Teaching Reading: Final Paper (Part 2)

Here is Part 2 of my Final Paper for Instructional Practices for Reading Teachers. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

Pretend you are a teacher in a diverse classroom. Explain what you would do to encourage students to learn English but still not abandon their own cultures.

It is very important that students from diverse cultures, especially those who have different native languages, be allowed to retain their cultural connection. “When students maintain a strong identification with their culture and native language, they are more likely to succeed academically and they have more positive self-concepts about their ability to learn” (Vacca, et. al., 2010, p. 59). To accomplish this, I would first model an attitude of mutual learning for all students. This means that I would invite the English Language Learners (ELLs) to teach us about their language and culture, while we in turn help them learn about our culture and our language. I would follow Vacca, et al.’s (2015) strategy and label items in the classroom with the word in English as well as the word in any other language represented in the classroom. I would invite the culturally/linguistically diverse students’ families into the school to share about their way of life with our students. Perhaps the parents, or even the linguistically diverse students themselves, would enjoy teaching a short little language/grammar lesson from their native language to the English-speaking students. I would also try to include books in our class library that are written in ELLs native language about our culture, and books in the English language about the ELLs culture, per Vacca, et al.’s (2015) advice. All of these strategies will show my linguistically diverse students that our classroom values their diverse backgrounds and wants to learn from them as well as teach them.

When students with a Limited English Proficiency (LEP) feel welcomed and admired rather than demeaned for their differences, they will be much more ready to learn English as a second language. To teach the English language, I would follow an approach of respect and understanding. Kauchak and Eggen (2014) explained that English language instruction programs that require students to speak only English and never revert to their native language are not very effective and “place unrealistic demands on students” (p. 83). Instead, it is better to give instruction in both the native language and the new language (Kauchak & Eggen, 2014). It is my personal desire to learn and become as fluent as possible in Spanish before beginning as a teacher in my own classroom. However, there is a possibility that I will encounter ELLs who speak a language other than Spanish, in which case I would make sure they had at least one friend who could interpret from/into English and relate to them in their native language. This could be another student in the classroom or school, or, if necessary, a university student from the same country who can speak the same language and act as a mentor, tutor, translator, advocate, and friend (Kesler, 2012, “Instructional Practices for ESL Students”). I would take a personal interest in my LEP students and make time to engage in authentic conversations with them, as conversational English is more quickly learned than academic English (Vacca, et al., 2015). Such conversations can help the ELL to feel at home in the classroom, which may lead to them speaking up more in class, and thus lead to quicker learning of academic English. Lastly, I would make the effort to learn as much as possible about the LEP students’ languages and cultures, so that I could elicit prior knowledge about topics during instruction and incorporate topics and interests that will be familiar to linguistically diverse students. If I look for every opportunity to activate schema during lessons, draw in multicultural information, use authentic assessments of all my students’ read-aloud abilities, link reading and writing to meaningful experiences, and study the similarities between different languages, “all children can develop reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills with a similar degree of success” (Vacca, et al., 2015, p. 64). As a teacher, I will make sure that my ELLs are learning a second language, not replacing a first.

References

Kauchak, D. & Eggen, P. (2014). Introduction to teaching: Becoming a professional. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Kesler, M. (2012). Instructional practices for ESL students (Week 2 presentation from Instructional Practices for Reading Teachers). Lynchburg, VA: Liberty University Online.

Vacca, J. A., Vacca, R. T., Gove, M. K., Burkey, L. C., Lenhart, L. A., & McKeon, C. A. (2015). Reading & learning to read (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

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