TEIS Newsletter

TEIS News, Volume 24:2 (March 2010)

by User Not Found | 10/31/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter From the Editor
    • Letter from the Chair
  • Articles and Information
    • Do You Have to Be an Expert in Business to Teach Business English?
    • A New Home, a New Culture, a New Language: Issues Affecting SLA in Older Internationally Adopted Children
    • The Importance of Doing Teacher Research: Why Should Teachers Shoulder the Burdens of Research
  • Book Reviews
    • Review of Differentiated Literacy Instruction for English Language Learners

Leadership Updates Letter From the Editor

Hyunsoo Hur, hyunsoohur@gmail.com

  The current issue of TEIS Newsletter presents a number of exciting articles ranging from a book review, the introduction of a course, an opinion article, and an issue article.

  • Jennifer Herrin shares the curriculum of seminar courses in Business Communication that she developed as a teacher educator in Ukraine.
  • Christen Pearson talks about various influential factors associated with internationally adopted children in their second language acquisition, and the necessity of raising future teachers’ awareness of the possible issues related to this population of students.
  • Shahla Yassaei calls attention to the importance of conducting teacher research and discusses several benefits that such practices offer to the teachers.
  • Alex Poole’s book review of Quiocho and Ulanoff’s (2009) Differentiated Literacy Instruction for English Language Learners highlights how the book can be a useful reference for ESL literacy instruction in public schools.

Hope you enjoy reading this issue!


Letter from the Chair

Hema Ramanathan, hramanat@westga.edu

Teacher education is a growing concern in all the countries. Though students are at the center of teaching, the influence that teachers have on them has been recognized. Education ministries around the world are providing for continued teacher development with standards that guide teacher growth. The evolving knowledge base that is particular to English language teaching is another focus of attention. For instance, the Teaching Knowledge Test by Cambridge ESOL identifies the essential knowledge areas for teaching English and is an attempt to unify core teaching skills and knowledge across cultures and countries. A growing body of research is focusing not merely on the how-to of teaching but increasingly on the why-do of teacher practice, the teacher beliefs that underlie our actions.

And how is this relevant to us at TESOL 2010? Wednesday, March 24 is designated K-12 Dream Day for teachers, with topics and presenters aimed at helping teachers in their professional lives. Our interest section has a high degree of participation at the convention. We received 272 submissions and have 66 slots for presentations. We are presenting four InterSections, with ALIS, BEIS, EEIS, and ESPIS.

TESOL teachers of the world are uniting. More than 100 of you read the proposals and contributed to a strong program. There are other opportunities to be part of this movement. Serve as the TEIS chair at TESOL 2013. Send me an e-mail and nominate yourself (or someone you think will serve you well). Drop by and see us at the TEIS booth in Boston. Most important, attend the TEIS Open Meeting on Thursday, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., as we discuss issues and future convention offerings.

See you at TESOL 2010 in Boston from March 24 to 27!



Articles and Information Do You Have to Be an Expert in Business to Teach Business English?

Jennifer Herrin, jherrin@cnm.edu

Many teachers are mystified by the field of business English. What is one supposed to teach? Principles of marketing? Vocabulary related to finance? Customer service skills? There has been some debate and confusion over a definitive answer. For instance, 30 years ago business English often meant teaching long lists of job-related vocabulary, all but completely neglecting production skills. As communication is paramount in language learning, a definition that has served me well is “a mix of specific content (relating to a particular job area), and general content (relating to general ability to communicate more effectively in business situations)” (Ellis & Johnson, 1994, p. 3). One can think of it as a two-layer cake, with one layer being the learner’s ability to perform in English (e.g., talk appropriately to a client on the phone) and the other layer being the specific vocabulary he or she needs to be able to perform (e.g., use terms such as invoice and past due).

Ellis and Johnson (1994) divided learners of business English into pre-experience and job-experienced. In light of my experience working with both learners, I feel that in most cases working with job-experienced learners is a bit easier because the learners know their job—what they lack is the English to conduct it. Hence, what they learn can be immediately applied to their real-world situations. Pre-experience learners may be learning about business concepts in their first language and concurrently learning English. They do not have much of a chance to use the language they are learning in class in the real world yet, so they especially need the opportunity to engage in simulations.

As a teacher trainer with a background in marketing and ESL teaching, I developed seminar courses in business communication—(1) Oral Skills and (2) Writing—while I was a senior fellow with the U.S. Department of State’s English Language Fellow Program in Ukraine. The response from the teachers countrywide was that the seminars helped them greatly; that prompted me to develop the mini-courses further. This past May, I was invited to give the trainings in Tbilisi, Georgia, at Grigol Robakidze University through another of the U.S. State Department’s programs, the English Language Specialist Program. The reaction from the teachers was also very positive as many of them are now being required to teach business English skills, both oral and written. The following paragraphs outline the way I prepared for and taught two teacher training modules focusing on professional communication.

To my mind, a language teacher’s job is to engage students in activities that facilitate learning language, so the belief that English teachers need to be experts in specific areas of business is not necessarily true. It does help if they have experience working in or reading about business; however, comparison shopping, writing professional e-mails, getting a loan, making group decisions, and talking on the telephone can count as the kind of experience that can help. Students are encouraged to research the specific terminology they need, so a good business English dictionary (English-English) can be very useful. “Even when working with pre-experience learners, it is not the language trainer’s role to teach the subject matter” (Ellis & Johnson, 1994, p. 26).

So then, what did my trainings consist of in Ukraine and Georgia? In the Business Communication–Oral Skills seminar, the teachers learned how to teach small talk, discussion skills, presentation skills, telephoning skills, and general coping strategies by actually doing mini-versions of the activities. Using a task-based instruction approach, not only was attention drawn to the language used at the end of each activity, but intercultural differences were pointed out as well. Concepts of personal space, turn-taking, appropriateness, and group dynamics and leadership were extremely interesting to the teachers. The course ended with a thank-you letter that participants wrote to the organizers of the course reflecting on what had been most useful.

Georgian teachers collaborate on a letter of application (Tbilisi, May 2009)

In the Business Writing Skills seminar, the participants engaged in task-based activities that allowed them to practice forms of deference (e.g., when to use Dear Dr. Drake: or Dear Daniel, or Hi Dan!), politeness (I would appreciate it if you could . . . or Can you . . . ?), register (as soon as possible vs. at your earliest convenience), and general concepts of KISS (keeping it short and simple) in business writing. They learned the structures used to organize and respond to formal and informal letters and e-mails. The trend of e-mail taking over the traditional role of letters, faxes, and memos was also discussed. The course closed with the teachers writing a final report to their supervisor giving an overview of what they had learned and how they planned to apply it. To simulate more real-world practice and to give the teachers ideas of what they could do with their students, the teachers were given regular homework assignments to write different kinds of e-mails to their fictitious supervisor, “Ms. Biz.” (A separate e-mail account through yahoo.com was set up for this . . . and yes, I really am Ms. Biz!)

By focusing on teaching “skills,” English teachers can learn to feel more confident about teaching business English, hence becoming better professional communicators themselves. They can learn to focus on helping their students improve their communicative performance in English in the context of the business world.

So, do I think you have to be an expert in business to teach Business English? No, I don’t think it is necessary to be an expert in business; however, taking an interest in learning more about the subject your students specialize in can be the “icing on the cake.”

REFERENCES

Ellis, M., & Johnson, C. (1994). Teaching business English. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

FURTHER READING

Gibson, R. (2000). Intercultural business communication. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Thomas, J. (1995). Meaning in interaction. Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited.

LINKS

Jennifer Herrin’s Linkedin Web page: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jenniferherrin

English Language Fellow Program: http://exchanges.state.gov/englishteaching/el-fellow.html

English Language Specialist Program: http://exchanges.state.gov/englishteaching/el-specialist.html

 

Jennifer Herrin received her bachelor’s of business administration in marketing from the University of Texas and completed her master’s degree in education-TESOL at the University of New Mexico. She has taught English in Central/Eastern Europe, Central America, Asia, Australia, and the United States. As a Fulbright grantee, she worked with English for Tourism teachers in Nicaragua. Through U.S. State Department programs, she has served as an English Language Specialist on projects in Argentina and Republic of Georgia and as the Senior English Language Fellow in the Ukraine conducting teacher-training workshops throughout the country. Currently, she is an ESL instructor at Central New Mexico Community College. She is especially interested in the task-based approach and interactive methodologies for learning language.


A New Home, a New Culture, a New Language: Issues Affecting SLA in Older Internationally Adopted Children

Christen M. Pearson, pearsonc@gvsu.edu

Internationally adopted (IA) children, who arrive home past the age of infancy and toddlerhood, have needs that are not usually addressed in the literature on second language acquisition (SLA). These needs include addressing delays in physical, emotional, and social development; managing health problems; and acclimating the child to a new culture and family structure. The older the child at arrival and the longer the period of institutionalization before placement, the more variables exist that can have an impact on the child’s learning, both academic and language-wise. For example, Johnson (2000a) has found that of all the delays documented at arrival home in this unique population of children, language is the greatest. If one considers this finding, along with the well-documented literature in SLA (e.g., Collier, 1995; Cummins, 1979, 1981, 1991), which shows that the stronger the base in the L1, the greater the potential for L2 learning (and vice versa), one can begin to see a potential problem for this group of children. In other words, children at high risk of first language delay are also at increased risk for challenges in learning a second language (English) upon arrival to the adoptive home.

The purpose, therefore, of this article is to begin to explore some of the issues of greatest concern for teachers of IA children, based on what is currently known about SLA in general, as well as what has been found to date in a large-scale study (N = 176) by this author. In this study, two main questions were posed: (a) which factors (across medical, psychosocial, and linguistic realms) exert the greatest influence on SLA in this population of children and (b) which factors, or cluster of factors, are weighted the heaviest in the acquisition of functional English (basic interpersonal communicative skills, or BICS) vs. academic English (cognitive academic language proficiency, or CALP)? Once the various contributing factors are better understood, teaching strategies can then be developed to better address the needs of IA children adopted at an older age (defined as age 3 years or older at time of arrival in the adoptive home). For example, if teachers know that chronic untreated ear infections are common in this population of children and that this often leads to hearing loss, a referral to the school speech-language pathologist (SLP) would be a good first line of advocacy in addition to exploring alternative teaching strategies that scaffold both ESL and hearing loss. In other words, teachers need to know some of the underlying medical, psychosocial, and linguistic problems this population of children experience in order to address these needs either before, or concurrently with, ESL support. (See Pearson, 2009a, for a fuller discussion of underlying language risks in ESL children.)

The first question posed above involves which factors (medical, psychosocial, first language proficiency, personality) have the greatest impact on learning ESL in this population of children. Looking first at the linguistic domain of first language proficiency, Johnson (2000b) has found that first language development is often significantly delayed in IA children, often by 1 month for every 3 months spent in an orphanage setting. The implications for this finding are discussed by Gindis (2000, n.d.), who notes that recent advances in contemporary neuroscience have set the sensitive period for language development to within the first 2 years of life. (See Locke, 1993, for a discussion of this area of neurolinguistics.) What this means for the teacher of an IA child is that if the first language—the foundation of ESL—has been significantly delayed, and if the sensitive period for language development has now passed, there may be gaps in linguistic knowledge that will be difficult to overcome. As can be seen, this is a different situation than with the ESL child whose first language is at an age-appropriate level and where a second code is simply being learned. With postinstitutionalized IA children, the underlying language processing system may not be firmly in place.

With regard to another domain of influencing factors, it has been well documented that medical problems can negatively impact first language (L1) acquisition (Briscoe, Gathercole, & Marlow, 1998; Fahey, 2000; Hall, Oyer, & Haas, 2001; Paul, 1995). This is true for SLA as well, in both the nonadopted ESL population (see Roseberry-McKibbin, 2007, for an overview) and the IA population (see Miller, 2005, for an extensive discussion of medical issues). Pearson (2005a, 2005b, 2009b) has also found the following medical factors to have a negative effect on IA children’s acquisition of the L2: general medical condition upon arrival to the adoptive home, low birth weight, hearing status (frequent or chronic ear infections, conductive or sensorineural hearing loss), and severe or chronic tuberculosis (TB), a not uncommon disease in this population of children.

Psychosocial factors are a third domain that has been documented in the monolingual population as having an influence on L1 development (Carlson, Ciechetti, Barnett, & Braunwald, 1989; Owens, Metz, & Haas, 2003). In older IA children, Pearson (2005a, 2005b) also found psychosocial factors to be influential on L2 acquisition. These factors included degree of trauma, neglect, or posttraumatic-stress disorder (PTSD), as well as amount of physical and emotional deprivation. A subfield of psychosocial factors, that of personality, has been studied regarding its effect on L2 learning as well (Ely, 1986; Gass & Selinker, 2001; Larsen-Freeman & Long, 1991; Olshtain, Shohamy, Kemp, & Chatow, 1990; Wong Fillmore, 1982). Using personality characteristics that have previously been found to be influential in the nonadopted population, Pearson (2005a, 2005b) investigated their effect in the older IA population. She also found that anxiety, pessimism, being unmotivated, or not being a risk-taker all had detrimental effects on L2 learning. Conversely, exhibiting the personality traits of calmness and/or optimism, and being motivated and/or a risk-taker, had positive effects on the L2 acquisition in this population.

In sum, factors across all four domains—medical, psychosocial, personality, and linguistics (L1)—exert an influence on SLA in the population of IA children. Now that the first question of this article has been addressed, the second question that is of special interest to teachers can be explored, which is whether or not there is a difference in these factors (or weighting of these factors) between the development of BICS vs. CALP in the population of older IA children. It is important to note that, to date, the study by Pearson (2005a, b) is the only one to address this difference between the acquisition of BICS vs. CALP in older IA children.

The findings of Pearson’s (2005a, b) study indicate that factors within all four domains reviewed above had an effect on both BICS and CALP; however, differences in strength of effect did exist. First, bivariate correlations were run between medical factors, psychosocial factors, personality factors, and the linguistic factor of L1 proficiency at arrival to adoptive home, with the additional linguistic factors of functional and academic English acquisition, both comprehension and production, 1 year postplacement.[1]Following this, multiple regressions were run with those factors found to be significant in the bivariate correlations. The data indicated that although trauma and neglect played a role across all areas of ESL, past physical and sexual abuse had an impact only on CALP, not on BICS. It may be that the demands of academic language overload the system to the extent that these children cannot cope with emotional issues related to abuse along with academic demands at the same time. This assumption seems reasonable based on what is known in the monolingual population regarding abuse, language, and implications for academic success (see Fox, Long, & Anglois, 1988).

In addition to abuse, amount of time spent in an orphanage setting and age of arrival to the adoptive home also were significantly correlated with CALP, though not with BICS. Johnson (2000b) has stated that for every year in an orphanage setting, a child, in essence, loses 3 to 4 months of development. In Pearson’s study, the average time spent in an orphanage prior to adoption was 3 years and 6 months (with a range of 1 month to almost 16 years). Simply on the basis of the average, this represents a potential delay of 1 year and 2 months. To better put this in perspective, a child arriving at age 5 years—supposedly ready for kindergarten—would actually be functioning much closer to a child age 3 years and 10 months. A 16-year-old who has spent a lifetime in an institutional setting would be closer to a 10-year-old developmentally. It is therefore necessary to anticipate that although functional language skills may appear to fall into place, academic language skills may not match chronological age in this population for a considerable period.

Personality factors have also been found to differ between BICS and CALP in this group of children (Pearson, 2005a, 2005b). Characteristics of high anxiety and lack of motivation affected L2 acquisition across the board in the children in this study; however, being a non-risk-taker and/or having a more pessimistic personality affected only CALP. In sum, medical, psychosocial, personality, and linguistic (L1) factors affected both BICS and CALP; however, abuse, time in orphanage, and personality traits of pessimism and lack of risk-taking affected only CALP in the children in this study. Findings were similar when multiple regressions were run.

From these findings, an additional question emerges: Can one learn CALP before BICS is firmly in place (a situation in which older IA children often find themselves)? Until such answers are found, knowledge of what currently might indicate a high-risk profile can be useful. On the basis of Pearson’s (2005a, 2005b) study of 176 IA children who had arrived to their adoptive home at age 3 years or older, the following are indications of a higher risk of problems with L2 learning: (a) a significant delay in the L1; (b) a history of severe or chronic TB; (c) a past history of significant neglect and/or trauma; (d) a significant amount of time spent in an orphanage setting and/or arrival home at a later period of childhood; and (e) personality traits involving high anxiety, lack of motivation, fear of taking risks, or pessimism. Children with one or more of these warning flags should be carefully monitored on an ongoing basis by those responsible for their care and learning.

In a perfect world, teachers of older IA children would have knowledge of childhood development, both physical and emotional; developmental problems resulting from trauma or institutionalization; and developmental delays and disorders, including language delays or impairments resulting from the more typical maternal and environmental causes, along with knowledge of typical and atypical SLA, including the impact of rapid L1 attrition concurrent with possibly slow L2 acquisition, and the resulting effect on children emotionally, socially, cognitively, and academically (Pearson, 1997, 2001, 2009a). Because few, if any, teachers are trained across such a wide range of specialties, a team approach becomes crucial in developing individualized education plans (IEPs) for older IA children. Such a team needs, at minimum, to include the regular classroom teacher, the ESL teacher, the school SLP, and other relevant resource personnel depending on the unique needs of each individual child. Only in such manner can the puzzle of how best to develop teaching strategies for this unique population of children be solved. Therefore, as teacher educators, it is our role not only to prepare our future teachers for the typical ESL learner but also to educate them in identifying the warning signs of atypical acquisition (specifically, language processing problems that affect both L1 and L2, as well as problems encountered by special populations, such as IA children), so that a referral can be made to the appropriate specialist. In addition, we need to guide our future teachers in developing the necessary skills to work with other specialists in a team approach in order to support language learning in all children.

[1] Medical factors included general medical condition upon arrival, hearing status history, low birth weight, prematurity, maternal alcohol use, fetal alcohol syndrome, underweight, undernourished, parasites, tuberculosis, chicken pox, and hepatitis. Psychosocial factors included sex, country of origin, age of arrival to orphanage, length of time in orphanage, age of arrival to adoptive home, degree of neglect prior to arrival home, physical deprivation experienced, emotional deprivation experienced, history of physical abuse, history of sexual abuse, history of emotional abuse, and PTSD. Personality factors included motivation, risk-taking, anxiety, and optimism. Linguistic factors included L1 proficiency at arrival to adoptive home, comprehension of functional English 1 year postplacement (BICS), production of functional English 1 year postplacement (BICS), comprehension of academic English 1 year postplacement (CALP), and production of academic English 1 year postplacement (CALP).

REFERENCES

Briscoe, J., Gathercole, S. E., & Marlow, N. (1998). Short-term memory and language outcomes after extreme prematurity at birth.Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 41(3), 654-666.

Carlson, V., Ciechetti, D., Barnett, D., & Braunwald, K. B. (1989). The development of disorganized/disoriented attachment in maltreated infants. Developmental Psychology, 25, 525-531.

Collier, V. P. (1995). Acquiring a second language for school. Direction in Language & Education, 1(4), 4-16.

Cummins, J. (1979). Cognitive/academic language proficiency, linguistic interdependence, the optimal age question and some other matters. Working Papers on Bilingualism, 19, 197-205.

Cummins, J. (1981). The role of primary language development in promoting educational success for language minority students. In California State Department of Education (Ed.), Schooling and language minority students (p. 3-49). Sacramento: California Department of Education.

Cummins, J. (1991). Interdependence of first- and second-language proficiency in bilingual children. In E. Bialystok (Ed.), Language processing in bilingual children (p. 70-89). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ely, C. (1986). An analysis of discomfort, risktaking, sociability, and motivation in the L2 classroom. Language Learning, 36, 1-25.

Fahey, K. R. (2000). Speech problems in classrooms. In K. R. Fahey & D. K. Reid (Eds.), Language development, differences, and disorders: A perspective for general and special education teachers and classroom-based speech-language pathologists (pp. 297-325). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Fox, L., Long, S., & Anglois, A. (1988). Patterns of language comprehension deficit in abused and neglected children. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 53, 239-244.

Gass, S. M., & Selinker, L. (2001). Second language acquisition (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Gindis, B. (2000). Language-related issues for international adoptees and adoptive families. In T. Tepper, L. Hannon, & D. Sandstorm (Eds.), International adoption: Challenges and opportunities (pp. 98-107). Meadowlands, PA: PNPIC.

Gindis, B. (n.d.). Navigating uncharted waters: School psychologists working with internationally adopted post-institutionalized children [Electronic version]. Communiqué, (Part 1) 27(1), 6, 9; (Part 2) 27(2), 20-23.

Hall, B. J., Oyer, H. J., & Haas, W. H. (2001). Speech, language, and hearing disorders: A guide for the teacher (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Johnson, D. E. (2000a). Long-term medical issues in international adoptees. Pediatric Annals, 29(4), 234-241.

Johnson, D. (2000b). Adopting an institutionalized child: What are the risks? In T. Tepper, L. Hannon, & D. Sandstrom (Eds.),International adoption: Challenges and opportunities (pp 5-8). Meadowlands, PA: PNPIC.

Larsen-Freeman, D., & Long, M. H. (1991). An introduction to second language acquisition research. New York: Longman.

Locke, J. (1993). The child’s path to spoken language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Miller, L. C. (2005). The handbook of international adoption medicine: A guide for physicians, parents, and providers. New York: Oxford University Press.

Olshtain, E., Shohamy, E., Kemp, J., & Chatow, R. (1990). Factors predicting success in EFL among culturally different learners.Language Learning, 40, 23-44.

Owens, R. E., Metz, D. E., & Haas, A. (2003). Introduction to communication disorders: A life span perspective (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Paul, R. (1995). Language disorders from infancy through adolescence: Assessment & intervention. St. Louis, MO: Mosby.

Pearson, C. (1997). Language loss in internationally adopted children. American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) Special Interest Division 14 Newsletter: Communication Disorders and Sciences in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations, 3(1), 5-8.

Pearson, C. (2001). Internationally adopted children: Issues and challenges. The ASHA Leader, 6(19), 4-5, 12-13.

Pearson, C. (2005a, March). ESL in internationally-adopted school-aged children. Poster presentation at Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) National Conference, San Antonio, TX.

Pearson, C. (2005b, Summer). Influences on the development of functional and academic language in internationally adopted children.The Family Focus. Families for Russian & Ukrainian Adoption (FRUA).

Pearson, C. M. (2009a, October). Things your TESOL prof never told you. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Michigan Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (MITESOL), Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, MI.

Pearson, C. M. (2009b, October). SLA in internationally adopted children: The impact of medical, social, psychological, and linguistic factors.Paper presented at the Second Language Research Forum (SLRF), Michigan State University.

Roseberry-McKibbin, C. (2007). Language disorders in children: A multicultural and case perspective. New York: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Wong Fillmore, L. (1982). Instructional language as linguistic input: Second language learning in classrooms. In L. Wilkinson (Ed.),Communicating in the classroom (pp. 282-296). New York: Academic Press.

Christen M. Pearson, PhD, teaches undergraduate and graduate linguistics and TESOL courses at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her area of specialization is the interface of SLA and language disorders in children.


The Importance of Doing Teacher Research: Why Should Teachers Shoulder the Burdens of Research

Shahla Yassaei, g00035160@aus.edu

Teaching is a demanding job. It involves several hours of preparation outside the classroom. It also requires a considerable amount of time and effort inside the class to help students learn something. A teacher is someone who does all the above things for a living. A closer look at all the mentioned tasks reveals that teachers have a lot to do inside and outside their classes. So why should they take on the extra burden of action-research and add another demanding responsibility? The answer is that there is more to action-research than what meets the eyes. In fact, becoming a teacher-researcher is not as difficult as it seems. It benefits teachers, institutions, and students in a number of different ways.

First of all, teacher-research is less complicated and demanding than some teachers believe. In fact, teachers have a body of researchable questions within their reach. According to Heumann (1994), teacher-researchers do not need to look for topics that have never been investigated before. Teachers’ “own students and classroom experiences can suggest research topics of interest and relevance” (p. 43). As she noted, even if a research study helps only one student or one teacher, it is worth doing. More important, as Allwright (1997) suggested, teacher-research should meet local needs; it should be “a search for local understandings rather than for incontrovertible findings and universalistic theory” (p. 369). Therefore, teachers can simply investigate what puzzles them in their classrooms. In this way, as Allwright observed, they can easily integrate the element of research into their everyday life, without it becoming an extra burden.

Another advantage of doing teacher-research is that it is very feasible. All teachers—regardless of their level of expertise—can become involved in doing research. They don’t even have to interrupt their everyday classroom activities for the sake of doing research. Their everyday teaching procedures and their research projects can move forward in parallel with each other. As Heumann (1994) stated, teachers are not required to be experts in linguistics or statistics to do research. The only thing teachers need is a research question and the desire to answer it. Mazzillo (1994) also indicated that teachers do not even have to spend their time on devising complicated research tools. They can simply observe their own situations in their classes. She referred to her own investigation as an example: She and her colleague explored the question of why students in a monolingual language classroom switched so frequently to their L1. She did this through observing students during their routine classroom activities such as pair work, group work, and discussions.

Furthermore, teacher-research helps teachers free themselves from the traditional role to which they are assigned. As Freeman (1998) explained, “teachers are paid to get students to learn” (p. 14). They may question how learning and teaching can best take place. Teacher-research requires teachers to take one step forward and redefine their role. It gives them the right to question the things they once took for granted. Moreover, teacher-research helps teachers form a professional or “disciplinary community of teaching” (Freeman, 1998, p. 11). Freeman argued that as teachers work individually and in isolation from one another in their classes, such a discipline of teaching has not been formed. There needs to be a shift of focus from isolated ideas to “a set of shared assumptions about what constitutes the understanding on which teaching is based” (p. 11). Teacher-research makes this shift possible.

Not only teachers but also their students, their fellow teachers, and the institutions in which they work can benefit from classroom research. Mazzillo (1994) noted that students might find teacher-research useful in two ways: First, the process of teacher-research actively involves students as well, because they are the participants of the study. The fact that they are contributing to the development of the research process empowers them. Second, doing teacher-research helps teachers develop their teaching strategies. Consequently, students benefit from having more proficient and experienced teachers. This also makes it possible for both their institutions and their fellow teachers to benefit from their findings. Mazzillo (1994) explained that she and her colleague shared the results of their study with their fellow teachers and they all benefited from the experience.

There is no doubt that teachers might be too busy both inside and outside their classrooms to be able to do teacher-research. However, doing classroom research may not be wasting time. It helps teachers find answers to questions that originate from their classroom experiences. It also helps them develop their skills and be better teachers. More important, it empowers teachers and redefines their role as more active agents in their classes.

References

Allwright, D. (1997). Quality and sustainability in teacher-research. TESOL Quarterly, 31, 368.

Freeman, D. (1998). Doing teacher research: From inquiry to understanding. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Heumann, S. V. (1994). Advice for the new teacher/researcher. TESOL Journal, 4(1), 43.

Mazzillo, T. M. (1994). On becoming a researcher. TESOL Journal, 4(1), 45.

Shahla Yassaei is an MA TESOL student at the American University of Sharjah, UAE. Before joining this program, she taught English as a foreign language to adult learners in a private language institute in Iran for 4 years. Her areas of interest are material development, second language acquisition, and bilingualism.



Book Reviews Review of Differentiated Literacy Instruction for English Language Learners

Alex Poole, alex.poole@wku.edu

Quiocho, A., & Ulanoff, S. (2009). Differentiated Literacy Instruction for English Language Learners. Boston, MA: Pearson.

As the director of a small ESL endorsement program, I have long been aware of the importance of literacy instruction for English language learners. However, I have struggled to find a text that is specifically written for public school teachers who need to differentiate literacy instruction for their ESL students yet do not have an extensive background knowledge in either literacy or second language research. Quiocho and Ulanoff’s (2009)Differentiated Literacy Instruction for English Language Learners fills this gap by explaining and exemplifying the functions of culture, instruction, and assessment in a differentiated literacy program.

The text consists of 10 chapters. The first chapter details what differentiated literacy instruction means in ESL contexts, with specific focus on scaffolding, cultural sensitivity, and critical thinking. Chapter 2 shows new teachers how to integrate students’ L1 culture into the classroom. It also provides guidelines for selecting multicultural literature. Chapter 3 reviews the influence of the L1 on L2 literacy development. This chapter explains fundamental concepts of second language acquisition such as basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS), cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP), contrastive analysis, and Krashen’s Monitor Model. Chapter 4 reviews fundamentals of assessment and presents specific examples of diagnostic tests, such as the Student Oral Language Observation Matrix (SOLOM). Likewise, alternative forms of assessing literacy skills are outlined, such as checklists and think-alouds.

Chapters 5 and 6 also deal with fundamental concepts of literacy instruction, namely, skills and strategies, respectively. Quiocho and Ulanoff clearly define what the essential reading skills are and proceed to outline a seven-step model for teaching them. They also thoroughly define what reading strategies are and give special attention to metacognitive strategies. Moreover, they provide exhaustive directions on how to impart specific strategies and show authentic examples of how teachers implement them in an elementary school setting.

Chapter 7 outlines the materials, scaffolds, and logistical steps necessary to form a standards-based classroom. Notable are the concrete examples the authors give of how one California elementary school reaches standards in various grades. Chapter 8 presents case studies of how scaffolding is used to improve the reading, writing, and content skills of two students, which in particular would be beneficial to many newcomers in the field.

Chapter 9 is the most important chapter, for it treats the perplexing issue of how to meet the literacy needs of ESL students with learning difficulties. It plainly shows teachers how to use scaffolds with such students. Moreover, it prescribes the type of collaboration that ESL teachers should have with special education teachers.

The final chapter summarizes the theoretical bases and practical components of differentiated instruction, and once again reinforces them with concrete examples.

In sum, this is an excellent text. It provides solid information on SLA, L2 reading, and differentiated literacy instruction. Its major flaw is that it mentions little about reading at the secondary level, and thus would be of limited value for teachers planning to teach at this level. On the other hand, because of its emphasis on young children, this text is an excellent choice for teachers teaching at the elementary level.

Alex Poole is TESL program director at Western Kentucky University, USA. His interests include focus on form instruction, reading strategy instruction, and Spanish-English bilingualism.