Reading and Second Language Learners



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Conclusion


Sections One and Two of this chapter provided an overview of research on first- and second-language acquisition processes and similarities between them. Based on the work of many researchers we conclude that:

  • Language acquisition is natural for healthy children because they are biologically predisposed to this process.

  • Language acquisition is developmental, spontaneous and purposeful.

  • Language is learned as a result of our need to communicate with others.

  • For language development to occur we need language input.

  • Language is a tool to organize the learner's knowledge of the world (cognition).

The second-language acquisition process is similar to the first-language acquisition process to a large degree. It is a creative process because the learners use linguistic forms that are not found in the language that they are trying to learn. The emphasis of the acquisition process, particularly during the early stages, is on getting the meaning across rather than on grammatical form. “A natural communication, comprehensible input and emphasis on message over form are seen as vital ingredients in successful language acquisition” (Weinstein, 1984, p.474). “As the brain develops an increasingly complex and decontextualized understanding of the world is gained by the child” (Snow, et al., p.43). This in turn is reflected in the increased complexity of the structures that are acquired and used by the learner. For a child, language is not an object of awareness in itself but “it is a glass, through which the child looks at the surrounding world” (Downing, 1979, p.29, as cited in Snow, et al., p.45).

The theoretical models of second-language acquisition provide teachers with insights about the "scope and sequence" of L2 learning, stress the importance of the interaction between four components that "drive" language acquisition for use in academic environments (Thomas & Collier, 1997), as well as provide information about the social context of L2 learning (Wong Fillmore, 1985). The last part of this chapter provided an overview of individual characteristics of learners that have profound impact on the outcome of the second-language learning process. Individual differences need to be considered by teachers in order to assure the appropriate methodology and approach for second-language learners.


Chapter Two

English-Language Learners and Learning to Read


Reading is the process of constructing meaning through the dynamic interaction among the reader’s existing knowledge, the information suggested by the written language, and the context of the reading situation (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction [OSPI], 1998b). “Reading is an act of creation… The meaning… emerges anew in each encounter of a reader with the text” (Devine, 1988, p.260). In each reading situation the reader needs to possess two kinds of knowledge: (a) the knowledge of the language, which Eskey (1986) calls the “formal knowledge;” and (b) the “knowledge of the substance,” or the content information (Eskey, 1986, p.17). Reading is also a very complex process that presents many challenges to young learners learning to read in their native language, and even more challenges to young English-language learners. In this chapter we discuss the most salient challenges ELLs in U.S. public schools face in learning to read in English. Also discussed are the skills these students need to be successful in initial English-reading instruction, and how and when such instruction should begin.

Section One: Challenges English-Language

Learners Face in Learning to Read in English


Program accountability requirements set specific standards for all learners in Washington State's public school system. All students need to demonstrate that they are meeting district or state performance standards. The scores of the State's English as a second language (ESL) and bilingual students on the 4th grade reading test (Washington Assessment of Student Learning [WASL]) administered in 1997 were of concern to teachers and policy-makers because a large percentage of these students did not meet the performance standards. The test results of these students prompted educators to investigate and consider the challenges that these students face so that appropriate measures and interventions can be introduced into the teaching and learning process.

Language Proficiency


Current research in the area of reading in a second language is quite conclusive in relation to the degree that second-language proficiency correlates with reading ability. It is therefore important to define the construct of language proficiency. Lee and Schallert (1997) state that,

Theoretically, the construct of language proficiency is not a simple one as it relates to language competence, metalinguistic awareness,31 and the ability to speak, listen, read, and write the language in contextually appropriate ways. In referring to aspects of what is meant by language proficiency, researchers in the field have used many related terms. For example, Hymes (1972) distinguished linguistic competence or knowledge of the rules and systems of a language, from communicative competence, or knowledge of the social rules of language use. Canale and Swain (1980) and Canale (1983), for their part, identified four sub-categories of communicative competence: linguistic (grammatical), discourse, socio-linguistic, and strategic competence. (p.716)

In the majority of studies dealing with issues of reading, researchers look at oral language proficiency, traditionally measured by the number of words in a child’s vocabulary and the knowledge of grammar. Klein (1986) suggests that there are two aspects of oral proficiency, the active command, or proficiency in production, and the passive command, with proficiency in comprehension. Oral proficiency is also regulated by age appropriate communication, in that a five year old child has a differing proficiency than a thirty year old in a native language. A child is by no means a master of the language when he or she arrives at school, and language continues to develop in terms of complexity and lexicon into adulthood.

The critical interaction between the L2 oral proficiency and reading has always been closely connected to a particular method of second language teaching. The belief in the primacy of spoken language resulted in a common practice that would actually ban reading instruction in the L2 until the student mastered the oral language. This “ban” included any exposure to the written language. This approach was typical of the very popular audiolingual method that started in the forties with the work of Bloomfield (1942) and continued until the late seventies and even into the early eighties. Yorio (1971) advanced the debate in the area of reading in an L2 by claiming that difficulties that second language readers experience are due to their limited knowledge of the new language. In addition, “Interference from the native language compounds the problem of imperfect command of the second language, making the task of the second language competence even more complex.” (Yorio, 1971, p.108, as cited in Devine, 1988). Subsequent research in this area provided additional evidence that led the researchers to conclude that L2 reading problems are due to language problems.

Many researchers believe that the actual process of reading is identical regardless of language. The proponents of this belief maintain that first language reading strategies will automatically transfer into the L2 reading process. This position has been gradually subjected to some criticism and a renewed interest in the critical role of language proficiency emerged in the 1980s.32 Currently, there seems to be a general agreement among researchers that language proficiency plays a critical role in reading comprehension. Eskey and Grabe (1988) claim, “Reading requires a relatively high degree of grammatical control over structures that appear in whatever readings are given to L2 students” (p.226).

In summary, all relevant current research concentrates on investigating the reasons proficient first-language (L1) readers often experience difficulties reading in a second language (L2). Researchers have observed that students reading in a foreign language often do not understand the meaning of what is read. These students also read at a slower rate, and experience a great deal of difficulty during the reading process (Alderson, 1984). Researchers posed the following question: Are difficulties with reading in an L2 due to a language problem (i.e., low oral language proficiency in the second language) or a reading problem (i.e., poor reading skills and strategies)?33 Researchers examined a combination of possibilities around the following hypotheses:



  1. Poor reading in the L2 is due to poor reading ability in the L1.

  2. Poor reading in the L2 is due to lack of proficiency in the L2.

  3. Poor reading in the L2 is due to incorrect reading strategies in the L2.

  4. Poor reading in the L2 is due to not employing the L1 reading strategies in L2 reading, due to lack of proficiency in the L2.

The preponderance of the evidence in most studies points toward a lack of proficiency in an L2 as being the primary reason for L2 reading difficulties (i.e., H2), at least at relatively low levels of L2 competence (Alderson, 1984; Cziko, 1978; Kamhi-Stein, 1998; Lee & Schallert, 1997);34 in the case of advanced L1 readers, poor reading in an L2 is due to a lack of L2 proficiency which causes them to transfer and use only basic reading strategies when reading in the L2 (i.e., H4) (Carrell, 1991; Clarke, 1978; Kamhi-Stein, 1998; Lee & Schallert, 1997). These conclusions are consistent with Cummins' "threshold hypothesis," a hypothesis based on his research of the reading behaviors of English-French bilingual students in Canada (Cummins, 1979b). According to Cummins, individuals will not be able to read well in an L2 until they reach a threshold level of language proficiency (also referred to as a linguistic ceiling) that is sufficient to access meaning from print.35 Hence, attaining this threshold level (i.e., a reasonable oral language proficiency) is the deciding factor in success or failure in L2 reading.

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness


The challenges facing ELLs when learning to read in English include not only learning the English language, but also becoming aware of the phonemic36 and phonological37 principles of this new language. Usually, this process begins at birth and is inherent to the first-language development cycle. It is believed that a child’s perception of speech progresses from holistic (focusing on shapes of syllables and words) to segmental during the preschool years (Jusczyk, Friederici, Wessels, Svenkerud, & Jusczyk, 1993; Studdert-Kennedy, 1986; etc. as cited in Snow, et al., 1998). This is deemed important for reading an alphabetic language, such as English, where letters correspond roughly to phonemes (Walley, 1993; as cited in Snow, et al., 1998).

ELLs enter school having developed phonological awareness for their native language, not English. This becomes a challenge when they apply the principles of their native-language awareness during their attempts to read in English. Since some ability to segment spoken language into phonemic units is a prerequisite to beginning to read (August & Hakuta, 1997), ELLs experience difficulties.38

These difficulties are exacerbated by the relative complexity of the English writing system. During the 1996/97 school year, seventy-six percent of the children in ESL/bilingual programs in the State of Washington were speakers of syllabic languages such as Russian (7.5%), Ukrainian (3.3%), and Spanish (65%) (OSPI, 1998b). In syllabic languages, unlike English, the basic principle is that syllables are spelled as they sound and that each syllable is always spelled in the same way, hence they always sound the same way. In these languages, syllables are formed as a combination of a consonant and a vowel or as consonant – vowel – consonant. For example:

la me – sa

el ni – ño

la pa – red

In contrast, written English relies on an alphabetic system that represents the parts that make up a spoken syllable, rather than representing the syllable as a unit (Snow, et al., 1998). Such a system

poses a challenge to the beginning reader, because the units represented graphically by letters of the alphabet are referentially meaningless and phonologically abstract. For example, there are three sounds represented by three letters in the word "but," but each sound alone does not refer to anything, and only the middle sound can really be pronounced in isolation. (Snow, et al., 1998, p.22)

The English system of writing is made even more complex by the fact that words are often spelled in a manner that reflects the morphological relationship between certain words, but makes the sound-symbol relationships more difficult to understand (Snow, et al., 1998). For example, "the last letter pronounced 'k' in the written word 'electric' represents quite different sounds in the words 'electricity' and 'electrician'" (Snow, et al., 1998, p.23). Furthermore, English retains "many historical spellings, despite changes in pronunciation that render the spellings opaque. [For instance] the 'gh' in 'night' and 'neighborhood' represents a consonant that has long since disappeared from spoken English" (Snow, et al., 1998, p.23). Therefore, "English can present a challenge for a learner who expects to find each letter always linked to just one sound” (Snow, et al., 1998, p.23).39

Vocabulary


Another difficulty faced by ELLs is limited English vocabulary. August and Hakuta (1997) conclude that English vocabulary is the primary determinant of English reading comprehension. Similarly, Snow, et al. (1998) note that "there is a well-documented link between vocabulary size and early reading ability" (p.47).

Significantly, Snow, et al. argue that one possible reason for this link between vocabulary size and early reading ability may be that when formal reading instruction begins, a limited vocabulary may impede a child's achieving a level of phonemic awareness for spoken words necessary for fluent decoding of written words. According to this theory, early reading ability is contingent on vocabulary size rather than age or general developmental level. This suggests that it is unrealistic to expect ELLs to perform on a par with their native-English speaking peers within a short period of time, since ELLs will often need to increase drastically their English vocabularies in order to do so. It also suggests that a prerequisite to formal reading instruction for ELLs is an immersion in language learning experiences that effectively build the English vocabularies of these students.

One study that emphasizes the need for such vocabulary building is by White, Graves and Slater (1990). White and his colleagues conducted comparison studies of vocabulary growth among three groups of children from first through fourth grade. The groups were each composed of students from one of three schools: a white suburban school; an inner-city, predominantly African American school where students spoke an English dialect; and a semi-rural school with dialect speaking, economically disadvantaged Asian Pacific students. The vocabulary size of first graders in these three groups ranged from 5,000 words for the white students, to 3,500 for the urban students, to 2,500 for the Asian Pacific students. In spite of intensive vocabulary and decoding instruction, the “vocabulary gap” never closed (although the students in all three groups increased their vocabulary sizes considerably). White, et al. (1990) maintain that this vocabulary gap reflects a differing knowledge of word meaning that is engendered by the different experiences of majority and minority children. According to White, et al., "Both at home and in school, the dialect speaking students… were likely to have heard and used different words than the standard-English-speaking students from [the white suburban school]" (p.288).40 This implies that, because vocabulary size is so critical to reading ability, it is crucial that dialect speakers and ethnic minority students (including ELLs) are helped to close this gap by being immersed in language learning experiences that provide optimal conditions for building the English vocabulary necessary for the domain of school. These activities should be purposeful, meaningful, challenging, contextually rich and age appropriate.

Background Knowledge


Another challenge ELLs face in learning to read in English involves the background knowledge of these students. Researchers agree that sufficient or appropriate background knowledge is a crucial factor in reading comprehension (which, as stated above, is viewed as an interactive process between the reader and the text) (Adams & Collins, 1979; Carrell, 1983a, 1983b, 1983c, 1984; Carrell & Wallace, 1983; Rumelhart, 1977; etc. as cited in Carrell, 1984). Research in this area is called schema theory, and forms the foundation of the reader-centered, psycholinguistic processing model of EFL/ESL reading.41 According to this theory, reading comprehension becomes efficient if the reader is able to relate the written material to his or her own prior experience or knowledge structures, called schemata (Adams & Collins, 1979; Rumelhart, 1980; as cited in Carrell & Eisterhold, 1983).

Since reading comprehension is tied to the reader's ability to relate his or her own experiences to a text, ELLs often face difficulties reading in English. This is because the cultural backgrounds of these students are usually very different from the culture embedded in the English reading material they encounter. Because the background knowledge that these children bring to the reading process is culturally based, culturally biased, and often culture-specific, it is important that teachers be particularly sensitive to reading problems that result from differences between students' background knowledge and the implicit cultural knowledge that a text presupposes (Carrell & Eisterhold, 1983). Educators must find appropriate ways to minimize cultural conflicts and interference in order to maximize comprehension (Carrell & Eisterhold, 1983).42


Cultural and Sociopolitical Risk Factors and Challenges


Other factors hypothesized as contributing to ELLs' higher risk of developing difficulties learning to read are cultural and sociopolitical in nature. In regard to the former, ELLs may encounter a discontinuity between the culture of their school and that of their home in terms of educational values and expectations. There may be a mismatch between the two in definitions of literacy, in beliefs about teaching practices, and in defined roles for parents versus teachers (Jacob & Jordan, 1987; Tharp; 1989; as cited in Snow, et al., 1998). Such a mismatch can create obstacles to children's learning to read in school. However, some argue that more influential than such cultural discontinuities are sociopolitical factors that result in low motivation and educational aspirations (Ogbu, 1974, 1982, as cited in Snow, et al., 1998). These factors include past and ongoing discrimination against certain minority groups, and the low perceived social and economic opportunities for them.

In a thorough summary of factors correlated with the development of reading difficulties among children in the U.S., Snow, et al. (1998) assert that children at higher risk include:



  • those from families of low socio-economic status;

  • those who attend schools with disproportionately high numbers of children in poverty;

  • those from ethnic-minority families;

  • those from families with a history of reading difficulties;

  • those from families in which a nonstandard dialect of English is spoken in the home; and

  • those from families in which a language other than English is spoken in the home.

Return to Table of Contents

Section Two: Learning to Read in English


Most children in literate societies are involved in pre-reading activities very early in their lives. They are surrounded by print; they observe their siblings, their parents and caregivers reading; they are involved in interactive language games; and they are given educational toys that emphasize early literacy development. These experiences prepare children for the point at which reading-related development crosses over from the knowledge of the parts to achieving a functional knowledge of the principles of the culture’s writing system and details of its orthography (Snow, et al., 1998). This is the point at which "real reading" begins, when children read unfamiliar text without help, relying on print and drawing meaning from it (Snow, et al., 1998, p.42). However, there is no precise age at which all children are ready to make this transition since “the capacity to learn to read and write is guided by the child’s individual developmental timetable” (Snow, et al., 1998, p.43).

Irrespective of when a child is ready to begin this transition to real reading, adequate progress in learning to read beyond the initial level in English, or any other alphabetic language, depends on:



  • having a working understanding of how sounds are represented alphabetically;

  • sufficient practice in reading to achieve fluency with different kinds of texts;

  • sufficient background knowledge and vocabulary to render written texts meaningful and interesting;

  • control over procedures for monitoring comprehension and repairing misunderstandings; and

  • continued interest and motivation to read for a variety of purposes (Snow, et al., 1998, p.3-4).

Adapting the above requirements to children learning to read in English, when English is their second language, a reader needs:

  • reasonable knowledge of the English language;

  • knowledge of the phonological and phonemic principles of the English language;

  • knowledge of English orthography, including the alphabetic principle;

  • appropriate background knowledge to construct meaning from the text;

  • adequate reading skills and strategies;

  • sufficient practice in reading to achieve fluency with different kinds of text; and

  • continued interest and motivation to read for a variety of purposes.

In this section we provide an overview of how instruction should be tailored to meet the needs of ELLs in regard to these abilities, motivations and experiences that are necessary for learning to read in English.

Reading Readiness in English


One important component of meeting the needs of ELLs is providing these students with the "reading readiness" they need in order to begin to learn to read in English. When typical native speakers of English enter kindergarten, they are expected to bring the following skills and experiences with them in preparation for learning to read:

  • several thousand words in their vocabularies;

  • a certain level of phonological awareness attained through some prior exposure to rhymes and alliterations;

  • practice writing their own names and “reading” environmental print; and

  • other sources of information about the nature of the analysis they will be expected to engage in (Snow, et al., 1998).

This includes expectations of appropriate metacognitive and metalinguistic knowledge. For ELLs however, the reading readiness they have developed for their L1 is not very helpful to them when initial reading instruction is conducted in English. Therefore, researchers advise that formal instruction in reading in English needs to be delayed while these students are supported in developing reading readiness in English.

When non-English speakers are provided with English reading instruction they are not sure whether their first attempts at reading are successful or not because they do not understand the language itself. Snow, et al. (1998) warn,

Giving a child initial reading instruction in a language that he or she does not yet speak... can undermine the child’s chance [to] see literacy as a powerful form of communication, by knocking the support of meaning out from underneath the process of learning. (Snow, et al., 1998, p.237)

ELLs must instead be supported in acquiring the requisite reading readiness for English before the introduction of formal English reading instruction. This reading readiness includes sufficiently developed English-language vocabulary, phonological and phonemic awareness in relation to the English language, and initial awareness of the alphabetic principle (Snow, et al., 1998).


First-Language Reading Instruction


A second important component of meeting the needs of ELLs is providing initial reading instruction in the L1 to those students with no proficiency in English if the school district has the resources to do so (Snow, et al., 1998). Even though current research has the tendency to view the L2 oral language proficiency as the critical variable with regard to comprehension, we cannot ignore the idea of the transfer of reading skills and strategies from the L1 to any subsequent language a learner might study. Research based on the still widely accepted psycholinguistic theory of learning provides us with considerable evidence to this effect.

August and Hakuta (1997) call for further study in the area of transfer of reading skills. They warn,

The essential idea here is that the nature of reading skills needs to be defined somewhat differently at different points in its development, and thus that acquisition of prior skills does not always predict growth in reading ability; there are several points in development where more skills need to be acquired. (p.60-61)

In summary, the Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children concluded that initial reading instruction in the first language is not detrimental to the child’s acquisition of English. On the contrary, initial instruction in the second language can have negative short term and long term impact on student achievement (Snow, et al., 1998, p.238).

No research was identified on the precise sequence of steps that teachers should follow in order to develop reading readiness and teach reading skills and strategies to ELLs. In the absence of such research, we have adapted the recommendations for early reading instruction issued by the Committee for the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children (Snow, et al., 1998) and present them in Box 2:1.

This complex process should be carried out while incorporating the students’ background knowledge. This process should simulate the developmental process that native-English speakers experience while developing reading readiness at an earlier age. It is recommended that this process be implemented in an age-appropriate way, through a challenging curriculum in non-threatening, enriched classroom environments.

No research on exactly when formal English reading instruction should begin was identified. Although researchers suggest that this instruction should not begin until a reasonable level of English oral proficiency is achieved, what constitutes a reasonable level is not defined. Nonetheless, L1 research provides some general clues as to what this level might be through L1 vocabulary studies, recommending a vocabulary size of several thousand words.

One question, perhaps the most controversial in reading research, remains: Which method is the best for initial reading?—the whole-word method (Flesch, 1955, as cited in August & Hakuta, 1997), phonics/direct instruction methods, or whole-language methods (Chall, 1967, 1983; Adams; 1990; as cited in August & Hakuta, 1997). For the first time, however, a mixed method of teaching reading has been recommended “officially” by Adams and Bruck (1995) and Purcell-Gates (1996) (as cited in August & Hakuta, 1997). It is more likely however that early literacy acquisition will be successful under a wide variety of circumstances, even though it is often impacted by a long list of challenges and risk factors (August & Hakuta, 1997, p.24).



Box 2:
DEVELOPMENTAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF LITERACY ACQUISITION43
Birth to 3-Year-Old Accomplishments

  • Recognizes specific books by cover.

  • Pretends to read books.

  • Understands that books are handled in particular ways.

  • Enters into a book sharing routine with primary caregivers.

  • Vocalization play in crib gives way to enjoyment of rhyming language, nonsense word play, etc.

  • Labels objects in books.

  • Comments on characters in books.

  • Looks at picture in book and realizes it is a symbol for real object.

  • Listens to stories.

  • Requests/commands adult to read or write.

  • May begin attending to specific print such as letters in names.

  • Uses increasingly purposive scribbling.

  • Occasionally seems to distinguish between drawing and writing.

  • Produces some letter-like forms and scribbles with some features on English writing.

Three to 4-Year-Old Accomplishments

  • Knows that alphabet letters are a special category of visual graphics that can be individually named.

  • Recognizes local environmental print.

  • Knows that it is the print that is read in stories.

  • Understands that different text forms are used for different functions of print (e.g., list for groceries).

  • Pays attention to separable and repeating sounds in language (e.g., Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater, Peter Eater).

  • Uses new vocabulary and grammatical constructions in own speech.

  • Understands and follows oral directions.

  • Is sensitive to some sequences of events in stories.

  • Shows an interest in books and reading.

  • When being read a story, connects information and events to life experiences.

  • Questions and comments demonstrate understanding of literal meaning of story being told.

  • Displays reading and writing attempts, calling attention to self: "Look at my story."

  • Can identify ten alphabet letters, especially those from own name.

  • "Writes" (scribbles) message as part of playful activity.

  • May begin to attend to beginning or rhyming sound in salient words.

Box 2:1 (Continued)

Kindergarten Accomplishments


  • Knows the parts of a book and their functions.

  • Begins to track print when listening to a familiar text being read or when rereading own writing.

  • "Reads" familiar texts emergently, i.e., not necessarily verbatim from the print alone.

  • Recognized and can name all uppercase and lowercase letters.

  • Understands that the sequence of letters in a written word represents the sequence of sounds (phonemes) in a spoken word (alphabetic principle).

  • Learns many, thought not all, one-to-one letter sound correspondences.

  • Recognizes some words by sight, including a few very common ones (a, the, I, my, you, is, are).

  • Uses new vocabulary and grammatical constructions in own speech.

  • Makes appropriate switches from oral to written language situations.

  • Notices when simple sentences fail to make sense.

  • Connects information and events in texts to life and life to text experiences.

  • Retells, reenacts, or dramatizes stories or parts of stories.

  • Listens attentively to books teacher reads to class.

  • Can name some book titles and authors.

  • Demonstrates familiarity with a number of types or genres of text (e.g., storybooks, expository texts, poems, newspapers, and everyday print such as signs, notices, labels).

  • Correctly answers questions about stories read aloud.

  • Makes predictions based on illustrations or portions of stories.

  • Demonstrates understanding that spoken words consist of a sequence of phonemes.

  • Given spoken sets like "dan, dan, den" can identify the first two as same and the third as different.

  • Given spoken sets like "dak, pat, zen" can identify the first two as sharing a same sound.

  • Given spoken segments, can merge them into a meaningful target work.

  • Given a spoken word, can produce another work that rhymes with it.

  • Independently writes many uppercase and lowercase letters.

  • Uses phonemic awareness and letter knowledge to spell independently (invented or creative spelling).

  • Writes (unconventionally) to express own meaning.

  • Builds a repertoire of some conventionally spelled words.

  • Shows awareness of distinction between "kid writing" and conventional orthography.

  • Writes own name (first and last) and the first names of some friends or classmates.

  • Can write most letters and some words when they are dictated.




Box 2:1 (Continued)

First Grade Accomplishments


  • Makes a transition from emergent to "real" reading.

  • Reads aloud with accuracy and comprehension any text that is appropriately designed for the fast half of Grade 1.

  • Accurately decodes orthographically regular, one-syllable words and nonsense words (e.g., sit, zot) using print-sound mappings to sound out unknown words.

  • Uses letter-sound correspondence knowledge to sound out unknown words when reading text.

  • Recognizes common, irregularly spelled words by sight (have, said, where, two).

  • Has reading vocabulary of 300 to 500 words, sight words, and easily sounded out words.

  • Monitors own reading and self-corrects when an incorrectly identified word does not fit with cues provided by the letters in the word or the context surrounding the word.

  • Reads and comprehends both fiction and nonfiction that is appropriately designed for grade level.

  • Shows evidence of expanding language repertory, including increasing appropriate use of standard , more formal language registers.

  • Creates own written texts for others to read.

  • Notices when difficulties are encountered in understanding text.

  • Reads and understands simple written instructions.

  • Predicts and justifies what will happen next in stories.

  • Discusses prior knowledge of topics in expository texts.

  • Discusses how, why, and what-if questions in nonfiction texts.

  • Describes new information gained from texts in own words.

  • Distinguishes whether simple sentences are incomplete or fail to make sense; notices when simple texts fail to make sense.

  • Can answer simple written comprehension questions based on material read.

  • Can count the number of syllables in a word.

  • Can blend or segment the phonemes of most one-syllable words.

  • Spells correctly three- and four-letter short vowel words.

  • Composes fairly readable first drafts using appropriate parts of the writing process (some attention to planning, drafting, and rereading for meaning and some self-corrections).

  • Uses invented spelling/phonics-based knowledge to spell independently when necessary.

  • Shows spelling consciousness or sensitivity to conventional spelling.

  • Uses basic punctuation and capitalization.

  • Produces a variety of compositions (e.g., stories, descriptions, journal entries), showing appropriate relationships between printed text, illustrations, and other graphics.

  • Engages in a variety of literary activities voluntarily (e.g., choosing books and stories to read, writing a note to a friend).

Box 2:1 (Continued)

Second Grade Accomplishments


  • Reads and comprehends both fiction and nonfiction that is appropriately designed for grade level.

  • Accurately decodes orthographically regular, multisyllable words and nonsense words (e.g., capital, Kalamazoo).

  • Uses knowledge of print-sound mappings to sound out unknown words.

  • Accurately reads many irregularly spelled words and such spelling patterns as diphthongs, special vowel spellings, and common word endings.

  • Reads and comprehends both fiction and nonfiction that is appropriately designed for the grade.

  • Shows evidence of expanding language repertory including increasing use of more formal language registers.

  • Reads voluntarily for interest and own purposes.

  • Rereads sentences when meaning is not clear.

  • Interprets information from diagrams, charts, and graphs.

  • Recalls facts and details of texts.

  • Reads nonfiction materials for answers to specific questions or for specific purposes.

  • Takes part in creative responses to texts such as dramatizations, oral presentations, fantasy play, etc.

  • Discusses similarities in characters and events across stories.

  • Connects and compares information across nonfiction selections.

  • Poses possible answers to how, why, and what if questions.

  • Correctly spells previously studied words and spelling patterns in own writing.

  • Represents the complete sound of a word when spelling independently.

  • Shows sensitivity to using formal language patterns in place of oral language patterns at appropriate spots in own writing (e.g., decontextualizing sentences, conventions for quoted speech, literary language forms, proper verb forms).

  • Makes reasonable judgments about what to include in written products.

  • Productively discusses ways to clarify and refine writing of self and others.

  • With assistance, adds use of conferencing, revision, and editing processes to clarify and refine own writing to the steps of the expected parts of the writing process.

  • Given organizational help, writes informative, well-structured reports.

  • Attends to spelling, mechanics, and presentation for final products.

  • Produces a variety of types of compositions (e.g., stories, reports, correspondence).




Box 2:1 (Continued)

Third Grade Accomplishments


  • Reads aloud with fluency and comprehension any text that is appropriately designed for grade level.

  • Uses letter-sound correspondence knowledge and structural analysis to decode words.

  • Reads and comprehends both fiction and nonfiction that is appropriately designed for grade level.

  • Reads longer fictional selections and chapter books independently.

  • Takes part in creative responses to texts such as dramatizations, oral presentations, fantasy play, etc.

  • Can point to or clearly identify specific words or wordings that are causing comprehension difficulties.

  • Summarizes major points from fiction and nonfiction texts.

  • In interpreting nonfiction, distinguishes cause and effect, fact and opinion, main idea and supporting details.

  • Uses information and reasoning to examine bases of hypotheses and opinions.

  • Infers word meaning from taught roots, prefixes, and suffixes.

  • Correctly spells previously studied words and spelling patterns in own writing.

  • Begins to incorporate literacy words and language patterns in own writing (e.g., elaborates descriptions, uses figurative wording).

  • With some guidance, uses all aspects of the writing process in producing own compositions and reports.

  • Combines information from multiple sources when writing reports.

  • With assistance, suggests and implements editing and revision to clarify and refine own writing.

  • Presents and discusses own writing with other students and responds helpfully to other students' compositions.

  • Independently reviews work for spelling, mechanics, and presentation.

  • Produces a variety of written work (e.g., literature response, reports, "published" books, semantic maps) in a variety of formats, including multimedia forms.



First-Language Instructional Support


A third important component of meeting the needs of ELLs is providing instructional support in the L1 at least through age 8. This facilitates the process of learning to read in English in two primary ways. First, by providing ELLs with L1 instructional support, they are given access to academic content through a language they understand. This in turn increases the background knowledge and continual age-appropriate cognitive development of these students, which, as was discussed above, is so important to reading comprehension. Second, L1 instructional support assists ELLs in completing the first-language development process. This is important because, as was discussed in Chapter One, an ELL's degree of L1 development is an important factor in the rate of L2 acquisition, and because there is a strong correlation between English as a second language oral proficiency and English reading ability.

Although this point is often controversial in public debate, research has provided compelling evidence to this effect. “Children with good schooling in their native language are able to transfer both skills and concepts to English, and this accelerates their transition to mainstream instruction” (Chamot, 1998, p.5). As is noted by Thomas and Collier (1997), "The deeper a student's level of the L1 cognitive and academic development (which includes L1 proficiency development), the faster students will progress in L2 [proficiency development]" (p.38). Of all the student background variables Thomas and Collier examined, the most powerful predictor of L2 reading success is formal schooling in a student's L1.



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