Ask the Literacy Teacher
by Leigh Hall
Students' Self Measurement
Helping Second Language Learners
Please submit your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Literacy Teacher,
I would like to know how to help students measure their own growth in reading. I teach third grade. I know some first grade teachers who are interested in this topic as well.
There are different ways that students and teachers can measure growth in reading. The first decision that needs to be made is what is it you want your students to measure. Do you want them to note how many books they read in a week, a month, or a year? Do you want them to track specific progress that they make as readers? For example do you want them to see that now they are able to summarize a chapter that they have recently read when only a month ago they could not have accomplished this task? Since I am not sure what it is you want to them to measure I will provide ideas for both of these examples.
If you want students to see how many books they read you could use a reading log. An example of this can be found online at http://home.att.net/~teaching/ar/arlog.pdf. I recommend that reading logs are kept private and that they not be posted in the classroom. This helps to prevent slower readers from feeling behind and instead helps them stay focused on their own work.
Helping students track progress that they make as readers is more complicated. To begin with, it requires the teacher to know where each student is at developmentally. You need to have a strong working knowledge of where each studentís strengths and weaknesses lie. What I recommend at this point is working with students individually, in small groups and as an entire class. I tend to break students up into small groups according to what they need to work on individually. For example, I might have a group of five students meet to do a lesson on locating the main idea in a piece of text. They may not master it in this first group meeting, but over time they would. As I see it happening in class I would be sure to point out to them that they are now capable of doing something that was difficult for them to do before. I would also meet with students individually for short conferences. In these conferences I would ask students to talk about what they need to work on, what they have been working on, and what they have improved on. A record of this meeting could later on serve as a way for the student to see how much they have improved in one year. For students to become aware of their growth they must first understand where they need to improve. The things I have described above are attempts to get at that. It is messy and does not come with any check-off boxes or nicely contained sheets, but then again learning is a messy process with no clear-cut paths.
I hope that this begins to answer your question. If not, please write back so we can continue this discussion further.
Dear Literacy Teacher,
In kindergarten we are getting one or two students each year whose first language is other than English, many from Pakistan. There is no ESL support for these children; they are just immersed in the regular, half day kindergarten program.
Should we be doing anything more than letting them learn the English language (oral and written) on their own while we do the traditional kindergarten literacy activities? We do a lot of shared reading (predictable books, poems, charts), a bit of guided reading.
Dear Kindergarten Teacher,
This is becoming a common question as more children arrive in America who do not speak English. My first recommendation is this. If you have another child in the class who speaks both English and the language of the child who does not speak English, allow these children to work together. The child who is fluent in English can serve as a translator and can help ease the other studentís fears. If this is not possible you may look to see if there is a child in another grade that could come in and work with the child periodically.
I am assuming that you do not speak Urdu and therefore cannot communicate directly with the child. If this is the case then patience and understanding are important. It can take up to seven years for a child in this position to function on an academic level in the same way that we expect a native speaker of English to do. Even when the student begins to speak and understand English fairly well, and you should notice this development over the course of the year, do not assume that they should also be reading and writing on the same level as their peers. This will come later.
It sounds like you are doing some great things with these children in your classroom given the situation. I donít know what state you are in, but some states require that modifications be made for ELL (English Language Learners) students according to their proficiency in English and that they are then graded accorded to these modifications. I would look into what state law requires that you do. Even if they do not require modifications I would consider making them and adjusting them as the students progress. Below I am listing some books that may help you in this situation. Best of luck!
Recommended Books for the Month:
One Child, Two Languages: a Guide for Preschool Educators of Children Learning English As a Second Language by Patton O. Tabors
The ESL Teacher's Book of Lists by Jacqueline E. Kress, Ed.D
Recommended Web Sites for the Month:
Collaborative and Cooperative Learning: