According to Diplomas Count: An Essential Guide to Graduation Policy and Rates (Olson, 2006), the national graduation rate is 69.6 percent. This report estimates that in 2006 more than 1.2 million students—most of them members of minority groups—will not graduate from high school in four years with a regular diploma. Nationally, while close to 30 percent of students do not graduate, only "51.6 percent of Black students, 47.4 percent of American Indian and Alaskan Native students, and 55.6 percent of Hispanic students graduated from high school on time with a standard diploma," compared with more than three-quarters of non-Hispanic whites and Asians (Olson, 2006, p. 6).
Moreover, Diplomas Count tells us that the average graduation rate in urban districts is 60 percent, compared to a 75 percent graduation rate in suburban communities. School systems with high levels of racial segregation have a graduation rate of only 56.2 percent, compared to 75.1 percent in school systems with low levels of racial segregation. Nationally, more than one-third of students (35 percent) fail to make the transition from 9th to 10th grade. In summary,
the patterns in poor school districts mirror those found in racially segregated districts.
Demographer Harold Hodgkinson, who advocates universal preschool education as a means of providing true equal educational opportunity, reflects on the diversity in U.S. schools (2003):
The most diverse group in the United States is our youngest children, and they will make the nation more diverse as they age. Almost 9 million young people ages 5 to 17 speak a language other than English in their home and 2.6 million of them have difficulty speaking English. For our Children's Class of 2000, we could estimate that almost one-half million are being raised in families that speak no English at home, and that at least 125,000 will need special attention in preschool and kindergarten to learn to speak and read English.
About one-third of our black and Hispanic children are being raised in poverty while 10% of non-Hispanic whites live in poverty. However, the largest number of poor children are white while the highest percentage of poor children are black and Hispanic. Of the 14 million children ages birth to 18 living in poverty in 2000, 9 million were white and 4 million were black. Four million Hispanics were living in poverty, but were included in both white and black totals, as Hispanics are not a "race."
Regardless of race, the children in married couple families are much less likely to be poor (about 8%) while 29% of white children and 52% of black and Hispanic children who live with a single mother are likely to be poor. Almost half of these single mothers are working, usually at very low-wage jobs. (pp. 4–5)
Closing the Achievement Gap
Hodgkinson advocates educational programs that, like Head Start, take into account not only academic needs but conceive of children as whole persons with social, emotional, and physical needs and strengths, in a family context (2003).
Overall, the evidence that high-quality education before the child's fifth birthday can yield lifetime benefits is undebatable. We know how to do it. Why don't we make such programs available to all? There are few federal programs in any agency that can support results like these, yet Head Start enrollment has usually hovered below 50% of those eligible. (p. 11)
However, many schools do not have the opportunity to work with children at such a young age. Thus, they must start work closing the achievement gap in later years. Burris and Welner (2005) documented changes in schooling practice that closed the achievement gap between black and Latino students and white and Asian students in middle and high school in the diverse Rockville Centre School District in New York. The district instituted detracking (that is, heterogeneous grouping of high- and low-achievers in all classes) and accelerated learning by gradually eliminating remedial classes and offering all students rigorous classes in mathematics, global history, International Baccalaureate English, and history—classes previously offered only to the highest achievers.
Their five-year study found a dramatic rise in the rate of students passing all eight New York State Regents tests to receive a Regents high school diploma. Before detracking, only 32 percent of the African American and Latino students in the graduating class of 2000 earned Regents diplomas, while 88 percent of white and Asian students did so. After detracking and accelerated learning had been instituted for five years, 82 percent of African American and Latino students in the graduating class of 2003 earned Regents diplomas; 97 percent of white or Asian students did so. In fact, "The Regents diploma rate for [detracked] minority students [82 percent] surpassed New York State's rate for white or Asian American students" (Burris & Welner, 2005, p. 598).
Burris and Welner (2005, p. 595) concluded that when "all students—those at the bottom as well as those at the top of the [achievement] gap—have access to first-class learning opportunities, all students' achievement can rise."
Hodgkinson (2003) highlighted another model—the Schools of the 21st Century—that regarded students as whole persons in their family context. This "is one of the most successful models for putting together all of the factors … that contribute to the positive academic, emotional, and social development of young children" (p. 14), including (1) school-based programs; (2) strong links between early childhood and schools; (3) strong parental support and involvement; (4) universal access; (5) a focus on children's physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development; (6) strong staff training and development; and (7) a commitment to serving working families. Schools of the 21st Century is now offered in over 1,400 schools in a wide variety of communities across the United States. Although the core components just mentioned are always present, the program is flexible enough to maximize the program's success in the unique "fingerprint" of each community setting.
Hodgkinson concluded: "Although we do not know how to reduce poverty … there is an abundance of research on how to successfully reduce the effects of poverty on our youngest children" (p. 16).
Today, as in the past, teachers are being challenged to broaden their repertoire of teaching strategies to meet the needs and strengths of students from a tremendous diversity of backgrounds and cultures. These learners—African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, Hispanics, and many others—face societal discrimination, live in conditions of poverty, or both. The ways in which we teach these young people exert a powerful influence on their linguistic, social, cognitive, and general educational development.
Research suggests, for example, that effective instruction acknowledges students' gender differences and reaffirms their cultural, ethnic, and linguistic heritages. Many effective instructional approaches build on students' backgrounds to further the development of their abilities. Critically important is recognizing that the use of effective instructional practices as demonstrated by research will improve achievement for all children, including those who are not minorities or children of poverty. The implementation of sound, research-based strategies that recognize the benefits of diversity can build a better future for all of us.
The broad range of experiences and perspectives brought to school by culturally, linguistically, and ethnically diverse students offer a powerful resource for everyone to learn more—in different ways, in new environments, and with different types of people. Every single person in this enormously diverse and ever-changing system has the power to serve as an invaluable resource for all others—students, teachers, and the community as a whole. Rather than constituting a problem for students and educators, the growing diversity in U.S. classrooms necessitates and encourages the development and use of diverse teaching strategies designed to respond to each student as an individual.
The United States is fortunate, for it includes not only immigrants but also political refugees, indigenous Americans, and descendants of people (sometimes brought against their will) from every continent on the globe. This boundless diversity has resulted in the inventions, discoveries, ideas, literature, art, music, films, labor, languages, political systems, and foods that enrich American culture. These same resources also have the potential for enriching the American classroom. Immigrant students bring us opportunities to be explored and treasures to be appreciated, and they help us challenge the status quo.
Adopting a truly global perspective allows us to view culturally and linguistically diverse students and their parents or guardians as resources who provide unparalleled opportunities for enrichment. However, we need a greater repertoire of approaches to teaching and learning to cope with varied styles of learning. Teachers and students alike must cultivate interpersonal skills and respect for other cultures. The new world economy demands this global view. After all, our markets and economic competition are now global, and the skills of intercultural communication are necessary in politics, diplomacy, economics, environmental management, the arts, and other fields of human endeavor.
Surely a diverse classroom is the ideal laboratory in which to learn the multiple perspectives required by a global society and to put to use information concerning diverse cultural patterns. Students who learn to work and play collaboratively with classmates from various cultures are better prepared for the world they face now—and the world they will face in the future. Teaching and learning strategies that draw on the social history and the everyday lives of students and their cultures can only assist this learning process.
Teachers promote critical thinking when they make the rules of the classroom culture explicit and enable students to compare and contrast them with other cultures. Students can develop cross-cultural skills in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms. For such learning to take place, however, teachers must have the attitudes, knowledge, and skills to make their classrooms effective learning environments for all students. Given the opportunity, students can participate in learning communities within their schools and neighborhoods and be ready to assume constructive roles as workers, family members, and citizens in a global society.
Zeichner (1992) has summarized the extensive literature that describes successful teaching approaches for diverse populations. From his review, he distilled 12 key elements for effective teaching for ethnic- and language-minority students.
- Teachers have a clear sense of their own ethnic and cultural identities.
- Teachers communicate high expectations for the success of all students and a belief that all students can succeed.
- Teachers are personally committed to achieving equity for all students and believe that they are capable of making a difference in their students' learning.
- Teachers have developed a bond with their students and cease seeing their students as "the other."
- Schools provide an academically challenging curriculum that includes attention to the development of higher-level cognitive skills.
- Instruction focuses on students' creation of meaning about content in an interactive and collaborative learning environment.
- Teachers help students see learning tasks as meaningful.
- Curricula include the contributions and perspectives of the different ethnocultural groups that compose the society.
- Teachers provide a "scaffolding" that links the academically challenging curriculum to the cultural resources that students bring to school.
- Teachers explicitly teach students the culture of the school and seek to maintain students' sense of ethnocultural pride and identity.
- Community members and parents or guardians are encouraged to become involved in students' education and are given a significant voice in making important school decisions related to programs (such as resources and staffing).
- Teachers are involved in political struggles outside the classroom that are aimed at achieving a more just and humane society.
Educating Diverse Students
For the sake of clarity, this chapter breaks the teaching strategies into two main sections. The first section, "Strategies for Culturally and Ethnically Diverse Students," contains strategies appropriate for children whose primary language may or may not be English. The second section, "Strategies for Linguistically Diverse Students," contains strategies that specifically address the unique needs of learners of English as a second language. Each strategy includes a brief discussion of the strategy as well as examples of the strategy in use. Resources at the end of each entry allow the reader to explore additional information and resources.
Strategies for Culturally and Ethnically Diverse Students
Generally, U.S. schools provide students of diverse backgrounds with instruction quite different from that provided to students of mainstream backgrounds. For example, poor children and culturally and linguistically diverse students tend to receive inferior instruction because they are usually placed in the bottom reading groups or sent out of the classroom for remedial instruction.
Research also shows that schools tend to discriminate against students of diverse backgrounds through assessments that do not value their home language and through the use of teaching procedures that fail to build on the strengths of their culture or home languages (Garcia & Pearson, 1991; Goldman & Hewitt, 1975; Nieto, 2004; Oakland & Matuszek, 1977). Still other studies demonstrate that many teachers fail to communicate effectively with students from diverse backgrounds; typical (and hard to change) instructional procedures often violate the behavior norms of these students' home cultures (Au, 1980; Cazden, 1988; Delpit, 1988; Heath, 1983; Ogbu, 1982). Also, teachers may have low expectations for students of diverse backgrounds and thus fail to present them with challenging and interesting lessons.
A number of researchers have found many identifiable factors associated with the level of young people's performance in school (First, 1988; Ima & Labovitz, 1991; Ima & Rumbaut, 1989, 1991; National Coalition of Advocates for Students, 1988; Quality Education for Minorities Project, 1990). Schools have control over some factors but not others. If teachers understand these factors and their effects on young people who are newly arrived in the United States, they will be better able to assess their needs and strengths and find innovative ways of helping them adjust to their new schools and to life in a new culture. Some of these critical factors and their effects include the following issues.
- The level of the family's socioeconomic resources is associated with success in school but is conditioned by other factors, such as immigrant status.
- Prior education in the country of origin is associated with success in school.
- The age of entrance into the United States affects success in the English language, as well as other academic areas, but the degree of success is also conditioned by literacy in the home language. Those children who enter the United States before puberty will have an advantage in school.
- The longer the length of the stay in the United States, the greater the success in school. Unfortunately, this effect is offset by a reduction of motivation that comes through acculturation into the American society.
- Intact family and home support systems are associated with success in school. Not surprisingly, unaccompanied minors and students from single-parent families are at greater risk of failure in school.
In this context, it is important to understand how we define various ethnic groups (see "Major U.S. Ethnic Groups," p. 48). For example, Asian Americans are often viewed incorrectly as a single ethnic group. There are, however, many distinct subgroups of Asian Americans, each with its own culture, religion, and unique perspective. Generalization across such subgroups can lead to misperceptions and a failure to recognize and address specific concerns and needs. It is also important to understand that the overall descriptor "Southeast Asian" generally refers to those who report their own ethnic identity as Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, or Hmong. The recent tendency to stereotype Asians as "high achievers" may mask significant and unique educational challenges and needs.
Similarly, Hispanics or Latinos are also composed of many distinct subgroups. Although the U.S. Census Bureau classifies all Spanish-speaking peoples under the general heading "Hispanic origin," this term includes all persons who identify themselves as members of families from Mexico, Central and Spanish-speaking South America, the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands, or Spain. Furthermore, people of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Finally, it is important to be aware that agencies dealing with population data refer to Alaskan Natives or American Indians as one group, even though the customs, languages, and cultures of the many tribes and nations of these two groups are vastly different.
Major U.S. Ethnic Groups
The U.S. Census recognizes five primary ethnic groupings in the United States: African Americans or blacks; American Indians and Alaskan Natives; Asian Americans; Hispanic Americans or Latinos; and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders.
African Americans or blacks refers to those of African ancestry who may have lived for generations in the United States. Blacks also include Afro-Caribbeans from the West Indies and Haiti and blacks from other islands, such as the Bahamas and Trinidad.
American Indians, also called Native Americans, were the original populations of North America before the arrival of the Spaniards, who were followed by the English, French, and other Europeans. American Indian groups often prefer to be called by their tribal affiliation or the nation to which they belong (i.e., the Navajo nation).
Alaskan Natives refers to indigenous Alaskans including Eskimos, Aleuts, and Inuits.
Asian Americans include all national-origin groups from Asia, some of whom come from technologically advanced countries like Japan. Others come from countries where some of the population have access to advanced technology and others do not, such as Korea, China, Vietnam, and India.
Hispanic Americans or Latinos are national-origin groups from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and Spanish-speaking South America who reside in the United States. Hispanics also include descendants from Spain, while Latinos are those from the Americas living in the United States. People of Mexican descent are the largest Hispanic group in the United States, and many prefer to be called by their specific national origin (such as Mexican American). Others may prefer terms they call themselves (such as Chicanos).
Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders refers to groups of indigenous people who have lived for centuries in the Hawaiian Islands or other Pacific Islands such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, the Marquesas, and Tahiti.
Considerable evidence supports this crucial conclusion: the differences in achievement observed between and among students of culturally and ethnically diverse backgrounds and students of mainstream backgrounds are not the result of differences in ability to learn. Rather, they are the result of differences in the quality of the instruction these young people have received in school. Moreover, many students who are at risk of failure in U.S. schools have styles of learning that are at odds with traditional instructional practices. A multitude of complex factors contribute to students' at-risk status; many of these factors—crime, drugs, and poverty, among others—are beyond the control of educators. But educators do have the power to replace ineffective instructional practices. The strategies that follow have been demonstrated to be effective in increasing student achievement.
Maintain high standards and demonstrate high expectations for all ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse students.
Students learn more when they are challenged by teachers who have high expectations for them, encourage them to identify problems, involve them in collaborative activities, and accelerate their learning (Burris & Welner, 2005). Teachers who express high expectations convey the belief that their students have the ability to succeed in demanding activities. Such teachers avoid repetitive rote learning; instead, they involve young people in novel problem-solving activities. They ask open-ended questions requiring students to use their judgment and form opinions. They choose activities where students must use analytic skills, evaluate, and make connections. They expect students to conduct research, complete their homework, and manage their time effectively.
Now that detracking and accelerated learning with support have been shown to be effective, teachers can confidently advocate for them. Hugh Mehan (2007, p. 11) defines "detracking" as offering "a rigorous academic curriculum to all students accompanied by an extensive system of academic and social supports, or 'scaffolds.'" He notes that "detracking goes beyond just technical or structural changes, but involves a cultural change in teachers' beliefs, attitudes and values, changes in the curriculum, and the organization of instruction" (2007, p. 2).
According to Mehan (2007), research has shown that
the schools' practice of tracking neither provides students with equal educational opportunities nor serves the needs of employers for a well-educated workforce. Students from low-income and ethnic or linguistic minority backgrounds are disproportionately represented in low-track classes and they seldom move up to high-track classes. Students placed in low-track classes seldom receive the educational resources that are equivalent to students who are placed in high-track classes. They often suffer the stigmatizing consequences of negative labeling. They are not prepared well for careers or college. (p. 8)
In an attempt to provide greater educational equity, educators in California schools have been trying an alternative to tracking since the 1980s. In San Diego, one such program— Achievement Via Individual Determination (AVID)—has revamped the curriculum, course structures, and pedagogical strategies into "multiple pathways" to college and career so that students are better prepared and have more options when they complete high school. AVID "untracks" low-achieving ethnic and language-minority students by placing both low- and high-achieving students in the same rigorous academic program. Students are taught explicitly how to study, how to work with teachers, and how to write college applications. These are skills often passed on by parents who have attended college, but they must be taught to students whose parents lack this form of "cultural capital."
The AVID program has successfully prepared underrepresented students for college. From 1988 to 1992, 94 percent of AVID students enrolled in college, compared to 56 percent of all high school graduates. African Americans and Latinos enrolled in college in numbers that exceeded both local and national averages (Mehan, Hubbard, Lintz, & Villanueva, 1994; Mehan, Villanueva, Hubbard, & Lintz, 1996). (Mehan & Hubbard, 1999, p. 1)
Jaime Escalante captured media attention with his success in teaching calculus to Hispanic students. His high expectations for his students and their subsequent accomplishments were the subject of the film Stand and Deliver. Yet many teachers who will never be the subject of a Hollywood film have inspired and guided pupil achievement. Again and again, research emphasizes the overwhelming importance of the teacher's belief that all students can learn (Gibson & Ogbu, 1991; Knapp, Shields, & Turnbull, 1993; Winfield & Manning, 1992).
When teachers believe that students can learn, they communicate these expectations explicitly, thus encouraging young people, and they also spend more time creating challenging activities. They ask higher-order questions that require not only identification and categorization but also comprehension and analysis, application to other situations, synthesis, and value judgments.
Heath and McLaughlin (1994) have found that one of the reasons for the effectiveness of after-school youth programs organized by community-based organizations is that staff members, often operating on a shoestring budget, depend on students to take some of the responsibility for activities. Young people plan, teach others, and perform a variety of tasks vital to the program. When students are brought into the planning and become coaches for others, they are given "adult" responsibilities and challenges; everyone must be able to depend on everyone else to show up on time and do his or her part.
In addition, involving students in the financial aspects of such operations (whether by fundraising or making requests of foundations) fosters involvement, responsibility, and the learning of math skills. Students acquire social skills along with communication and performance skills. In such collaborative work, diversity of skills is seen as a resource for the entire group; everyone brings something different to the table. When journal writing is a required part of students' group responsibilities, they reflect on what they are learning, practice writing skills, and keep the staff informed of their individual progress and well-being.
Carter & Chatfield, 1986; Chall, Jacobs, & Baldwin, 1990; Gibson & Bhachu, 1991; Gibson & Ogbu, 1991; Heath & McLaughlin, 1994; Knapp, Shields, & Turnbull, 1993; Levin & Hopfenberg, 1991; McDermott & Goldman, 1998; Mehan, 2005, 2007; Mehan & Hubbard, 1999; Mehan, Hubbard, Lintz, & Villanueva, 1994; Mehan, Villanueva, Hubbard, & Lintz, 1996; Oakes, Wells, Datnow, & Jones, 1997; Quality Education for Minorities Project, 1990; Tharp & Gallimore, 1988; Winfield & Manning, 1992.
Show students you care by getting to know their individual needs and strengths and sharing their concerns, hopes, and dreams.
Students tend to want to participate and do their best when a teacher is nurturing and caring. Nel Noddings (1995) advocates that when society around us concentrates on materialistic messages, "we should care more genuinely for our children and teach them to care" (p. 24). Of course we want academic achievement for our students, she notes, but "we will not achieve even that unless our children believe they themselves are cared for and learn to care for others" (p. 24).
Noddings describes a practice called "looping," where teachers stay with the same group of students for two or more years. Looping was cited in high-performing schools in Oklahoma, Illinois, and New Jersey in the Just for the Kids Study of Best Practices in 20 States (National Center for Educational Accountability [NCEA], 2006). By following the same group of students for two or more years, teachers get to know their students' needs and strengths better; trust develops between teacher and students and among classmates. Looping also offers teachers the opportunity to provide more differentiated instruction, even tailoring lessons to individual children.
Noddings's definition of caring "implies a continuous search for competence." She observes, "Parents and teachers show caring by cooperating in children's activities, sharing their own dreams and doubts, and providing carefully for the steady growth of the children in their charge" (1995, p. 24). Noddings suggests using integrated curricular themes to teach caring to students.
In the domain of "caring for self" we might consider life stages, spiritual growth, and what it means to develop an admirable character; in exploring caring for intimate others, we might include units on love, friendship, and parenting; under caring for strangers and global others, we might study war, poverty, and tolerance. (p. 25)
Younger students also get excited when they learn that they can care for the environment through recycling projects, joining others in cleaning and beautifying local parks, starting a community garden, or planting a tree. These themes could be adapted for students from elementary school through high school.
In addition, Noddings suggests alternative methods of staff organization in schools. Elementary students would benefit from having the continuity of the same teacher or a stable group of specialists for two or more years. Even at the high school level, students might benefit if their teacher taught two subjects to the same 30 students rather than one subject to 60 different students.
By learning the strengths and challenges each student faces, teachers can refer children and their families to community-based organizations that provide after-school homework help and programs in sports and the arts. High-performing schools also tend to have systems in place to provide extra help for struggling learners or high-achieving students taking challenging coursework (Viadero, 2006), according to the NCEA's Just for the Kids Best Practices Studies and Institutes: Findings from 20 States.
Teachers need support in this work. Developing communities of teachers focused on student work was another practice cited by the NCEA. Successful schools accomplish goals through collaboration. The teachers in one Selma, California, high school hold "focus lesson meetings" in which educators from different disciplines meet and give feedback on one teacher's lesson plan, then try out the revision in one of their classes and give further feedback. Others have "scoring parties" to develop common ideas about what constitutes high-quality student work.
NCEA, 2006; Noddings, 1995; Viadero, 2006.
Understand students' home cultures to better comprehend their behavior in and out of the classroom.
Educators must understand and respect the many different ways of being a parent and expressing concern about the education of one's children. For example, Gibson (1983, 1988) reports that Punjabi immigrant parents in California believe it is the teacher's task to educate and that parents should not be involved in what goes on at school. Punjabi parents support their children's education by requiring that homework be done and ensuring that their youngsters do not "hang out" with other students but instead apply themselves to schoolwork. Even though the parents themselves may be forced to take more than one job, they do not allow their children to work so that they have time to complete their homework. As a result, Punjabi students as a group have higher rates of graduation and college acceptance than other immigrant groups.
Parental involvement is well established as being correlated with student academic achievement (Epstein, 2005). However, teachers may have concerns about the attitudes of "familism" among Mexican American students, which is defined as the "expressed identification with the interests and welfare of the family" (Valenzuela & Dornbusch, 1994, p. 19). Valenzuela and Dornbusch challenge "the dominant myth that academic achievement is obstructed by collective orientations." In sampling 492 adolescent students of Mexican origin, they found that neither parental education nor familism alone was related to academic achievement, but the two variables working together were associated with academic achievement. They suggested that when young people have relatives who have attended a U.S. high school, they have access to more social capital. Also, being part of a dense social network of relatives enhances the opportunity for "multiple alternatives for academic support."
Seek information about students' home cultures by asking them to interview their parents about their lives as children, the stories they remember, favorite poems, and family recipes. The results of these interviews can inform the teacher about the rich diversity in his or her classroom. The interviews also can be made into booklets and, subsequently, reading materials for the entire class to share.
Parent-teacher organizations can hold meetings at times convenient for parents to attend, and they can provide translators for those who do not speak English. A room in the school can be set aside for parents to meet and to discuss issues concerning their children's education or the school community. Teachers can visit parents in their homes, or they can use parent-teacher meetings as a time to discuss homework and discipline.
Parents who are welcomed into the school in ways that are culturally appropriate for them become more accessible both as resources and as learners. Immigrant parents can learn both English as a second language (ESL) and survival skills for their new culture. Parents who are bilingual may be asked to translate for those who have not yet achieved fluency in a new language. Parents who attend workshops can learn family literacy and math activities that enhance their own abilities to support their children's learning of these skills. When students see that their parents are respected by the school, there may be less of the conflict between home and school cultures that can cause a breakdown of discipline within the family.
Arvizu, 1992; Coballes-Vega, 1992; Gibson, 1983, 1987, 1988; Gibson & Bhachu, 1991; Hamilton, Blumenfeld, Akoh, & Miura, 1989; Heath, 1986; Jordan, Au, & Joseting, 1983; Keefe, 1984; Laosa, 1982; Phillips, 1972; Saravia-Shore & Martinez, 1992; Strickland & Ascher, 1992; Valenzuela & Dornbusch, 1994; Wong-Fillmore & Valadez, 1986.
Encourage active participation of parents or guardians.
Parents and guardians are a child's first teachers, but they are not always aware of the ways in which they mold children's language development and communication skills. Children learn their language at home; the more interaction and communication they have at home, the more children learn. Teachers can support this crucial role by sharing information about the link between home communication and children's learning.
For example, teachers can act as "culture brokers" by talking with parents to emphasize the key role they play in their children's education. Teachers can assist parents in understanding the expectations of the school and their classroom as they elicit from parents their own expectations of teachers and students. Teachers also can suggest ways in which parents might converse more often with their children to prepare them for communication in the classroom.
Parents may not be aware of how they support their children's academic efforts when they discuss the importance of education and take them to informal educational resources in the community. Teachers play an enormously important role in referring parents to community resources such as children's museums, art and science museums, and community-based organizations that offer homework help and arts and sports programs. Teachers also may recommend ESL and GED programs to parents who want to continue their own education.
Children learn the importance of language in expressing ideas, feelings, and requests if parents or guardians respond to them and acknowledge their thoughts. Children also need guidance in learning patterns of communication that are necessary in the classroom, including how to make a request, ask a question, and respond to a question.
If parents or guardians are literate in any language, they can read to their children in that language to encourage reading for pleasure and to help children begin to make the connection between oral language and reading. Even if parents or guardians are not literate, they can use wordless books or create prose as they hold their children and "read" with them.
Even the simplest evidence of caring about the importance of literacy pays huge dividends in a young person's schooling. Parents or guardians can take time to talk with their children about any activity they are doing together—eating a meal, for example—thereby encouraging language development. These conversations between parent and child are beneficial whether they are in the home language or in English. Parents or guardians can ask their children questions about whatever activity they are engaged in and how it relates to another activity, as well as ask how they feel about the activity or what they predict may happen next. They are thus modeling the kinds of communication patterns that young people will use in school. At the same time, of course, simply giving children the gift of attention pays huge dividends.
Programs in family literacy can help parents acquire or strengthen their own literacy skills, making them better able to assist their children's development of literacy. The National Center for Family Literacy, with headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, is a leader in this effort. Other techniques, such as the use of recorded books, allow adults and children to learn reading skills together. Children are encouraged to read when they see their parents reading and have their parents read to them. Quite simply, reading for fun encourages more reading.
A significant resource for teachers and PTAs is the National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS) at Johns Hopkins University. Their materials assist with parent involvement in schools; their website includes summaries of research on family involvement. For example, NNPS studies (Epstein, 2005) showed that
through high school, family involvement contributed to positive results for students, including higher achievement, better attendance, more course credits earned, more responsible preparation for class, and other indicators of success in school (Catsambis, 2001; Simon, 2004). Catsambis and Beveridge (2001) analyses indicated that students in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty had lower math achievement test scores, but this effect was ameliorated by on-going parental involvement in high school. NNPS studies at the high school level indicated that it is never too late to initiate programs of family and community involvement, as the benefits accrue through grade 12. (p. 2)
Research (Epstein & Van Voorhis, 2001; Van Voorhis, 2003, 2004) on "homework and targeted outcomes reinforce the importance of well-designed, subject-specific or goal-linked activities for family and community involvement for strongest impact on student achievement and success in school" (cited in Epstein, 2005, p. 2). Sheldon and Epstein (2005a) documented that when teachers implement math homework requiring parent/child interactions and offer math materials for families to take home, "the percentage of students attaining math proficiency increased from one year to the next" (cited in Epstein, 2005, p. 2). Similarly, Sheldon and Epstein (2005b) found that when teachers involve families in subject-specific interventions in reading and related language arts, "students' reading skills and scores are positively affected" (cited in Epstein, 2005, p. 2). Moreover, NNPS studies found "significant results of subject-specific family involvement [in homework] for students' science report card grades and homework completion" (cited in Epstein, 2005, p. 2).
Arvizu, 1992; Carbo, 1978, 1989; Carbo, Dunn, & Dunn, 1986; Catsambis, 2001; Catsambis & Beveridge, 2001; Dornbusch, Ritter, Leiderman, Roberts, & Fraleigh, 1987; Epstein, 2005; Epstein & Sheldon, 2006; Epstein & Van Voorhis, 2001; Lee, 1986; McIntosh, 1983; Sheldon & Epstein, 2005a, 2005b; Simon, 2004; Snow, 1986; Tharp et al., 1984; Valverde, Feinberg, & Marquez, 1980; Van Voorhis, 2003, 2004.
Tap into students' backgrounds to enhance learning.
Students' self-esteem and motivation are enhanced when teachers elicit their experiences in classroom discussions and validate what they have to say. Young people become more engaged in lessons when they are brought into the initial dialogue by being asked what they know about the topic and what they want to know. If their questions are written down and used to form a guide for inquiry into the topic, students are far more likely to be interested in doing further research than if the questions simply come out of a text. The teacher also obtains a better understanding of students' previous knowledge about a subject—a pre-assessment, as it were—that can guide the planning of the subsequent lesson.
One way in which teachers can ensure recognition of students' contributions is to use "semantic webbing." At the beginning of learning a new topic, the teacher asks students what they know about that topic; the simplest way to do this is to brainstorm a multitude of associations with the topic. For example, the teacher or one of the students might put the topic "culture" in a center circle on the chalkboard. Then, the recorder notes students' associations in circles around the center circle.
As a next step, the class can discuss (and connect with lines) all the related aspects of "culture," making a web of relationships on the board. This work can be expanded by categorizing the subtopics. The teacher also can ask students what they want to know about the topic at hand. Students' questions, recorded for later use, can serve as guides for research. Students are more likely to be interested in researching a topic when they begin with their own real questions. Those real questions lead them on an ever-widening path of investigation.
Implementing this strategy can be as simple as asking children to voice their questions about a given topic at the beginning of a lesson. After gathering student questions, the teacher can ask whether any student already has information about the topic. Before drawing on books and other resources, the students themselves can be resources by using their own knowledge and prior experiences.
Au & Jordan, 1981; Boggs, 1985; Coballes-Vega, 1992; Gallimore, Boggs, & Jordan, 1974; Heath, 1983; Jordan, 1981; Lee & Lee, 1980; Protheroe & Barsdate, 1992; Rodriguez, 1989; Taylor, 1983; Tharp, 1989a, 1989b, 1991, 1992; Torres-Guzman, 1992; Trueba, Jacobs, & Kirton, 1990.
Choose culturally relevant curriculum and instructional materials that recognize, incorporate, and reflect students' heritage and the contributions of various ethnic groups.
Students' self-esteem is strengthened when they see and read about the contributions made by their own racial or ethnic groups to the history and culture of the United States. Whenever possible, teachers adapt the curriculum to focus lessons on topics that are meaningful to students. This kind of focus allows students to practice language, thinking, reading, and writing skills in real, meaningful, and interactive situations. Students also come to realize that teachers value and appreciate each child's culture and language.
Teachers can select texts or, if necessary, supplementary materials (such as children's literature written by a variety of authors) that incorporate the perspectives, voices, historical events, poetry, artwork, journals, and illustrations of the range of racial and ethnic groups that make up U.S. society (and that may well be represented in the classroom). Teachers can ask students to interview their parents about their history, including their culture, poetry, music, recipes, novels, and heroes. The student can videotape, audiotape, or write the interview and share it with the rest of the class.
In interviews conducted by the Latino Commission (Rodriguez, 1992), high school students observed that they feel left out when the curriculum of the school contains nothing that relates to their own culture. Conversely, they feel that both they and their culture are valued when their culture is included in the curriculum. For younger students, children's books about young people in their own cultural context can provide avenues for discussion and comparison of the similarities and differences between the culture of their parents and that of the school or community in which they now live.
Banks, 1993; California State Department of Education, 1986; Cummins, 1986; Heath, 1983; Knapp & Turnbull, 1990; Nieto, 2004; Rodriguez, 1992; Saravia-Shore & Arvizu, 1992; Staton-Spicer & Wulff, 1984; Taylor, 1983; Valverde, Feinberg, & Marquez, 1980; Wong-Fillmore & Valadez, 1986.
Identify and dispel stereotypes.
If the teacher allows sexist or racist language and stereotypes to pass unchallenged, students will be harmed in two ways: (1) by the demeaning depiction of their group, which may become part of their self-concept and (2) by the limitations they will feel on their ability to live and work harmoniously with others in their classroom and in their society.
Teachers can select texts or supplementary materials to address the issue of stereotyping. The supplementary materials should be written by a variety of authors who incorporate a wide range of perspectives on historical events, poetry, artwork, journals, music, and illustrations of women and men, as well as varied ethnic and racial groups. Teachers also can point out sexist language and ethnic, racial, or gender stereotypes in everyday instructional materials.
Weis and Fine (2001) have documented the development of a sense of community and the contesting of stereotypes across the usual boundaries of race, class, and gender in two different school situations. In the first, racial and class stereotypes dissolved in a 9th grade literature class guided by two teachers in a racially integrated public school in Montclair, New Jersey. The school has a range of socioeconomic groups, from those living in conditions of extreme wealth to those living in conditions of dire poverty. The school is tracked academically, but the world literature class documented by Michelle Fine was detracked. The teachers asked questions that demanded taking a position and defending it. Students also were asked to develop a new perspective by getting inside the minds and emotions of the literary characters being studied and saying what they might say. Teachers guided the students over the semester as they developed a new consciousness of the range of abilities of their classmates, irrespective of race.
Weis and Fine (2001) also documented an abstinence program among 8th grade girls in the Arts Academy, an urban magnet school in Buffalo, New York. The students differed only in racial identity; all lived in conditions of poverty. However, they developed an identity as a group and distanced themselves from others of their same background who were taking a different path that they saw as unproductive (hanging around men, smoking and drinking, and becoming pregnant at an early age). The group came to see that they shared common problems and could share solutions across racial lines. Through the facilitation of a staff member from the gender-based prevention outreach service Womanfocus, invited by the school guidance counselor, these girls came to share many aspects of their personal lives over the course of the semester. Supporting one another, they planned to graduate from high school, go on to college, and succeed. In doing so, they contested the notions of femininity, victimhood, and race prevailing in their neighborhoods.
Identifying and dispelling sterotypes can be as simple as pointing out examples of sexist language in everyday curriculum materials, such as the use of "man" for "human" or the use of the pronoun "he" in referring to both men and women. The teacher can move beyond simple awareness of such stereotypes by asking students how such language makes them feel.
To encourage exploration of how it feels to be in another's shoes, the teacher also can ask students if they would like to be labeled "non-Eastern" because they live in the Western Hemisphere—just as many North Americans refer to those who live in the Eastern Hemisphere as "non-Western." The teacher might also ask white and Asian students whether they would prefer to be called "nonblack," in the same manner that blacks and Asians are often referred to as "nonwhite."
The teacher can compare the dichotomy used in categorizations of racial groups in the United States (i.e., black and white) with the continuum of racial and ethnic groups in South America, where there are more than 20 such categories or distinctions. These striking differences lend themselves to a discussion of the social construction or definition of racial groups; students enjoy the opportunity to research the history and derivation of these definitions.
Boutte, LaPoint, & Davis, 1993; Demetrulias, 1991; Haw, 1991; Martinez & Dukes, 1991; McIntosh, 1983; Rakow, 1991; Sadker, Sadker, & Long, 1993; Sadker, Sadker, & Steindam, 1989; Valverde, Feinberg, & Marquez, 1980; Weis & Fine, 2001.
Create culturally compatible learning environments.
Research has shown that students learn more when their classrooms are compatible with their own cultural and linguistic experience (Au, 1980; Jordan, 1984, 1985, 1995; National Coalition of Advocates for Students, 1988; Saville-Troike, 1978; Trueba & Delgado-Gaitan, 1985). When the norms of interaction and communication in a classroom are very different from those to which students have been accustomed, they may experience confusion and anxiety, be unable to attend to learning, and not know how to appropriately seek the teacher's attention or participate in discussions. By acknowledging students' cultural norms and expectations concerning communication and social interaction, teachers can appropriately guide student participation in instructional activities.
Research on the effectiveness of culturally compatible classrooms has been conducted with Hawaiian children as well as with Navajo and African American children (Au, 1980; Gilbert & Gay, 1985; Henry & Pepper, 1990; Irvine, 1990; Jordan, 1995; Little Soldier, 1989; Pepper & Henry, 1989). The aspects of culture that influence classroom life most powerfully are those that affect the social organization of learning and the social expectations concerning communication.
The organization of the typical U.S. classroom is one of whole-class teaching in which the teacher as leader instructs, assigns texts, and demonstrates to the whole class. Such whole-class instruction is often followed by individual practice and assessment.
By contrast, Jordan (1995) reported on the results among Hawaiian students in public schools whose reading achievement improved greatly after culturally compatible classrooms were implemented through the Kamehameha Early Education Program (KEEP). In an ethnographic study of the students' home life, Jordan and colleagues in the Hawaiian Community Research Project in the late 1960s and early 1970s found that older siblings were responsible for taking care of younger siblings and doing tasks cooperatively in the home without direct parental supervision. Consequently, these educators structured their 3rd grade classroom into learning centers. After direct instruction from the teacher, small mixed-gender groups of four or five students could assist one another with tasks at the centers, without the direct supervision of teachers—similar to their home situation. Meanwhile, the teachers worked with small groups of students using
comprehension-oriented, direct instruction reading lessons using particular sociolinguistic and cognitive patterns and a system for managing child behavior which built on standard contingency management to assist the teacher in presenting herself as a person who was both "tough and nice," these being key attributes of adults that Hawaiian children like and respect. (Jordan, 1995, p. 91)
In a collaboration with the Rough Rock Demonstration School in Arizona, Jordan (1995) reported that the same approaches were tried with 3rd grade Navajo students, but the techniques did not work well with them. They learned that in Navajo culture, boys and girls were expected to stay in same-gender groups. Also, because their dwellings were so far apart, they didn't have experiences with many children outside of school in peer companion groups as the Hawaiian children did. Thereafter, changes were made in the classroom organization, and the Navajo children were more comfortable working at learning centers with just one other child of the same gender.
According to Tharp (1992), teaching and learning are more effective when they are contextualized in the experiences, skills, and values of the community and when learning is a joint productive activity involving both peers and teachers. Learning is furthered by "instructional conversations"—dialogues between teachers and learners about their common learning activities.
A teacher notices that a Chinese American girl tends not to raise her hand to participate in discussions. The teacher discovers that the child is afraid to respond in front of the whole class because she is still learning English and worries that others will laugh at her. The teacher divides the class into groups of four to do collaborative research so that the girl can practice speaking in English in a smaller group.
Too often, when young people speak a language other than English and are learning English as a second language, teachers of ESL or reading in English may restrict their activities to the lowest level of decoding and phonics, levels that do not challenge students intellectually. Only when students have the opportunity to continue learning in their native language can they operate at their cognitive level and grow intellectually. After reading a book or article in their native language, they can be challenged with comprehension, application, and analysis questions—the higher-order thinking skills. Moll, Diaz, Estrada, and Lopes (1992) found that the level of questioning is much more restricted in ESL reading groups than in native-language reading groups.
Jordan, Tharp, and Baird-Vogt (1992) found that Hawaiian children's academic achievement increased when certain aspects of their home culture were integrated into the elementary classroom. The use of a culturally appropriate form of communication called "talk story" engaged the students more fully. In addition, Hawaiian students were more comfortable in school when they were recognized as being able to take responsibility for maintaining the order and cleanliness of their classroom. In their homes, Hawaiian children have many responsibilities for the care of younger siblings and cooperate in doing household chores. They felt more "at home" when they could come in early, straighten up the room, and set out other students' work for the day. Teachers made the classroom more culturally compatible by learning about the culture of the home.
Au, 1980; Au & Jordan, 1981; Au & Mason, 1981; Bloome, 1985; Calfee et al., 1981; Dunn, Beaudy, & Klavas, 1989; Dunn & Griggs, 1990; Hirst & Slavik, 1989; Jordan, 1995; Jordan, Tharp, & Baird-Vogt, 1992; Michaels, 1981; Moll, Diaz, Estrada, & Lopes, 1992; Philips, 1983; Saravia-Shore & Arvizu, 1992; Teale, 1986; Tharp, 1992; Wong-Fillmore, 1983.
Use cooperative learning strategies.
One of the most difficult issues faced by teachers in multiethnic classrooms is that students, particularly those from ethnic groups suffering social discrimination, tend to cluster in cliques based on ethnicity. Students may observe that one peer group draws itself apart and, in reaction, may come to feel that they must do so as well.
To break down this defensive withdrawal into ethnic groups, teachers need to give students time to get to know each other and to find that they share common ground, common problems, and common feelings. One way to break down artificial barriers between students is to encourage them to participate in a small group over an extended period of time, collaborating on a shared activity with a shared goal that can only be achieved by working together.
Children who have an opportunity to work in cooperative learning groups with fellow students of other races and ethnicities get to know those students as real people rather than as stereotypes. As students learn together and get to know one another, mutual respect and friendships can develop.
The teacher assigns students to groups of five or six and gives each student a specific task in the scientific experiment they are to do collaboratively. One reads and sets up the materials for the experiment; one performs the experiment. Another student records their results, another illustrates their findings, yet another reads the recorded experience to the rest of the class, and so forth.
The social skills that support such cooperative learning must be taught. Students must learn to listen and give feedback, to manage conflict, to lead, to contribute, and to take responsibility for a part of the task. Teachers need to allow groups ample time to "process" their own performance in a task by talking about their interaction and how it could be improved. Tasks that include positive interdependence as part of the activity—that is, tasks requiring each person in the group to be dependent on the whole group's doing well in order to achieve the goal—are more likely to be successful. Especially effective are "jigsaw" tasks, which cannot be completed unless everyone helps or unless each participant learns one piece of the job and teaches the others. Cooperative learning is more than having students sit next to each other; it involves structuring young people's need to communicate, to get to know one another, and to work together.
Au, 1980; Carbo, Dunn, & Dunn, 1986; Coballes-Vega, 1992; Dunn, 1989; Garcia, 1992; Hirst & Slavik, 1989; Johnson & Johnson, 1982; Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1994; Philips, 1972; Saravia-Shore, 1993; Slavin, 1980, 1987, 1991.
Capitalize on students' cultures, languages, and experiences.
Learning is more likely to occur when young people's expectations about how to interact with adults and other children match the teachers' and administrators' expectations for such interaction.
Saravia-Shore and Martinez (1992) found that Puerto Rican high school dropouts who had succeeded in an alternative high school credited their increased achievement to the difference in the way adults treated them in each school. They reported that they felt they were treated as children in the regular high school, but the staff members of the alternative school treated them as adults.
Specifically, their new teachers expected that they do their homework because they had enrolled in order to pass the GED examination. Teachers in the alternative high school showed Diverse Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners an understanding of the students' cultural norm of having families at an early age and being responsible for other members of their family. Since they knew the students had genuinely pressing responsibilities (including caring for their families and working to support them), they did not criticize students for being late to class, so long as their work was completed. Simply put, the students felt that the teachers in the alternative school understood their life experiences and cared about their success.
Jordan, Tharp, and Baird-Vogt (1992) have shown that when teachers incorporate the home culture's expected patterns of interaction and discourse, students feel more comfortable in school and participate more actively in learning situations. When students are used to caring for other children at home, they have a foundation for cooperative learning and peer teaching. They can succeed with cooperative learning and peer teaching if they are given the opportunity to use them and the support of the teacher. If children are accustomed to having responsibilities in caring for their physical environment at home, they often feel comfortable in caring for and managing the school environment as well.
Au, 1980; Au & Mason, 1981; Calfee et al., 1981; Heath, 1986; Jacob & Jordan, 1987; Jordan, 1995; Jordan, Tharp, & Baird-Vogt, 1992; Knapp & Turnbull, 1990; Philips, 1983; Saravia-Shore & Martinez, 1992; Torres-Guzman, 1992.
Integrate the arts in the curriculum.
Nothing makes learning come alive more than engaging students in arts activities that encourage dialogue on issues that are important to them. Providing opportunities for students to express themselves through the visual and performing arts enables them to learn about and develop their talents and multiple intelligences: not only verbal and mathematical intelligences but also visual, spatial, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligences (Gardner, 1983).
Young children benefit from being encouraged to make sense of their world and their relationships through drawing and painting graphic images. Encouraging students to use their imaginations and taking time to elicit their interpretations of visual arts through open-ended questions in a classroom setting is valuable in itself. Yet these conversations also enable students to understand, as they listen to other classmates, the multitude of interpretations that are possible when viewing the same work of art.
Parents can be invited to accompany their children as a group to an art museum and to observe the teacher asking children to describe what they see and what the artwork means to them. Once they've made such a visit, parents may be more comfortable taking their children back to the museum.
Similarly, poetry can be a jumping-off place for discussions. The works of Billy Collins, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and Bob Dylan often spark students to write their own poetry. Then, students can learn how to perform their own work.
Researchers summarized the results of 145 programs that integrated the arts in curriculum in Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development (Deasy, 2002). They agreed that "well-crafted arts experiences produce positive academic and social effects" (p. iii). One of the Critical Links studies reported the effects of the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE) on students' academic performance. In CAPE schools, teams of teachers and teaching artists planned and taught curriculum units that typically integrated a visual art form with an academic subject (such as reading or social studies). The results "demonstrated that the low SES children in arts-integrated schools perform better than those in comparison schools in terms of [standardized tests of mathematics and reading] test scores" (Deasy, 2002, p. 72).
DeMoss and Morris (2002) investigated the question of how the arts support cognitive growth in students. They interviewed 30 students in CAPE schools in 10 classes led by veteran teacher/artist partnerships. They found that "students from all achievement levels displayed significant increases in their ability to analytically assess their own learning following arts-integrated units," while "no such gains were associated with traditional instructional experiences" (2002, p. 1). In addition, DeMoss and Morris documented these benefits of CAPE.
Observations of final performances in the arts-integrated units corroborated students' own assessments. Students who had difficulties controlling their behavior and staying on task performed their parts in final events with seriousness and competency. … As students across the board indicated in their interviews, the kinds of activities that the arts provide engage children more deeply in their learning by creating an intrinsic responsibility for the learning activities. This finding held particularly true for those children hardest to reach by traditional approaches. (pp. 20–21)
In this case, the arts contributed to analytically deeper, experientially broader, and psychologically more rewarding learning. These developments could have significant positive effects on students' general cognitive growth over time, particularly if students experience arts-integrated learning in their classrooms on a regular basis. (p. 24)
A more recent study demonstrating the benefits of integrating visual arts in the curriculum on young children's cognitive development was reported in the New York Times (Kennedy, 2006). Third grade students in the Learning through Art program sponsored by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum were found to have "performed better in six categories of literacy and critical thinking skills—including thorough description, hypothesizing, and reasoning—than did students who were not in the program" (Kennedy, 2006, p. 1). In this program, the Guggenheim Museum sends teaching artists to the schools where they collaborate with the teacher for 90 minutes per class one day a week over a 10- or 20-week period, helping students and teachers learn about and make art. Groups of students are also taken to the Guggenheim two or three times in that period to see exhibitions.
Posters of artwork can enliven a classroom and be a starting point for enriching conversations. If there are restrictions on displaying such work on the walls, use inexpensive foam core panels that fold out and stand up as the background for a classroom gallery. Invite children to describe the artwork on the posters and create a story about what is happening in the pictures—what may have happened before and what may happen next.
Children can learn how to mix primary colors, discovering the secondary colors that are created when any two primary colors are combined. Children enjoy painting, whether it's finger paint for the youngest students or tempera paint for middle and high school students. Students can do collaborative arts projects, putting together individual pieces into quilts or developing murals. Seek out illustrated children's paperback books, such as Jacob Lawrence's The Great Migration. Lawrence uses art to interpret the history of African Americans who migrated from the South to the North during the early 20th century. Such visual references to historical events bring social studies to life.
Photography is another art form that children can learn from an adult, be it a teacher, a teacher's colleague, or a parent. Students can use disposable cameras to select locations, people, and objects from their environment to photograph; the photos can be posted in the classroom "gallery" and discussed or used to build a story, play, or poem. Photographic "essays" are another way of sharing one's home culture with others.
Middle and high school students enjoy "poetry slams" in which they compete to be the best performer of their own poems. Learning songs is another way to experience poetry. From the youngest children's songs of Woody Guthrie to favorite world folk songs to the songs of social justice in the Civil Rights Movement, music illuminates the human condition and makes social studies more memorable. Students can even read plays aloud in the classroom, and later the students themselves can write and perform plays for the class.
Catterall & Waldorf, 1999; Deasy, 2002; DeMoss & Morris, 2002; Fiske, 1999; Gardner, 1983; Kennedy, 2006; Korn and Associates, 2005; Levin, 2003.
Promote students' health.
Caring for students includes positively influencing their decisions related to their physical well-being. Congress passed the Child Nutrition Act in June 2004, requiring school districts to craft "wellness" policies. Such policies should include goals for nutrition education and ways to increase the physical activity of all students.
Educators who are aware of the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes are alarmed. According to Kleinfield (2006a, p. A1), "One in three children born in the United States [in 2001] are expected to become diabetic in their lifetimes, according to a projection by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The forecast for Latinos is even bleaker: one in every two."
Nationally, the growing problem of overweight youngsters affects minority students disproportionately. Childhood Type 2 diabetes, the most common form, is often linked to obesity. Being overweight has become a major medical problem among Latino/Hispanic families. In the 2003–04 Child Trends study, 25.3 percent of Mexican American males from ages 6–11 were overweight as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—the highest rate in that age group. Compare their rate to the figure for black males (17.5 percent) and for white males (18.5 percent) of the same age group. Among girls ages 6–11, the highest percentage (26.5) of overweight youngsters was black females, followed by 19.4 percent of Mexican American girls and 16.9 percent of white females. In the 12–19 age range, black females were the highest percent of overweight youngsters at 25.4 percent. Moreover, "Asians, especially those from Far Eastern nations like China, Korea, and Japan, are acutely susceptible to Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease" (Santora, 2006, p. A1). In addition, they develop Type 2 diabetes at far lower weights than people of other races; at any weight they are 60 percent more likely than whites to contract the disease.
Teachers can help to counteract television commercials for fast food, larger portions, sodas, sugary snacks, and sedentary lifestyles that feed childhood obesity and often lead to diabetes, particularly among Asians, Latinos, and African Americans. A New York Times study of East Harlem in New York City found a 31 percent rate of diabetes among the 90 percent Latino and African American population there (Kleinfield, 2006b). Unfortunately, "even as health authorities pronounced obesity a national problem, daily participation in gym classes dropped to 28 percent in 2003 from 42 percent in 1991, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" (Santora, 2006, p. A23).
To promote healthier eating habits, teachers can assign research projects comparing the calories in fast foods in various restaurants, soft drinks (including diet sodas), breakfast foods, and snacks (fried versus baked chips, the nutrition facts about various kinds of microwave popcorn). If each child researches one product, the class can create a chart comparing all of them. A similar class project could ask students to act as detectives, uncovering the amount of high-fructose corn syrup in various products by investigating and recording the information on the ingredients label. Teachers of older students can show the film Super Size Me, which puts a human face on the effects of fast foods and also contains information about nutritious foods.
Teachers interested in making wellness a part of the curriculum can integrate units on the health benefits of food with complex carbohydrates (beans and multigrain or whole grain bread) compared to highly refined carbohydrates (such as white bread and most pastas). They also might help students investigate why eating apples and other fruits as snacks is healthy as well as delicious; the health benefits of leafy green vegetables; making sandwiches or wraps of roasted vegetables; the higher levels of mercury in larger fish compared to smaller fish; and the benefits of olive oil compared to butter and margarine.
One school district in Texas used the Get FIT (Families in Training) program for a nine-week summer intervention camp for their students who were overweight. For five days each week, students exercised, ate healthy snacks and lunches, and learned about good nutrition; their parents came to the school one night a week to learn about nutrition to support their children. The program, developed by Peggy Visio, a dietitian and adjunct professor, also introduced the 130 5th graders to dancing, kickboxing, yoga, swimming, and volleyball. The benefits of involving parents are clear: they can support a healthier lifestyle in the home and advocate for healthy lunches and snacks in school.
Teachers also can encourage students to take advantage of sports programs offered by community organizations like Girls and Boys Clubs, the YMCA, and the Police Athletic League. Community-based organizations often sponsor summer camps and after-school programs. Taking part in sports; yoga; tai chi; or simple deep, slow breathing also helps reduce stress. Even inviting a well-informed parent or a teacher or a health professional from a local hospital to share information on healthy nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction will positively influence students in this area.
Harvard Medical School, 2006; Kleinfield, 2006a, 2006b; Santora, 2006; Zehr, 2006.
Develop community ties and build community schools.
Teachers can explore community schools as models for an educational approach that puts children at the center and addresses cognitive, social, emotional, and physical needs and strengths. A recent report from the ASCD Commission on the Whole Child (Blank & Berg, 2006) provides examples of successful community schools. Community schools aim to develop students who are "academically proficient and physically and emotionally healthy and respectful, responsible, and caring; who can contribute to the community and the world" (Blank & Berg, 2006, p. 3). Community schools also offer "structured enrichment activities and acknowledge students' need for choice, control, competence, and belonging" (p. 7).
Community schools open their classrooms to community-based organizations and resources that support children through after-school homework help and enrichment programs as well as supportive programs for parents, such as ESL, GED preparation, parenting courses, and parent and community leadership workshops in the evening. Some community schools have dental clinics on site; others have nurseries so that teenage mothers can complete school. Some schools in high asthma areas have clinics in the school so students can get assistance and miss less school.
Community schools make an array of community resources accessible to support children and families in reaching their potential. When schools, parents, and community organizations pool their resources, they can provide "supportive environments that nurture students' social, emotional, physical, moral, civic and cognitive development" (Blank & Berg, 2006, p. 10).
The ASCD Commission identified several nonschool factors that influence academic achievement such as nutrition, parent participation in their child's school, time watching television, mobility, and mothers' educational level. Important, too, is research by McLaughlin and colleagues (1994) showing that adolescents who participate regularly in community-based youth development programs—including arts, sports, and community service—have better academic and social outcomes as well as higher educational and career aspirations than other teens. The idea is to "build on children's learning styles … and support the basic needs of children and their families, including health, nutrition, and economic and social well-being" (Blank & Berg, 2006, p. 6).
Chicago, Illinois, has one of the largest community school initiatives in the United States. Of Chicago's 613 schools, 102 now operate as community schools. They serve an average of 15,000 students and their families each year. A study by Blank and Berg (2006, p. 16) showed that "81 percent of community schools are showing improvement in academic achievement compared to 74 percent of regular public schools" (p. 17). In Indianapolis, Indiana, a community high school started in 2000 now has 49 community partners. These organizations offer mental and physical health consultation, day-care and after-school programs, college preparation, and adult education programs. Their students' standardized test scores have risen 10 to 15 points every year since the program began. The sophomores tested in 2003 outscored those in all the traditional high schools in Indianapolis.
Blank & Berg, 2006; McLaughlin, Irby, & Langman, 1994.
Incorporate multiple forms of assessment.
In recent years, standardized testing has been used to drive school reform, with decidedly mixed results. The Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education (CARE) suggests that rather than relying on a single standardized test for high-stakes decisions such as promotion to the next grade, authentic assessment of student work (such as student exhibitions, portfolios, products, and performance tasks) is preferable (Valenzuela, Valenzuela, Sloan, & Foley, 2001, p. 321). Multiple indicators of academic performance and progress on schoolwork throughout the year should be a part of this approach.
Valenzuela and colleagues suggest an approach that would take into account: "1) input (the adequacy of resources), 2) process (the quality of instruction), and 3) output (what students have learned as measured by tests or other indicators)" (p. 321). The use of standardized testing alone tends to focus on output, neglecting the other two dimensions. Students who live in communities of poverty often do not have the access to resources or highly qualified teachers that students in wealthier districts do. Thus, they are far from experiencing equal educational opportunity.
Among many others, Hodgkinson (2003) has suggested that the focus of the current high-stakes standardized testing system is too narrow:
An additional problem involves the heavy preoccupation with reading and math readiness skills and abilities in the early years of schooling. While these skills are obviously important, factors that are less focused on academics, such as self-confidence, resilience, caring, emotional development, and supportive family members may be just as important. … Given the national preoccupation with "high-stakes testing" as the only measure of student, school, district, state, and perhaps national educational success, and the constant testing of those areas that are most easily measured, such as reading and math subskills, a preschool program that has also emphasized social/emotional development may be seen as "soft" or "afraid to face facts."
Although it seems overdone, elementary schools right down to kindergarten in a few cases are being assessed by student scores on the NAEP, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, IQ, or the state achievement tests. (One of the hidden agendas here is that educational success will be defined by the student's ability to take standardized multiple-choice tests.) Half of the elementary schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, are evaluating their kindergartners using an 11-page report card, assessing language, reading, writing, math, science, social studies, health, movement, art, and music as well as social and emotional development. Rather than checkmarks for "sometimes," "usually," and "consistently," parents are encountering terms such as "pre early emergent," "early emergent," "emergent," and "novice." Some parents may have a hard time grasping these assessment results. They will need some help to understand the difference between seeing an "A" on their child's report card and looking at a child's stage of development, regardless of the advantage of getting a better feeling of what students are really learning. Unless parents are prepared for this change, the desirable shift to see learning as growth, using a variety
of clinical and statistical measures, may not catch on. (p. 13)
The Just for the Kids Study of Best Practices
(NCEA, 2006) also noted that "all of the high-performing schools we visited draw data from multiple assessments and use those data to inform every decision."
In addition to the outcome skills of reading and mathematics, most of us want our students to develop such habits of mind as questioning, observing closely, making connections, creating meaning, valuing their experience, identifying patterns, exhibiting empathy, and evaluating their own work. Students become more aware of these capacities when they are identified, discussed, and assessed.
Lincoln Center Institute has developed an assessment tool to assess habits of mind that are not measurable through standardized tests. Looking to the 30-year history of philosophy and practice at the institute, Madeleine Fuchs Holzer developed definitions for nine capacities for imaginative learning. For example, she defined "creating meaning" as creating interpretations on the basis of previous capacities (such as questioning, noticing deeply, identifying patterns, and making connections), seeing these in light of others in the community, creating a synthesis, and expressing it in your own voice (Holzer, 2007).
Holzer shared the capacities with faculty from at least eight colleges and numerous elementary and high schools during the Lincoln Center Institute Summer Institute. She encouraged and received feedback about them and revised the capacities through several iterations. The institute published the definitions of the capacities (Holzer, 2007) and then asked a consultant, Drew Dunphy, to work with a group of teachers from the High School for Arts, Imagination and Inquiry in New York City to develop rubrics for the capacities.
There are several advantages to working as a team to develop rubrics. Teachers can spot gaps in colleagues' efforts and work to strengthen them. In addition, when teachers develop and own an assessment instrument, students' goals and outcomes become more consistent. By identifying the development of these capacities as their goal, teachers let students know that they value the expression of these innate qualities of thought and emotion.
Another assessment that engages students in the process is the use of portfolios. Teachers and students can develop portfolios containing samples of their classwork and teacher-made tests over the year. Asking students to review their portfolios bimonthly and select the best examples of their work for that time period coaches them in self-assessment and enables them to see their progress. The teacher can share these portfolios on parents' night to show how students are doing. In addition, if students don't perform well on a standardized test used in a high-stakes event, such as promotion to the next grade, their work samples could also be used to show that they are ready for the next grade.
Hodgkinson, 2003; Holzer, 2007; NCEA, 2006; Scheurich, Skria, & Johnson, 2000; Valenzuela, Valenzuela, Sloan, & Foley, 2001.
Strategies for Linguistically Diverse Students
The term "linguistically and culturally diverse students" encompasses a vast array of young people. As President John F. Kennedy famously suggested, America is a "nation of immigrants." Students who come to school speaking a native language other than English—from homes and communities in which English is not the language of communication—have often been perceived by the English-speaking majority as the most educationally vulnerable. Now that so many dual-language bilingual programs have been in place for the past 20 years, however, we can see that coming to a school that supports becoming bilingual and biliterate can actually be an advantage.
As the world becomes more economically interdependent, the advantages of bilingualism and cross-cultural understanding are better understood. According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, the number of high school students who are enrolled in foreign language programs in public high schools has grown steadily from 1978—when 3.2 million (23 percent of the public high school population) were enrolled in such classes—to the year 2000, when 5,899,400 (43.8 percent of that population) were enrolled in such classes.
Recent research has redefined the nature of how we understand the educational vulnerability of linguistically and culturally diverse students. Stereotypes and myths have begun to give way, laying a foundation on which to reconceptualize existing educational practices.
Current thinking emphasizes the value of speaking more than one language. Rather than being considered "disadvantaged" as speakers of a language other than English, such students are now being considered potentially bilingual and biliterate. The first language (L1) is now considered a base on which English language learners (ELLs) can build "additive" bilingualism (learning a second language [L2] while becoming literate in their first language and eventually literate in both).
Teachers wishing to see evidence of the effectiveness of various programs for ELLs should be aware of the work of Thomas and Collier (2002), who conducted the most comprehensive longitudinal research study to date on the long-term academic effectiveness of eight different K–12 programs for language-minority students, as well as English monolingual students who participate in two-way immersion (also called dual-language) programs.
Thomas and Collier researched English as a second language (ESL), transitional bilingual education, developmental bilingual education (DBE), one-way (one group learning bilingually) and two-way (two groups learning each other's language as a second language) bilingual programs, as well as the placement of ELLs in mainstream classes. Their 2002 report of their study (from 1985 to 2001) covers six sites in the United States. In researching more than 200,000 student records each year, they converted standardized test scores into normal curve equivalents and percentages. They found the following highlights.
- Enrichment 90-10 [90 percent instruction in L1 and 10 percent in L2] and 50-50 one-way and two-way developmental bilingual education (DBE) programs (or dual-language, bilingual immersion) are the only programs … found … that assist [English language learners] to fully reach the 50th percentile in both L1 and L2 in all subjects and to maintain that level of high achievement, or reach even higher levels through the end of schooling. The fewest dropouts come from these programs. (p. 7)
- Parents who refuse bilingual/ESL services for their children should be informed that their children's long-term academic achievement will probably be much lower as a result, and they should be strongly counseled against refusing bilingual/ESL services when their child is eligible. The research findings of this study indicate that ESL or bilingual services, as required by Lau
v. Nichols, raise students' achievement levels by significant amounts. (p. 7)
Another significant finding: ELL students who attend remedial, segregated programs do not close the achievement gap after being placed in mainstream classes. Instructional gains are best accomplished in an enrichment, not a remedial, program, Thomas and Collier observed. They cautioned against short-term bilingual education (one to three years). They found that it takes a minimum of four years of bilingual schooling or four years of schooling in a student's L1 in the home country and four years in bilingual programs for students to reach grade-level performance in English (the 50th percentile on the subtest of reading in English).
Thus the most efficient schooling is in dual-language programs where both L1 and L2 are learned simultaneously and students have the opportunity to talk with students fluent in that L2. Thomas and Collier found that the strongest predictor of student achievement in English (L2) was formal L1 schooling in either the home country or the host country (United States). "The more L1 grade-level schooling, the higher L2 achievement," they noted (2002, p. 7).
An exciting finding (Thomas & Collier, 2002, p. 7) was that "bilingually schooled students outperform comparable monolingually schooled students in academic achievement in all subjects, after 4–7 years of dual language schooling." The authors also noted
An enrichment bilingual/ESL program must meet students' developmental needs: linguistic (L1–L2), academic, cognitive, emotional, social, physical. Schools need to create a natural learning environment in school, with lots of natural, rich language (L1, L2), both oral and written, used by students and teachers; meaningful, "real world" problem-solving; all students working together; media-rich learning (video, computers, print); challenging thematic units that get and hold students' interest; and using students' bilingual-bicultural knowledge to bridge to new knowledge across the curriculum. (p. 8)
Because one of the goals of bilingual programs in the 21st century is to prepare students to be proficient bilingually in the workplace, Thomas and Collier (2002, p. 5) also researched the achievement of native Spanish speakers in Spanish and native English speakers in a dual-language bilingual program.
Native-English speakers in two-way bilingual immersion programs maintained their English, added a second language to their knowledge base, and achieved well above the 50th percentile in all subject areas on norm-referenced tests in English. These bilingually schooled students equaled or outperformed their comparison groups being schooled monolingually, on all measures. (p. 5)
[For ELLs, the] number of years of primary language schooling, either in home country or in host country, had more influence than socioeconomic status when the number of years of schooling was 4 or more years. In addition, the L2 academic achievement of older immigrant arrivals with strong grade-level schooling completed in L1 in the home country was less influenced by low socioeconomic status and more dependent on number of years completed. Likewise, students of low socioeconomic status who were born in the U.S. or arrived at a very young age achieved at high levels in L2 when grade-level schooling was provided in both L1 and L2 in the U.S. (2002, p. 6)
Today, educators prefer that students develop linguistic facility in both English and their home language, rather than learn English only and lose the home language, only to have to relearn a second language later in their school years. Research shows that students' cognitive development proceeds more readily in their native language and that students learn content more easily in the native language while they are learning English as a second language.
An interdisciplinary approach to curriculum—breaking from many decades of separation among the various disciplines—is a powerful ally in teaching culturally and linguistically diverse children. Instead of teaching reading as a separate subject, for instance, teachers now view reading as a process for learning concepts and exploring subjects and their connections. Cooperative learning groups and peer tutoring work well in conjunction with computer-mediated language learning. And parents are partners in their children's schooling, as well as resources for teachers in understanding young people's cultural patterns of communication and interaction.
The following strategies synthesize the approaches that research emphasizes as most promising in raising the achievement levels of linguistically diverse students.
Barona & Garcia, 1990; Bredo, Henry, & McDermott, 1990; Cavazos, 1989; Center for Demographic Policy, 1993; Chan, 1983; Cummins, 1981; Cummins & Swain, 1986; DeAvila & Duncan, 1980; Dolly, Blaine, & Power, 1988; First & Willshire-Carrera, 1988; Hakuta, 1986; Hakuta & Garcia, 1989; Hakuta & Gould, 1987; Ima & Rumbaut, 1989; Matute-Bianchi, 1986; Ogbu, 1987; Pang, 1990; Thomas & Collier, 2002; Wong-Fillmore, 1983; Wong-Fillmore & Valadez, 1986.
Establish truly bilingual classrooms.
Students who come to school with a home language other than English learn more from programs in which their native language is one of the languages of instruction. By continuing to learn subject content in their native language, the students do not fall behind in their academic subjects while acquiring English. Potentially bilingual students who are in developmental or late-exit bilingual programs for five years seem to progress at a faster rate in subjects presented in English than do their counterparts in early-exit bilingual programs.
When potentially bilingual students continue to learn in their home language while learning English, they continue to develop cognitively and acquire skills (such as reading) that can later be transferred to English. Once they have learned vocabulary in English, they can comprehend what they decode. The context of learning is more difficult if instruction is entirely in a student's second language. Students taught solely in the second language also risk losing the opportunity to become bilingual and biliterate.
A school that respects the language and culture of its ethnically and linguistically diverse students (and their parents or guardians) develops educational situations that maximize the resources these students bring to school. Instead of being confused and distressed by trying to cope in a language they cannot understand, students continue to learn content and skills and develop a feeling of efficacy as well as belonging to their new school. If the school context does not allow for this linguistic and cultural diversity, students are more likely to feel alienated and confused.
When the number of students in a school who speak the same language merits the establishment of a bilingual program, encouraging young people to learn content in their native language while learning English as a second language is likely to increase overall learning. Students can learn subjects such as mathematics, science, and social studies in their native language until they have learned sufficient English to study the academic content in English.
With the help of such programs as Logo-Writer, students can use computers to do programming and word processing in their native language. In one 6th grade classroom, for example, new immigrant students compared dwellings around the world. They saw photographs of different types of dwellings and learned that cultural responses to different ecological systems were one of the reasons for differences among earlier cultures. Igloos were adaptations to their environment just as the adobe "apartments" of Native Americans in the southwestern United States were adaptations to theirs. The builders of both types of dwellings used available resources. Using Spanish, students learned to program geometrical shapes to represent igloos and Anasazi dwellings. They also wrote about the structures in Spanish.
California State Department of Education, 1986; Carter & Chatfield, 1986; Chamot & O'Malley, 1994; Cummins, 1981, 1986; Cziko, 1992; Hakuta & Garcia, 1989; Hakuta & Gould, 1987; Ramirez, Yuen, Ramey, & Pasta, 1991; Saravia-Shore & Arvizu, 1992; Wong-Fillmore & Valadez, 1986.
Embrace dual-language strategies.
Students proficient in languages other than English learn more effectively in dual-language learning situations. They continue to learn content in their native language while learning English as a second language by interacting with monolingual English-speaking students who are also learning a second language.
This approach is valuable for several reasons. First, young people's native language is affirmed and respected when it becomes a subject being taught to their English-speaking peers. Second, potentially bilingual students can share their native-language expertise as peer tutors to English-speaking students who are learning a second language for enrichment; in the process, they gain experience working in English as well. Third, the long-term gains are greater because, in this additive bilingual strategy, students proficient in languages other than English become bilingual and biliterate. Fourth, students are not segregated into classes for potentially bilingual students or monolingual English-speaking students; all are integrated and become bilingual over a period of five or six years.
In some schools, students spend half the day in an immersion situation, learning content in English, and the other half immersed in learning content in their native language. In other schools, students initially learn specific subjects such as math, art, music, or physical education in English, their second language. Sometimes, monolingual English-speaking students are immersed in a second language, such as Spanish, with native Spanish speakers.
Based on many years of working with scores of two-way immersion programs, Howard and Christian (2002) have specific suggestions for implementing two-way immersion bilingual programs. They follow Thomas and Collier (2002) and others in suggesting a minimum of four to six years of bilingual instruction. They advocate two possible approaches:
- 50 percent of instruction in L1 and 50 percent in L2 from kindergarten through middle school, or
- 90 percent in the native language with 10 percent in L2 for grades K–1, 80 percent in the native language and 20 percent in L2 for grades 2–3, and 50/50 by 4th grade and beyond.
They stress that academic instruction needs to be of high quality and that there be "optimal language input that is comprehensible, interesting, and of sufficient quantity, and opportunity for output … including explicit language arts instruction" in both L1 and L2, so that students become bilingual and biliterate (Howard & Christian, 2002, p. 6).
To accomplish these practices, teachers' use of the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) is recommended. Howard and Christian (2002) also suggest other teaching practices including constructivist, child-centered, active discovery learning. Along with August and Hakuta (1998), they recommend a teaching method known as "instructional conversation," which "provides students with opportunities for extended dialogue in areas that have educational value as well as relevance for them" (Howard & Christian, 2002, p. 7). Cooperative learning offers students opportunities for conversations in both languages if the groups are structured to include equal numbers of native speakers of both L1 and L2. Cooperative learning is also an opportunity to develop cross-cultural understanding.
Teachers can enhance the learning of a second language by structuring informal situations in which students who are proficient in languages other than English act as peer tutors for monolingual English-speaking students learning a second language and vice versa. Second-language learning for both groups is enhanced when they can communicate informally at certain times during the school day in their second language. This alternative social organization of learning a second language does not rely solely on the teacher as the locus of teaching. Students become teachers and resources for one another; second-language learning is reciprocal.
Students learning Spanish as a second language, for example, can be encouraged to use the language in functional situations. Younger students can learn aspects of Latino cultures by using recipes in Spanish to cook Mexican, Dominican, and Puerto Rican dishes. Or they can learn about the music of each culture by learning to sing songs in Spanish. Older students can learn about the rain forests in Central and South America; they might, as one example, graph the number of medicines derived from plants in this ecosystem.
August & Hakuta, 1998; Deem & Marshall, 1980; Garcia, 1987/1988, 1988, 1991, 1992; Gee, 1982; Herbert, 1987; Howard & Christian, 2002; Krashen & Biber, 1988; Lindholm, 1988; Saravia-Shore & Arvizu, 1992; Short, Crandall, & Christian, 1989.
Use integrated, holistic approaches to language experiences for second-language learners instead of rote drill and practice.
Rote drill and practice are boring and lack meaning for young people; holistic experiences are much more engaging. For example, students can use language-experience approaches to learn science in English. In doing so, they connect doing and observing an experiment to speaking, writing, and reading. Because their oral language is written down for later reading, they can understand what they read, and their reading has meaning.
Research on the learning of second languages shows the value of an increased emphasis on "communicative competence" (Garcia, 1987/1988, 1988; Valdez-Pierce, 1991). To be competent in communicating, students need to go beyond simply mastering the rules of grammar. They also must learn how to apply social and cultural rules. Students learning a second language must learn, for example, that the informal language used with peers and friends may not be appropriate in more formal situations, such as making a request of a teacher or answering questions during a job interview. Students must learn how to take turns in a conversation, when to talk and keep still, how to "demonstrate" listening, and when to be direct or indirect. These culturally appropriate ways of speaking can be learned when students hear stories, see dramas, read books with dialogue, and write and act out plays.
"Teaching through conversation" is among the Five Standards for Effective Pedagogy proposed by Tharp, Estrada, Dalton, and Yamauchi (2000) to improve learning outcomes for all students—but especially those of diverse ethnic, cultural, linguistic, or economic backgrounds. Other researchers also support the approach of engaging students through instructional conversation (Howard & Christian, 2002). As previously discussed, instructional conversation is an extended dialogue that is educational and relevant to students' lives. Tharp and colleagues advocate a holistic approach that employs all five standards, including: teachers and students producing together, developing language and literacy across the curriculum, connecting school to students' lives, teaching complex thinking, and teaching through instructional conversation.
The teacher begins reading a children's story by first showing the illustrations and asking the students to describe them. After reading the story, the teacher asks a student to retell it. Subsequently, the teacher may ask the students to write the story as a play with a different ending or to write a continuation of the story. This technique helps young people see the connection between writing and reading.
The teacher asks students to break into groups of five. Each group is responsible for writing and illustrating a story. Group members must first negotiate who will do which tasks in English, then which events to illustrate. They must agree on the sequence of events and number them sequentially. One way of structuring this activity is to provide pages labeled "main characters," "problem to be solved," "first event," "second event," "third event," and "resolution of problem."
High school students can be assigned to watch one scene of a play that takes place in the culture they are learning about. They then form groups and write the scene as they recall it. After the groups respond to one another's efforts and refine the dialogue (perhaps by referring to the video of the play), they act out the scene. A subsequent assignment might call on them to change the role and status of one of the characters and decide how that character would speak: What might he or she say differently? How would the other characters respond? The students can then act out the scene, using the same basic content but saying things in a different way to someone with a different social role.
Students can also imagine real-life situations in which they might find themselves and act out the parts of different speakers, alternating in social roles. They can get feedback from peers who are members of the linguistic group they are studying.
Garcia, 1987/1988; Heath, 1986; Krashen, 1982; Ovando, 1993; Tharp, Estrada, Dalton, & Yamauchi, 2000; Tharp et al., 2004.
Teach language through subject matter rather than specific linguistic skill exercises.
The learning of language cannot be separated from what is being learned. Too often, students with limited proficiency in English are required to learn the abstract or grammatical aspects of language as opposed to the functional and communicative aspects. These more important functional skills are best developed in conjunction with the learning of content.
When students learn a second language in a functional way (similar to the way they learned their first language), the process has real meaning. Learning makes sense and is more interesting. Students also benefit by learning cross-cultural skills. Learning greetings in a second language, for example, as well as the "polite" behavior associated with that language enables young people to communicate more easily in a new culture. Learning how to request food at a dinner table requires basic grammar and polite behavior. Students can go on to discuss how polite behavior differs in different cultures and what "polite" means in the classroom among friends, in a restaurant, and in the school cafeteria.
Instead of removing students from a content lesson in mathematics because they are not yet proficient in English, the teacher can pair bilingual and monolingual students in small groups and provide math-related tasks within those groups. Bilingual students will assist the monolingual students in completing these tasks while providing natural models of language development within the content domain.
Pairs of students may perform a simple experiment in their classroom: They are to find out "what will happen if … ?" Labels on the objects they use guide their inquiry. Students write the steps of their experiment in the form of an experience chart and tell what happened when they followed the steps. If they are stuck, they can ask another pair of students for help. The sequence of steps is then written and may be illustrated with pictures. Another day, they can use the experience chart to practice reading aloud in English.
For older students who have learned the processes of mathematics (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) in their native language, and particularly for those who already know the Arabic number system, a review of the math process in English is an effective way of learning functional English. When young people understand a process in numerical form, they can learn the vocabulary and the rules for asking questions and stating solutions.
Cummins, 1984; Edward, Wesche, Krashen, Clement, & Krudenier, 1984; Garcia, 1987/1988, 1988, 1991, 1992; Krashen, 1982, 1985; Short & Echevarria, 1999.
Adopt sheltered English strategies.
Often, schools cannot form bilingual classrooms because their students are so linguistically diverse that the number of children speaking any one language is insufficient for a separate class. In these settings, pullout programs should be avoided; they stigmatize children. Yet sheltered English and content-embedded ESL programs benefit students who are proficient in languages other than English. Such programs ensure that students have ample time to use English themselves rather than sitting as a passive audience for the teacher.
The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol was developed to assist teachers in using sheltered English strategies. SIOP was constructed by Short and Echevarria (1999) based on the research concerning best practices, as well as on the experiences of middle school teachers and researchers who collaborated in developing the observation tool. The participating teachers used sheltered instruction in traditional ESL classes, content-based ESL classes, and sheltered content classes. SIOP provides concrete examples of sheltered instruction that teachers can use to support ELL students' understanding of instructional content. Several teachers might use SIOP as the basis for supporting each other as a learning community while they try out new strategies and discuss their practice, sharing questions and solutions.
The sheltered English strategy makes learning of content more comprehensible to English language learners. The strategy includes
- Speaking at a rate and level of complexity appropriate to the proficiency level of students.
- Using visual aids and graphic organizers as well as math manipulatives.
- Building on prior knowledge.
- Providing frequent opportunities for interaction among L1 and L2 speakers.
- Modeling academic tasks.
- Reviewing key content and vocabulary.
In sheltered English classrooms, teachers provide many examples and hands-on activities so students can comprehend abstract as well as concrete instructional materials. This approach need not be complex. For example, the teacher may demonstrate an activity and describe in simple terms what she is doing. As she draws a face, she tells the children, "I am drawing eyes," and "I am drawing a mouth," and "These are teeth." The visual references make comprehension quicker and easier, and the modeling of language enables children to learn new grammatical structures. Even the use of drawing as a teaching device may model for students the effectiveness of nonverbal means of mastering their new language and new culture; this activity may lead to the use of drawing as a tool for peer tutoring.
Cummins, 1984; Edward, Wesche, Krashen, Clement, & Krudenier, 1984; Garcia, 1987/1988, 1988, 1991, 1992; Krashen, 1982, 1985; Short & Echevarria, 1999.
Practice English in flexible, heterogeneous cooperative learning groups.
Students proficient in languages other than English learn more by being actively engaged in cooperative learning than by listening passively. Students whose native language is other than English benefit from working in cooperative learning groups with native English speakers because they can hear a native model of English and practice their English in authentic communicative situations.
Teachers who structure cooperative learning situations for ELLs enable their students to become more actively engaged in learning. Potentially bilingual students need to practice generating and rehearsing their second language. Small groups in which each child has a specific role and specific tasks enable youngsters to learn more than if they are merely passive listeners. For this reason, cooperative learning groups are more productive than whole-class instruction because small groups (three or four students) challenge children to use language more frequently. However, the students must be grouped around meaningful tasks so that they use language for work-related communication. Cooperative strategies have been demonstrated to work well with Chicano (Garcia, 1991), Laotian, Cambodian, Hmong (Ima, Galang, Lee, & Dinh Te, 1991), and Japanese students.
In a junior high science class, students identify some of the problems in their neighborhood. They then collaboratively develop a questionnaire to use to interview people in the community to find out what they identify as neighborhood problems. If their community has many residents who speak a language other than English, they may need a second version of the questionnaire in that language. After forming teams to interview community members about the neighborhood problems, students return to school, record the responses, and graph them by frequency. They can then discuss whether there is a problem that they can work together to solve, what resources they need to solve it, and the pros and cons of various suggestions for achieving a solution.
In another example, younger students may be assigned to research one of two Native American groups: the Algonquin or the Iroquois. Their goal is to discover the adaptive strategies each group used to take advantage of the environment for their dwellings, clothing, food, and transportation. The students are assigned to different roles, such as researcher, recorder, reporter, illustrator, or graph maker (to graph the results of the research).
The teacher gives each group a coloring book containing line drawings of people from the Algonquin and Iroquois nations pursuing activities of daily life. The students can interpret the drawings to identify means of transportation, materials from which dwellings were made, and so forth. They display their findings on a chart, and they also write a brief narrative describing the drawing.
Cummins, 1986; DeAvila & Duncan, 1979; Garcia, 1991, 1992; Howard & Christian, 2002; Ima, Galang, Lee, & Dinh Te, 1991; Saravia-Shore, 1993; Slavin, 1980, 1987, 1991; Tharp et al., 2004; Tharp & Gallimore, 1991.
Use cross-age and peer tutoring.
Teachers have a foundation on which to build cross-age peer tutoring when their students' cultures emphasize the care of younger children by older siblings (Puerto Rican, Hawaiian, and Chicano cultures, for example). Research shows that cross-age tutoring enhances learning for those who are tutored and for the tutors themselves. Heterogeneous cross-ability grouping promotes student tutoring through the sharing of different skills in different contexts. For example, a student who is still learning English may be strong in math and can assist an English-speaking classmate with a mathematics project.
Teachers can provide learning opportunities for students who are proficient in languages other than English by organizing their classroom to include cross-age tutoring and peer tutoring. Students who are proficient in another language, such as Spanish, can provide language models and practice for monolingual English speakers learning Spanish. In some learning situations, Spanish can be used to converse about a shared activity. In another situation in which English is the primary language, the tutoring roles can be reversed.
Students are studying number systems. Using the chalkboard, a student who speaks only English demonstrates the use of zero in the Arabic number system to a native Spanish speaker by showing math problems and then working with the other student to solve them. After learning the Mayan number system, the native Spanish speaker then demonstrates, in Spanish, the Mayan number system and its use of place and zero to the English-speaking student, explaining that the Mayans were the first world culture to use a symbol for zero.
Moll, Diaz, Estrada, & Lopes, 1992.
Respect community language norms.
Establishing communication is the most important consideration in teaching. In many bilingual populations, language alternation (or code switching) is frequently used for more effective communication. In conversations, either teacher or student may change the language in midstream to catch the listener's attention, to emphasize something, to clarify, to elaborate, or to address those in a group who may understand the second language more readily. Therefore, students and teachers should be able to readily use these naturally occurring alternations to achieve communication in the classroom.
In discussing the whole language approach, in which language is taught naturally as it occurs within any social environment, Goodman (1986) has noted, "Whole language programs respect the learners—who they are, where they come from, how they talk, what they read, and what experiences they [have] already had." Both Edelsky (1986) and Huerta-Macias and Quintero (1992) include code switching as part of this whole language approach.
In a reading exercise conducted in English, a student hesitates in answering a comprehension question posed by the teacher. The teacher rephrases the question in the child's native language, and the child proudly responds to the question in her native language. In this scenario, the teacher focuses on the goal of story comprehension and alternates language use to achieve this goal.
In a family literacy program, five families come together for 90 minutes once a week after school. Their teacher conducts the classes in both Spanish and English, alternating according to the linguistic abilities and preferences of parents and children. This strategy enables parents and children to feel comfortable in expressing themselves in either language. Their activities include conversing, reading, writing, and creating art projects. The parents tend to use Spanish to express themselves; the teacher alternates between speaking Spanish with the parents and English with the children. The children also use both languages freely as they speak to their parents, their brothers and sisters, and the teacher.
In developing literacy, the specific language used is not as important as encouraging communication between parents and their children. The intent here is to use the language skills of the parents as a resource so that they can continue assisting their children with reading and writing skills at home. This communication—and the development of an enjoyment of reading and writing together—are the primary goals. Other outcomes include developing respect for the parents' native language, helping the student to develop biliteracy, and developing the native language as a resource while acquiring literacy in English.
Bowman, 1989; Carter & Chatfield, 1986; Duran, 1981; Edelsky, 1986; Garcia, 1988, 1991, 1992; Garcia, Maez, & Gonzalez, 1983; Genishi, 1981; Goodman, 1986; Huerta, 1980; Huerta-Macias & Quintero, 1992; Poplack, 1981; Valdez-Fallis, 1977; Zentella, 1992.
Organize teaching around thematic, interdisciplinary units.
Linguistically diverse students have been shown to benefit from interdisciplinary approaches. Students proficient in languages other than English can learn content with greater comprehension if their learning is interdisciplinary.
For students learning English as a second language, thematic approaches enhance learning and comprehension because the new learning is incremental and added to a theme that the students already understand. Having a base vocabulary related to the theme provides students a context in which to fit new learning from the various disciplines. Vocabulary is reinforced by its use in different subject contexts.
Focusing on a theme and relating various disciplines to that theme enables students to better understand each new area, since it is connected to a known core. When there is a theme, the vocabulary and skills can be developed in connection with the content. This approach provides coherence to students who are proficient in languages other than English. Instead of trying to learn about several separate and distinct areas with diverse vocabularies simultaneously, they can work within a broad, unifying theme.
The bilingual science program Descubrimiento (DeAvila & Duncan, 1980) is an example of an interdisciplinary program that integrates science content and processes, foreign language learning, and English as a second language. Because students set up, conduct, analyze, report, and write up the experiments as group members, they learn a second language, either English or Spanish, while they are acquiring science skills and content. They also learn to work cooperatively. All the skills of communication in each language are used on different days to learn, question, record, and share what has been learned from the science experiment.
Carter & Chatfield, 1986; Garcia, 1992; Gardner, 1983; Krashen, 1982, 1985; Lucas, Henze, & Donato, 1990; Pease-Alvarez, Garcia, & Espinosa, 1991.
Enhance language learning with computers and peer tutors.
Teachers can create situations in which two potentially bilingual students use a common computer to more readily learn English as a second language. While sharing a word processing program, two second-language learners have the opportunity to generate language, create dialogues, interview each other, assist each other with corrections, and act as an audience for the other's writing. However, one computer shared by a whole class of students does not allow for as much language practice as does pairing students who have access to a computer laboratory.
The kinds of software used for language learning also make a difference. Some language-learning programs simply translate drill and practice into computer formats. Other programs—desktop publishing software, for example—motivate students to write in their second language, since they know that their writing will be edited collaboratively and then published, to be read by classmates and parents or guardians.
The Internet can also be used to correspond with "sister schools" in the same city, another state, or even another country. Individual correspondence or bilingual newsletters written by students can develop their writing and literacy skills in both their native and second languages.
By using computers, teachers can challenge students to provide more of their own interpretation and to generate their own text, rather than simply perform rote drill-and-practice activities. For example, a teacher can show a photograph of two people interacting to a pair of students at the computer. Their task is to imagine the identity of each person and to develop a dialogue in which each of them assumes the voice of one of the people in the photograph. Each responds to the other and gives feedback if he or she is "out of character" or needs assistance.
The teacher also can structure situations in which students use computers to strengthen writing skills in their second language by providing assignments that have an immediate communicative purpose. For example, teachers assign two students to a computer and ask each to provide peer tutoring to the other. Students can interview each other via the computer—one asking questions via the computer and the other writing the answers.
Writing a play or a news story together can be enjoyable and rewarding. When writing a news story, one student can act as the correspondent and interview the "newsmaker" or "informant." Students can also interview one another about their various countries of origin and write a book for the whole class by combining their individual accounts.
At the high school level, as an ongoing classroom project, bilingual students can learn to use desktop publishing software to collaboratively produce a bilingual monthly newsletter that they can exchange with a bilingual class in a sister school in another district. The newsletter may include poems; jokes; community surveys; methods of dealing with problems at school; or interviews with conflict mediators, faculty members, or parents, all telling about their jobs. By exchanging newsletters with a sister school (and possibly including a column that allows students from the other school to tell how they deal with concerns and problems), students are using language to learn about real-life concerns.
Cummins, Brown, and Sayers (2007) suggest further bilingual strategies with students using both L1 and L2 and computer programs to create movies, audio CDs, and Web pages. Students can share the outcomes of their projects aimed at generating new knowledge, creating literature, doing action research, and addressing the social realities of their community in both languages. When they exchange their work with other classes, students can use computers and other technology to create and share literature and art and explore issues of social relevance to them and their communities (projects like "Voices of Our Elders" or "The Social History of Our Community").
Cummins also suggests that bilingual students from kindergarten on can bring in words in either L1 or L2 and explore their meanings in each language with peers and teacher, incorporating their words into a technology-supported bilingual dictionary developed by the entire class.
For older students in bilingual or L2 immersion classes, Cummins suggests developing critical literacy by comparing the way that the same news events and issues are reported in L1 and L2 on the Web.
Andelin, Naismith, Roberts, Feuer, Fulton, St. Lawrence, & Zuckerkandel, 1987; Cummins, 2005; Cummins, Brown, & Sayers, 2007; Mehan, 1989; Mehan, Moll, & Riel, 1985; Moll, Diaz, Estrada, & Lopes, 1992; Philips, 1972; Roberts et al., 1987; Sayers, 1989; Sayers & Brown, 1987.
Help students build "social capital."
While students with college-educated parents usually have a network of social relationships to facilitate academic success (a form of social capital), students whose parents did not attend college often lack these kinds of networks.
Gibson and Bejinez's (2002) ethnography documented how adult caring and building social capital influenced the persistence of Mexican migrant students in school. They studied the federally funded Migrant Education Program (MEP) at Hillside, California, an integrated high school with approximately equal proportions of white (45 percent) and Mexican (42 percent) students. Gibson and Bejinez examined how the MEP staff "facilitated student engagement by creating caring relationships with students, providing them with access to institutional support, and implementing activities that build from and serve to validate students' home cultures" (Gibson & Bejinez, 2002, p. 155). MEP teachers who came from migrant backgrounds and were college educated provided role models for the migrant students and explicitly assisted them with tutoring and the college application process. They established an office where students could socialize as well as find information and support.
Gibson and Bejinez also drew on the literature on caring as "a precondition for students to feel trust and belonging within the school environment in order to establish beneficial school-based relationships" (p. 157). They "found caring relationships between migrant teachers and students to be at the very heart of the [MEP] program's success in engaging students academically and keeping them in school" (p. 159).
Finally, Gibson and Bejinez built on the research on the school structures and personnel facilitating "the minority students' ability to withstand the assimilationist pressures of school." Minority students who felt there was a safe place for them to speak Spanish as well as English and to build upon their culture—bringing their multiple identities to school rather than concealing them—had a sense of belonging instead of marginalization and alienation. This sense of belonging in school has been correlated with engagement with schoolwork and perseverance in the face of obstacles (Gandara, 1995; Gibson & Bhachu, 1991).
In the Gibson and Bejinez (2002) study, one MEP teacher noted, "We have good communication, and we keep on pushing them. That's why our office is always packed. They know we have high expectations, and I think that they're really trying to meet them" (p. 168).
The dual-language programs discussed here enable all students to build on their native language while learning a second. Students also know that in a reciprocal relationship they are both teaching and learning. As did Weis and Fine (2001), Gibson and Bejinez found that anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant, anti-Spanish stereotypes were contested both in the MEP office and by the school's Mexican Students Association, where students could take leadership in organizing, fund-raising, and celebrating their native culture. They did so by holding a graduation banquet dinner at which they honored their parents. Gibson has called this "additive acculturation," that is, acculturation without assimilation.
Teachers can encourage students to share aspects of their native cultures through assignments in social studies in which a particular country's history and culture is researched by a small group of students and then presented to the entire class to support student pride in their culture and learning about others. Other activities include building a classroom library of autobiographies and children's books in various languages, assigning Web sites where students can research their culture, or hosting international days that celebrate students' cultures.
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