The article written by Eliane Rubinstein-Avila explains that ‘reclassified students may require content and language support for two years after reclassification’ to ensure continued involvement. Although the development of a second language is ‘likely to take 5-7 years, many students are reclassified within a year’. The problem is that many students can be reclassified prematurely and lag behind academically.
Keywords: Scaffold, reclassified students, ELL, English Language Learners, FEP, Fluent English Proficient
Scaffolding Content and Language Demands for “Reclassified” Students
When students are reclassified from English Language Learners (ELLs) to Fluent English Proficient (FEPs) it doesn’t mean that they have developed the complex language skills to succeed across content areas. Content area teachers should continue to employ instructional strategies that will continue to scaffold content and language demands in order to support the academic learning for these reclassified students. The strategies that the teachers use include strategies that we have learned about during our course such as ‘think-pair-share’, wait-time, context setting, visual/audio aids, teacher modeling, and small group settings. These strategies help make the content comprehensible to reclassified students as well as more accessible to all students. In essence, these strategies will help everyone in the classroom.
As we discussed in our classroom, content area literacy is a cognitive and social practice involving both the ability and the desire to read. Content area teachers may find the task of scaffolding the linguistic and academic demands of the content they teach overwhelming because they tend to focus on their topic and do not believe they have the time available to teach students how to read the materials on which the content lesson is based, however, scaffolding content and language can be seamlessly integrated into any lesson since the language needs arise simultaneously with the content lesson.
The key for teachers, according to this article, is to understand that it takes time to acquire and develop academic competencies, and rather than expecting students to eventually ‘get it’, it is every teacher’s responsibility to provide an instructional environment in which the content is comprehensible to all students. In essence, teachers should have the commitment to educate all students.
This article provides a snapshot of a seventh-grade science classroom in which content is scaffolded and 35% of the students had recently been reclassified. The strategies that the monolingual teacher employed in order to engage students as well as retain their attention and scaffold their learning include making an effort to pronounce the student’s name with a native inflection, elicited reactions, answers, and explanations from most students-not only from the few who raised their hands, and then ask students to validate their thinking by prompting the students to justify their answers with some type of evidence or rationale. This teacher understands that students may need additional time to formulate a proper response, rather than expect less, he would provide students with an opportunity to ‘rehearse’ their explanations before they address the entire classroom by encouraging the students to discuss the question with their group first, and then “practice” the answer. By using Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), teachers can scaffold the content and language demands in the classroom and also help students achieve comprehension levels that may have been slightly over their reach.
The teacher in this classroom is monolingual however, he allows for his students to work in groups and speak their native language because he understands that it may be to the students’ comprehensive advantage if they can express their thoughts clearly to their peers and simultaneously use their peers to help them convey their understanding in English to the teacher.
In the second classroom described, about 70% of the 23 students had been reclassified. The teacher is bilingual (English/Spanish)and in order to prepare her students to the vocabulary they would encounter when reading a nonfiction, first-person historic text, she had students speculate about the meaning of certain phrases and vocabulary words to ensure that meaning is not lost in translation. An example given in the text explains that she asks students to ‘retrieve the stapler’ then asked stude4nts what ‘retrieve’ means and they all agreed that it meant ‘to get’. A common phrase like ‘she gave her word’ literally means that a word (probably written) was given to a person as opposed to meaning a promise was made. These phrases and words can be easily misinterpreted but by spending time in the beginning of the lesson to clarify any misconceptions that may arise, the teacher is helping the students much better than if she just assumes they will understand.
Both of these teachers understand that ‘talk shapes our own thinking, exposes us to the point of view of others (often enriching our own), and provides opportunities to create shared meaning’ Rubinstein-Avila, 2013).
About the author ‘ Credentials and Publications
Eliane Rubinstein-Avila is an Associate Professor in the Department of Language, Reading and Culture at the University of Arizona. An immigrant from Brazil, she earned an A.A. from San Francisco Community College (1987), an M.A. in Bilingual and Multicultural Education from San Francisco State University (1994), an M.Ed. (1997) in Human Development from Harvard University, and an Ed.D. (2001) in Language and Literacy from Harvard University.
Dr. Rubinstein-Avila’s courses and research focus on qualitative research; case studies in literacy research; immigration and education; teaching students for whom English is an additional language; and the ways in which bilingualism, race, ethnicity, gender, and culture intersect with formal schooling and out-of-school educational contexts.
Dr. Rubinstein-Avila was awarded the 2008 COE (College of Education) faculty research award. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as: Educational Leadership, Journal of Adult & Adolescent Literacy, English Education, Changing English, Linguistics & Education, Hispania, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, Journal of Bilingual Research, ASCD, and Reading Research Quarterly. She is also an ad-hoc reviewer for several journals in the field of language and literacy research, and is a member of the editorial board of Latinos and Education and the Journal of Ethnography and Qualitative Research.
How this article contributes to the education profession
This article contributes to our education profession because it focuses our attention to a growing population. In the city of Manchester, where the immigration population is increasing exponentially, it is important to know how to assist these students to be integrated and fully capable of understanding the materials they are learning while respecting their individual backgrounds.
The main focus of this article is dedicated to providing strategies that will help a teacher scaffold instruction for reclassified students; however, the strategies that are shared can help any student in the classroom regardless of reclassification or the ability to speak another language. Thanks to the common core, migrant students will be able to have a common educational background; however, since the common core is not yet prominent in all states, it is possible that students don’t have the same level of background knowledge. These scaffolding techniques can help teachers build background knowledge.
Understanding of content area literacy instruction after reading this article
Today’s teachers need to prepare students for a world that has progressively more literacy demands on its people. Literacy specialists and content-area educators can combine their talents to teach all readers and writers regardless of their background or language proficiency. Content area instruction should be creative and motivating for students. The texts can be dense and present a challenge for all students. The content area teachers should take time to teach literacy that is relevant to the text they want to teach to the students, otherwise, the students will not be able to learn because they do not understand what they are supposed to read.
Although some teachers may feel that ‘it is not their job’ to teach literacy, how can they accurate evaluate and teach content that the students cannot access?
An important component for ELL students is their ability to use their first language to communicate as well as speaking English. This article describes how two separate teachers, one bilingual and the other an English monolingual, were not ‘intimidated by hearing Spanish [or a native language] in the classrooms, [because they realize] that problem-solving may require students to use their dominant language’.
The goal for a content area teacher should not be to simply cover the content but rather be attentive to the students’ needs in order to provide the support needed so that the students are able to access the content and also succeed academically.