In this case study of adult English as a Second Language (ESL) educators, the researcher facilitated a six-week professional development activity around the topic of early literacy instruction. The four participants in the study circle were all LESLLA (low-educated second language and literacy acquisition) teachers whose students are adult immigrants and refugees who do not read and write in their primary languages. Working in collaborative inquiry, they sought to improve the teaching and learning of this unique and neglected group of ESL learners. Now living in the U.S., such learners face a double challenge: acquiring English while learning to read an alphabetic print language for the first time. Their teachers must be reading specialists, language experts, and resettlement workers all rolled into one. This population of adult ESL learners is largely neglected by both researchers and materials developers. However, within our communities, early elementary teachers are teaching literacy and language to young new readers every day. Kindergarteners, first, and second graders are discovering the alphabetic principle, acquiring the components of reading, and building their identities as readers and writers as they prepare for academic success. While these two contexts are strikingly different, there is much overlap.
To explore early literacy and enhance their classroom practice, the participants investigated early literacy instruction for young new readers. They observed K-2 instruction, worked individually with young learners, completed assigned readings and tasks, and engaged in discussions and reflective journaling. By tapping into a new teaching context, they uncovered key literacy practices in early elementary grades and transformed and applied their learnings to LESLLA learners. Findings show that they began organizing literacy instruction differently, such as implementing morning messages and sign-ins. Establishing sound routines was a key outcome of their experience. An extended definition of literacy also emerged, one that includes math and integrates numeracy instruction into literacy focused time. They learned about responding to literature and began reading aloud to their LESLLA classes and teaching about text connections. Another main finding was a heightened priority of independent learning and ways they might offer more choices and independent, individualized instruction. This case study offers a model for teacher professional development as an intellectual activity that embraces collaboration, inquiry, and exploring new contexts as powerful ways to grow as educators.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. March 2013. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Martha Bigelow, Ph.D. 1 computer file (PDF); xiii, 230 pages, appendices A-E.
Vinogradov, Patricia Egan.
Professional learning across contexts for LESLLA teachers: the unlikely meeting of adult educators in kindergarten to explore early literacy instruction.
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