Working with English Language Learners with Limited Literacy in their Native Language(s) January 26 - 30, 2009

Discussion Announcement

In many situations, learners with limited literacy in their native language must study with other students with more educational background and literacy experience in high-beginning and intermediate ESL classes. The obstacles to effective learning persist at these levels, but most textbooks they receive assume a certain level of literacy, and use complex print to teach primarily language acquisition. In addition, instructional approaches can often privilege print literacy skills over oral language strengths.

This discussion will explore the issues of working with those with limited literacy and preferences for learning through the oral modes. How can strong oral skills be used to promote literacy? Are there promising methods for focusing on literacy development for learners with limited print literacy? And how do teachers plan lessons when a class has vastly different prior experience with formal schooling and different strengths across literacy and oral language skills?
The guest facilitator is an educator who has done research on the relationship between oracy and literacy among immigrants and refugees with limited formal schooling.

Guest Facilitator

Martha Bigelow is an Associate Professor in the Second Languages and Cultures Program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Minnesota. She has 13 years of ESL/EFL classroom experience teaching adult students in adult basic education, community college, ESP, and university settings. She has ten years of experience as a foreign and second language teacher educator. Her research focuses on the areas of second language acquisition, literacy development, and the sociopolitical factors that influence those processes. Specifically, she is interested in how first and second language print literacy promotes the acquisition of second language oral skills in teens and young adults. She has studied how English language learners (ages 16-28) with low print literacy make use of oral feedback, and has examined the strengths and challenges that older students with limited formal schooling and low literacy bring to oral language development in English. She has also studied the Somali and English literacy skills of young Somali women (ages 17-21) who are newcomers to the United States and have had limited formal schooling. She has explored how school and community-based oral- and print-based literacy they value and use has the potential to add to what teachers and researchers know about building vocational and academic literacy. Dr. Bigelow has an MA from the University of New Hampshire in Language and Linguistics and a Ph.D. from Georgetown University in Applied Linguistics.

Suggested Resources

Research Works: Transforming Teaching for Immigrant Adolescents

Working with Adult English Language Learners with Limited Literacy: Research, Practice, and Professional Development

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