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Interactions 2 Reading Teacher B [BEST]



In order to be proficient and productive students, English-language learners (ELLs) need manyopportunities to interact in social and academic situations. Effective teachers encourage their students'participation in classroom discussions, welcome their contributions, and motivate them bysuch practices (Cazden, 2001; Stipek, 2002). However, many educators often allow their less proficientstudents to remain silent or to participate less than their English-fluent peers (Laosa, 1977;Penfield, 1987; Schinke-Llano, 1983; Wilhelm, Contreras, & Mohr, 2004). I (Mohr, first author) recentlyparticipated in a study focusing on how mainstream classroom teachers helped Spanish-speakingimmigrant students become successful at school. During the observations, I noticed that theteachers missed many opportunities to help ELLs communicate in class, allowing them to be less involvedin oral interactions.




Interactions 2 Reading Teacher B



A byproduct of that study was the analysis presented in this article. We considered what classroomteachers could do to more fully engage ELLs in teacher-student interactions, especially duringteacher-led question-and-answer sequences. Essentially, teachers can elicit more from the lessproficient or reticent students if they consider various response options and then enlarge their responserepertoires in order to encourage students' participation and help develop their language proficiencies.


There are several reasons why ELLs may struggle to respond appropriately to teachers' promptsand questions. Certainly, not all teacher questions are clearly understood by students, and, if such is thecase, teachers should rephrase or clarify queries in order to facilitate student comprehension. Teachersmay also not wait long enough for students to consider a question and formulate a response (Nystrand,Gamoran, Kachure, & Prendergast, 1997; Rowe, 1974). In addition, while first-language learning islargely motivated by a child's intrinsic desire to socialize, second-language learning often needs moreextrinsic influence (Elley & Mangubhai, 1983). Wong Fillmore's (1991) model of second-languagelearning identified three motivational components that contribute to student progress: interest from thelearners, proficient speakers who support and interact with the learners, and an environment that supportsrelationships between learners and proficient speakers. Students may not wish to participate if theteacher expects them simply to recite low-level knowledge or if the teacher sets low expectations forthe students. Clarity, wait time, higher order thinking, and higher expectations are factors that influencethe quality of teacher interactions with all students, but some factors pertain more specificallyto the participation of ELLs.


While classroom discourse events vary, research has indicated that teacher talk dominatesclassroom communication. Edwards and Mercer (1987) documented that teachers perform 76% ofclassroom talk. Ramirez, Yuen, Ramey, and Merino (1986) categorized teacher talk as consisting of explanations,questions, commands, modeling, and feedback. Other studies of teacher discourse in primarygrades indicated that teacher talk is often managerial rather than conversational in nature (e.g.,Cummins, 1994). Forestal (1990) noted that 60% of teacher talk involved asking questions, primarilydisplay questions, which expect students to recall information taught previously by the teacher. In onestudy of effective primary teachers of literacy, Mohr (1998) tallied the number of questions asked by theteachers in the study at almost 100 per hour. Therefore, the preponderance of teacher talk and theteacher's use of questions continue as factors in how much classroom talk time is shared with students;both the quantity and quality of such interactions deserve scrutiny. For example, there are differencesbetween direct and indirect instruction; the nature of large-group discussion requires more guidancefrom the teacher than do small-group interactions (Johnston, 2004), and English-language learnersmay need different support in their communication efforts than do fluent English speakers. Thus, aspectsof teacher-led discussions and discourse patterns warrant our continued attention.


Cazden (2001) differentiated teachers' display questions from exploratory queries. Display questions have specific and generally agreed-upon answers, while exploratory talk is speaking "without the answers fully intact" (p. 170). Display queries function to confirm the teacher's instruction, while the latter is more confirming of students as they exerciseself-expression and refine their thinking. As Cazden also noted, "If the potentialities of classroom discourse, in which students talk more and in more varied ways, are significant for all students, then we have to pay careful attention to who speaks and who receives thoughtful responses" (p. 5).


Another well-recognized discourse structure is the "instructional conversation" (Goldenberg, 1993; Perez, 1996; Stipek, 2002; Williams, 2001). Goldenberg characterized an instructional conversation as excellent discussion that is interesting, engaging, relevant to students, and discernible throughout and that has a high level of participation that builds upon, challenges, extends, and varies the roles of the participants (teacher and students). One key role of the teacher in instructional conversations is what Perez called conversational uptakes, connective comments that respect the student and afford linguistic scaffolds that foster more and better discussion of academic topics. As Reyes, Scribner, and Scribner (1999) pointed out, "teachers who apply the concept of instructional conversations embrace the philosophy that talking andthinking go together, and assume that the student may have something to say beyond what the student's teacher or peer is thinking or already knows" (p. 202). English-language learners may not have sufficient English to readily express complex ideas, so teachers must respond in ways that facilitate ELLs' efforts to share their thinking and contribute their voices to classroom communication.


In academic settings, both question-answer and conversational formats entail the use of academic language. Even students who are conversationallyproficient need exposure to and practicewith academic language in order to function successfullyat school (Díaz-Rico, 2004; Weber &Longhi-Chirlin, 2001). This important aspect ofschool success is also known as cognitive academiclanguage proficiency (CALP). Academic languageor CALP in English-speaking classrooms ischaracterized by Latinate vocabulary; subordinategrammatical constructions (e.g., participial phrases,dependent clauses); less reliance on temporalcurrency (discussing generalizations, rather thanspecific events); and rhetorical and cohesive devices,such as conjunctions and figurative language(Wong Fillmore, 2002). These linguistic competenciescan be greatly enhanced by wide readingbut are generally not learned apart from schoolingprocesses. It is the teacher's responsibility, then, tomodel and support students' use of both conversationaland academic language structures becausethese are not parallel processes.


While students' command of conversationalfluency is more readily accomplished, proficiencyin academic language appears to take five to sevenyears (Collier, 1989; Cummins, 1981). Academiclanguage is certainly more than vocabulary acquisition.Competence in academic English certainlycannot be accomplished without exposure to andpractice with the vocabulary and the structures thatcharacterize the language of school. The teachercan model academic language functions, such asseeking information, comparing, problem solving,and evaluating, and then use classroom interactionsto guide students' use of academic talk. The opportunityto speak academic language before usingit in written work is important for English languagelearners. It should not be assumed that being able to understand academic language as input is equal to being able to produce it. Teachers can provide the support that students need to acquire this more formal register via their own modeling or think-alouds (Gibbons, 2002; Weber & Longhi-Chirlin, 2001) and then foster the use of similar structures via interactive discussions, allowing students to use academic language in context.


An important distinction made by Cazden(2001) is that teachers are responsible for both theaffective and academic aspects of effective classroomsand classroom talk. Teachers can directclassroom discourse so that both these goals aretargeted and supported. For example, teachers canaccept, deny, recast, expand, or encourage elaborationof students' responses. "Success for studentsin culturally diverse classrooms depends on the degreeto which there are strategies that encourage allstudents to talk and work together" (DeVillar &Faltis, 1991). One strategy (among many) promotedby Echevarria and Graves (2003) is the use ofdirect, rather than indirect, questions to promoteclarity. So while instructional talk should be engaging,there is a place to use direct questions ofstudents and then facilitate the elaboration of theirresponses as a means to develop academic languageuse and motivate them as learners.


For ELLs especially, the teacher serves as a conduitfor sharing information and scaffolding socialand academic language. Low levels of instructionand low-quality interactions often combine to yieldpoor academic achievement among students who arebusy constructing the meaning of the language andthe content of school. Rich language interactions,however, encourage thinking, social relationships,and expanded language use. As Johnston (2004) admonished,we "have to think more carefully aboutthe language we use to offer our students the bestlearning environments we can" (p. 1).


The results of the aforementioned study werenot atypical. ELLs are often less engaged and lessvocal in class, posing a challenge for teachers, especiallyless experienced ones (Laosa, 1977;Penfield, 1987; Schinke-Llano, 1983). Noviceteachers often ask low-level questions to quicklyget to a simple, right answer. However, more efforton the part of the teacher to challenge studentswith open-ended and exploratory questions canyield richer instructional communications. 350c69d7ab


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