Literacy has given me the tools to express myself, ignite my curiosity, and learn from others. It has had a profoundly positive impact on my life.
The six principles for improving literacy focus on realigning literacy instruction with current educational research. Literacy has developed into a nuanced concept that reaches from the traditional reading/writing skills to higher-order thinking skills, authentic engagement in real-world issues, and student ownership of learning. The principles suggest that all teachers, in all subject domains, at all grade levels need to make a conscious and ongoing effort to teach literacy in this broader sense. Co-creating learning environments with students in which they are driven to deeper understandings of a subject's content within their developing schemas of the world will promote literacy for all students. I think all six principles need to be used together for ELLs to successfully develop their literacy skills. New research comes out all the time, and teachers who take time to inform themselves of this new research, discuss it with colleagues, try new things, share and discuss what happens, and try them again with new insights will be much more effective in their literacy instruction because they're consciously trying to improve. Research will be targeted at instruction or at assessment, and finding new ways to instruct and new ways to assess will certainly help students needing alternative ways of learning and assessing, like ELLs. To me, focusing on literacy means incorporating all six principles into our daily lives.
Teachers can support ELLs in developing critical literacy skills by understanding that "decoding and understanding the texts" will get a student to surface level meanings, but that critical literacy requires students to "identify, reflect on and analyze underlying power relationships" present in the texts and in their lives (Roberge, 2013, p. 1). Students learning English will need to be given adequate and appropriate scaffolds for both understanding the language and the underlying concepts.
I found a webinar on Youtube by Stanford professor Jeff Zwiers titled "Developing Oral Academic Language with Critical Thinking Skills" which offers three approachable, effective classroom activities for connecting support of oral literacy and critical thinking. He first makes the point to distinguish between "oral output" activities, in which the desired product is a singular response, and "interaction" activities, in which the desired product is developing constructive conversation skills. While the webinar is not targeted at ELL instruction specifically, the three types of activities he describes are perfectly suited for developing ELL confidence in oral language and critical thinking. The activities are highly scaffolded, both procedurally and cognitively, making it easy to insert language scaffolds (he has an interesting opinion on sentence frames in connection to the first activity). The activities focus on developing the clarity and strength of students' ideas in ways that ground that development in speaking with their peers, which is so fantastic for an ELL's oral confidence! At just under 40 minutes (you can skip ahead at some points throughout), Zwiers gives a manageable and informative workshop-type lecture on lesson planning for oral and critical thinking skills.
I am an enthusiastic and conscientious educator. I use my blog to connect my personal experiences and adventures to my pedagogy.