English Language Learners Lit. Review

Topics: Reading, Literacy, Language policy Pages: 10 (3208 words) Published: December 5, 2012
Classroom Engagement, Home Connections, and ELL Students
Angela Johnson
Washington State University

Literature Review
This literature review is my work in progress for my master`s final project at Washington State University. My chair Dr.Tom Salsbury recommended some of the articles that I included in this literature review. The key words are engagement, motivation, English language Learners, reading, struggling readers, parent involvement, home literacy, literacies, home-school connections, and funds of knowledge.

Of all student populations (aside from participants in Special Education programs), English Language Learners (ELLs) face the most academic challenges—especially on standardized evaluations emphasizing academic literacy skills (Baker, 2006; Crawford, 2004). In the US, many policies have been put forth over the past 60 years to meet the needs of ELL students (Johnson, 2009). Stemming from the Civil Rights activist movements in the 1960s, language-minority students were assured the right to a bilingual education (Title VII of the ESEA). In the 1970s, the Lau v. Nichols case played an important role in the history of bilingual education because it determined the right to a comprehensible education. The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act eliminated the emphasis on bilingual education and shifted the overall focus on English acquisition (Crawford, 2004). This monolithic emphasis on English stems from an ideological orientation that positions languages other than English as a problem (Ruiz, 1988). Nowhere are challenges with academic literacy more evident than in school districts with high immigrant and language-minority populations (McCarty, 2005a; McCarty & Watahomigie, 2004; Pérez, 2004a). This trend is even more apparent in low socioeconomic contexts (Heath, 1983; McCarty, 2005b; Moll & Ruiz, 2002; Tollefson & Tsui, 2004). Unfortunately, the current emphasis of federal education policy on standardization, accountability, and strict evaluation of academic literacy skills overlooks the variety of literacy practices in ELL students’ lives outside of school (Hornberger, 2003b; McCarty, 2005a; Moje, Overby, Tysvaer, & Morris, 2008; Zentella, 2005). By acknowledging these different contexts in which literacy is used to construct meaning in language-minority students’ lives, educators can bridge already existing literacy skills to classroom activities to promote engagement and enhance motivation (Knobel, 1999, pp. 187-206; Torres-Guzmán, 2004; Zentella, 2005). As Fu and Graff (2009) explain, [b]y 2030, immigrant children should account for 40% of the school-age population…Therefore, it is imperative that educators become more knowledgeable about the literate lives of new immigrant youth. The lived experiences of these youth, often nuanced and multifaceted, can help educators transform their perceptions and approaches to providing new immigrant youth with the academic education they deserve. (pp. 400-401) It is from this perspective that I have become interested in working with my ELL students to increase their motivation in academic activities. Working with English Language Learners (ELLs) in the Sunshine School District (pseudonym) has been a great opportunity for me to develop my teaching skills and learn more about students’ backgrounds and learning preferences. Currently, I teach 4th grade at Mayo Elementary (pseudonym). Approximately one quarter of my 4th grade students come from a minority background (primarily Latino). Stemming from this demographic variation, certain learning patterns and behaviors can be seen in the classroom when students are asked to perform on reading, writing, and math. Most of my Latino students speak Spanish as their first language and English as their second. While some of them have exited the bilingual program, others still have not passed their Washington English Language Proficiency Assessment exam (WELPA) to exit the program. I found...
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