Effective Instruction for Language Minority Children with Mild DisabilitiesThis document has been retired from the active collection
of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education.
It contains references or resources that may no longer be valid or up to date.
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
ERIC EC Digest #E499
Author: Nadine T. Ruiz
ED333621 May 1991
This digest describes the Optimal Learning Environment (OLE) Curriculum Resource for Teachers of Spanish Speaking Children developed to suggest ways of teaching language arts to such students and to suggest specific classroom activities that are compatible with the research on effective instruction. This bilingual special education class model looks for the upper range of the bilingual child's academic, linguistic, and social skills (Ruiz, 1988). The following principles govern the OLE curriculum:
Take Into Account the Students' Sociocultural Background and Its Effect on Oral Language, Reading and Writing, and Second Language Learning
The following four areas have been identified as important to children from language minority groups: oral language uses, knowledge about print, background knowledge, and sense of story (Anderson & Gipe, 1983; Barnitz, 1986; Hudelson, 1984, 1987; Steffensen & Calken, 1982).
Oral Language Uses
Knowledge About Print
Sense of Story
Take Into Account the Students' Learning Handicaps and How They May Affect Oral Language, Reading, Writing, and Second Language, Learning
In an OLE classroom, the teacher would not stop with involving the children in prereading activities to access and develop their background knowledge. The teacher would explain the importance of knowing as much as possible about a text before reading it; demonstrate a strategy such as the survey text method (Aukerman, 1972), which students can use to prepare themselves before they read a text; and provide opportunities for the students to practice the strategy.
Follow Developmental Processes in Literacy Acquisition
The OLE Curriculum Guide calls for language arts instruction that acknowledges the importance of developmental phases of literacy acquisition in a number of ways. First, teachers should give students the time they need to develop their knowledge about reading and writing in highly interactive literacy events. Second, student errors in their reading and writing attempts should not automatically be viewed as "bad habits" (Flores, Rueda, & Porter, 1986). Instead, teachers should examine the errors for evidence of what children can do, as evidence of their progress through developmental phases. Finally, teachers should realize that a curriculum that does not provide the rich language and literacy environment described here is an impoverished curriculum that will promote impoverished learners.
Locate Curriculum in a Meaningful Context Where the Communicative Purpose is Clear and Authentic
One important way to encourage "meaning making" among children is to engage them in reading and writing whole texts instead of text fragments removed from context (Altwerger, Edelsky, & Flores, 1987). The OLE Curriculum Guide recommends that, in reading lessons, students be encouraged to interact with whole books, poems, and other forms of written language as a way to facilitate meaning making. For writing, teachers should use the Writing Workshop approach described by Atwell (1987). Here, students have control over intentions, topic, and audience as they write and publish their own books. Classmates should meet frequently for peer conferences on their pieces, simultaneously stimulating their need to be clear and interesting writers and providing alternative oral language opportunities.
Connect Curriculum with the Students' Personal Experiences
Many students show greater progress or increased investment when reading and writing tasks give them the opportunity to interject their personal experiences (Au & Jordan, 1981; Flores et al., 1986; Willig & Swedo, 1987). The OLE Curriculum Guide gives specific suggestions on how to connect students' personal topics to the language arts curriculum by using the Writing Workshop and the ETR method, for example.
Incorporate Children's Literature Into Reading, Writing, and ESL Lessons
Using actual examples of literature can extend students' knowledge about print (including the more sophisticated aspects of this knowledge, such as text structure or style), increase areas of their background knowledge, and facilitate the construction of meaning through whole texts. Literature, even more than expository writing, is decontextualized; that is, its clues to meaning are more implicit than explicit. Second language learners working through literary works must negotiate the meaning, not only between themselves and the text, but also with others. These negotiating moves (e.g., checks for understanding, requests for clarification) have been linked to better English-language gains.
Involve Parents as Active Partners in the Instruction of Their Children
The OLE Curriculum Guide details various ways to promote equitable parent-school partnerships. One is Project TOT (Training of Trainers), in which parents from language minority groups who are knowledgeable about the inner workings of schools join with families who do not use the available special education services. The families participate in small-group seminars to acquire information and skills related to obtaining those services, as well as forming ongoing support groups.
Altwerger, B., Edelsky, C., & Fores, M. (1987). Whole language: What's new? The Reading Teacher, 41, 144-154. EJ 360638.
Anderson, B. V., & Gipe, J. P. (1983). Creativity as a mediating variable in inferential reading comprehension. Reading Psychology, 4, 313-325.
Atwell, N. (1987). In the middle: Writing, reading and learning with adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Au, K., & Jordan, C. (1981). Teaching reading to Hawaiian children: Finding a culturally appropriate solution. In H. T. Trueba, G. P. Guthrie, & K. H. Au (Eds.), Culture and the bilingual classroom: Studies in classroom ethnography (pp. 139-152). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
Aukerman, R. C. (1972). Reading in the secondary classroom. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Barnitz, J. G. (1986). Toward understanding the effects of cross-cultural schemata and discourse structure on second language reading comprehension. Journal of Reading Behavior, 18, 95-113. EJ 393481.
Cummins, J. (1981). The role of primary language development in promoting educational success for language minority students. In Schooling and language minority students: A theoretical framework (pp. 3-49). Los Angeles: California State University, Evaluation, Dissemination and Assessment Center.
Flores, B., Rueda, R., & Porter, B. (1986). Examining assumptions and instructional practices related to the acquisition of literacy with bilingual special education students. In A. Willig & H. Greenberg (Eds.), Bilingualism and learning disabilities (pp. 149-165). New York: American Library.
Hudelson, S. (1984). Kan yo ret an rayt in Ingles: Children become literate in English as a second language. TESOL Quarterly, 18, 221-238. EJ 302884.
Hudelson, S. (1987). The role of native language literacy in the education of language minority children. Language Arts, 64, 827-841. EJ 363334.
Olson, D. R., & Nickerson, N. (1978). Language development through the school years: Learning to confine interpretation to the information in the text. In K. E. Nelson (Ed.), Children's language (Vol. 1, pp. 117-169). New York: Gardner.
Ruiz, N. T. (1988). Language for learning in a bilingual special education classroom. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University.
Steffensen, M. S., & Calken, L. (1982). The effect of cultural knowledge on memory and language. (Tech. Rep. No. 248). Champaign: University of Illinois, Center for the Study of Reading. ED 217405.
Steffensen, M. S., Joag-dev, C., & Anderson, R. C. (1979). A cross-cultural perspective on reading comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 15, 10-29. EJ 210791.
Stein, N., & Nezworski, T. (1978). The effects of organization and instructional set on story memory. Discourse Processes, 1, 177-193.
Wells, G. (1981). Learning through interaction. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Willig, A., & Swedo, J. (1987, April). Improving teaching strategies for exceptional Hispanic limited English proficient students: An exploratory study of task engagement and teaching strategies. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Washington, DC.
This digest is based on "An Optimal Learning Environment for Rosemary," by Nadine T. Ruiz, which appeared in Exceptional Children, Vol. 56, No. 2 (October 1989).