April 21, 2006
TRC Boardroom, Main Building, CSB
Michael Borka, Education
Speaking of Language: The Conversations of English Learners During Small-group Reading Lessons
In today’s elementary classrooms, many students are working to acquire English as a second language. As English learners, these students need regular opportunities to use language in authentic and meaningful ways. Interaction with native speakers provides a model for English use and an opportunity to experiment with new language structures. Further support for language acquisition is provided when the contexts for conversation include a focus on social and academic topics. The importance of acquiring academic language fluency cannot be overstated. Being able to use and understand the vocabulary of various disciplines is foundational for future success in school.
Drawing on my systematic observation of 35 small-group reading lessons, I will discuss the extent to which teachers were able to create these necessary, conversational contexts. I will briefly share data on how long teachers talked, how long students talked, and how conversational turns were managed. I will also address how teachers created their own, unique learning environments and how these environments did or could support language use and learning. To conclude my presentation, I will invite comments on how the contexts we create for language use can foster the social, academic, and cultural learning of our students.