did I include important details that match each main idea?

•Could I leave anything else out and still tell the reader what is important?

Cause and effect:

•Did I include the main causes and effects?

•Did I include important details and explain them?

•Could I leave anything else out and still tell the reader what is important?

Story:

•Did I include the main characters?

•Did I include the main characters’ problems?

•Did I include the ways the main characters tried to solve the problems?

•Did I include the climax?

 

Appendix C Sample Social Studies Lesson: Historical Thinking

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Subject: History

Title of mentor text and ancillary materials: “Critical Thinking: A Lesson From the Past on What Matters” by John A. Marino, Professor Emeritus, University of California, San Diego*

North Carolina Essential Standards for American History II

AH2.H.1.2: Use Historical Comprehension to:

1. Reconstruct the literal meaning of a historical passage.

2. Differentiate between historical facts and historical interpretations.

3. Analyze data in historical maps.

4. Analyze visual, literary, and musical sources.

AH2.H.1.3: Use Historical Analysis and Interpretation to:

1. Identify issues and problems of the past.

2. Consider multiple perspectives of various peoples of the past.

3. Evaluate competing historical narratives and debates among historians.

4. Evaluate the influence of the past on contemporary issues (Public Schools of North Carolina, 2010, p. 3)

 

Appendix D Sample Mathematics Lesson: Ratios and Proportional Relationships

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By Maria Trejo

Timing: This lesson may take several days depending on the depth and number of lessons the teacher presents.

Subject: Mathematics

Title of mentor text and ancillary materials: District assigned textbooks and materials; CCSS for mathematics; local-district-adopted standards

Use ratios and proportional relationships to solve real-world and mathematical problems using numerical and algebraic equations.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, Ratios and Proportional Relationships

7.RP.A.1: Compute unit rates associated with ratios of fractions, including ratios of lengths, areas and other quantities measured in like or different units.

7.RP.A.2: Recognize and represent proportional relationships between quantities.

7.RP.A.3: Use proportional relationships to solve multistep ratio and percent problems. (NGA & CCSSO, 2010c)

 

Appendix E Sample Science Lesson: Consumption of Natural Resources

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By Maria Trejo

Timing: This lesson will take three or four class periods, depending on how extensively students research the topic.

Subject: Science (grades 9 to 12), earth and human activity

Title of mentor text and ancillary materials: Human Migration and Global Change: Why Are People Moving Around? Does It Matter? by Joy Kreeft Peyton (2013)

Standard (MS-ESS3-4): Students will demonstrate understanding of how increases in human population per-capita consumption of natural resources affects the Earth’s systems by constructing an argument supported by evidence.

Disciplinary Core Idea (ESS3.C): Typically as human populations and per-capita consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on the Earth, unless the activities and technologies involved are engineered otherwise.

Science and Engineering Practices (MS-ESS3-4): Students will construct an oral and written argument supported by empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support or refute an explanation related to the impact of population migration and growth. (NGSS Lead States, 2013)

 

Appendix F Sample Lesson Template

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Teachers should sequentially distribute the key features of instruction from oracy to reading to writing, using many instructional strategies for each. The way to integrate these features into an active teaching repertoire consists of a set of whole-school action plans that include a comprehensive three- to five-day initial institute for teachers, follow-up onsite modeling, observations, and coaching for trained teachers; establishment of collegial learning through onsite small communities of practice or online networks to review lesson components, share lessons, and answer questions; and tools to gauge teaching and learning growth and impact.

Following is a lesson-plan template for teachers or teams of teachers that zooms in on the fidelity, frequency, and quality of instruction and on how students respond to that instruction. It also includes a final section for teacher reflection.

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Literacy Strategies for English Learners in Core Content Secondary Classrooms © 2016 Solution Tree Press • solution-tree.com
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