What’s Different About Teaching
Reading to Students Learning
Presented By
Bob Alexander, ELA Consultant
K-12 Curriculum, Instruction, and
Instructional Technology
By the Numbers
• 2000-2001 school year, 8% of the student
population identified as English language
learners (ELL).
• Between 2001-2004 English language proficient
(ELP) students PreK-12 grew by 46% in grades
PreK-5, by 64% in grades 6-12.
• In 2004, 34.2 million people were foreign born.
• Less than 75% of eigth grades graduate in five
• 25% of all high school students read at “below
basic” levels.
(Capps et al., 2005) (Joftus, 2002)
The National Literacy Panel Findings
“…the development of oral
language skills and vocabulary
knowledge, and opportunities for
meaningful learning experiences,
are key to developing the literacy
skills of English language
(August & Shanahan, 2007)
Low Literacy
“…low literacy levels also prevent
students from mastering content in
other subjects. The problem is
exacerbated by the fact that many
teachers in schools serving large
numbers of low-performing students
are neither trained to teach reading
nor well qualified in the subject they
(Joftus, 2002)
Four Primary Principles of Instruction
1. Increase comprehension
2. Increase student-to-student interaction.
3. Increase higher order thinking and use
of learning strategies.
4. Make connections to students’
background knowledge.
Back to Basics
So, Bob…What is different?
• Process
• Ability
• Level and ability
• Strategies
• Process
• Ability
• Acquisition
• Strategies
Essential Components of Successful
Reading Programs
1. Comprehension
2. Vocabulary
3. Beginning Reading Skills
4. Fluency
5. Content Area Reading
and Study Skills
1. Comprehension
2. Vocabulary
3. Beginning
Reading Skills
4. Fluency
5. Content Area
Reading and
Study Skills
Reading First:
1. Phonemic awareness
2. Phonics
3. Vocabulary
4. Fluency
5. Reading comprehension
Using Multiple Methods of
Beginning Reading Instruction
• There is no one single method or single
combination of methods.
• Teachers must have a strong knowledge of
multiple methods for teaching reading.
• Teachers must have knowledge of their
• Knowledge + balance of methods = success
IRA Position Statement for Second
Language Literacy Instruction
IRA Position Statement for Second
Language Literacy Instruction
Reading is a
system of
from print.
The development
and maintenance
of a motivation to
“Motivation (in reading) can be
defined as the cluster of personal
goals, values, and beliefs with regard
the topics, processes, and outcomes
of reading that an individual
–– Guthrie &Wigfield (2000, p. 404, as cited in Kamil, 2003, p. 7)
Alexander, Bob. Here
and Now. 2008
What Can Teachers Do to
Motivate Students to Read?
• Model good reading practices
• Create print–rich environments
• Provide a variety of materials for
What Can Teachers Do to
Motivate Students to Read?
Demonstrate incentives that reflect the
values of reading, including the
Satisfy curiosity
Experience emotional satisfaction
Learn new information
Foster creative and active responses
through multiple modes of response
What Can Teachers Do to
Motivate Students to Read?
The Hard and Easy of Learning English
Sounds of the alphabet
Exceptions to rules
Figurative language
Sentence Construction
Number of words
Lack of prior knowledge
Words with multiple
Graphic organizers
Concrete objects
High interest materials
Gestures and facial
Choral reading
Readers’ theater
What’s Different About Comprehension?
Some native English speakers may:
• Share much of the same knowledge and
experiences because they have grown up
in the United States (Hirsch, Jr., 2006).
• Share many of the same values, beliefs,
and attitudes about school and learning
because they have attended U.S. schools
(Hirsch, Jr., 2006).
What’s Different About Comprehension?
Some English Language Learners May:
• Enjoy pleasure reading in
English if the topic is one that
they would read about in their
native language. (Krashen, 1982).
• Benefit from using their
native language to
discuss a topic before
and after reading about it
in English. (Snow, Burns, &
• Not have the prior knowledge
Griffin, 1998; Tankersley, 2005)
needed to understand
written texts because of
• Need to learn about a
socioeconomic status,
educational background, cultural
new culture and the ways
knowledge, or a combination of
language is used in social
these factors.
and academic contexts.
(Kamil, 2003; Peregoy & Boyle, 2001)
(TESOL, 1997)
Factors to Keep in Mind
1. Not all languages are
2. Not all languages
share the same
3. Reading modes include
the same set of three
processing dimensions:
Factors to Keep in Mind
What is NOT considered in reading
• Second Language reader’s prior
knowledge of the sound-letter
connection in the native language.
• ELL’s come from around the globe
and bring different language
experiences with them.
• Teachers’ need to understand
nonnative's reading and writing
systems in order to teach English
Fluency and English Language Learners
English language learners who
know how the alphabetic principal
works in their first language can
transfer this knowledge to their
learning to read English.
(Birch, 2002)
Fluency and English Language Learners
Teachers of English language learners
1. Help students recognize that what they
know about their native language can
help them with reading English.
2. Encourage students to read texts related
to their native culture.
3. Model, along with other students, fluent
reading of brief text passages.
Content and English Language Learners
Successful Strategies:
1. Setting a purpose for
2. Thinking about what you
already know about the
3. Thinking about what you
do not know about the
4. Concentrating on getting
5. Underling important parts
6. Asking questions as you
7. Asking questions about
parts you do not
8. Using other info to figure
out what you do not
9. Taking notes.
10. Picturing info in your
Teaching Academic Language:
• Academic language is the key to
success in the grade-level
• Academic language is not usually
learned outside the classroom
• Most ELL do not have fluency in
academic language.
• Academic language provides
students with practice using
• Learning strategies can be taught
through academic language
Assessment and ELL
• The goal of literacy assessment is to—
“Help to motivate educators and guide
them to understand the larger issues in
education, frame important goals,
gather multiple kids of evidence, and
engage in rich discussions about how to
help all students become better readers,
writers, listeners, and speakers.”
(Winograd, Flores-Duenas, & Arrington, 2003)
Assessment and ELL
What’s Different?
1. Teachers need to
discover which
content objectives
ELL have already
2. Teachers need to
use assessment
aligned with
students’ language
proficiency levels.
3. recommended
• Performance
• Portfolio assessments
• Student-self
• Modified traditional
Testing and ELL
• Most standardized tests assess students’
English language proficiency and NOT
their content knowledge and skills.
• The cultural content of the test questions
may not be familiar to students.
• The test format may not be familiar to
What’s Different?
In a “nutshell”:
• The same techniques and strategies that work w/ native
speakers work with ELL’s, BUT:
1. Teachers must learn to MODIFY instruction.
2. Teachers must learn to build in “background”.
3. Teachers must learn to teach vocabulary
(both in the language and the academic
4. Teachers should plan instruction that allows ELL
students to interact with each other.
What’s Different?
5. The interaction should be socially, academically, and with
a text.
6. Teachers should still teach the “Big 5”, but they should
teach it in a nontraditional order:
• Comprehension
• Vocabulary
• Phonics
• Fluency
• Content and academic language.
(Alexander, B. Interview with Kauffman and Smallwood Jan. 30, 2008. Georgetown)
• Teachers need more exposure to ESL,
both prior to and during teaching.
• Instruction for teachers in language
acquisition (both at the university and
in local professional dev.)
• Consideration of ELL in all content
areas in teacher ed. Programs.
• Teacher-friendly staff development that
is ongoing, consistent, and supportive.
• Incorporate ELP standards into other
state standards and district curriculum.
• Mainstream teachers should work
together and communicate beyond
subject content (PLC’s, Critical
Friends Groups, etc.).
• Closer and more frequent
collaboration between ESL and
content area teachers.
• Continued financial support for ESL
teachers and ESL programs.
• Create and cultivate a culture that
enforces the idea that ALL content
teachers are literacy teachers.
(Alexander, B. Interview with Kauffman and Smallwood
Jan. 30, 2008. Georgetown)