by Jasmin Bey Cowin, Ed.D. , Assistant Professor and TESOL Practicum Coordinator, Touro College, GSE
One assignment in the Touro TESOL course EDPN 673 Methods and Materials for Teaching English as a Second Language is a Materials Critique & Redesign. In this assignment candidates will: (1) prepare a written critique description of the material or resource, analyzing its effectiveness on ELLs and (2) based on their analysis, redesign one section/activity of the original material so that it meets the need of ELLs. The materials chosen will promote culturally and linguistically responsive classrooms and instructional practices. I chose Eleonora Israilova’s submission as it was not only outstanding but features classroom realia and a robust, thoughtful redesign of her chosen textbooks.
Eleonora Israilova comes from Uzbekistan and speaks Russian, Tajik and Spanish. She was 10 years old when she came to America. Ms. Israilova stated that “currently I teach Kindergarten in my community with the same linguistic needs as my background and this assignment was tailored to fit the needs of my ELLs population.”
Materials Critique and Redesign
Matching Books with Readers is an important literacy component for ELL students. One of the most important components is vocabulary recognition, which requires an understanding of unfamiliar words when reading (Apthorp, 2006; Spencer & Guillaume, 2006, Vardell, Hadaway, & Young, 2006.) Also, a bilingual student may speak English in a way that commands a perfect understanding of his second language when in reality the oral vocabulary is much stronger than the reading vocabulary.
Each child has a unique learning style, but bilingual students benefit from reading nonfiction passages because real-life contexts help them visualize vocabulary words for meaning (Apthorp, 2006). Selecting highly visual literature containing photographs (Vardell, Hadaway, & Young, 2006) or that are related to scientific concepts that describe the natural world as children
understand it is best for bilingual students (Spencer & Guillaume, 2006). Therefore, for this materials critique and redesign, I chose to use three books that are nonfiction children’s books.
The three books are National Geographic Readers: Frogs! by Elizabeth Carney, National Geographic Readers: Caterpillar to Butterfly by Laura Marsh, and Ladybugs by Cheryl Coughlan. These books are great for ELL students because they are colorful, include rich vocabulary, and diagrams that show labeled parts of the animals. Younger children are usually drawn to informational texts about animals because it satisfies their curiosity and interest in their favorite topics. When students are interested in reading about a favorite topic, they are more
likely to be motivated to read and dig deeper for answers to their questions about the world and make constant connections to themselves.
Another reason I chose the aforementioned books is because unbeknownst students in my class are mostly of Russian, Tajik, and Spanish native languages. I have noticed that their vocabulary bank is limited as they are likely to come from conversational backgrounds. By using informational texts in my classroom, my ELL students will expand their academic vocabularies in areas that do not necessarily come up in everyday conversation. Nonfiction texts will challenge my ELL students, but it will also give them a broader vocabulary base, especially texts from the fields such as science and social studies. Moreover, ELL students are able to make real life connections with nonfiction texts. Many nonfiction books include photographs to illustrate the details. Photographs are a great visual aid when grappling to understand the English text. Photos contain more details and a precise depiction of the world around us than illustrations. When students are able to refer to photographs, they will increase their comprehension level and make connections to the real world they see around them. Students will be confident when they have a clear picture of what is being taught and are able to have higher order thinking skills that help to perform better overall.