Wednesday, July 6, 2016

California districts backing the wrong horse for English learners


Summary of article:
Two California school districts have launched a pilot program aimed at improving instruction for English-language learners. The program, "Leading with Learning," focuses on critical thinking and language development.
Sent to Ed Source:
The ELL program described in "New teaching strategies..."  makes no mention of the massive amount of research done in the last 40 years showing the powerful impact of "comprehensible input"; this research supports the idea that we acquire language by understanding what is heard and read, not by producing language.  Rather, the ability to produce language is the result of language acquisition via comprehensible input.
"Collaborative conversations" are clearly of some use, but cannot be the main source of academic language development: they are too infrequent and do not supply enough input.
In particular, research strongly supports reading as a important path to mastery of academic language, extensive self-selected reading for pleasure and reading in academic areas of one's own interest.  Studies show that reading is the major sources of our reading ability, ability to write in an acceptable style, vocabulary knowledge, and our ability to handle complex rules of grammar. It is also a major source of our knowledge of the world and academic knowledge.
Neither "New teaching strategies" nor the documents linked to the article indicate any awareness of this research and theory. Educators are free to disagree with the studies and conclusions, but are not free to ignore them.
Stephen Krashen

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