Why do Most ESL students struggle with reading and literacy and what can be done to improve this? Strategies teachers can use?
It is indeed the case that many ESL students have difficulty with reading and literacy but there are things that can be done to deal with this issue. According to an article found in the Journal of College Reading and Learning, it common knowledge that the second language reading process, like the first language process, must be recognized as a "top-down/bottom-up" relationship amid the graphic display located with in the text, several echelons of linguistic knowledge and processes, and several cognitive activities (Weber; Upton). In addition
-up processing -- the recognition of letters and words, the accurate representation of temporal and order information, and the efficient coding of verbal information in short-term memory -- ensures that readers will be sensitive to information that is novel or that does not fit their own ongoing hypotheses about the content or structure of the text. Top-down processing -- the influence of what the reader brings to the text in the way of prior knowledge and processing capabilities -- helps readers to resolve ambiguities or to select between alternative possible interpretations of the incoming data. In short, then, reading is an interactive process involving the reader and the text in the construction of meaning (Aebersold & Field; Upton, pg. 5)."
An article entitled "Strategies for Two Way Communication" asserts that in general children have the ability to quickly overcome language barriers. However, in some cases teachers may need to incorporate a strategy known as body English into the classroom. This strategy involves showing children objects or drawings, speaking at a normal to slow pace using short sentences, using very simple sentence structure, Opting not to use contractions, avoiding the passive voice and making sure the listener is comprehending what is being said "Strategies for Two Way Communication."
In addition to improving reading and literacy in the aforementioned ways, according to the More Than Just Surviving Handbook reading and literacy for ESL students is achievable. The author points out that reading must be made a comprehensive aspect of the curriculum. This means that literacy must be presented in the form of whole text (More Than Just Surviving Handbook).
In addition the author insists that ESL students should be immersed in reading. This means that teachers should make reading a daily commitment and students should be exposed to a variety of reading materials including books, magazines, and newspapers (More Than Just Surviving Handbook). The author also insists that teachers should read one on one with students to make certain that they comprehend at the correct level (More Than Just Surviving Handbook).
Another source asserts that there are some specific things that teachers should consider when bringing reading materials into the classroom ("Criteria for Evaluating Cultural Content of Reading Material"). For instance the material should be entertaining, involve the reader, have meaningful illustrations, discuss other cultures, discuss cultures in an accurate manner and provide students with inspiration. On the other hand there are some reading materials that should be avoided such as those that contain stereotypes of ethnic groups, present inaccurate history, are not appealing to the reader, are difficult to read and so not have engaging plots or characters ("Criteria for Evaluating Cultural Content of Reading Material").
There are also many other strategies that can be utilized as it relates to this issue. The primary concerns that teachers must have are associated with social adjustment and communication. Overall the literature seems to emphasize the need for good teacher training as it relates to ESL students. It also confirms the idea that teacher must be patient as the American school system adjust to the influx of Hispanic students that are not proficient in English.
The purpose of this investigation was to explore Hispanic education through the utilization of a case study. The investigation encompassed several issues including the issues that Hispanic students face and the services provided to them in the United States school system as a whole and in elementary schools in Alabama specifically. The research found that both bilingual education/ESL and immersion are used in the American School system to assists Hispanic students in becoming proficient in English. In Alabama ESL programs have been embraced to assist students along with other tutorial programs specifically as it relates to Hoover, Alabama. The research also focused on teaching strategies. These strategies involve understanding cultural differences, developing two-way communication, being patient with students, and immersing students in comprehensive reading programs with special attention paid to the types of reading materials that students are exposed to.
Aebersold, J.A. & Field, M.L. (1997). From reader to reading teacher: Issues and strategies for second language classrooms. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Criteria for Evaluating Cultural Content of Reading Material"
Cummins. The acquisition of English as a Second Language.
Duignan P. Bilingual Education: A Critique. (2006) http://www.hoover.org/publications/he/2896386.html?show=essay
Kirp, David L. "The Old South's New Face: A RAPID INFLUX of SPANISH-SPEAKING IMMIGRANTS HAS TRANSFORMED a GEORGIA TOWN." The Nation 26 June 2000: 27.
Making Advanced Preparations"
More Than Just Surviving Handbook"
Riley Awards Grant to Help Hispanic Students in Hoover Avoid Drug Use and Violence." State of Alabama (2004) http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:hdkHmsmjKmYJ:www.adeca.state.al.us/Communications%2520and%2520Information/Document%2520Library/2004-10/LETS%2437500HooverTutoring.doc+Hispanic+students+in+Hoover,+Alabama&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=2