Strategy 5

5. Teachers provide opportunities for students to discuss insights from their reading with each other.

Like all students, English language learners (ELLs) benefit from opportunities to participate in book discussions, interacting with teachers and peers. For many students, book-centered conversation may be a new experience, and they may be unsure of the expectations. They may not understand the differences between summarizing and retelling, recounting versus interpreting or critiquing, revealing the ending of a story or tantalizing their classmates by withholding it. Students may be unaware of conventions such as stating title, author, and topic; describing characters and setting; or explaining why they would or would not recommend the book to others. ELLs and other students may be nervous about engaging in this new type of talk in a large-group setting.

Having a student recall or retell a story can help a teacher assess the student's reading comprehension. However, a student's limited oral English proficiency or self-consciousness about speaking English may inhibit the student's performance and cause the teacher to underestimate the student's comprehension.

Teachers who speak the home languages of ELLs and who wish to assess students' English reading comprehension can use cross-linguistic approaches. Students can benefit from retelling an English story in their home language; conversely, students can read books in their home languages and benefit from reporting on the books orally in English. Research suggests that such cross-linguistic literacy activity promotes metalinguistic awareness.

Effective teachers help ELLs by modeling the task that children are expected to perform and by explicitly stating goals and expectations.

Examples of explicit language models are:

Tell us the title of the book. Say, "The title of this book is . . . "

Tell us who wrote the book. Say, "The author is . . . "

Tell us where the story happens. Say, "It takes place . . . "

Tell us if it's a true story or information book. Tell us, "This is a nonfiction book about . . . "

Teachers often let students practice, or even present, in pairs or teams. To support students' academic language development, teachers listen carefully to how students answer questions and then encourage students to clarify, elaborate, and be more precise.

Effective teachers say things like:

So, your book was about horses.
What did you learn about horses?
What kinds of horses did the book tell you about?
What did the book say about what horses eat?
Let's look back and remember what other kinds of information about horses we have read.
You told us that the characters in your book are Henry and Mudge.
Is there one other character?
Is there a grown-up character?
You said that the setting of the story is Henry's backyard.
Do you remember what season it is?
How do we know what season it is?
You drew a picture of Henry and a flower.
Tell me about the flower. Is it important in this story?
You said that Henry can't pick the flower. Did somebody tell him not to pick it?
Tell me more about that.