Case Study: Improve Reading Skills

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¶ … Improving Reading Skills

Reading and ESL Students

Multiculturalism in the Curriculum

Ahmad

Writing Assessment

Fry Graph

Instructional Implications

Lesson Plans

Scholarly Justifications

Reading and ESL Students - the way humans communicate and share ideas and concepts in society is quite complex. How are ideas conceptualized -- how are they explained -- how does discourse relate- and how do humans understand messages -- what is true about language- what is not? These are just some of the issues surrounding theories of language acquisition and development. By the time students arrive in school, unless intervention has occurred at a lower primary age, they have not only been subjected to numerous types of language acquisition, but because of the preponderance of global media and social networking, several non-traditional stimuli sets (Tomasello, 2008). Thus, one of the initial issues when dealing with the question of success in language learning is a robust pre-assessment of the individual skills and levels of the students involved (Lewis-Moreno, 2007). Additionally, we must differentiate two distinct populations regarding English language acquisition in the public school: 1) the native population who, for whatever reason, is not reading, writing, or performing at level; and, 2) the ESL or ELL student who is years behind in English and therefore at an automatic disadvantage in higher grades (Ochoa and Cadiero-Kaplan, 2004). This is further complicated when we realize that by secondary school it is not simply a matter of teaching more vocabulary and grammar. By this time in the educational process, core and ancillary subjects themselves have become more complex. There is a specific language for math, for the sciences, for literary analysis, for historical research and sourcing, and even for the arts. Thus, one is not simply learning to speak better English -- one is expected to advance speaking "academia" (Demski, 2009).

If we honestly examine the barriers students face when learning English in the secondary school system, we find that there are outside social and cultural pressures, a lack of sophistication in the language that results in being so lost that behavioral problems abound, a lack of support at home because English is rarely spoken, and the tremendous desire to belong to their own socio-cultural group. In fact, research shows that many bilingual students move from school to school based on the economic necessity of the parents, and are thus unable to get a foundation in English. However, regardless of the external circumstances, there is a clear expectation of dual language learning and comprehension.

Because of this continued frustration, and the fact that they never seem to be able to gain mastery over the language to perform, many simply drop out. In contrast, several factors have been identified that contribute to a more robust level of success in English language acquisition: 1) E-Learning; 2) Culture based; 3) Increased communication and parental involvement; 4) Motivational theory; and, 5) Increased use of technological-based classroom learning (Christy, 2005; Walker, 2005; Ferlazzo, 2009).

Multiculturalism and the Curriculum- in our case, our subject is a product of the increased immigration into the United States. In fact, the role of Globalization has had a remarkable effect on both the technological developments and the cultural attributes of business, society, and most especially education in the United States. Instant global communication is now possible, and individuals know they can instantly communicate with almost anywhere in the world -- and at an affordable cost. The more technology improves, the more this global economy, culture, and society develops. Of course, globalization continues to break down societal barriers, and one of the key elements to this is education. As this trend continues, and geometrically advances, it is essential for educational institutions to understand and meet the needs of numerous ethnic and multicultural students and faculty. In a society that is becoming more and more pluralistic, the diversity of individuals continues to be complex for anyone involved in the management and administration of educational goals (Gibson and Rojas, 2006). "For Western industrialized societies seemingly burdened with absorbing large flows of newcomers, immigration often inspires prickly, if not virulent, debates around citizenship, belonging, displacement, and exile. Whether framed in terms of incorporation or exclusion, the construction of the "immigrant" as a subject requiring intervention wields substantial symbolic power in "advanced" societies dealing with the "problems" of immigration today." (Ibid, p. 69).

The importance of curriculum development and structure cannot be overestimated when dealing with multicultural education. Rarely does one find a classroom in today's schools that is not multicultural, and it is important to address the English Language needs of reading and literacy within the rubric of these new Americans. European schools are far more advanced than U.S. schools in dealing with the development of coherent linguistic skills, and have realized since the 1950s the importance of language acquisition as one of the primary determiners of acculturation and socialization within the school system. This view also transcends the school since, in many cases; the parents remain far behind in learning and communicating in English (Mitchell and Salsbury, 2000).

One of the essential challenges of multicultural education is to first realize that it can be construed as one of the first phases of discrimination. Immigrant children and youth, in order to become comfortable within their new surroundings, must be welcomed into the school system with the intent that they will be immersed in a program designed for the improvement of their English language skills. Education, however, does not equivocate with schooling, but without linguistic skills, the student is adrift in a new world and unable to prepare themselves for the actual task of learning. There is no debate that increased globalization has become a fact of life -- therefore, it is time for schools to prepare children for a concept advocated 60 years ago by the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead -- that of teaching "world mobility" and the shrinking of cultural barriers (Portes and Rumbaut, 1996).

The key, then, for educators and school systems, is to find a way to make the acquisition of English part of the key curriculum, and teach and hire accordingly. Just as it is apparent that American schools are often deficient in science and math, the socio-cultural realities require that there be a trained English as a Second Language (ESL) specialist on staff or available, or that there be a requirement for ESL certification in certain high-impact areas and districts. Research shows that new immigrants can acquire bits of "survival English" rather quickly, but the ability to use English for academic purposes takes far longer and requires a more specialized set of coursework and training (La Celle-Peterson and Rivera, 1994, 2).

The primary goal, then, is to move the new immigrant into his/her grade level of literacy at the earliest possible time, so that in turn, the standards of educational testing and expectations may be granted in line with their peers. The way to do this, most scholars posit, it to develop a separate, but aggressive, curriculum that immerses the student in English and follows up with positive reinforcement and training at every conceivable opportunity. Instruction in reading is necessary, but not sufficient for this type of student -- a significant amount of oral training and proficiency level training is also crucial -- decoding, word recognition, verbal spelling, as well as the written skills of comprehension and writing. At the same time…. "that educators implement multicultural education, they must be concerned with helping to change the conditions in society that lead to the vast differences among schools" (August and Shanahan, 2006, 4; (Gollnick and Chinn, 2008, intro).

Additional findings show that the best way to represent multicultural diversity in the classrooms is not to segregate these new students completely, but in the interests of globalization, enrich the entire classroom experience by understanding the role of multiculturalism as part of the entire course curriculum, whether that be a different way of approaching social studies and music, or utilizing other cultural or linguistic training in literature, English, and even mathematics (Moore-Hart, 2004, pp.87-8).

Case Study- Ahmad -- Ahmad is an 11-year-old boy in the 6th grade. He has been in ESL programs for the past two years, ever since he and his family arrived from the United Arab Emirates. He is friendly, enthusiastic, and seems to enjoy school, but has two problems that are holding him back regarding literacy. 1) Ahmad reads well for his grade level, but miscues and substitutes words and vowels; and, 2) His vocabulary development has not matched his ability to read and pronounce words. Ahmad's parents are quite supportive of his schoolwork, his teachers, and of Ahmad mastering English. While they have only limited English, they insist that their children do all possible to "fit in" with their new country by learning to read and write in English.

Ahmad's day is fairly structured, and follows a daily routine designed to ensure that each student meets their daily requirements, but leaves little room for outside intervention:

Day begins with a short assembly in the gymnasium. This… [END OF PREVIEW]

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