(OK We’re going to start with you saying your name and spell it)
My name is Dee Gardner, spelled Dee Gardner.
(Lets start with sort of a definition of reading….)
OK, um, reading has been investigated in number of different ways. Um, one is from a cognitive perspective, um, as psychological perspective, a, it’s been viewed from a social perspective, and I think that the differences there are in emphasis more that anything. In a cognitive view of reading we ‘re looking at processes, underlying processes that are taking place when someone is actually acquiring literacy, reading and writing skills. And from a social perspective we might be looking at more the uh context um of reading. The imputs, um, uh, the motivation to read. And um a lot of times these become convoluted actually in our discussions about reading. Sometimes we have become heavy into the social side, or the cognitive side, and we need to understand that it’s really both sides that are coming into play when we are talking about reading. Um, and-just another comment about, uh, this whole notion of reading being a cognitive process. Societies don’t have a brain. Societies are groups of people. Individuals have brains. Individuals learn how to read, not societies. But reading literacy is, has a social impact, and also is influenced by society and culture. And so that’s a distinction I’d like to, that is important to me to make.
(So tell me, when were talking about the cognitive side of reading…)
Sure. I think some of the underlying processes of reading that are very important to understand, there is this relationship, um, between print, um, between recognizing words, and recognizing them at a high degrees of fluency and accuracy. Um, Also this a notion of working memory, and we always speak in metaphors when we talk about these things. But the idea is that short term, or working memory, is limited capacity. That we can only keep in our minds at one time, so to speak, a certain amount of information. That we can overload our working memory, and we’ve all had that experience, uh, cramming for tests for example. But working memory, um, comes into play in reading in the sense that, because it’s limited capacity, uh, we need to be able to recognize words of high frequency very rapidly and accurately so that we can devote whatever extra time we have left over to higher order processes. Processes of, of bringing background knowledge and making meaning, those kinds of things. Um If our underlying processes, basic processes, of word recognition are deficient, then we spend most of our energy, our working memory capacity, just trying to disambiguate the printed word. Um And therefore we’re not, we don’t have a lot left over for higher order thinking and meaning making and those kinds of things. So it’s this really unique balance, um, and maybe, perhaps, the difference between the notions of a learning to read and reading to learn is, is there also. That when we’re learning to read, we have to have a critical mass of these a bottom level skills available, um, or we will not be able to, um, incorporate the higher order skills in, in making meaning and comprehension.
(What do you want teachers to understand about second language…)?
OK. The difference between a first language reading and second language reading is an interesting question. Many of the basic underlying a processes are the same. Uh, and we, we know that from experimentation and years of experience, and educators understand that. But there are some unique differences that occur and it has to do with what we bring to the table, so to speak, in the reading event. Um, First language readers, those children who are learning to read in their first language, for example, have a broad and, a broad based, orally based, vocabulary that they can use to tie meaning in a to the printed word. When they are able to decode, or understand a written word, they’re also able to rapidly attach meaning to many of those words. Whereas a second language reader may be able to even pronounce a word, but has, does not have that orally based vocabulary to tie meaning into that recognized word, for example. And so that’s one major difference. Um, the other is a, can I just stop here for just a second? I’ve got to think for just a minute.
(Yeah, no problem)
I get thinking about other things in my life here you know, another concept.
(This is on video)
So, first and second language reading. OK. You this is an interesting, oh you’re not taping me right now are you?
This is an interesting question too because second language reading is huge. Uh, it depends on the background of the learner; it depends on their age of acquisition. It depends on, and so it’s kind of, I’m just assuming, I’m taking the premise of first grade, second grade kids, is that OK to do that, I mean.
(If you wanted to talk more of the topics….)
OK, just let me think of two more things here. OK. I’m ready.
Back to the question of the differences between first and second language reading that I think educators would benefit from knowing. Um, another interesting aspect is the a background knowledge, or cultural knowledge that they bring to bear on the reading. Uh, many times we’re asking children in schools to read about American History, for example. Um, children who have just relocated from Mexico, or some other country, whose uh, do not have, perhaps, this uh, background that the first language reader has, would struggle with, that the meaning making portion of it. And what they can bring to bear uh, on, on comprehension, uh, of a text. And so it’s important for us to understand that, a lot of times, what we take for granted that a first language reader knows, a second language reader may not. And we, we need to do much more building of, of uh, background knowledge, those kinds of things. There’s also the influence of the mother tongue, uh, the native language of the reader, um, can have a great impact on, on how they’re processing in a, in a second language or how they’re reading. They may be expecting the verb to come in a certain point in the sentence and it doesn’t. It comes in another place. So there are all of these interactions that are taking place that we need to be aware of. Something that is particularly difficult for, um, ESL, uh, teachers of reading, is when they have a heterogeneous classroom of different first language backgrounds. Children from, from and Asian background and from an Hispanic background. And they’ve got them in the same classroom, and they, they bring to the reading, uh, various, uh, idiosyncrasies from their first language. Um, there’s also the instructional differences that they might be used to, one form of instruction over another. And so there are lots of variable that come into play; learning styles, um, uh, motivation for reading, parental example, for ex-, we might have a highly educated, um, uh, parent, uh, who’s here studying for a masters degree or a doctoral degree at the university, who is spending great deals, a great deal of time with their children after school helping them read, and those kinds of things. Where as another parent may be busy just trying to make ends meet and has no time, um, to do those kinds of activities. So those are just some basic differences that I would see.
(What findings from research stand out…)
OK. I, primarily, I , one of the primary second language, uh issues that I think teachers need to be aware of is something that I refer to as ‘The Cody Paradox’ because he’s,uh kind of coined that term, even though someone else may have originated it. The paradox is this: that in reading, and vocabulary development, which we know are tied heavily together, especially in education, that there is this paradox of you have to have um, enough words that you know and can recognize, to be able to read well. And you need to be able to read to learn many of the words that you need to know in academic settings. So there is this paradox of how do we then learn enough to learn, is what Cody talks about. Um, and it’s basically that we need to develop, or help students acquire a critical mass,um of, of language ability, of vocabulary, a sight vocabulary and those kinds of things so they can benefit from, from reading, and uh, and learning, learning from reading and also developing just the basic reading skills. Um, I think another interesting movement that’s taking place is um, this idea that, that literacy is relative. Not all literacy is the same um, we, we have had enough experiments now with grammar, the Biber studies um, and other studies like that, that suggest that, that um, their different grammatical structures uh, based on different registers, written registers, and that it, it requires uh different skills to be able to negotiate to read those, in those registers. In my own studies uh I’ve been able to find that there is a great lexical disparity between narrative text and informational text. And that um these issues come to bear, a in terms of developing second language learners academic literacy, and their, their school English. Um, the literacy narratives is not the same as the literacy of exposition. Um, the distinction between Bicks and Calp, which has been, um used extensively in the literature and in the discussions by experts, is this notion that we have these basic inner-personal communications skills that develop early on in second language learners. And that the more cognitively demanding skills take years and years, if ever, to develop. And, um I have a personal notion that, that may not have so much to do with developmental issues as instructional issues. That perhaps we’re not getting them to the Calp soon enough um, in our educational efforts, um science talk. Um actually uh marrying content with language development and teaching children early on how to read uh, a science book. A earth science of life science and the vocabulary associated with that. Many times um, uh those topics are very concrete, we think they’re difficult but when we’re talking about planets or plants, um even photosynthesis can be diagrammed and shown how the words may sound big, but the concepts are very concrete. And I think we need to do a better job of, of, of helping educators and understand that they can start earlier to help second language learners with, with the Calp aspects of other education, so.
(Talk about what you did in your disertation…)
OK. I became curious about, a certain claims in, in second language reading that, that we should just encourage readers to read volumes of material, that, that, in and of itself, the shear volume of reading would get them what they needed uh to be successful. And my interest in looking at that question uh more directly came from my association with, with Doug Biber and others at Northern Arizona University where they were talking about um big differences between registers. And I wanted to investigate whether uh there were lexical differences. The work of Paul Nation and, and others, his colleagues um inspired me to start looking at vocabulary in terms of um the levels of vocabulary in terms of frequency and um to try to discover whether a reading of narrative texts and the reading of expository texts had, a if they were lexically similar or, or dissimilar. Hence, so in my study I, I chose a fifty-six texts. Twenty-eight a narratives and twenty-eight expository texts that were in thematic units. Um, I chose theme-based materials because of the claims that have been made that themes drive vocabulary together and I wanted to see if that, it that issue was, was accurate in my corpus. And, so I scanned these texts in, these fifty-six texts, which ended up being about a million and a half, million and a quarter a tokens, word tokens, of text. And if you were to stack the books end to end they would be about like this. And in those, in my analysis I looked at, um the lexical compositions of these narrative and expository texts. And look at them in terms of the differences between themes. Whether a theme was tight, such as mummy, or whether it was loose, such as mystery. So if the, if texts were, were a assembled together to, to help readers recycle vocabulary, and if the theme is mystery, which is a more broader theme than a more tight mummy theme, did that impact lexical recycling, vocabulary recycling. And my conclusion was, major conclusion of the study, was that, that both the narrative and expository distinction, and the thematic tightness had a bearing on lexical recycling. And the types of words, even more importantly that children are exposed to, in, in my corpus nearly seventy-two point five percent of the more specialized word types were either always found in narratives, and never in expositorys, or always found in expositorys and never in narratives. This is an issue of zero exposure, if you were to read strictly narratives or strictly expository texts. This means to me that um in terms of building fluency, a the reading of narrative texts is great in terms of building cultural background and, uh, a social understanding, those, those issues, the window to culture idea. Um, narratives are, are particularly good reading materials and require certain skills, but if the goal is to um immerse students in academic type language, um they have limitations. And the only place that we might be able to find some of the academic words that are important to them in their, in their academic success would be in, in expositions, in expository or informational materials. And that’s why I’m such a big proponent of making sure that we include informational materials in our literacy training programs. And get children started early on that. Um, not be exclusively narrative or exclusively expository, but, um develop uh our curricula around both. Also the idea of themes. The theme of money drove vocabulary together. Um, sarcophagus and pyramids and Egyptians and tombs, um we’re in, in all of these books. And so a student a tight thematic unit like that would have extensive exposure, repetition of interesting and valuable vocabulary. Where as the theme of mystery worked much like a random set of materials. And that is, the high frequency words of English were definitely recycled, but beyond that it was just a chance relationship. (laugher in background)
(What does it mean for practice, what do you want teachers to think about..)
For me, the, one of the most important things as educators that we can do, is, I have a little slogan that I say, it’s taking students from what they know to where they need to go. And much of our challenge in education, in my opinion, is understanding where students need to go. Do we want them to be successful in school? Or do we want them to be successful socially, or both. Um, we need to understand that if they want to be successful academically, they definitely need to be exposed to expository type writing uh,and reading very early on. My recommendation with themes is to uh, have more narrowly focused themes that do indeed recycle vocabulary. So if we have the choice between mystery and mummies, we might choose mummies for second language learners. If we have the choice between insects and bees, we might choose bees. Because uh, the nature of those texts is such that the really important vocabulary will recycle much more readily than it would in a looser theme. The notion of wide reading, um is a, is a great notion when it comes to building fluency with high frequency words. And wide reading basically is the notion just read for reading’s sake. It’s the sheer volume of reading that generates a lot of vocabulary that we do own, and um, but one of the problems with wide reading, I believe, is, for second language learners in particular, is this whole issue that some of these important words are not recycling in a timely manner and therefore they’re not encountering them over and over again in a timely fashion and are therefore less likely to acquire them.
(What are high frequency words..)
OK. Um, Paul Nation um, is probably the, the researcher who has done the most with understanding levels of vocabulary. And in, in one of his famous books, the 1990 book, he, he describes the um levels of vocabulary being high frequency words of the English language. These are words like the, and a, um prepositions and, and other words. Two thousand, basically, words, word families. And let me just clarify that a word family, in a linguistic sense, is, is a base form or a stem with all of its relationships. So the word climb would have climbing, climbs, climbed, uh those would all be one word family. So basically two thousand word families make up eighty-seven percent of all that we read. Uh, pick a book at random off the shelf and somewhere around eighty-seven percent of those words will be in that uh two thousand word family set. He also did studies to see if there was another group of words outside those two thousand word families that had consistency across academing materials. He calls that his university word list. And he found that roughly um eight hundred and thirty word families made up an additional eight percent of the uh the words that students would read in academic settings. Combining the high frequency and the academic sets together, you would have ninety-five percent of the words uh that you would be reading. That ninety-five percent is also the magically figure when it comes to comprehension. Um, that if we know ninety-five percent of what we read we’re able to comprehend on a basic level. And if you add the two together, you have twenty-eight hundred word families. Roughly three thousand word families is what he’s claiming constitute that, that ninety-five percent. Now the real trick and the real dilemma with English and a vocabulary learning in general, and especially through reading, is that the five percent beyond that ninety-five high frequency level are the words that are important to us in terms of uh being successful in academics. They’re what define the different registers and genres. Uh, for example: in that five percent set we might find words like pyramid, tomb, sarcophagus, uh we might find words like hive, um uh um I’m shooting from the hip here so you have to edit this out. Uh, we might find words um such as photosynthesis. We might find words uh in that five percent, that basically define the content areas of education as well as just about any field we can imagine. But those five percent of words um are so infrequently used in the language in general that it is essential that we find ways to make them come together. That’s where theme based instruction is so important. If our goal is to teach science concepts, in particular earth science or uh life science, we need to find books that will, that will, are consistent in their theme and will bring that five percent of vocabulary items together enough times that students have a chance to acquire them. Um, it also says something about the words that we would teach if we were to teach explicitly uh vocabulary. Those are the words that would be important for us to spend time on, on the chalkboard, doing exercises with, because um they have the greatest semantic impact most of the time in reading. So.
(I wish you could work on our project with us..)
I’m, I’m sorry. (Interruption) I would, there’s, is this going OK?
(I want to talk a little more about the role of vocabulary..)
OK. All right. Could you just state the question one more time?
For me, the relationship between vocabulary and reading is a reciprocal relationship. We learn a lot of vocabulary from reading and it takes so much vocabulary in order to be able to read, in general, and, and glean more information. Um, what I would like teachers to understand, from my perspective, is that, I think we have it in reverse order. Um most of the time we somehow believe that we need to build an orally based vocabulary before we introduce literacy. Uh, my studies, in my studies and others have read that look at vocabulary; I would propose that it’s very difficult to match an orally based vocabulary um consistently enough with the written materials available to make that a productive way of looking at it. What I would propose is that teachers first select their written materials, even if they don’t instruct out of them to begin with, and design their orally based voca—orally based activities around those themes and around those materials so that when it comes time to develop literacy, that they have also developed the oral vocabulary uh commensurate with those materials, or consistent with those materials. That to me is, is one of the issues that, it’s one of my soapboxes. That we sometimes do it in reverse order a traditionally. Um also that um it’s very important to understand that because words that are very salient, uh in the language, are often times also very infrequent. It’s very important that we choose, choose very well the things that we, that we address with our students. One of the best ways that I know of doing that is simply searching the state core curricula. Trying to find out what, what it is that, that our uh educators are asking the students be versed in by the time they’re done with first grade or second grade of third grade. A lot of study usually goes into that. In my experience, if you look across states in the United States, for example, those content areas are very similar in nature. I think that’s a great starting point because that, that is the language of school, and once we understand the language of school, then we look for materials, or develop materials on our own which we, we can do, that meet those content requirements. And then build our orally based activities around those content areas so that there, the vocabulary is not only recycling in the classroom, in our communication with students, a teacher student interchange, but it’s also recycling in the literature that they’re reading. That to me is paramount. Um a word that is infrequently encountered is likely to be lost. A word that um has several repetitions in a shorter time frame is much more likely to be acquired. And the rich do get richer, as uh as we understand the, the Matthew effects idea, that, that people who have vocabulary and, and, and broader vocabularies will learn more new words through reading. It’s just a simple fact.
(Talk about the first language..)
Uh, second language learners face a unique challenge in learning to read, and one of those challenges is um what I call, it may be an obvious issue, but uh, but a lot of times we don’t think about it this way. We have to ask ourselves what language are beginning learners of English using to think. And the obvious answer to that question is: they’re using their native languages, that’s all they have. They have to, they have such a rudimentary second language vocabulary and knowledge of syntax and that, (squeaky noise) that they couldn’t possibly be thinking, in, in terms of learning, in that second language. And therefore the notion of telling, or asking, students not to use their first language in some way is akin to asking them not to think, in my opinion. Um, we have to be careful with that, but we have a lot of legislation out there that requires certain ways of educating students, but by and large I think we have a moral responsibility to uh help uh ourselves and fellow educators understand that the children have to be able to think somehow in their first language. Until they can develop the second language skills to the point where they become more automatic and are able to be used that way. Um the relationship between first and second language um is important in terms of reading because, again, the, this, the students, a lot of times, do not have this orally based second language vocabulary. It’s important for teachers to make sure to um be, use gestures, pictures. I always say use their native language if you need to, to help them make meaning connections to the words that they’re asked to read. Otherwise, they’re, they’re not connecting the written work to anything that’s meaningful in their lives. Um, by using gestures, by using pictures, it’s kind of the uh lingua-fronca, uh so to speak, that enables uh them to make meaning without um relying too heavily on their first language. Another dilemma for second language teachers is that they don’t know the first language of the students that they’re teaching. And that makes gestures and pictures even that much more important. Um there are basics, basic ideas, concepts, words that the teacher want to learn in that students second language to help them communicate. It also puts the teacher in the position of being language learner instead of language teacher. And even asking the student, um how do you say this in your native language. How do you say this in Spanish, or in Chinese, or Japanese. All of a sudden shifts the role to the point of uh that I am valuable. I know something my teacher doesn’t know. Um it breaks down those barriers so, quite a bit, and helps them understand that they bring to this reading table, and academic table in general, they bring many valuable uh pieces of knowledge that they can use in terms of acquiring a second language.
(How do you want teachers to think about input..)
One of my soapboxes, one of the, the um issues that, that I think needs to be relooked, is this whole idea of authentic materials. The word authentic, um has many definitions. I use the example of Dr. Seuss in talking about this. Would Dr. Seuss be an authentic text, or would it be a contrived text. And what is the purpose of a Dr. Seuss ‘Cat in the Hat’ or um ‘One Fish Two Fish’? Um he’s definitely trying to emphasis certain characteristics of the language that are important for readers to know. The rhymes, minimal pairs that we talk about in linguistics, um is that a contrived text or is an authentic text. And in learning to read as opposed to reading to learn (chair squeak) that the uh idea of having texts that are simplified, that repeat high frequency vocabulary, that have rhyming words, those kinds of things, uh may not be classified in a purest sense as being authentic, but they may indeed be necessary uh in order to hot wire readers into the reading process. Give them clues uh quickly. Um, as to uh decoding and phonics issues and those kinds of things that they desperately need at that stage of their literacy development. And so I would claim that authentic is a relative term. Someone who writes a, a narrative, a fictional story, must have in mind, in the beginning, an audience or they wouldn’t be writing that particular register or genre of uh, um narrative or fiction. And therefore um they are, in a sense, contriving the language to meet the audience that they’re writing for. So the notion of authentic , to me, should be more a notion of useful, rather than whether it’s authentic. Is it serving a purpose in terms of helping them develop their literacy skills early on.
( simplification versus modification)
Um, the issue of simplification of text is, is a big issue. It’s been with us a long time, whether to simplify text or use authentically written materials ,the way they came off the pen of the author, is a big issue, especially in second language learning. For the issues that we’ve talked about so far, and those are that language learners need to have consistency, with a smaller set of language in order to be able to uh acquire certain skills, literacy skills in particular, and develop vocabulary. Um the simplification issue, you got to stop the video for just a second because I lost my thought. Get carried away here.
Um simplification, I was going to (interruption) these are complicated issues. (Absolutely) and they need to be said in a certain way.
Back to the notion of simplification of materials. It is, it is a fact, and experiments have born this out, that it takes so many words, knowledge of so many words, to be able to read and comprehend materials. And that figure has been estimated at around ninety-five percent of the words in a text. That means, if you don’t know one word out of twenty you might be okay, you can still comprehend. But if you didn’t know two words out of twenty or three words out of twenty the comprehension begins to deteriorate. And so, in terms of simplification of, of text, if we don’t want to simplify the text then we need to somehow compensate for the words that a student may not know to get them to that ninety-five level. Otherwise the, the reading will be a frustration for them. And that’s particularly true with academic materials. Uh, we talk about I+1. Um in literacy many times that may not exist, we may have I+5, I+6 to, to extend this metaphor a little bit, and therefore that difference to get them to a reading level, the ninety-five percent comprehension, may need to be um done by the teacher in terms of prelearning of vocabulary, important vocabulary for that particular reading. Um if we don’t want to simplify text, those are the things that we will, out of necessity, need to do, because they’ll simply not know enough words to be able to read the text. So in choosing the unaltered originals is often a good notion, but in practicality, especially in second language learning, it’s not always an option. Uh, we have to, we have to weight the, what the learner brings to the table and uh decide whether they know enough of the words in there to be able to read in at a comprehension level.
(What would show attention to a second language learner?)
A teacher who has second language learners in her or his classroom, uh would probably to well to uh look at the characteristics of the language learner. Make sure that they make an accurate assessment of what they bring to this literacy uh learning table, or academic learning table. And in looking at that they would want to understand where they are in their first language. Uh, what was their first language background. They would want to make sure to understand um what helps outside the classroom they receive from parents, those kinds of issues. They would also want to assess, as accurately as possible, what they know about the, the second language from an oral perspective. And also from uh a literary perspective, it they, what background they bring to the table in those areas. Um the, every learner is going to be different, their background will be different. Teachers need to learn to be flexible in terms of how they deal with each learner. In terms of matching materials to the learners skill level. In terms of the type of instruction they, they need to give them. Also, I believe, that it is essential that second language students feel a sense of accomplishment. Um they are bright and intelligent, and they bring with them the language that, their mother language, their first language, they could share that language with the, the other students in the classroom who may want to learn Spanish or Chinese or Japanese. And in so doing it builds their self worth, their self esteem. Um it make them an equal partner in the learning experience. Uh helps both sides of this equation, the first language learner and the second language learner gaining appreciation for each other and what they’re trying to accomplish. Um and so to utilize the talents of the second language learner instead of looking them as, looking at them as a, as a liability in the classroom because they have to tailor their instruction to them or do things like that. It would be very important for the teachers to um see them as an asset. What do they bring to the table that could benefit my classroom, instead of from a liability perspective.
(What is second language requisition..)
Can I just tell you my, I’ll just tell you my, my honest opinion here.
I think one of, one of the major issues that we have in literacy development, especially for second language learners, is that we have assumed too much. Too many narrow connections between um oral development in a second language in literacy. There are millions um of people on the earth who are not literate. But very few, if any of those people, are not proficient orally in their native language. This suggests that literacy is not a natural phenomenon. It doesn’t take place just from exposure. Many of these individuals who are illiterate have much, um have many um chances uh, so to speak, to acquire literacy if it’s an input issue. Um they have signs, books, all around them, but many of them remain illiterate because literacy is a different skill. It, it requires a tutor more than a in terms of an instructional setting, than say, oral language development which is more of a natural phenomenon that takes place as we grow up with our parents and caregivers. Um someone really needs to sit down with a, a second language learner, or a um a person trying to gain literacy, and basically tell them that symbols and sounds have some kind of a correspondence. We don’t know that naturally. Um I always use the example in my classes that I teach that if I had a Chinese text and I know no Chinese, and I stared at that text for a million years, or a billion, I would probably never read it. Because I do not know how to read those characters, I do not know the relationship. The idea of the Rosetta Stone is another classic example of this. Greatest scholars in the world uh trying to decode these uh hieroglyphics, and after years and years and years of frustration were not able to do so using the best minds that they had and resources. Until they had the key, which was that stone that allowed them to compare languages and a make connections that way. In a sense that’s what we’re doing as teachers. We’re serving as, as a the Rosetta Stone for our students in terms of helping them make connections between things they already know and symbols that, that we’re attaching to those, to those things.
Kinda got off track here, where were we.
Oh, second language, I wanna finish that out.
One of, one of the problems with the literacy development is this issue of um can, can it naturally be acquired without any attention to formal, linguistic principles or features of the language. And study after study the last three decades have shown that, from a logical awareness, anemic awareness, those principles are essential um to literacy development. That students do need to understand that sound can be segmented. Uh words can be segmented into various sounds. Those types of principles are very important. And of late, research is also pointing to the notion that, even in logographic scripts, such as Chinese, that this phonological issue comes to bear in terms of being able to access words in a lexicon. That is that the four words can be accessed. Uh they need to be put into some kind of a phonological form so that they can be retrieved from memory. And in a logographic um, uh scenario that may be more at the word level than it is at the letter or syllable level, but never the less it, it needs to be there. We also know from studies of a dyslexia and uh individuals with reading difficulties, that it’s usually a deficiency in their phonological processes and their ability to map symbols to sounds. And so, where I think second language acquisition um probably is lacking at this point is in, in trying to understand what we know about literacy from a first language perspective. Um that it is, it is not a natural phenomenon, um that it more of a learned or tutored situation and be able to apply our second language principles more readily to, to that concept and find ways to marry those two a little bit closer. So.
(What do you wish I had asked you)
One of the things that, the burning issues, in my, my life is trying to understand how we can take linguistic principles and principles of second language acquisition and make them practical for teachers. What does it mean to gain phonemic awareness? Um how does that play out in the classroom setting. Or when Juan is sitting across from me, um at a desk setting, how do I actually instruct that. And what can I do to help him. I think much of the gap that still exists between instruction in theory and model building is that there is a lack of bridges, in terms of understanding how we deal with these issues at a face to face level with a student. Many times students will come out of my classrooms and we will have talked about second language theory, and, and acquisition theory, uh methods, and they go into the actual classroom and they don’t know how to start from day and say: how do I asses this student?. How do I take him or her from point one to point two? How do I select materials that I, that would be useful in this particular situation? Uh those are the things that I think we need to concentrate more on in education. Um where the rubber meets the road, I call it. Um people are crying, educators are crying for materials. They’re crying for help with that very issue. Uh what do I do with this particular person right now. Not theoretically or um in general, but right now. How do I deal with this individual? Another issue that I’ve talked about briefly is that literacy is relative. That to me is a, is a very important concept to understand because, as educators we want to know what literacy we’re teaching. Is it the language of school they’re learning to read? Is it the language of narrative fiction, which is part of school but certainly not the entire um academic situation. (interruption)
Another example of literacy being relative is the technology and information explosion that’s taken place uh worldwide. We’re now asked to be computer literate, and we’re asked to be able to um talk, write, e-mail, and think and write online. And be able to interpret information off of a screen. These are types of literacy that, that require different skills and we need to be able to understand what the language of the Internet is. What the language of e-mail is, and be able to help our students with these new forms of literacy that have just, just come about. Um literacy is relative uh in the sense of need also. Uh we may be teaching a, an adult uh more adult oriented uh class in ESL. Uh they may be more interested in how to read a, a uh drivers license application or an apartment application for an apartment or for rent. Where as um a secondary student in high school may need to know how to read a science text or a history text. As teachers we need to make sure where the student is needing to go and be able to design our curriculum accordingly. One of my big pet peeves is that we tend to teach language, language as a canned subject. That English is somehow some broad, er is just an entire concept in and of itself, when in reality English is English’s. And there are many types of and registers of English that, that are important. Um matching the learner’s need with the way we instruct and the materials we’re using and the language that we’re emphasizing is essential to me.
We didn’t do much about writing. If you’d like me to say one thing on writing (interruption)
In terms of second uh second language writing I think it’s imperative that we uh assume a process approach to writing. That writing is um a, a series of steps. That we begin with um issues of getting what the learner has out on the table, which we call brainstorming or free writing. That we also um help them understand that revision is an essential part of the writing process. That it takes a long time to get a piece the way we would like it. Um to be able to present it to somebody. Um that, that writing is indeed a long term effort, and that, as instructors, we should be looking, hoping that we see cognitive change as um Reed has pointed out to us. Also that uh in process writing there is the notion of product also. Sometimes we get away from product too far. Uh we’re more interested in just the initial stages of writing without ever getting to the final product that is so essential in academic settings. I think it’s important that as writing teachers in ESL settings that we take them completely through the process. Make a project out of it. Have them write uh about something they’re experiencing and turn it in, in, in a more uh fined tuned and edited form. So that they can have a good model of what they’re capable of doing. Um from beginning to end it’s important to emphasis all the steps of writing, in my opinion. Also, this idea that reading and writing are highly connected, as they’re reading, to teach them the skills of learning to be a better writer by seeing what readers, or what writers have done in the works that they’re reading, is an essential component of a writing class, in my opinion.