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CATESOL Book Reflection:

Michelle Skowbo

Book Reflections – A New Column Post


Drawing on the CATESOL Blog Book Review posts, the Blog will be offering a monthly Book Reflections post that will be sole author or co-author pieces offering a reflective piece on one or more books related to ELT. The intention is to offer a personal narrative sharing article to promote (a) book(s) but not in the conventional chapter summary format of academic book reviews that may appeal to some members a bit more as readers or as writers. Inquiries:

Foundations for Teaching English Language Learners Research, Theory, Policy, and Practice by Wayne Wright

Foundations for Teaching English Language Learners Wayne E Wright

By Melissa Bourg, Kevin Tapee and Yeeun Choi

The history of the United States has always included immigrants, and most people who have arrived in the United States have not been native English speakers. In every generation one of the challenges faced by non-English speaking students has been to find a way to learn English to keep up with their native speaking peers. This challenge has been tackled by both lawmakers and educators, as the number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in the classroom continues to rise across the country. As a result of this ELL growth, state and federal laws have had to evolve, as well as the training that is provided to in-service and pre-service teachers.

Wayne Wright, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education at Purdue University, has crafted a valuable textbook. Foundations for Teaching English Language Learners Research, Theory, Policy, and Practice is user-friendly and comes with additional online resources which reinforce and enhance the material covered. The charts and figures are easy to read, and the pictures help the reader further understand the text.  Each chapter has questions and activities designed to get the learner thinking and applying the information they have read into real-world situations so that they can gain a higher understanding of potential scenarios they may encounter in the workplace. There is also a small but comprehensive glossary in the back of the book for further reference.

Each themed chapter opens with an epigraph at the top of the first page that embodies the theme of that chapter. From there one will find a list of bolded key terms that are embedded in the chapter. This is beneficial for teachers as they can emphasize the key terms to their students and use them as a teaching point in two ways. One, to teach their students to make note of  the bolded terms in the textbook for their own educational purposes, and two, to guide their students on how to become effective teachers. Another feature in the textbook are the guided questions provided at the beginning of each chapter. Teachers can once again use these as a learning tool for their students. They could even be used as a reading quiz or as an online reading discussion to ensure that students are paying attention to the questions. 

Each chapter wraps up with a comprehensive and concise summary of the material, discussion questions, research activities, and a recommended reading section. The discussion questions are a great starting point to facilitate a variety of activities such as detailed analysis of questions (or received answers), think pair share, or the fishbowl strategy. Below the discussion questions are research activities which are wonderful because they get the students more involved with ELL education through real-world applications such as interviews and classroom observations. The student experiences small bites of information and the teacher capitalizes on them by expanding the students’ knowledge base further than what could be obtained from merely reading a textbook. The recommended reading section at the end of the chapter is quite beneficial because it provides additional information on the topic that could be incorporated into lessons. 

Another aspect of the book is its use of quick response (QR) codes to access an online companion website, which provides additional resources and information. A QR code is included on the first page of each chapter in the top right hand corner allowing access to an online resource page. One notable example of a resource available entitled Instructional Models and Programs is found at the beginning of chapter 5 (pg. 92). A quick scan of the QR code directs the user to a page with a video featuring a real-world example of a Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) classroom using the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) model discussed in the chapter (pg. 97). In addition to videos, the resource pages contain updated information and further reading expanding on briefly covered topics in the text. This additional resource also includes articles and activities which could be used for professional development.

One noted criticism to raise is that many examples throughout the textbook focus on the Spanish language. While some may argue that this is not a bad thing because so many immigrants in the United States are native Spanish speakers, it is an impairment for the users as they are not being exposed to a variety of other languages and cultures, which would better prepare future and current educators to be more linguistically and culturally aware. 

Review Summaries
Chapters 1 and 4: Who are ELLs and Education Policies 

In chapter 1, Wright (2015) describes ELLs as a diverse group coming “from a wide range of ethnic, cultural, linguistic, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds” (p. 26). Given the diverse nature of ELLs, policies and procedures are needed to provide equal access to education. In chapter 4, Wright (2015) focuses on ELL educational policies in the United States, highlighting the changes that have happened since the 18th century at the state and federal level (p. 72).
Chapters 2, 11, & 3: The Importance of Language 
Wright helps the reader understand the basic foundations of language in chapters 2, 11 and 3. Chapter 2 presents useful information about linguistics that includes what a teacher needs to know about languages by introducing the subsystems of language. The chapter further explains why it is important to know the difference between social and academic language (Wright, 2015, pp. 39-47). Chapter 11 provides a road map for ideal instructions for ELL students, stressing the importance of translanguaging.  In this chapter, Wright (2015) offers many ways to improve instruction, one of which is giving brief, concise academic instructions in the home language (p. 304). A key component of improving instruction is understanding language theories and how students develop proficiency in language through highlighting how different language acquisition theories are used in effective practice. Chapter 3 does this by showing how teachers can develop their own practices for English language learners through effective language and content instruction, allowing for meaningful interactions (Wright, 2015, pg. 66).
Chapters 5-10:  Instruction and Assessment 
Wright’s attention to linking content area and ELL instruction is well designed in chapters 5 through 10. Wright (2015) states in chapter 10 that it is imperative that teachers differentiate their instruction as well as include both content and language objectives (pp. 299-300). Wright (2015) provides a wealth of knowledge in chapter 5 for the reader to understand instructional models and programs to use in the classroom to support ELLs learning both language and content objectives (p. 120). He makes the point that oral, written, and reading language development are linked and must be considered when designing lessons and assessments for ELLs. Teachers should consider the language developmental stage of each student and adjust their instruction accordingly. Using data, teachers can determine the best course of action to adjust instruction which includes techniques such as scaffolding, differentiated instruction (DI), and playing to students' strengths while strengthening underdeveloped skills.Wright repeats the need for meaningful and authentic instruction in chapters 7 through 9 and gives various examples of how to facilitate this in the classroom. Wright (2015) emphasizes that ELL assessment needs to be focused, well defined, valid, reliable, and as non-biased as possible (pp. 129-134).

Overall Wright’s textbook Foundations for Teaching English Language Learners Research, Theory, Policy, and Practice is very beneficial for both the teacher and the student. Teachers are given an array of supplemental materials they can easily access to help guide students toward success in understanding how to effectively teach ELLs. Additionally, students also have access to an array of supplemental materials, as well as community forums which connect them with other users of the book. The benefits that Wright gives to both the teacher and the student makes this textbook a great selection for aspiring and current professional educators. 

Authors’ Professional Reflection

Melissa Pettit’s Thoughts
Reading this book in graduate school, I have been teaching ELLs of all ages as well as pre-service teachers. Prior to that, I was a K-12 teacher. During my career I have used various textbooks and educational materials, giving me ample exposure to different ideas and structures. While I was in graduate school, my experience as a K-12 teacher helped to prepare me for considering how a textbook interacts with a course as I contemplated how and who I would be teaching in the future. My exposure to Wright’s textbook during graduate school turned out to be much more important than I considered.     

The textbook began attached to an assignment in a course, which moved into writing a review of the textbook itself. Later I used it as a professional TESOL educator teaching pre-service teachers and ELLs. My experience with the book puts me in a unique position to reflect on its value. As a graduate student I could see the value of the book while I was using it.  It's user-friendly structure makes it easy for people to navigate,, which is an asset when tackling coursework. As an adjunct professor I have seen just how well students respond to the textbook as they are able to comprehend and synthesize the material well, which better prepares them for their futures in the classroom. As an ELL instructor the book is a great reference to use to direct any educator for additional support, as well as a great reference for additional instructional information in classrooms. It is also a book that I recommend to in-service teachers who are struggling to find ways to help their ELLs. I have found that in-service teachers make connections with their real-world experience and the knowledge shared in Wright’s book gives them the understanding to enhance their curriculum and instruction. I would still recommend this textbook to be used for both pre-service and in-service teachers to better their understanding of who ELLs are and ways to effectively integrate proper curriculum and instruction methods in the classroom.   

Kevin Tapee’s Thoughts
 Originally I purchased Foundations for Teaching English Language Learners: Research, Theory, Policy, and Practice by Wayne Wright as a textbook for a master’s level course at the University of North Florida.  After graduation I went to work at a Title I school in Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Florida.  The population of my school is roughly 20% English Language Learners and 15% special education; some students qualify as both special education and ELL.  After a year in my new position, I started to question some of the methods I was using to teach reading to my students.  I recalled reading in Wright’s book about strategies and methods for teaching reading.  I took the book off of my professional reading shelf and researched the section on instruction, assessment, reading and content areas.  I made notes from each chapter and adjusted my teaching practices and began to see results. I went from a more phonics based lesson to more of a whole language approach, which resulted in a rise of language acquisition and reading ability.  My students experienced success in reading they had struggled to achieve with my previous instruction. Wright highlighted using real world content while focusing on language skills. I built in language activities with real world scenarios and content and the results were better than I had expected.  The methods in Wright’s book are an effective guidebook for both ELL and special education students. 

Wright, W. (2017). Foundations for teaching English language learners: theory, policy, and practice (3rd ed.). Caslon Inc.

Melissa Pettit, M.Ed. (TESOL), is an ELP instructor at the Michigan Language Center, USA Language Institute, and a TESOL adjunct professor at the University of North Florida. Her research interests include L1/L2 listening comprehension, integrating linguistics/grammar into curriculum, and first, second, and multilingual language and literacy development.

Kevin N. Tapee, M.Ed (Elementary Education), is a Special Education teacher with Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Florida. His research interests include behavior management, special education, autism, and ESOL.

Yeeun Choi, Bio unavailable
ReferencesWright, W. (2017). Foundations for teaching English language learners: theory, policy, and practice (3rd ed.). Caslon Inc.