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Shaping L2 and literacy acquisition: Teachers’ strategies for low-literacy background learners Alan Williams.

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Presentation on theme: "Shaping L2 and literacy acquisition: Teachers’ strategies for low-literacy background learners Alan Williams."— Presentation transcript:

1 Shaping L2 and literacy acquisition: Teachers’ strategies for low-literacy background learners Alan Williams

2 The context ESL/EAL in Australia (Melbourne), over 30 years of working with different groups of low literacy ESL learners, in schools and in adult education Research has focused on needs and experiences of particular groups, eg Oliver, Haig & Grote (2009), Miller, Mitchell & Brown (2005), This has found mismatches in expectations between schools, and families and students Some specialist teachers within ESL programs with accumulated experience Some teaching materials, but never enough! How do successful and experienced teachers work with low literacy students? What are their insights that inform their work with these learners?

3 The study Investigate the teaching strategies used by experienced teachers of ESL low-literacy background students See how these teachers see low literacy students compared to ‘regular ESL’ students, and how their needs compare What has informed these teachers, and how have they learned to work with these students? What are the teachers doing? – as the classroom is the most significant second language environment for these learners - How may this shape the learners’ SLA and literacy development?

4 Data: Classes Teachers selected through knowledge of schools with experience teaching low literacy ESL learners – approach school, provider/ teacher recommended by principal or curriculum leader Secondary, long-term not yet collected Adult recent arrival learner group based analysis of PD video (AMES 2006) Recent arrivalsLonger term residents Primary (elementary) NAP English language school (ESL VELS Companion stages BL – B1) Composite grade 3/4 in low SES high immigrant community (VELS Stage 2 and ESL Companion stage B2) SecondaryNew Arrivals English Language school (ESL Stages SL - S1) Not yet collected AdultVideo of AMEP class, and comments of teacher (Pre-CSWE- CSWE1) Community-based, neighbourhood learning centre, in Inner urban area (ESL Framework, Certificate 1)

5 Data collected Observation of one class (1-2 hours), notes of class activities in terms of focus on : - language learning, - literacy learning, - other learning. Content of learning more than learning processes Interview with each teacher: - their view of the needs of low literacy background learners, - the teaching strategies they use, - how the lesson observed compares to other lessons - how teachers learned about working with low literacy students

6 Observations: Focus of the classes States and Territories of Australia, Capital cities ‘Literacy block’: - Vocabulary - Reading a text on Puffer fish - Strategies to use in reading and writing Recent excursion to the central city Reading a story about a disabled student joining a basketball team Health and illnesses, a sick student, writing a note to a teacher Addresses, and completing an address on an envelope Recent Arrivals Long-term residents 12A12A 12A12A

7 Observations: language focus Question structures for asking about factual information eg ‘Are there..?’ Sentences for providing factual information eg ‘There are…’ Yes/No answers Prefixes and suffixes eg ‘dis-..’ ‘un-..’ S-V order, and use of adverbials eg ‘We went to….on Friday’, ‘On Friday we went to…’ Past tense marking of verbs Adverbials of time Greetings Vocabulary of parts of the body Narrative about someone who is ill and unable to attend school Text: note to teacher about an absence from class Numbers eg 140 said as ‘one hundred and forty’, local postcode (3065) as ‘three-oh-six- five’ Pronunciations of ‘envelope’ Word stress patterns ‘/’ pronounced as ‘slash’ Recent arrivals Long-term residents 12A12A 12A12A

8 Observations: Literacy focus Nothing explicit Word recognition Attention to stages and strategies in writing (writing as a process) Reviewing and revising the mechanics of your own writing Strategies to use in reading – especially relating prior knowledge to what you read Parts of books, especially non-fiction: sections, and contents page and what it shows Drawing gist from a complex text Nothing explicit Using and identifying initial consonants in word recognition Grapho-phonic relationships ‘f’ = /f/ ‘ch’ = /t ʃ / Letters and words, copying accurately Format and layout of a formal note /letter to a teacher Copying activities, Repetition Recognizing words beginning with (letter) ‘a’ Students following text read by teacher Recognizing consonant cluster sounds (blends) eg /str/ in ‘street’, /st/ in ‘state’ Graphophonic awareness – number of syllables in written words Awareness of upper and lower case letters Recent arrivals Long term residents A2AA2A A2AA2A

9 Observations: Other learning Classroom rules (one person talking at a time, hands up to answer, no calling out) Speaking to whole class from front of the room Features of Australian capital cities Collaborative and team work Puffer fish School routines and behaviour (eg student not to sit right next to heater!, hands up, no calling out ) Explanation when one student leaves class to fulfill duty as school roll monitor for the day How to speak to the whole class-projection of voice, eye contact etc Learning as fun Physical basis to learning Personal basis of stories and written texts Explicit instruction on classroom activities, eg reporting to the class (where to stand, eye contact, volume of speech) Conventions related to addresses in Australia – marking different house types, eg houses and apartments L1 forms of words students have been learning in English Stamps and costs of postage in Australia eg 60 cents standard item anywhere, international depends on size, weight, destination Recent arrivals Long-Term residents 12A12A 12A12A

10 Observations: Summary A lot of attention to expectations of classroom routines and behaviour in recent arrivals, especially in the school sector (strong emphasis on ‘doing school’, statement and re-statement of expectations) Personalisation of learning for adults Attending to processes of learning; organising, relating learning to prior knowledge Language and literacy focus around non-linguistic meanings/content Long term primary: teacher juggling several levels of literacy development, low-literacy background ESL one of a number (less sharp focus on this group) Language focus less explicit in school group than in language programs Often slow pace to complete tasks for low-literacy background classes

11 Interviews: What the teachers say about learning needs Slow pace of learning of low-literacy background learners, need for constant repetition Different prior knowledge to schooled ESL learners; less congruent with the prior knowledge assumed in schooling Learning needs are centred on learning-to-learn skills and development of self-awareness of themselves as learners Need for concrete, activity base for learning activities Need to learn important assumed content knowledge and skills for participation in mainstream school Low-literacy background students need to experience success Huge perceived gap between current skills and mainstream expectations

12 Interviews: teaching strategies Extensive modelling of classroom and learning activities Need for students to achieve and be challenged Highly structured activities and texts, frequent repetition, revision Spend a lot of time working with a limited amount of learning material Control of texts, which are kept basic, in order to focus on essential features (less ‘naturalistic’ texts)

13 Conclusions Low literacy ESL learners exposed to limited range of input, in highly structured activities with strong visual support, and mostly meanings related to experience and needs Non-linguistic content learning sets context for explicit focus/noticing of elements of the language-literacy system Strong emphasis on learning about learning (including thinking about themselves as learners) and school/classroom routines.

14 References AMES Victoria (2006) Into Learning, Melbourne, Australia (Video). Miller, J., Mitchell, J. & Brown, J (2005) African refugees with interrupted schooling in the high school mainstream: Dilemmas for teachers, Prospect 20(2), p19 to33. Oliver, R., Y Haig & E. Grote (2009) Addressing the educational needs of African refugee background students: Perceptions of West Australian Stakeholders, TESOL in Context,19(1) p23 to 38.

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