Highlighting Touro TESOL Masters Candidate Michelle Mannino’s Discussion Contributions in EDDN 634 – Teaching Reading and Writing to ELL’s


GSE LogoWhat is the best teacher education, and how can we make sure that programs cater to teacher candidates needs, are vital issues that facilitators, professors, lecturers, colleges and universities around the world are struggling with.  One area that I focus on is highlighting teacher candidates contributions to classroom discussions to encourage continued research, publication and motivation to submit exemplary coursework.  Michelle Mannino is one of my teacher candidates in EDDN 634, and her contribution in our discussion board shows not only depth of text analysis but also connects the reading to personal and professional experiences. These personalized connections form a bridge between the academic knowledge and internalization of the readings.

Here Michelle, Mannino, a Masters Candidate in the TESOL/Bilingual Department at the Graduate School of Education, Touro College.

My name is Michelle Mannino, and I am an educator who has always loved working with children both in and outside of the classroom, which is where my dedication for teaching comes from.  Years later, I now enjoy and live my passion as a Special Education Teacher in Manhattan.  This is my second year teaching in an ABA 6:1:1 classroom, in which my students are diagnosed with Multiple Disabilities or Autism. I am currently certified in New York State in both General and Special Education (1-6).

I am looking forward to having my third certification in ESOL, as I am in my second semester at Touro College for my Masters Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

The Guiding Questions are in bold and refer to text reading (see references) of week 4 in the online course.

  1. Many studies conclude that there are five essential elements of reading instruction.  Discuss these elements.

The five essential elements of reading instruction are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. According to the article by Suzanne Irujo, “ELLs cannot develop phonological awareness in English until they are familiar with the sounds of English. This means that before explicit instruction in phonological awareness begins, children should have extensive experiences with fun and appealing songs, poems, chants, and read- alouds that will allow them to hear and reproduce the sound patterns of English.” (Irujo, 2007). Irujo also states in the text, “What Does Research Tell Us About Teaching Reading to English Language Learners?” that “…Phonics can be problematic because ELLs often have difficulty discriminating between similar sounds, and because the English language does not does not have a regular system of correspondence between letters and sounds.” (Irujo, 2007).  He also writes;  “Most ELLs will need additional time to master phonics.” Fluency is another element that is “…difficult for ELLs because their lack of proficiency in English slows down their ability to decode words and hinders their ability to understand the meanings of the words and how the words combine to produce meaningful sentences and discourse.” (Irujo, 2007). Next is vocabulary. The text states “Vocabulary is difficult for ELLs; even for quite proficient learners, the extent of their knowledge of vocabulary is only a fraction of what it is for native speakers of English, and the failure to understand even a few words of a text can have negative effects on comprehension.” (Irujo, 2007).  What the text says about comprehension is “Reading comprehension is more difficult for ELLs than for native speakers for various reasons.” (Irujo, 2007).  

Comprehension, in general, can be challenging for English speaking students.  For example, when in school myself, I had to go to the resource room for reading comprehension.  I read fluently, but had a hard time comprehending what I was reading. Still, to this day, I need to re-read texts more than once to fully comprehend them.  During this session, I was having difficulty understanding what the questions were asking.  So, I had to re-read slowly a few more times to fully understand what the questions were asking. 

2. What components make up an effective reading program for ELLs?

One important component that makes up an effective reading program for ELLs is picking an appropriate text.  According to the article “Integrating Strategic Reading in L2 Instruction”, it states “From the standpoint of teaching strategic reading, while interest is crucial, an equally important factor is the students’ proficiency levels in their L2 and the consequent choice of a text that is at an appropriate level of difficulty.” (Janzen & Stoller, 1998).  Finding a text that is not too easy and not too difficult for the learner, will allow them the opportunity to utilize more strategies in the daily routines.  (Janzen & Stoller, 1998).  Once a text has been chosen, the teacher needs to implement different strategies into the instruction. Some examples that are given of different strategies are predicting, asking questions, checking predictions or finding an answer to a question, summarizing, and rereading.  A lot of these strategies can be linked together as well, and incorporated into small group activities.  (Janzen & Stoller, 1998).  Janzen & Stoller state in their text that the most important part for a teacher is that they “…must be able to enable students to monitor their comprehension and to become more self-aware readers.” (Janzen & Stoller, 1998).  Comprehension is very important, because if a student cannot comprehend a text, then they are not understanding what they are reading and are unable to answer the questions incorrectly.  All teachers should differentiate and plan their lessons according to the strategies and their students as well.  (Janzen & Stoller, 1998).  

3. There are many theorists who have researched the question of how to teach reading to ELLs. Choose one from our readings and discuss his/her theory.  

When reading all of the texts, the one passage that stuck out to me the most was “Interacting and talking about text in particular ways is essential (Casanave 1988). Heath (1984),Vygotsky (1962), and others found that students develop literacy skills when teachers encourage them to talk about written language, when teachers model comprehension strategies for them, and when students have opportunities to talk to each other about how they make sense of a text (Hoffman and Heath, 1986).” (Mikulecky, 2008).  

I believe these theorists make a lot of sense.  I believe a student should talk about their written language as long as the teacher makes the students feel comfortable by supporting and modeling comprehension strategies for their students.  Then the students will have the opportunity to talk to their peers and help make sense of the text.  An important difference is “encouraging” and not “pressuring” the students to talk about their written language.  Maybe, a student can explain something more thoroughly when they express it.  With the guidance given to these students, it will allow them to become more independent readers.  Working in small groups and talking to one another about what they made out from the text, will help guide them through this reading process.  As teachers, we need to implement many strategies for our learners and put into consideration that their prior knowledge is very important especially in their native language.  


Irujo, S. (2007, January). What Does Research Tell Us About Teaching Reading to English Language Learners? Retrieved from http://cmmr.usc.edu//543/543IrujoResearchReadingELLs.pdf

Janzen, J., & Stoller, F. L. (1998). Integrating Strategic Reading in L2 Instruction. Retrieved from http://nflrc.hawaii.edu/rfl/PastIssues/rfl121janzen.pdf

Mikulecky, B. S. (2008). Teaching Reading in a Second Language. Retrieved from https://longmanhomeusa.com/content/FINAL-LO RES-Mikulecky-Reading Monograph .pdf


Touro College GSE – Online Discussions & Exemplary Student Contributions



Jasmin B. Cowin, Ed.D.


Assistant Professor of  TESOL/ Bilingual Advanced Certificate Programs

Graduate School of Education , Touro College


O: 212-463-0400

232 West 40th Street, Room 408

New York, NY 10018



As an Assistant Professor at Touro College, Graduate School of Education some of my teaching is online.  Part of the student-centered online learning experience are weekly discussion boards with questions and responses related to the assigned readings.

I believe discussion boards are reflective in nature as they provide students with “reflection and maturation time” to absorb and consider the required readings on a deeper level, see Reasons to Use Online Discussions. As courses move forward, student posts often mature in-depth and feature more thought-out commentaries on discussion boards.

In my opinion, the best online postings often personalize and connect the readings to their teaching experiences as is the case with the contribution of Mr. R.,a teacher candidate at the TESOL/ Bilingual Advanced Certificate Programs, Touro College, Graduate School of Education. Mr. R.’s contribution on chapter 3 – Crosslinguistic influences, Understanding Second language acquisition by L. Ortega is exemplary.   Mr. R. interweaves his analysis and reflection of the chapter with personalized references to his classroom experiences as an educator. The following discussion board contributions are published with the express permission by Mr.  R.

Understanding Second Language Acquisition by Lourdes Ortega

From reading Ortega and thinking about your own experience/observations as a teacher and a learner, how can an L1 negatively influence an L2 (e.g., L1 Mandarin Chinese and L2 English)? What about the other way around (e.g., L1 English and L2 Mandarin Chinese)? Are there any interesting asymmetries? (The Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis would predict reciprocal influences.) In your written response, please choose two languages to exemplify your discussion.

According to Ortega, Transferability can hold components that can negatively impact the L2’s development. This is represented by a study publicized in the Netherlands. It explains that learners both consciously and subconsciously have an intuition about how transferable certain phenomena are. One example provided in the text involves a study of the transitive and intransitive meaning of certain verbs in three different groups of L1 Dutch learners. The results showed that L1 learners who were more proficient in their L2 less likely accepted the intransitive verbs in comparison to the group of students who were beginners in the L2 language of English. The text suggests the reason why this may be the case is that the younger learners are more likely to rely on their L1 language when transferring both transitive and intransitive verbs, however, their older counterparts are more likely to mark those transfers as too similar to their L1 and therefore prevent themselves from transferring it. Ortega identifies this theory as “beyond success”, which was an expression created by Kellerman in 1985.
As an educator who has worked with ENL students of all levels, one phenomenon has presented itself over and over again.  Students who I’ve provided instruction to during their beginner levels were always more likely to use cognates as indicators that would assist them when reading out loud during guided reading instruction. As several other students who held higher levels of proficiencies in their L2 were placed in my classroom, it was obvious that some, although at a higher reading level, in fact, demonstrate more mistakes when they were given a running record in relation to phonological mistakes of pronouncing prefixes correctly. My further analysis of their running records was able to provide me data that could support this theory mentioned in the text.

2. From reading Ortega and thinking about your own experience/observations as a teacher and a learner, how does L1 positively influence L2 (e.g., L1 Arabic and L2 English)? What about the other way around (e.g., L1 English and L2 Arabic)? Are there any interesting asymmetries? (Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis would predict reciprocal influences.) In your written response, please choose two languages to exemplify your discussion.

As per Ortega, L1 is able to positively influence L2 when the L1 holds certain similarities such as the ones mentioned in this chapter. According to Ortega, research that was collected amongst Finnish students who also spoke Swedish had fewer advantages when learning English as an L2 language when comparing them to Swedish students who also spoke Finnish and were learning English as an L2. Ortega explains that certain similarities in typological features that exist between the Swedish and English languages contributed to the advantage.
One of my own experiences in relation to this is not only knowledge-worthy but also gently humorous. In my first year of teaching, there was a student who arrived from Portugal and spoke no English whatsoever, therefore he was placed in a newcomer’s class with a majority of the students who spoke Spanish as their L1. As the year progressed the students became more familiarized both socially and academically, therefore at which point many of us noticed that this student began to grasp the Spanish language at a much faster rate than English. It was clear that the students’ L1 language of Portuguese had many similarities, including cognates that descended from a common language to that of the L1 of the other students. In addition, much of our focus has always been on identifying common roots between our students L1 and their L2, in this case, English having been their L2. Through this emphasis in our instruction, we may have inadvertently identified those same similarities between the L1’s of our students; therefore the students grasped Spanish much faster than English. It truly was one of those cases where the students learned from each other and at the time I found it very intriguing as a first-year teacher.

3. What other issues, such as language universals, complicate cross-linguistic influence? And how is it that sometimes, even if a negative transfer occurs, it does not result in ungrammaticality? Please give examples to support your claims.


One additional issue mentioned in the text, that complicates cross-linguistic influence is titled Markedness. This source of universal language influence is covered in the text between the distinction of voiced and voiceless final stops. According to the text, English and German languages have the same number of voiced and voiceless consonants, however, based on how they use it within the word differs and can produce performance difficulties in their L2 language, more precisely due to the influence of markedness.

In regards to negative transfer that does not result in ungrammaticality, Ortega identifies errors of omission, also titled avoidance. According to a study by Jacqueline Schachter, ungrammaticality was avoided due to the lessening in probability for when a language learner would use the specific transferable component of their L1, as opposed to having the opportunity when they could. The example most extensively mentioned in the text is when examining the use of relativization by Chinese and Japanese L1 learners in comparison to Persian and Arabic L1 learners. The latter of the two pairs attempted to use relative clauses much more often than the former, consequently producing more errors, and taking additional risks in the L2 usage. The former of the two pairs displayed the consequences of avoidance because the Chinese and Japanese languages differ much more in English than that of the Persian and Arabic languages.
4. Consider Ortega’s discussion of avoidance (particularly Schachter, 1974), underuse, and overuse. How can understanding these phenomena better inform our understanding of cross-linguistic influence? Please give examples to support your claims.

The understanding of Avoidance discussed in Ortega’s text can better inform our understanding of cross-linguistic influences by providing a more in-depth look at the influences of those avoidances. Ortega provides examples of misdirection when observing the results produced by Jacqueline Schachter’s study in 1974. Although on the surface, her study showed that Chinese and Japanese L2 writers were displaying fewer mistakes than that of the Arabic and Persian writers. However, when further analyzing the writing samples, it was clearly obvious that fewer mistakes actually went parallel with how many attempts were made that would result in such a mistake, this case being in relation to relative clauses.

This phenomenon attempts to explain the impacts that exist from the idea that “accuracy equals appropriate development”, and how this idea can affect an L2 learner in a negative way. Furthermore, the idea of overuse and underuse better frames a picture of how L2 learners from variously different L1 languages can actually underuse a specific rule, based on the equivalency of such usage in their L1 language. The motivators in Ortega’s text indicate that these language differences can be attributed to semantics as well as the morphological rules in the L1’s language. In a practical and relatable view, as an educator, one can learn to understand why it’s so important to understand the differences that exist within the L1 languages that many of our students possess. However, no matter the similarities in educational placements that several L2 learners receive within an educational system, it’s important that we understand the difference that may influence their success at developing their L2. This will provide us with a more individualized picture of each student, precisely focusing on his or her language differences and how they may provide support to their L2.