Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

esl and literacy this summer

The Centre for Literacy of Quebec Summer Institute this June 26-28 is on ESL and Literacy this year.

To get us in the mood, from May 12-16, 2008 Heide Spruck Wrigley is co-facilitating an online discussion on assisting adult English language learners to increase their reading proficiency on the Adult English Language Learners Discussion List.

Here are the questions:

So here is my questions. Which one of these assertions really resonates for you? If you are an ESL teacher do you have examples from you students that either supports or disproves one of these points

You learn to read just once (this is also known as “breaking the code”; once you have developed phonemic awareness in one language and you know to decode one language), you don’t need to start all over with developing phonemic awareness in another language – you just need to absorb the rules of the new system – that is, you must learn how English works, not how literacy works.

Knowledge from the first language transfers to knowledge about the second language but transfer is not automatic. You may need to draw your students attention to certain common features of the language.

We make sense of the world by connecting prior knowledge with new knowledge. We gain meaning from print the same way. So if your knowledge of the world does not match the knowledge of the world that the writer assumes, the text is likely to be confusing to you even if your reading skills are ok.

Reading is an interactive process between the reader, the text, and the writer. The situation in which you read and write and your purposes for doing so play a role as well (think about opening a letter from the INS – now USCIS or a note from your ex-spouse).

When we read, we activate two types of knowledge – what we know about meaning making (top down processes) and what we know about language (bottom-up processes). It’s important to keep in mind that the purpose of reading is comprehension.

Although control over bottom-up processes is important for learning to read, it does not follow that new readers must have mastered all sub skills before they can focus on comprehension. Using sub skills effectively enhances comprehension, but control over sub skills does not automatically lead to comprehension.

Language proficiency and reading comprehension are closely related. One way of increasing the reading skills of literate learners is to build language skills. One way of building students comprehension of (pre) academic texts, is to present such information orally (mini-presentations) and visually (through PowerPoints or video clips) so you can build understanding of concepts without your students getting mired in print.

Vocabulary knowledge is one of the key determinants of reading comprehension. Increases in vocabulary means increases in background knowledge and in reading comprehension, the same as in everything else, the more you know – the more you know

You can now download Heide's excellent book about ESL-Literacy practice, Bringing Literacy to Life (WORD DOC), from the Centre for Literacy of Quebec site.

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