Be Brave – Avoid a reading struggle by focusing on oral language Dr Ann Daly, University of New England and Department of Education and Communities email@example.com
Why does it require bravery? It takes bravery to turn against the tide of expectations held by community, parents and colleagues about activities in classrooms. There seems to be a widely held belief that a focus on reading and writing, almost to the exclusion of talking and listening, is all it will take to close the gap and lift NAPLAN results. Is this approach working? If not, why not?
Overview of presentation 1.Background - main research was into comprehension of multimodal texts 2.Snapshot relating reading to spoken language 3.Previous research - possible reasons for results and relevance to pedagogy 4.Evidence of relevance to literacy learning 5.Teaching implications
Research - comprehension of image- language relations in reading tests Concurrence – elaboration (no new participants or processes in either semiotic resource) Complementarity – extension (new ideational meaning in one of the semiotic resources) Equivalence (=) Exposition (i.e.) Distribution (+ process) Augmentation (+ participant)
Findings about comprehension of image-language relations Analysis of BST texts and results showed students had most difficulty comprehending questions about image-language relations of complementarity. Image-language relations of augmentation were the most difficult and image-language relations of equivalence were the easiest.
What was the relevance of language complexity? Analysis of BST texts and results also showed that students had more difficulty comprehending questions about image- language relations where written text had high structural (grammatical) complexity Y5 questions about Tobwabba Art Gallery: If simple sentences in text, 66% correct but if complex sentences in text 44% correct.
Tobwabba – Koori Food Source In the artwork called Koori Food Source, where has the artist painted the fresh grass?
Tobwabba Art Gallery - Sailfish In this artwork which shape shows a fish trap or net?
Tobwabba – Escaping the Nets augmentation + high verbal complexity Grammatical complexity – four clauses The sailfish is believed to be a cunning fish, able to feed amongst the various fish traps and nets shown by the dark areas, without being caught. Difficult to comprehend. Ellipsis Passive Voice
Observation of spoken language during interviews in 2006 Over 100 Year 4 and Year 6 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal metropolitan, provincial and remote students in high, medium and low quartiles of BST results were interviewed. Many students with low BST scores spoke in simple sentences even when they had a lot to say.
Analysis of spoken language Interview transcripts were analysed using the same measures used to analyse written texts: structural (grammatical) complexity - number of dependent clauses spoken semantic complexity - number of non-core words (Carter 1987) spoken, other than words used in text. Core words being basic vocab.
Results of research Despite state-wide differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students and between metropolitan, provincial and remote students, there were no significant differences in the schools sampled. WHY? Schools had similar ICSEA values. BUT significant correlations were found between the amount of spoken language complexity and BST reading scores.
Structural Complexity – Year 6 Highest percentage of dependent clauses was 33% - spoken by a male, metropolitan Aboriginal student in Band 6 For all students in high bands more than 20% of their spoken clauses were dependent One female, metropolitan student in Band 2 used no dependent clauses when she spoke For other students with scores in low bands less than 10% of clauses were dependent
Structural Complexity – Year 4 The highest percentage of dependent clauses was 20%, spoken by a Year 4 male, metropolitan Aboriginal student in band 5 All students in high bands had more than 17% of spoken clauses that were dependent Two in low bands had no dependent clauses For other readers in low bands less than 8% of spoken clauses were dependent
Semantic complexity In Year 4, only high achieving readers used more than two non-core words In Year 6, two male high achieving readers used many non-core words (15 and 18) Examples used by the high achieving Aboriginal student include co-ordinates, capsized, indication, generations, hieroglyphs, evaporated, ochre, distinguish.
Is non-standard English relevant? Few examples of Aboriginal English or working class English were found Highest occurrence (using seen for saw and done for did) was by a male Aboriginal Y4 remote student with Band 5 score in reading Therefore use of Aboriginal English was not related to reading ability if the student could code switch. However, it has previously been found to be related to language and writing scores (Daly 2011).
Previous spoken language research Previous research into reading –has made comparisons with vocabulary in speech but not with grammatical complexity in speech Research into spoken grammar has found –there is an increase in the number of subordinate clauses spoken at around 11years old (Perera 1984) –many complex grammatical constructions are not commonly spoken until adolescence.
Language Development Function and Form – Slobin (1985) Functional level (spoken language) “Conceptual and communicative capacities” – it’s all about simplifying meaning so we can understand Formal level (written language) “Perceptual and information-processing capacities” – it’s all about the complexity of meaning and conveying detail
Role of scaffolding in learning Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is between actual and potential development (Vygostky 1962) – scaffolding bridges gap Parents scaffold children’s spoken language (Halliday 1975; Painter 1991) Teachers can scaffold reading and writing through speaking about text - Scaffolding Literacy in Alice Springs (Gray 1985), Accelerated Literacy in Darwin (Gray 2007) and Reading to Learn (Rose 2010)
Societal differences in language Bernstein (1974) observed that: Elaborated language codes are used by people in professional and management positions Restricted language codes are used by working class people who do not exercise much control in their work place
Language codes learnt by child Restricted language codes – lower-working- class children tended to explain a game in terms of a local or family setting, that is, explanations were context dependent. Elaborated language codes – middle-class children’s explanations tended to be more context independent and that is implicit in the grammar and lexes of parents’ speech.
Societal differences in Australia– Hasan (1996) & Williams (1998) Hasan: “Members of the dominating classes do engage more often, than do those of the dominated ones, in practices of saying and meaning which are closer in their discursive properties to educational discourses.” Williams found in Sydney, “significant variation in a range of language practices associated with participants’ social class”
How societal practices compound spoken language differences Heath (1982: 56) found that US mainstream school-oriented children at home “learn not only how to take meaning from books but also how to talk about it” whereas children from poor communities did not. Lemke (1988: 140) claims that “To make texts talk, we need to help students fully speak their meanings, out loud… talk their way to comprehension” so that students are “bridging formal and colloquial language”
Why is spoken language important to reading comprehension? “The problem of learning through texts is, I believe, fundamentally a problem of translating the patterns of written language into those of spoken language. Spoken language is the medium through which we reason to ourselves and talk our way through problems to answers. It is for the most part, the medium in which we understand and comprehend.” Making Text Talk, Lemke (1988:136)
Language continuum Spoken (productive) language and written language are different. They exist on a continuum extending from simple colloquial language to dense nominalised written language Complex grammar is midway on the continuum - ideas in dependent clauses get nominalised in more dense formal writing.
Spoken language continuum Pauline Jones (1996, p 13)
Importance of complexity in productive (spoken) language “It is doubtful if children can produce and understand written texts in any depth unless they can orally produce texts of that type themselves” ( Gray 1990: 113) “The child may operate with subordinate clauses, with words like because, if, when … long before he really grasps causal, conditional or temporal relations” ( Vygotsky)
What is the evidence that spoken language is relevant to reading? Even though “young children partially comprehend linguistic input somewhat above their own productive level, comprehension at an inferential level is best when input is closer to the child’s own productive level” (George & Tomasello 1984: 125)
How can productive language and input levels be brought closer? Programs like Accelerated Literacy and Reading to Learn unpack written texts and bring them closer to a productive level The reverse is probably also true whereby saying and talking about the complex written sentences can bring students’ spoken language closer to the written text.
What is the evidence for a focus on oral language? John Munro (2004) improved performance by implementing an intensive oral language program at Bellfield PS in Victoria. He then developed a framework for improving oral language teaching – the ICPALER model: Ideas communicated, Conventions used to do this, Purpose for communicating, Ability to Learn how to use language, Expressing ideas and Receiving ideas. Research with CEO and MUni found 400 out of 550 poor readers were low on measures of oral language.
Teaching oral language in the early years - vocab (see Munro 2011) Explicitly teach and frequently use vocabulary –Use pictures and meaningful contexts –Name rapidly, suggest synonyms, card games –Teach bound morpheme in action context first –Teach rhyming and alliteration patterns In later years create raps and use dictionary and thesaurus to find new words that rhyme.
Teach how to comprehend sentence meanings (Munro 2011) Teach how to comprehend conjunctions, such as while, using for example: Action comprehension – use toys to act out Picture comprehension – which pic shows..? Listening comprehension – model retelling of story using conjunctions such as while Asking and answering questions (who, what, where, when, how, why) – if questions too direct try, “I wonder why, how, where”
Teach how to say and use more complex sentence meanings Sequence teaching of sentence conventions: –Teach the meaning and introduce instances of the convention in meaningful contexts –Focus on new grammatical forms in developmental order –Guide students to see the convention as a language pattern and use it in regular talk
Play-based program for oral language intervention (Hill & Launder 2010) 15 themed play boxes including books with sets of levelled questions for teachers/adults to use to stimulate oral language Children’s oral language was extended by adults when appropriate Question levels from concrete to abstract - from describe things, describe thinking, brainstorm to go beyond here and now.
How to develop oral language Model language like a parent does: Share literate texts, especially picture books After providing model and input, ask open- ended questions, how & why, not just what Do not correct answers, but give feedback that helps students to elaborate their ideas Have class discussions – encourage questions, scaffold answers, let students suggest ideas
Designing learning (Dufficy 2005) Principles for designing learning: Challenges – not pointless busy work Handover from teacher to student and back, using dialogue to mediate understanding Engagement – resonance with student’s life Assisted (in pairs, groups or whole class) Performance – questions aimed at what children ‘need to know’ not just ‘do know’
Whole class discussion in KLAs Dufficy (2005) identifies effective features: timely intervention by the teacher that seeks to clarify and extend the children’s contributions, including the introduction of more technical vocabulary An increase in questions where both teacher and student negotiate answer (equal amount of teacher & student talk) from Dufficy (2005) Designing learning for diverse classrooms. PETA
Use sentence maker strips to link oral to written language Young students in pairs tell each other their stories and discuss how to make their sentence by putting word cards in order Class sets of frequently used words needed Teachers and helpers write other words on blank cards for students so students do not limit themselves to short known words Students read and then write their sentence.
‘Tag debating’ with older students A good way to introduce persuasive texts Class in two teams. The student standing has the floor (only one allowed to speak) until he falters. Another student stands and continues the argument (teacher can choose) Builds confidence in quiet students and stops those who hog the discussion Time limit can be imposed if needed.
Conclusion The research further consolidates the clear calls by researchers such as Lemke (1988) and Chambers (1985) for frequent opportunities for ‘talk around text’ to enable students to understand structural connections within texts leading to comprehension of more complex reading material.
References Bernstein, B. (1974). Class, codes and control. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Carter, R. (1987). Vocabulary: Applied linguistic perspectives. London: Allen & Unwin. Chambers, A. (1985). Book talk: Occasional writing on literature and children. London: The Bodley Head. Daly, A. (2011). Aboriginal and rural students’ comprehension and talk about image- language relations in reading tests. Unpublished PhD thesis, UNE, Armidale. Dufficy, P. (2005). Designing learning for diverse classrooms. Newtown: Primary English Teaching Association. George, B.L. & Tomasello, M. (1984). The effect of variation in sentence length on young children’s attention and comprehension, First Language, 5, 115-127. Gray, B. (1985). Teaching oral English. In M. Christie (Ed.), Aboriginal perspectives on experience and learning. Geelong: Deakin University Press. Gray, B. (2007). Accelerating the literacy development of Indigenous students. Darwin: Charles Darwin University Press. Hasan, R. (1996). Literacy, everyday talk and society. In R. Hasan & G. Williams (Eds.), Literacy in society. London: Addison Wesley Longman Ltd. Heath, S. B. (1982). What no bedtime story means: narratives at home and school. Language in Society, 11, 49-78..
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