Monday, March 23, 2009


I WAS AWARDED THE SCHOLARSHIP!!!! I get $800 for every month that I am studying in Japan. $3,200 total! *HUGE sigh of relief*

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ethnography One-Pager

Looking into Languages
A Study of Language Acquisition for English as Second Language Learners

I. Research Questions:
What strategies wok best for ESL learners?
How have teaching methods for ESL students progressed?
How important is it for teachers to know how language is acquired when instructing ESL students?
What are commons misconceptions about ESL learners?
How do students who have participated in an ESL program feel about the strategies and which were ineffective or effective for them?

II. Primary Sources
Victor Sam, a former high school, ESL student who speaks Cantonese
Rick Muzy, a former elementary school ESL student who speaks Russian
Dr. Mary Jo Pelanek, an ESL classroom teacher and researcher

III. Major Findings:
Students were found to be struggling not only with the materials, but the way the teachers presented each topic. Teachers frequently spoke too fast, used too much new vocabulary and had ineffective assessments. Teachers were also found to be not only causing frustration and confusion, but feeling it as well. When assessments were showing now progress, teachers would lump ESL students with the mentally disabled.
Patterns suggested teaching teachers about how to teach ESL students by teaching how language is acquired, putting teachers in the shoes of an ESL student and by adapting materials and assignments to fit the specific needs of an ESL students. The structure of a class needs to change from other classrooms by focusing on a “need to know” informational basis and leaving out the “nice to know” information that often just creates confusion for an ESL student.

IV. Implications and Future Questions:
This study shows ways to help ESL students from being frustrated and dropping out of school as early as eighth grade. It can help improve the success of a student within the school system and without. This can also improve the lives of immigrants by having at least the child be fairly proficient in English.
Future questions include, but are not limited to:
Ø How big is the ESL community and how fast is it growing?
Ø How often is ESL addressed in teacher education programs? Is there a way to implement it more often?
Ø Is there money out there to help ESL programs?
Ø Would these tactics also work for students proficient in English, but who also struggle in school?
Ø What impact does it have on the community to have so many ESL students struggling?

V. List of Secondary Sources
v "Facts and Figures from the Colorado Literacy Research Initiative" By Keith Curry Lance
v "Influences on the Educational Experiences of Immigrant Students in U.S. Schools" by Tamara Lucas
v "Myths And Misconceptions About Second Language Learning: What Every Teacher Needs To Unlearn" by Barry McLaughlin
v "Overlooked and Underserved: Immigrant Students in U.S. Secondary Schools" by Jorge Ruiz-de-Velasco, Michael E. Fix, and Beatriz Chu Clewell

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Research Data

The secondary sources that I've located have been really good to define aspects of language acquisition and how teachers can use their knowledge of language acquisition to understand and help teach ESL students. What I want to do is see from a first hand account from both researcher and student what techniques really worked and how to apply the language acquistion knowledge to the techiniques to truly understand how and why it works for ESL students.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Warm-Up 10/24

How can you teach a classroom with an increasingly diverse amount of primary discourses?

The best way to begin is to try and coach the students into using a secondary discourse. Usually this is termed as "standard English." Yet this calls into question, what is "standard English?" It doesn't necessarily need to be standard English, but maybe a standard for the classroom. Try to create one discourse for the classroom in which all students can participate. How do we do this? Well one way is to model and try to gently correct students should they diverge from the langauge that you are seeking. How do we do this without offending home dialects and such? Its a fine line that we walk on and no matter what I put up here, ideas or processes, it will not work for everyone and is always dependant on the environment of the classroom. Sometimes you may have to adapt to their language and sometimes you may have to make them adapt to yours. Its a tricky thing to deal with.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Responding to Gee and Delpit

Blog entry: Gee is the one who begins the chain of utterances. He tells Delpit and other readers about the idea of primary and secondary discourses and how they can affect the student and in what ways they do so. He is broaching a new idea and giving it out to the world to see if he can change a few minds or receive criticism in return. Delpit offers Gee criticism of some of his ideas or moderate adaptation of definitions of terms. I agree with Delpit’s side of how a student can transform the secondary/dominant discourse to further their own exploits and work the system. It is up to the teacher to teach them about the dominant discourse (in a way that is still respectful to the home discourse) so that they will have access to that tool and be able to transform, not necessarily acquire (unless they want to) the dominant discourse. That way, students will be able to gain power, further careers and relationships and succeed in school because they will be able to interact with more people. It is like using a universal language, it promotes communication between groups who may not otherwise be able to engage in conversation because their home discourse it so different. They can then rely on a more well known discourse to converse. This seems rather important to show teachers the importance of teaching the “superficial” features of grammar and mechanics so that students will be able to use those tools to help them. It is not empowering to a student for a teacher to “not-teach,” or refuse to teach grammar and mechanics so as not to offend the home discourse. It is actually restrictive. These articles seem to enlighten me to the fact that grammar and mechanics, while boring, are extremely important and useful at all stages of life. I just want to know how to pass on this belief to students as well as how to not offend the home discourse in my attempt to show why a dominant discourse is useful, but they don’t have to use only the dominant discourse.

Quickwrite #1 The varying terms that Gee uses in his article relate together to create an argument about the meshing of home and school cultures. Gee utilizes customized terms such as primary and secondary discourses to identify the discrepancy between them, if there is one. Not all primary and secondary discourses differ between students, but for the most part, I believe that they do. Then Gee moves further into the two discourses to see how they relate and differ to each other and how students either move fluidly, statically or don’t move at all between the two. He notes that a child may be able to acquire the secondary discourse and adapt into it and learn it through acquisition. They can go through this by being in Gee’s version of apprenticeship, in which a child is practicing to acquire another discourse. This then plays into an identity kit, in which a student identifies his or her beliefs via a discourse. This plays into the use of dominant and non-dominant literacies and meta-knowledge, all of which are used to get ahead in life. These relate to literacy teaching because this is how a student thinks and may be a cause of a struggle and is a concern when learning how to teach varying types of students. It also shows how the varying levels and places that students are at can contribute and affect the student’s future and why literacy is so important.

Quickwrite #2 Delpit uses her terms to serve the same purpose as Gee, I think. Although, we could think of Gee as the dominant/secondary discourse and she is adapting or “transforming” his basic concepts of terms and using them to serve her own purpose of responding to Gee and pointing out the flaws that she sees in his argument. Delpit’s terms also show how students’ multitudes of discourses that they have access to affect how they learn, how they function in society and how they are either excluded or included in a community due to their hold on a discourse. All of these things are crucial to being able to teach literacy by adapting the discourse to the student as well as the student to the discourse. Delpit’s main problem with Gee seems to be that she believes not-teaching, or choosing to not teach students grammar so as to empower the student and not critique their home discourse, is a cop out. She mentions teachers showing students how to “cheat” the system by giving them the language and discourse tools to work the system. It is more showing the students how to transform the dominant discourse to help them through life, whether it is in schools, in jobs, in personal relationships.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Language Investigation #3 - 9/19/08

The kinds of reading and writing that I was asked to do in my primary schooling have to do with books such as Bridge to Terabithia and Om-Kas-Toe. They were fictional books that always embraced a meaning of unity, friendship, loyalty, family and other nauseatingly sappy themes. There was an emphasis on the happy, perfect life as society dictates it. Other readings were simplified history and science books that skipped over the gory and hard facts of death, destruction and disease. Everything was happily laid out in perfect-world criteria. The writing followed suit. We were asked to write short stories involving times when our parents helped us, who our hero was, what our favorite books and movies were. Light subjects that ten-year-old and unders should only have to face. You were to have these writings in a five paragraph format, where the first paragraph was an introduction and the last, a conclusion. The sentence structures were all very similar until about fourth and fifth grade. A boring monotony of he did/she did. Nearly every sentence began with “I” except for maybe every fifth sentence, because we were told that not every sentence should begin with”I.” I feel bad for the teachers forced to read and teach the same structure over and over with no variation. We were to focus on spelling, with one or two new vocabulary words a week. Everything simple, everything hinted with a taste of challenge.

Then secondary school hit. I’m not saying that I was unprepared for what secondary school might present me. I was extremely well prepared considering the people around me from other backgrounds. I could speak English. I could read it. I could write it. I could think it. The textbook levels jumped in difficulty, leaving many of my fellow students behind. I was fortunate enough to have a brain willing to adapt to the challenge and defeat it. The reading was not challenging for me, but it was for many of my friends who couldn’t fathom the explanation of a multitude of scientific process or exactly what was going on when it came to passing bills or just how the different mathematical formulas were supposed to work. The books turned from contemporary to classic. We needed to know the basics and our heritage in literature. I did as I was told in class. We learned how to mix up the sentence structure and every writing was expected to have a mix of structure. Essays began to inhabit the English curriculum and the idea of keeping “I” out of your papers. Writing turned from personal and fun to impersonal and monotonous. It seemed that every level of schooling had its own way of imposing academic boredom into every assignment. Vocabulary words were expected to be an own-initiative pastime and you were graded on the whether or not you could read your teachers’ mind and figure out these criteria. I used words I found in my reading to advance my vocabulary. I’m not sure how I managed to read my teachers’ mind, but it seemed to have worked rather well.

The teaching ways that I found useful, were the discussion based classes for English. It helped me to expand my one perspective to a multitude and create a proper thesis (yet another new skill learned) and figure out what the meaning was behind the text. The reason why the teacher used this technique was to expand our thought and our critical thinking by debating if another person’s view was valid or thoughtful. Through discussion, we could support or refute arguments and figure out why we did that. It helped our intrinsic motivation when we did well and helped us figure out how to think about texts when we were wrong. When it came to historical, scientific and mathematical texts, I found that almost all of the teachers focused on a lecture type classroom with a question and answer allowance. That worked the best because there are just so many facts to memorize. To put these skills into place requires a little less discussion (except maybe in talking about historical events and how and why they happened). It was a lot of memorizing facts and in the case of math, repeat, repeat, repeat.

These gave influenced my way of thinking. How do I look at a text? What is important from it? What should I respond to and how do I form my own opinion utilizing the text assigned. How do I personalize everything I read? Then, how do I purposefully portray it in a paper so that my teacher can see what I have learned and what I thought was important or even critical. It has made me skeptical of English teachers who do not do discussion-based classes and even more skeptical when they automatically assume that my opinion is wrong, because it is different. I have learned to find the importance in classes in which I thought they were originally useless. Every class has a meaning and purpose and can add to my thinking. My reading and writing history has not only influenced my reading and writing, but also my way of life. I think through theories and themes. My writing reflects this life philosophy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Warm-up #2. Rose, Ch. 5 & 6 - 9/17/08

3. What did you notice about the language schools used to refer to the students Rose featured in this chapter? How did this language mark students as “insiders” or “outsiders” to school? How do you think these labels might have influenced students’ literacy development later on?

Labels are a good way to categorize students. Labels are also good ways of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy syndrome. A student labeled correctly or even incorrectly feels an association to the label and may just fall into the category and define themselves by it. Some students may even use their label as an excuse of why certain negative behaviors may exist. Labels are a dysfunctional necessity in schooling. We need to categorize and place students on similar levels in order to reach them as fully as we can, but sometimes those labels are the same reason of why a teacher may not reach out or why a student may not try. I think that a label of being in a remedial track ahs a negative influence on literacy (Harold’s file being a prime example of the negative influence of a label), while an advanced track probably has a positive influence on literacy, using the same principle as above. A student may try to fit the label and a student that was once regular, may now try harder, because he or she is in the advanced class. Rose touches on this on page 128 when he is talking about how children internalize the labels that they are handed by the schooling system. It becomes a part of who they are and how they identify themselves.