Reading Strategies' Impact on ELL Capstone Project

Excerpt from Capstone Project :

There is also the question of what approach should be used in a given setting. For instance, Lewis-Moreno points out that, "A great deal of energy is expended selecting and defending the model used: Should it be late- or early-exit bilingual, dual language, or English immersion?" (2007, p. 773). Although complex problems require complex solutions, a common theme that runs through the relevant literature concerns the need to use what resources are available to their maximum advantage. As Lewis-Moreno points out, "Often, too little attention is paid to improving the quality of what is available: Are personnel, resources, and facilities used in the best possible way? If not, what can be done differently?" (2007, p. 773)

The importance of using learning strategies, or the moment-by-moment techniques that we employ to solve problems posed by second language input and output, in order to become a successful English language learner cannot be overstated. Researchers have been aware for several decades that those who achieve a high level of second language proficiency are, by necessity, active strategy users. The importance of using reading strategies is especially critical for English language learners, since high levels of English language literacy -- which are essential for even minimal academic achievement at any level (elementary, secondary, university, and tertiary) -- have been found to correlate with frequent and complex strategy use (Poole, 2005).

Research Questions

This study was guided by the following research questions:

1. What are some of the different teaching strategies that can successfully engage and allow the English language learners to learn and be successful with a feeling of confidence?

2. How do using different reading strategies influence ELL students learning?

Potential Significance of the Study

Because resources are by definition scarce, it just makes good sense to use those learning strategies in general and reading strategies in particular that have proven efficacy for helping ELL students acquire academic proficiency. According to Brown and Broemmel (2011), "Reading can be difficult for native speakers of English (NSEs), however, it is even more difficult for English language learners who are, by definition, in the process of acquiring English" (p. 34). By providing ELL students with appropriate and effective reading strategies, teachers can help these young learners begin the lifelong journey that reading for pleasure provides, and reading for pleasure can encourage further reading which builds on what has already been learned. In this regard, Brown and Broemmel conclude that, "For these students, reading without adequate support can be equated to throwing a child who is not proficient in swimming into water without a life preserver, knowing they will either sink or swim. Even if they manage to swim, we cannot reasonably expect them to enjoy being in the water" (emphasis added) (p. 34).

Definition of Terms

The following definitions of key terms are used in this study:

"Academic English":

"Academic English" is defined as "the ability to read, write, and engage in substantive conversations about math, science, history, and other school subjects" (American Educational Research Association, 2004, p. 2).


English language learner


English as a second language


Native speaker of English



Although the general education curriculum differs across classes, the emphasis on reading to learn in content area classes requires that students possess reading strategies and skills, including basic early reading skills, to access and comprehend the general education curriculum and to participate in content area instruction. Yet, we know that many students with reading disabilities lack effective reading strategies that facilitate the comprehension of content area text; are not familiar with text structures; and may not possess basic decoding strategies and reading fluency. We also know that some students (e.g., English language learners or students from poverty) may not have the vocabulary knowledge needed to be successful in content area classes Therefore, if struggling students (students with reading disabilities and low achievers) who are from low socioeconomic backgrounds are going to learn from text, general education and special education teachers in inclusive classes must focus on content area reading by integrating the teaching of reading strategies into instruction (Bryant, Linan-Thompson, Ugel, Hamff & Hougen, 2001).

English language learners require very specific instruction while in the classroom to be successful (Murphy, 2009). Although it is well documented that extensive reading plays an important role in the development of language skills by ELLs, it remains unclear how vocabulary is acquired; however, it is known that language and vocabulary are the primary vehicles of classroom instruction, and that the learning tasks require ELLs to repeatedly process vocabulary (Tran, 2007). Vocabulary instruction for English-Language Learners is still not given adequate attention; however, vocabulary plays an important role in reading comprehension, and extensive reading can help develop vocabulary knowledge and enrich the knowledge of language structure (Tran, 2006).

When schools and districts begin to reflect on how best to address the needs of ELL students, they should first consider the prevailing attitudes in the school system toward those who are learning English as a second language. The goal of any district should be an ecological approach rather than a medical model. That is, students who arrive from other cultures with other languages should be viewed as assets rather than liabilities. If myths and misconceptions about those learning a new language are accepted, the type and quality of instruction for ELL students can be adversely affected. Teachers who adopt an ecological approach take the initiative to learn how to address the needs of diverse learners in their mainstream classrooms. They don't expect the ESL teacher to "fix them" first. If you often hear such comments as "How can he be gifted if he doesn't even speak English?" Or "She's ESL! She can't be in an honors class," it is unlikely that ELL students will be well represented in programs for the gifted and talented or in honors and advanced courses. As a result, the long-term educational opportunities for ELL students will not be equal to those of their English-speaking peers (Lewis-Moreno, 2007, p. 773).

For many educators, it has finally become axiomatic that if students are not learning they way they are being taught, teachers must teach they way they learn but this requires significant effort to move out of a professional comfort zone into the unknown. Nevertheless, communicating in a way that students understand is an important approach that all effective teachers should enforce. Each student should be evaluated when they are enrolled in school to determine their correct placement in ELL programs. Once there has been a determination on placement, the ELL teacher must establish a plan that best suits the student and his or her needs. Repetition, using gestures, exhibiting pictures or objects are just a few modifications teachers us with ELL students. For the process to be a success, the customers and students must understand the seller, the educator (Echevarria, Vogt, MaryEllen & Short, 2004). This is why we have to continue practices repeatedly.

An effective teacher will study the content of a student's response. Feedback is a definitive demonstration of comprehension, regardless of the feedback being verbal or non-verbal (Holly, Arhar & Kasten, 2009). The observant teacher should be able to see if the children comprehend or if the student experiences language barriers. The more immediate and appropriate the feedback, the more it can build confidence and cultivate communication skills between the teacher and students or between students and their peers.

The type of feedback will vary depending on the level of the student and his/her level of English language acquisition. The earlier we begin the more likely the students are to be successful with vocabulary and word selection. These students at an early production stage will benefit from feedback that models correct English. These students will require varying amounts of correction and listening to correctly formed language from both the teacher and their peers. In the students with high levels of English language acquisition and students that have moved into intermediate and advanced fluency states, feedback begins to be similar to that provided to the native English speakers. These students are in need of greater exposure at the level to sophisticated English language (Hill & Flynn, 2006). The teachers promote learning and interaction through grouping ELL students with non-ELL giving student's opportunity to develop skills of the student speaking the English language. By avoiding grouping ELL students together, they will be forced to rely on the developing skills in their learning the English language (Lessow-Hurley, 2003).

It is critical to the success of a teacher working with ELL students to take an abstract idea and make it meaningful to the ELL student by using their "schema" (scheme) to build on the background knowledge students need (Hill & Flynn, 2006). Linking student's knowledge directly to the lesson's objective will result in greater…

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