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TEACHING AND RESEARCHING
ELLS’ DISCIPLINARY LITERACIES
Written from a critical perspective, this volume provides teachers, teacher
educators, and classroom researchers with a conceptual framework and practical
methods for teaching and researching the disciplinary literacy development of
English language learners (ELLs). Grounded in a nuanced critique of current
social, economic, and political changes shaping public education, Gebhard offers a
comprehensive framework for designing curriculum, instruction, and assessments
that build on students’ linguistic and cultural resources and that are aligned with
high-stakes state and national standards using the tools of systemic functional
linguistics (SFL). By providing concrete examples of how teachers have used SFL
in their work with students in urban schools, this book provides pre-service and
in-service teachers, as well as literacy researchers and policy makers, with new
insights into how they can support the disciplinary literacy development of ELLs
and the professional practices of their teachers in the context of current school
reforms. Key features of this book include the voices of teachers, examples of
curriculum, sample analyses of student writing, and guiding questions to support
readers in conducting action-oriented research in the schools where they work.
Meg Gebhard is Professor of Applied Linguistics and co-director of the Secondary
English Education Program at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA.
Language, Culture, and Teaching
Sonia Nieto, Series Editor
Doing Youth Participatory Action Research
Transforming Inquiry with Researchers, Educators, and Students
Nicole Mirra, Antero Garcia, Ernest Morrell
Language and Power in Post-Colonial Schooling
Ideologies in Practice
Carolyn McKinney
Dialoguing across Cultures, Identities, and Learning
Crosscurrents and Complexities in Literacy Classrooms
Bob Fecho, Jennifer Clifton
Language, Culture, and Teaching
Critical Perspectives, 3rd Edition
Sonia Nieto
Teaching Culturally Sustaining and Inclusive Young Adult Literature
Critical Perspectives and Conversations
R. Joseph Rodríguez
Teacher Evaluation as Cultural Practice
A Framework for Equity and Excellent
Maria del Carmen Salazar, Jessica Lerner
Teaching and Researching ELLs’ Disciplinary Literacies
Systemic Functional Linguistics in Action in the Context of U.S. School Reform
Meg Gebhard
For more information about this series, please visit: https://www.routledge.com/
Language-Culture-and-Teaching-Series/book-series/LEALCTS
TEACHING AND
RESEARCHING
ELLS’ DISCIPLINARY
LITERACIES
Systemic Functional Linguistics
in Action in the Context of U.S.
School Reform
Meg Gebhard
First published 2019
by Routledge
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and by Routledge
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Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business
© 2019 Taylor & Francis
The right of Meg Gebhard to be identified as author of this work has been
asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright,
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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or
utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now
known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in
any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing
from the publishers.
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trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without
intent to infringe.
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A catalog record for this title has been requested
ISBN: 978-1-138-09089-7 (hbk)
ISBN: 978-1-138-09090-3 (pbk)
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Dedicated to Dom, Anna, and Alex Sciaruto
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CONTENTS
List of Figures
List of Tables
Acknowledgements
xi
xiii
xv
1
Teaching and Researching ELLs’ Disciplinary Literacy
Development in Hard Times: A Critical Perspective
1
Rationale: The Making of a “Perfect Storm” 4
My Literacy Biography: Learning (and Not Learning) to Become a
Critical Reader, Writer, and Thinker 5
A Critical Approach to Understanding Language, Learning, and
Social Change in U.S. Public Schools 9
Overview of Chapters 15
Praxis 19
Notes 20
References 21
2
Celine’s Questions: Race, Immigration, and Literacy
Development in Schools
Celine’s Literacy Practices: A Case Study 26
Crossing Linguistic, Cultural, and Institutional
Boundaries in Schools 28
Text/Context Dynamics 30
Celine’s Educational Background 33
Mr. Banks’ Feedback 36
24
viii
Contents
Rethinking the Word “Grammar” From an SFL Perspective
Summary 38
Praxis 39
Notes 41
References 42
3
4
5
37
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday: Shifting Conceptions
of Grammar and Language Learning
Skinner: A Behavioral Perspective 47
Chomsky: A Psycholinguistic Perspective 48
Halliday: A Social Semiotic Perspective 55
Summary and Critique of Different Perspectives of
Grammar and Approaches to Language Teaching
and Learning in Schools 65
Praxis 68
Notes 73
References 73
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching and Learning Cycle
Text/Context Dynamics: Analyzing Email Requests Sent to a
Professor 79
SFL, Genres, and Registers 82
SFL in Action: The Teaching and Learning Cycle
in K-12 Schools 86
The Teaching and Learning Cycle and Martin’s Genre Theory
SFL, Genre Theory, and the TLC in the Context
of U.S. School Reforms 93
ACCELA’s Approach to the TLC 98
Summary 111
Praxis 112
Note 115
References 115
Registers: Critically Analyzing Field, Tenor,
and Mode Choices
Field: Constructing Content, Ideas, and Experiences 122
Tenor: Constructing Voice, Social Roles, and Power Dynamics
Mode: Managing the Flow of Information 141
Summary 150
Praxis 151
Notes 160
References 160
44
76
88
119
131
Contents ix
6
Policies and Practices to Support ELLs’ Disciplinary Literacy
Development: A Civil Rights Perspective
Twenty-First Century Demographic Changes in
U.S. Public Schools 165
Students’ Civil Rights and Approaches to
Language Education 168
K-12 ESL Program Types 170
The WIDA Consortium 174
Summary 186
Praxis 187
Notes 189
References 189
162
7
Shifting Conceptions of Equity: Standardization,
Accountability, and Privatization in School Reform
193
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) 195
English-only Policies and Anti-bilingual Education
Ideologies 198
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Disciplinary
Literacy Development of All Students 201
Standardization and Accountability in Teacher Evaluation 209
Summary 213
Praxis 214
Notes 217
References 217
8
Placing the Education of ELLs in a Historic, Economic,
and Political Context
The Growth of the Modern School System: Two Faces
of the Progressive Era 222
The Schooling of Immigrants in the 20th Century 225
The Schooling of Immigrants in the 21st Century 229
Summary 233
Praxis 234
Note 237
References 237
9
Putting It All Together: SFL in Action
Text/Context Dynamics in U.S. Public Schools: A Review
of Key Concepts 241
Teaching and Researching ELLs’ Disciplinary Literacy
Development at Milltown High 247
221
239
x
Contents
Implications for Classroom Practice and Research
Summary 266
Praxis 267
Notes 269
References 270
Index
265
273
FIGURES
1.1
2.1
2.2
2.3
3.1
3.2
4.1
4.2
4.3
4.4
4.5
5.1
5.2
5.3
5.4
5.5
6.1
7.1
Text/context dynamics in schools
Text/context dynamics in schools
Celine’s editorial for her high school journalism class (page 1 of 2)
Celine’s editorial with Mr. Banks’ comments
Text/context dynamics in schools
Example of the “attitude line,” a classroom artifact representing
the polarity continuum
Text/context dynamics in schools (focus on genre and register)
The expanded teaching and learning cycle (TLC) – an approach to
supporting multilingual students’ literacies and teachers’ professional
development through action research
A genre based rubric used to assess second-grade grade students’
narratives and to guide the planning of scaffolding activities
Joint construction of a personal narrative in a third grade class
Lynne’s focal students’ Fountas and Pinnell reading scores
Text/context dynamics in schools (focus on genre and register)
Julia’s use of tenor resources in three texts arguing for recess to be
re-instated (Gebhard, Harman, & Seger, 2007, pp. 423, 427)
Tally’s tracking of themes in her draft of a letter to then Senator
John Kerry (Gebhard & Graham, 2018)
Student analysis of reply letter from U.S. Department
of Agriculture (Gebhard & Graham, 2018)
A pre-service teacher’s handout designed to support the reading
and analysis of Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime
Text/context dynamics in schools (focus on genre and register)
Text/context dynamics in schools (focus on genre and register)
14
25
27
35
57
63
81
99
103
106
110
121
140
147
148
159
163
194
xii
7.2
8.1
9.1
9.2
9.3
9.4
Figures
Data wall depicting third graders’ scores from mandated
state tests in an urban school
Text/context dynamics in schools (focus on genre and register)
Text/context dynamics in schools (focus on genre and register)
The expanded teaching and learning cycle (TLC)
One page overview of the genre of math reports
(sample from student curriculum packet)
Rubric for peer, self, and teacher assessment of student
math reports (sample from student curriculum packet)
197
222
242
246
249
250
TABLES
1.1
1.A
1.B
2.1
2.A
3.1
3.2
3.3
3.4
3.5
3.A
4.1
4.2
4.A
4.B
An SFL Comparison of the Differences Between Everyday and
Discipline-Specific Ways of Making Meaning in Science
Group Members’ Literary Biographies
Terms and Concepts
A Continuum of Differences Between Everyday and Disciplinary
Multimodal/Multilingual Texts
Qualitative Case Study Data Collection Plan
Twelve Ways English Constructs Time Through its Tense System
Examples of Tenor Resources (Derewianka, 2011; Droga &
Humphrey, 2003; Martin & White, 2005; Schleppegrell, 2004)
Examples of Cohesive Devices Used in Different Disciplinary
Genres (Derewianka, 2011; Droga & Humphrey, 2003; Halliday &
Matthiessen, 2004; Schleppegrell, 2004)
Types of Verbs that Make Meaning in Narratives (Derewianka,
2011; Droga & Humphrey, 2003; Martin & White, 2005;
Schleppegrell, 2004)
Conceptions of Grammar in the Teaching and Learning
of Language and Literacy in Schools
Analyzing Classroom Discourse Practices
Genre and Register Analysis of an Email to a Professor
High Frequency Genres Used to Construct Disciplinary
Knowledge in School (Derewianka & Jones, 2016; Rose & Martin,
2012; Schleppegrell, 2004)
Planning Standards-Based Curriculum Using the Expanded TLC
Description of Expected Genre and Register Features
for Targeted Disciplinary Text
11
20
20
31
41
49
59
60
62
66
71
84
89
113
114
xiv
5.1
5.2
5.3
5.4
5.5
5.6
5.7
5.8
5.9
5.A
5.B
5.C
5.D
6.1
6.2
6.A
7.A
7.B
9.1
9.2
Tables
Transitivity in Simple and More Complex Sentences
Processes or Verb Types (Derewianka, 2011; Droga & Humphrey,
2003; Schleppegrell, 2004)
Participant or Noun Group Types (Derewianka, 2011; Droga &
Humphrey, 2003; Schleppegrell, 2004)
Circumstances Types (Derewianka, 2011; Droga & Humphrey,
2003; Schleppegrell, 2004)
The Grammatical Mood System (Derewianka, 2011;
Derewianka & Jones, 2016; Droga & Humphrey, 2003;
Schleppegrell, 2004)
Use of Field and Tenor Resources in a High School Math Class
The Modality System (Derewianka, 2011; Droga & Humphrey,
2003; Schleppegrell, 2004)
Appraisal Systems
Ways of Building Ideas through Theme/Rheme Patterns (Coffin,
2009; Derewianka, 2011; Droga & Humphrey, 2003; Eggins, 2004;
Schleppegrell, 2004)
Expected genre and register features
Sample Table of Field Resources
Sample Table of Tenor Resources
Sample Table of Mode Resources
Sheltered English Immersion (SEI)
WIDA Proficiency Levels (adapted from WIDA, 2012)
Comparing Classroom Supports for ELLs’ Disciplinary Literacy
Development Within an Institutional Context
Analysis of Teacher Interviews Regarding the Standardization
and Accountability Movement
Analysis of High-Stakes Testing Data
Model Text and Annotated Model Text (samples from student
curriculum packet)
Samples of an ELL Student’s Texts Across Disciplinary Genres
123
125
128
130
131
133
135
137
143
152
156
157
158
171
176
188
215
215
253
262
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I am deeply appreciative of the many people who have shaped the development of
Teaching and Researching ELLs’ Disciplinary Literacies. I am particularly indebted to
the many elementary and secondary students and their teachers who have agreed
to allow me to use their work in this book. I am also eternally grateful to the
many students and colleagues I have had the pleasure of collaborating with while
at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. For almost 20 years, I have benefited
greatly from working with students and faculty in the Language, Literacy, and
Culture concentration, especially colleagues associated with the ACCELA Alliance (Access to Critical Content and English Language Acquisition). I have also
benefited greatly from my work with students and colleagues in Teacher Education and School Improvement, especially those connected with the Secondary
English Education Program.
In addition, other colleagues, students, and friends have read drafts of chapters
and provided valuable feedback and support. Specifically, I would like to thank
Kathryn Accurso, Jackie Bell, Nicolas Blaisdell, Sara Braman, Lynn Britton, I-An
Chen, Ruth Critcher, Lara Donachie, Rachel Ellis, Holly Graham, Bill Grohmann, Drew Habana Hafner, Ruth Harman, Grace Harris, Andrew Hatch, Juan
Pablo Jiménez Caicedo, Fernanda Kray, John Levasseur, Beth Marsh, Stephanie
Purington, Rachel Ravelli, Amy Rivera, Jennie Schuetz, Wendy Seger, Cecily
Selden, Dong-shin Shin, Erik Sussbauer, Cathy Tulungen, Greta Vollmer, Ruslana
Westerlund, and Mary Wright for their contributions and feedback. I would also
like to express my thanks to people who have helped me create multilingual
materials used in this book, including Angel Nieto, Reda Othman, Brahim Oulbeid, and Marvin Quinones.
Moreover, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the mentors who
have contributed so significantly to my understanding of language, learning, and
xvi
Acknowledgements
social change. Specifically, I would like to thank Maria Estela Brisk, Anne Dyson,
Claire Kramsch, Lily Wong Fillmore, Sonia Nieto, Mary Schleppegrell, Cheryl
Spaulding, and Jerri Willett.
Last, I want to acknowledge the support of my family, including my daughter
Anna and my son Alex, who have also provided me with never-ending interesting
conversation about their schooling experiences, their emerging literacy practices
across grade levels and content areas, and their increasingly insightful thoughts on
issues of language, race, class, and gender.
1
TEACHING AND RESEARCHING
ELLS’ DISCIPLINARY LITERACY
DEVELOPMENT IN HARD TIMES
A Critical Perspective
In the opening of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, published in 1854, readers are
introduced to a dehumanizing school system in industrial England, a system that
prizes facts and demands students and teachers reject creativity and imagination. In Dickens’ critique of schooling in 19th century England, students are
reduced to numbers and educators to technocrats. Ironically, a similar parody
could be written of schooling in the 21st century in the United States despite
advances in what we know about teaching and learning, literacy development,
and school change. While certainly different from the fictional world of class
struggle that Dickens created over 150 years ago, current school reforms often
reduce students to their test scores. Moreover, regardless of who students are,
what their needs might be, and what teachers’ and administrators’ professional
judgment might suggest to be a more promising course of action, teachers are
increasingly evaluated on their ability to adhere faithfully to scripted teaching
materials aligned with expanding lists of state and federal standards designed to
improve test scores.
This problem is especially acute in under-resourced schools that serve poor
students of color who are classified as “English language learners” (ELLs).1 Just
like the characters in Dickens’ novel, the consequences for students and teachers failing, or, more accurately, schools failing them, are profound. As will be
explored in detail in this book, this failure is about more than class struggles and
moral dilemmas depicted in Dickens’ novel. Rather, this book explores race,
class, and language differences in U.S. public schools at a time of rapid demographic, cultural, economic, and political change brought on by the forces of
globalization and the shift from a manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy
(e.g., Gebhard, 2004). In response, state and federal policies such as No Child
Left Behind (NCLB), Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and English-only
2
A Critical Perspective
mandates, while well intended, have produced a host of paradoxes that make the
job of teaching disciplinary literacies to all students very challenging work.
To respond to these challenges, this book provides pre- and in-service teachers, teacher educators, literacy researchers, and policy makers with an introduction to a critical perspective of disciplinary literacy development. This
perspective draws primarily on the work of Michael Halliday and Ruqaiya
Hasan and their understanding of how language and other meaning-making systems work in the cultural contexts in which texts are produced and interpreted
(e.g., Halliday & Hasan, 1985; Hasan, 2004). These systems include the way
people use facial expressions, gestures, talk, print, images, diagrams, graphs, and
equations throughout their lives in and out of school to accomplish a vital and
wide-ranging array of cultural, academic, and political work.
In addition, this book is informed by a sociocultural perspective of development, meaning that what we know and how we come to know it are shaped by
the social interactions we have with others and how we use language and other
meaning-making tools to construct knowledge—first as children, later as students, and ultimately as workers in a technologically mediated workplace (e.g.,
New London Group, 1996). Furthermore, this book is influenced by a critical
perspective of language and social change (e.g., Fairclough, 1992). This perspective, especially as it relates to schooling, attends closely to how students institutionally designated as ELLs gain access to and are provided support for learning
how to read, write, and critically engage with challenging disciplinary texts, particularly in ways that matter to them, their families, and the communities to
which they belong. A key premise of this book, therefore, is that we need to pay
much closer attention to how multilingual/multimodal practices in schools are
shaped by unexamined beliefs, attitudes, and ideologies regarding the nature of
language, learning, and social change (e.g., Gebhard, 2004, 2005).
This book also argues that, in collaboration with others, teachers are capable of
playing an active role in their own professional development, as well as contributing to the knowledge base of teaching by collecting, analyzing, and reflecting
on the literacy practices of their students (e.g., Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009;
Morrell, 2017). Drawing on Halliday’s theory of systemic functional linguistics (SFL), I maintain that educators can develop new insights into teaching
and learning in multilingual schools by analyzing how language in their classrooms works in three consequential ways to: (1) construct ideas and experiences;
(2) enact social roles, identities, and power dynamics; and (3) manage the flow of
communication in extended oral, written, multimodal, and computer-mediated
texts (e.g., Halliday, 1993; New London Group, 1996).
In addition, I argue that we need to attend more closely to how institutional
practices in schools, as highly structured institutions, play a role in how students
are grouped or tracked for instruction (e.g., Oakes, 2005). As will be discussed
in later chapters, public schools were designed in the shadow of 20th century
A Critical Perspective
3
factories to efficiently and cost-effectively manage the ins-and-outs of providing
a free education to all students regardless of their race, class, gender, country of
origin, and home language (e.g., Tyack, 1974). Paradoxically, and especially for
poor, multilingual students of color, this industrial approach to schooling works
against the goal of providing all students with access to and support for learning how to read and write challenging texts in math, science, social studies, and
English language arts (e.g., Darling-Hammond, 2006). Like the school system
depicted in Hard Times, the U.S. approach to public schooling today tends to
downplay the importance of creativity, imagination, and play, all of which are
essential to learning and innovating in the 21st century. Unfortunately, as will
be demonstrated in later chapters, current school reforms have not fostered a
balanced approach to supporting students in learning disciplinary knowledge
and innovating with language and other meaning-making tools such as graphics,
images, and equations. As a result, I argue that current school reforms associated
with the standardization and accountability movement have further marginalized multilingual ELLs and de-professionalized their teachers (e.g., Gebhard,
Chen, Graham, & Gunawan, 2013).
To counter this problem, this book provides educators with an opportunity
to rethink their assumptions about language, learning, and change with two goals
in mind. First, it aims to support classroom teachers in becoming change agents
capable of designing rigorous disciplinary and “culturally sustaining” curriculum (e.g., Paris & Alim, 2014, p. 85). Second, it aims to support pre- and inservice teachers, teacher educators, and literacy researchers, including doctoral
students, in forming collaborative research groups. These groups can contribute
to the interdisciplinary knowledge bases that inform teacher education, literacy
research, multicultural education, critical applied linguistics, and educational
policy. Engaging in this kind of collaborative work is especially important given
the hard times in which many students live and teachers work—times marked
by intense civil unrest, expanding workloads, and shrinking budgets for public
education. In sum, this book supports readers in exploring the following pressing
questions:
•
•
•
What is “disciplinary literacy” and how is it different from more “everyday”
ways of making meaning with languages and other sign systems (e.g., gestures, images, graphs, equations)?
What is learning and how can teachers design curriculum, instruction, and
assessments to support the development of new literacy practices that will,
in turn, help students accomplish a wider variety of disciplinary, social, and
political goals?
To what extent do school reforms of the past and present support and/or
constrain teachers in enacting an equity agenda in their classrooms, especially
for students institutionally designated as ELLs?
4
•
A Critical Perspective
How can teachers, working in collaboration with others, use ideas presented
in this book to become change agents to support multilingual students’ disciplinary literacy development and their own sense of professional efficacy?
Rationale: The Making of a “Perfect Storm”
The rationale for this book rests on the need for stronger forms of teacher professional development in schools where the impact of globalization, changing
demographics, and state and federal reforms are felt intensely (e.g., Valdés & Castellón, 2011). As numerous studies have documented, the population of students
attending schools in the United States has become linguistically, racially, economically, and culturally more diverse. These demographic shifts have made the
professional development of all K-12 teachers a high priority (e.g., Lucas, 2011).
For example, in 1993, the population of students officially designated as ELL was
estimated at 2.1 million (NCES, 2004). By 2011, this figure more than doubled
to 4.4 million (NCES, 2013), and it has been projected that by 2025 one out of
every four students will be classified as ELL (Capps, Fix, Murray, Ost, Passel, &
Herwantoro, 2005). In addition, recent figures underscore that the majority of
students designated as ELLs were born in the United States (Zong & Batalova,
2015). These students, like many profiled in this book, are U.S. citizens. They
have relied almost exclusively on U.S. public schools for their education, yet
have not been supported in learning how to read, write, or critically discuss
grade-level texts despite many years of formal education (e.g., Slama, 2011).
Furthermore, research suggests that current school reforms have only made
matters worse (e.g., Menken, 2008). These reforms include English-only mandates, NCLB legislation, the CCSS, and the use of costly standardized assessments
to evaluate both students and teachers. High-stakes assessments used to determine
students’ eligibility for graduation have pushed many students out of high school.
And their teachers, whose professional rankings and sometimes salaries are also
determined by high-stakes assessments, have been penalized rather than supported
(e.g., McLaughlin, Glaab, & Hilliger Carrasco, 2014). Leading policy analysts
have characterized this combination of demographic changes, school reforms,
and lack of meaningful teacher professional development as a “perfect storm”—a
costly storm that has widened, rather than closed, the educational opportunity
gap between middle-class students and poor students, especially ELLs (Gándara &
Baca, 2008, p. 201).
In response, a number of states, school districts, and colleges require teachers to complete coursework in “Teaching Content-Based English as a Second
Language” or “Sheltered English Immersion.” These mandates have sent many
teacher educators scrambling to figure out how they can cram lengthy lists of
required topics and professional standards into yet another required course or professional development workshop. Further, they face the challenge of finding one
or two accessible textbooks that address all the required topics, or they must curate
A Critical Perspective
5
their own collection of articles. Such scrambling is not likely to provide teachers
with a coherent conceptual framework or any aligned pedagogical approach that
will support them in teaching disciplinary literacy practices to their multilingual
students. The goal of this chapter, therefore, is to introduce readers to a critical
social semiotic perspective of disciplinary literacy development in times of rapid
change. To accomplish this, I first describe my language learning and teaching
experiences, as a student, then as a middle school English as a second language
(ESL) teacher, and now as a teacher educator and literacy researcher. This narrative locates me as an author, highlights the shortcomings of leading approaches
to teaching reading and writing, and makes a case for a critical perspective of
literacy instruction grounded in Halliday’s theory of SFL. Second, I argue that
the critical use of SFL teaching and learning tools can support multilingual students in constructing a wide variety of disciplinary ideas; expanding the range
of social roles and identities they take up in school; and managing the flow of
dense and/or extended texts in and out of classroom contexts. Third, I argue that
teachers can develop a greater understanding of factors that support and constrain
student learning and teacher professionalism by exploring classroom interactional
practices, institutional approaches to teaching ELLs, and past and present school
reforms. Fourth, I provide a brief overview of the theoretical principles guiding
the book. In subsequent chapters, these topics will be elaborated through the use
of teacher voices, transcripts from classroom discussions, and analyses of student
writing. Finally, I conclude this chapter with a set of “praxis” questions that are
designed to support readers in connecting theoretical concepts to the practicalities of teaching and learning through reflection and action (Freire, 1993, p. 119).
My Literacy Biography: Learning (and Not Learning) to
Become a Critical Reader, Writer, and Thinker
Learning to read and write was not easy for me. Phonics drills, controlled reading passages, and reading aloud in class were not only difficult, but embarrassing
in ways that made me a resistant student. I struggled to sound out words and
hated the halting way I read aloud. If given the freedom to read and write about
anything I wanted, I often did not know how to begin. Worse yet, I was acutely
aware that my friends enjoyed completing worksheets and moving forward in the
series of leveled reading books used in my elementary school. These books were
marked with different colors that conferred different levels of academic status, a
fact not lost on me, even at the age of six. I was also aware that my friends read
interesting books for pleasure and shared these books with one another, books
that were beyond my ability to read independently.
By middle school, I learned how to hide how long it took me to read assignments, how long it took me to complete my homework, and how badly my atrocious spelling marred my efforts to communicate through print. I was frustrated
that my ability to engage with challenging texts did not match that of my friends
6
A Critical Perspective
or the expectations of my parents, nor did it match my desire to engage with big
ideas. Later in high school, when reading and writing fluency was less of an issue,
I became bored and resentful of the lifeless curriculum and routine drill-andpractice activities that characterized my school day.
Despite my lackluster high school experiences, I was accepted to the State
University of New York at Binghamton, an institution that today might not
accept someone with my mediocre grades or be affordable for students who, like
me, have to pay for college themselves. My parents made college teaching salaries
and had five children. However, in the early 1980s, it was possible for students
to take out loans and pay for their own education at state-funded universities
without racking up a crushing amount of debt. As I look back, I am grateful for
the opportunities I had because it was at Binghamton that I discovered linguistics
and began developing a stronger sense of myself as a reader, writer, and thinker.
After graduating, I pursued a master’s degree in education at Syracuse University and licensure to teach ESL. In doing so, I coupled my background in linguistics with social theories of learning and literacy development. The experiences
that most shaped my thinking were courses taught by a professor named Cheryl
Spaulding, who introduced me to the concepts of the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978) and scaffolding (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976, see Chapter
Four). She also shared her previous experiences as a high school English teacher
and the strategies she used to motivate struggling ninth grade readers and writers
by developing their sense of competence as learners and their sense of control
over how they approached challenging academic texts (Spaulding, 1995).
Equipped with an understanding of social theories regarding language, learning, literacy, curriculum design, and motivation, I began my student teaching
experience at a large, urban high school that primarily served poor students of
color. At this school, approximately 60% of the students identified as African
American, 20% as White, 10% as Latino, and 10% as Asian. Of these students,
approximately 15% were designated as having “limited English proficiency.”
In this context, many of my beliefs about schooling were challenged. For example, during my student teaching experience, I crossed linguistic and cultural
boundaries associated with race and class and experienced firsthand how disparities in public education contribute to inequitable learning outcomes. Stated in
another way, after having been highly critical of the education I had received in
a predominately White middle-class community, I realized that I had attended a
high school that was much better resourced and supported than the urban school
I was student teaching in—a school only 30 miles from my hometown. This situation struck me as shocking, given that I had come of age during the civil rights
movements of the 1960s and 1970s and naively did not realize that segregation
and inequity were still pressing issues in U.S. schools.
After graduating from Syracuse University, I was offered a job as an ESL
teacher in a working-class middle school just outside of Boston. This school had
witnessed a dramatic change in its demographics as a result of the expansion of
A Critical Perspective
7
Boston’s public transportation system. Equipped with youthful outrage and a
lot of theory, but not much practical experience, I was committed to designing
content-based and project-oriented curriculum and instruction for my students,
most of whom were from China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. On my first day
of work, I met with the principal. After telling me she was not sure why the
district had hired someone with no experience, she handed me the names of
130 students and two bilingual teachers. Her directions were short and clear:
My job was to design what amounted to a “school within a school,” make the
schedules for all 130 students, and make the schedules for my two bilingual
colleagues. She ended our brief meeting by saying, “If these kids don’t get an
education, it’s on you.”
Not surprisingly, my first year was a rocky one. But, I soon discovered that
I enjoyed designing curriculum, especially as it related to children’s literature,
historical fiction, and teaching adolescents to write. Loaded with ideas from my
graduate program, I designed units of study in English language arts and U.S.
history that fused language learning goals with content objectives. Specifically,
as a way of teaching them to read and write about authentic literature, I selected
meaningful passages from full-length books that were required reading in the
district’s elementary schools, as well as interesting books I thought might appeal
to my students. I also selected texts that were challenging, but not overwhelming,
especially if students were able to work in groups and speak their home languages
along with English. Using this strategy, I hoped that everyone in the class, regardless of their English proficiency and familiarity with alphabetic print, could get
a foothold in discussions, learn English, and be better prepared for high school.
Students also worked in groups as they went about producing final projects for
each unit I had designed based on my reading of Nancie Atwell’s influential book
In the Middle: Writing, Reading, and Learning with Adolescents (1987). I also had the
support of a volunteer, an elderly man named Mr. Biggs, who came to school
several times each week to help students edit their final texts, which he then
typed (yes, on a typewriter). These final projects, often accompanied by illustrations, were posted on the bulletin board outside the classroom. They included
photo autobiographies; illustrated historical timelines; personal narratives; adaptations of fairytales, folk stories, and myths from around the world; poems; analyses
of characters in different novels; and explanations regarding themes and symbols
in literary texts. In one intermediate ESL class, students worked in heterogeneous
groups to explore issues of race during the 1950s through reading and discussion of Mildred Taylor’s (1987) short story The Gold Cadillac. In selecting texts
like this, I worked with a librarian in Boston to find short stories that were well
written, explored topics of potential interest, and supported specific disciplinary
content goals. Once I settled on a text, I photocopied it and created a curriculum packet that included the goals of the overall project, a schedule for getting
the project done, a model of what a final project might look like, and a rubric
explaining how students would be assessed.
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A Critical Perspective
After four years of enjoying the freedom I had to create curriculum, something unheard of in many schools today, I needed a change. I had become aware
that my students’ educational experiences were shaped not only by their low
status as ELLs, but also by issues related to race, class, and gender that further
marginalized them within a school that structurally limited their access to disciplinary literacy practices. I grew weary of the overtly racist comments directed
at my students and my bilingual colleagues. I also grew weary of the subtle and
sometimes not so subtle hostility directed at me as the one charged with fixing
the problem of “these kids,” who moved into a tight-knit community that did
not readily welcome outsiders.
Based on my experiences teaching in Boston and my interest in addressing
issues of equity, I applied to PhD programs. I wanted a deeper understanding
of how different theories of language and literacy development intersected with
theories of social change in the context of school reforms in the United States.
As I wrote my applications, the questions that propelled me to graduate school were
the same core questions that guide this book: What is language? How does literacy
develop? And how can professional opportunities for teachers support more equitable educational outcomes and a greater sense of job satisfaction? My application
must have caught the eye of Lily Wong Fillmore, who gave me the opportunity to
study at the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley, I was introduced to
theories of first and second language learning, approaches in analyzing institutional
discourse, methods for conducting case studies of student literacy practices, issues of
language and identity, and ways of analyzing schools as workplaces.
Since then, the big questions that propelled me to graduate school have been
further honed during my time at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst,
through my work with pre- and in-service teachers, doctoral students, and
colleagues, who have pushed my thinking in regard to an SFL perspective of
language, learning, and social change in “hard times.” The current hard times
are marked by pressing economic insecurities for all but a small percentage
of families (e.g., “the one percent”). They are also marked by intense civil
unrest associated with questions regarding immigration, race, gender, gun control, and what constitutes an “authentic American” identity. The hot debates
these questions engender saturate the media, as we see immigrant families separated at the border and movements such as Black Lives Matter, Times Up, and
Never Again take root in American consciousness, sparking resistance from
other groups associated with the Alternative Right. My ongoing experience
working in urban schools makes it clear that teachers receive very little support
in making sense of how school reforms and new social movements influence
their work in powerful ways. Specifically, school reforms associated with the
standardization and accountability movement make it very difficult for teachers to design engaging curriculum that supports students in learning to use
disciplinary literacy practices in service of their own academic, cultural, and
political interests.
A Critical Perspective
9
A Critical Approach to Understanding Language,
Learning, and Social Change in U.S. Public Schools
In response to these hard times, this book is designed to introduce elementary
and secondary teachers, as well as ESL, bilingual, and reading specialists, to Halliday’s SFL and its affordances in designing curriculum and collaborating with
other educators to enact an equity agenda in schools. As a start, however, it is
important to highlight six key assumptions that inform this book.
1.
Texts Are Multimodal
The texts we interact with in our daily lives and in school are highly multimodal
(e.g., Kress & van Leeuwen, 1996). For instance, oral interactions are usually
accompanied by facial expressions, the use of gestures, and the use of objects in
the immediate context. Most written texts we encounter in and out of school
are multimodal, including children’s picture books; graphic novels; history textbooks with pictures, maps, and graphics that explain important events; science
reports with diagrams, charts, graphs, and equations that prove findings; informational and commercial websites; and different forms of multilingual social media.
In fact, multilinguals worldwide have the advantage of being able to draw on different languages and varieties of languages in constructing oral, written, and multimodal texts depending on the purpose of their communication (e.g., García &
Wei, 2014).
2. Texts Shape and Are Shaped By the Embedded Cultural
Contexts In Which They Are Produced and Interpreted
Multilingual/multimodal texts, such as the ones just listed—even the kinds we
produce for ourselves, like to-do lists—perform different and often multiple functions depending on their purpose, audience, and the contexts in which they are
produced and interpreted. These different kinds of texts are referred to as genres
and are defined as staged, goal-oriented social practices that have evolved over
time in different embedded cultural contexts to accomplish different purposes
(Martin & Rose, 2008). For example, if we hear the phrase “once upon a time,”
most of us, based on our previous experiences, can predict that we are about
to hear a narrative, most likely a fairy tale, that will unfold in a particular way
and have particular characteristics and themes. Likewise, if we read the sentence
“There are three types of rock formation,” we anticipate that the text might be
an explanation describing each of the three types of rock formation. We might
also think we are likely to be presented with images and a classification table that
does the job of organizing and summarizing dense information. It is important to
note, however, that while genres tend to have predictable stages that make them
recognizable as performing specific purposes such as narrating or explaining, they
10
A Critical Perspective
are also highly variable and flexible, given that people routinely invent new ways
of accomplishing a wide range of social purposes in different contexts.
3. Multilingual/Multimodal Texts Function Systematically
and Simultaneously In Three Ways: To Construct Ideas
and Experiences, to Enact Social Roles, and to Manage
the Flow of Information
In articulating “a language-based theory of learning,” Halliday (1993, p. 93)
explains how language simultaneously achieves three functions in constructing
meaning. The ideational function constructs ideas and experiences; the interpersonal
function enacts social roles, identities, and power dynamics; and the textual function manages the flow of information to make extended discourse coherent and
cohesive (pp. 101–107). Halliday and Matthiessen (2004) explain this three-part
approach to conceptualizing meaning-making systems by stating that within the
cultural context in which it is produced and interpreted, every message or text is
“about something” (the ideational function); addresses “someone” (the interpersonal function); and the message is managed to create “cohesion and continuity
as it moves along” (the textual function) (p. 30).
Applied to understanding literacy development in schools, this perspective
suggests that as we grow up and interact with the world, we have more experiences and ideas to share with a greater variety of people through our uses of
different kinds of texts and means of communicating (e.g., orally, through drawings, with print, online). Simultaneously, in interacting with a greater variety
of people, we learn to use texts to construct different kinds of relationships that
are shaped by our social status in relation to others, including our parents, relatives, teachers, coaches, community leaders, religious leaders, bosses, classmates,
coworkers, friends, and loved ones. In addition, as we mature, we learn how to
manage the flow of information in oral, written, and computer-mediated communication in the diverse cultural contexts in which we participate, including
our homes, our neighborhoods, at school, in places of worship, and at work.
Halliday maintains that this expansion of semiotic resources drives the development of our individual meaning-making repertoires as well as the evolution of
meaning-making systems themselves (Halliday, 1993).
This theory of meaning-making, as it relates to change, suggests that language
and other semiotic systems function to express ideas, experiences, attitudes, judgments, and emotions in both commonsense and not-so-commonsense ways that
shape our lives. For example, consider the option of choosing Ms. as a form of
address as opposed to Miss or Mrs. In the 1970s, when Gloria Steinem popularized the use of Ms. with a magazine by the same name, it was considered radical.
Today, most women, regardless of whether they identify as a feminist or not, use
Ms. without pause. An analysis of the use of Latinx as a gender-neutral term in
lieu of Latino or Latina is similarly motivated.
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11
Moreover, the same process is true on a much larger scale when humans
invent not just new words and phrases, but new tools of communication, such as
the printing press, which contributed to the Protestant Reformation; the personal
computer, which contributed to the digital revolution; and the smart phone,
which is contributing to the social media revolution. In all of these examples,
our uses of language and other meaning-making systems expand. And not just
our individual meaning-making repertoires expand, but the system of resources
available to society as a whole.
For a more concrete example anchored in the work of students and teachers,
consider the difference between the language a Puerto Rican student might use
when conducting a science experiment with her peers about the relationship
between the temperature and volume of a gas and how she might write a lab
report for her teacher (see Table 1.1).2 In class with her friends, she might say
something like, “Guau, it popped!” However, when she writes for her teacher,
she might produce the following: “When the gas was heated, the air inside the
TABLE 1.1 An SFL Comparison of the Differences Between Everyday and Discipline-
Specific Ways of Making Meaning in Science
Example of
student
language
Everyday
Discipline-specific
Guau*, it popped!
Cuando se calentó el gas, el aire dentro
del globo se expandió. Por eso,
llegamos a la hipótesis que la relación
entre la temperatura y el volumen del
gas eran directamente proporcional.
When the gas was heated, the air
inside the balloon expanded.
Therefore, we hypothesized that the
relationship between the temperature
and the volume of a gas is directly
proportional.
• Use of technical words and
phrases to construct a technical
understanding of ideas and
experience
• Use of tempered language to
construct a more detached and
authoritative voice as opposed to
an emotional one
• Use of repeated words and
synonyms as well as cohesive
devices such as “therefore” to
construct causal relationships
between ideas
• Use of everyday words
and phrases to construct
everyday ideas and
experiences
The interpersonal • Use of attitudinal
function
language to construct an
emotional response and
personal engagement
The textual
• Use of gestures, facial
function
expressions, and physical
objects to construct
cohesion and coherence
The ideational
function
*Guau is how many Spanish speakers pronounce “wow”
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A Critical Perspective
balloon expanded and exploded. Therefore, we hypothesized that the relationship between the temperature and the volume of a gas is directly proportional.”
In this example, the student shifts from an everyday way of using language to
construct everyday ideas to choosing scientific words and sentence structures to
construct a more scientific understanding of what she experienced (e.g., hypothesize, the relationship between the temperature and the volume of a gas). At the same
time, she shifts from a more familiar voice to a more authoritative one by making
linguistic choices that are less emotional. Furthermore, she is able to manage the
flow of information by repeating a key word to stay on topic (e.g., “gas”) and
by using specific cohesive devises to construct a causal relationship between ideas
(e.g., “therefore”). Moreover, most students are expected to complete academic
work in standardized English as opposed to standardized Spanish (or another
language) because U.S. public schools, unlike public education systems in other
countries, have historically promoted English monolingualism rather than bilingualism (de Jong, 2011). Finally, in typing her report, this student might use a
word processing program and a drawing to ensure her final product is well polished and illustrated. Ultimately, she might submit her work electronically to be
assessed using an online tool.
4. Theory Matters, In Both Productive and Unproductive Ways
Historically, the fields of literacy research and second language acquisition
have provided teachers with competing theories regarding the nature of language and literacy development. These different theories, in turn, have influenced how many of us have learned a second language (or not), what we
think language is, and how we think literacy develops. Unfortunately, some
of these theories, whether explicit or implicit, have socialized us into adopting
a host of false assumptions about multilingualism. For example, despite ample
empirical evidence to the contrary, many teachers believe that non-dominant
varieties of language are linguistically less complex than dominant ones and
that the mixing of languages is an indication that students may have cognitive
problems. In regard to literacy instruction, some teachers think of language as
comprised of formal rules that students need to memorize and practice such
as sounds patterns, sentences structures, and paragraph structures. This skilland-drill perspective, which has its roots in behaviorism, stands in contrast to
a more psycholinguistic perspective of literacy that suggests humans are born
with a built-in cognitive ability to process language and that learning to speak,
read, and write will happen more or less by itself through natural interactions.
This contrasting perspective, taken to the extreme, suggests teachers should
not explicitly teach language, especially grammar, because it will interfere with
students’ development of linguistic competence (for a review, see Lightbown &
Spada, 2013).
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13
As illustrated in my own literacy biography and through a review of research
that will be presented in Chapter Three, these different perspectives of language
and literacy development have made it difficult for teachers to enact a balanced
approach to instruction that supports the development of discipline-specific literacies. This problem needs to be addressed because students require models and
strong forms of scaffolding to learn how to read, write, and critically analyze the
kinds of dense texts they encounter in learning mathematics, science, history,
and English language arts. It is highly unlikely that they will develop advanced
mathematical and scientific knowledge or critical ways of analyzing literature
and political systems without explicit instruction in the literacy practices that
construct these different ways of knowing. Therefore, one of the purposes of this
book is to provide teachers with an opportunity to examine “commonsense” and
“not-so-commonsense” theories of language and learning. Knowledge of such
theories will support teachers as they design, implement, and reflect on student
learning as they become change agents in their classrooms and in the broader field
of education (see Chapters Four, Five, and Nine).
5. Institutional Structures and Program Types Matter
As will be discussed in Chapter Six, how schools programmatically group students and teach language shapes how students construct a sense of themselves as
learners prepared for life after high school. For example, various program types
such as “dual bilingual education,” “transitional bilingual education,” “ESL pull
out,” “ESL push in,” and “sheltered English immersion” affect the degree to
which students are able to draw on their home linguistic and cultural resources
in learning to read, write, and analyze dense disciplinary texts about important
issues shaping their lives (e.g., de Jong, 2011). In SFL terms, these programs, to
varying degrees, support or cut students off from their home meaning-making
resources and thereby provide or deprive them of one of the most valuable learning tools available to them as they develop new knowledge and literacy practices.
Therefore, one of the purposes of this book is to provide teachers with insights
into how different program types influence students’ disciplinary literacy practices over time.
6. History Matters
The history of past educational reforms continues to shape how schools respond
to race, class, gender, and language differences (e.g., Tyack & Cuban, 1995).
Moreover, these reforms are influenced by prevailing economic forces and
political debates that continue to produce and reproduce contradictions. For
example, progressive school reforms in the 1900s saw the development of large
modern school systems that provided an expanded curriculum, sports programs,
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A Critical Perspective
FIGURE 1.1
Text/context dynamics in schools
meals, and health services to the poor, including newly arrived immigrants from
Europe. However, these school reforms also tracked students, especially immigrants, in ways that tended to reproduce hierarchical social structures rather than
flatten them. Chapters Seven and Eight draw on the historical record of school
reforms to illustrate how these contradictions operate in schools today as teachers and their students attempt to negotiate the demands of a new wave of school
reforms associated with the standardization and accountability movement (e.g.,
McDermott, 2011).
The dynamic relationship between these six principles, which is illustrated
in Figure 1.1, will be further explored in remaining chapters. These chapters
are designed to inform the practices of educators working in different contexts, including pre-service teachers completing their degrees and meeting various licensure requirements and in-service teachers participating in collaborative
research groups to support their professional development and enhance their
understanding of the complex nature of teaching and learning in public schools.
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15
Overview of Chapters
Chapter Two provides an example of how, in my role as a teacher educator and
literacy researcher, I have used the conceptual framework explained above to
explore the intersection of language, learning, and social change in U.S. public
schools. The chapter describes how I collaborated with a group of pre-service
teachers who were completing a master’s degree program in education leading
to a state license to teach ESL or secondary English language arts. As part of
completing course work and licensure requirements, these pre-service teachers
produced a case study focused on a text written by “Celine,” a multilingual
immigrant student of color, and the challenges her teacher, “Mr. Banks,” faced
in responding to Celine’s writing, given that he had few professional development opportunities related to supporting the disciplinary literacy development of
ELLs.3 The chapter concludes with a series of tasks and discussion questions that
support readers in forming action research groups for the purpose of critically
reflecting on students’ textual practices and participating actively in their own
professional development.
Chapter Three provides an explanation for why teachers often struggle to provide meaningful feedback to students regarding their writing practices. Focusing
on the classroom context illustrated in Figure 1.1, the chapter explores how behavioral and psycholinguistic orientations to language and literacy development have
historically failed to equip teachers with the pedagogical tools needed to teach
ELLs how to read, write, and critically analyze disciplinary texts. To support
this claim, and in arguing for a social semiotic approach, I provide analyses of
classroom interactions illustrative of behavioral, psycholinguistic, and social semiotic perspectives of language teaching and learning. The chapter concludes with
suggestions for how readers can collect audio recordings of classroom interactions, produce transcripts of classroom discourse, and analyze how classroom talk
supports or constrains students in participating in discussions, developing new
knowledge, and constructing expanded classroom roles and identities.
Chapter Four builds on previous chapters to explain Halliday’s functional
model of text/context dynamics in more detail and how this perspective has
informed a pedagogical approach to disciplinary literacy teaching across grade
levels and in different content areas (e.g., Derewianka & Jones, 2016; Gibbons,
2014; Rose & Martin, 2012; Schleppegrell, 2004). Through an analysis of authentic
texts produced by students, the chapter introduces the SFL concepts of context of
culture, context of situation, genre, and register. It also explains how teachers can
use knowledge of these concepts to design curriculum, instruction, and assessments
and research the implications of their teaching practices on student learning using an
approach called the teaching and learning cycle (e.g., Derewianka & Jones, 2016).
Readers new to the field of applied linguistics may find this chapter and Chapter Five
particularly challenging. However, wherever possible, I provide examples to show
how teachers working in under-resourced urban schools have used SFL concepts
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A Critical Perspective
and pedagogical tools in highly productive ways. Specifically, the chapter details
how teachers, most of whom had no previous background in linguistics, participated in a professional development partnership called the ACCELA Alliance and
how they used SFL tools to plan, implement, and research the impact of their
teaching practices on the literacy development of their students.4
Chapter Five continues the focus on SFL by exploring how register choices
work to make disciplinary meanings in the texts that K-12 students are routinely
required to read, write, and discuss in schools (e.g., Derewianka & Jones, 2016).
Drawing on examples from ACCELA teachers’ research projects, the chapter
demonstrates how teachers supported students in noticing how field choices construct the content of a text, tenor choices enact the voice, and mode choices
manage the flow of information in the genres that routinely comprise the K-12
curriculum (e.g., narratives, descriptions, explanations, arguments). The chapter
concludes with suggestions for how teachers can use SFL tools to design, implement, and reflect on instruction they provide.
Chapter Six focuses on the institutional context of schooling and outlines how
federal laws aimed at protecting students’ civil rights have changed approaches
to bilingual and ESL education. The purpose of the chapter is to illuminate how
state and federal policies influence the way educators teach students how to read
and write in school. In addition, the chapter explains how an influential group
called the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) Consortium
has emerged to support teachers in responding to new state and federal mandates.
The chapter concludes by explaining how teachers, working collaboratively, can
collect and analyze data to explore the degree to which the institutional contexts
in which they work protect the civil rights of students designated as ELLs.
Chapter Seven also focuses on the institutional context of schooling by
examining how current school reforms shape teaching practices and learning opportunities of students, especially ELLs. These new reforms, which are
part of an approach to school change referred to as the standardization and
accountability movement, include NCLB legislation, English-only mandates,
the adoption of the CCSS, and the use of high-stakes testing practices to assess
students and evaluate teachers. The chapter concludes with suggestions for how
teachers and teacher candidates can collect and analyze data on the influences
of these reforms by conducting fieldwork as part of pre-practicum or practicum experiences, graduate studies, or through participation in a collaborative
research group.
Chapter Eight explores the historic, economic, and political context of U.S.
public schooling. A brief analysis of the growth of public education in different
regions of the United States during the last century helps illustrate two competing conceptions of progressive education (e.g., Tyack, 1974). The chapter argues
that these conceptions engender contradictory approaches to literacy instruction
and literacy development of students from immigrant families (e.g., Fass, 1989).
The chapter invites teachers to explore the history of immigration in their local
A Critical Perspective
17
communities to understand how demographic, economic, and political changes
of the past continue to shape what happens in schools today.
To bring together the theoretical discussion and practical aspects of teaching
and researching ELLs’ disciplinary literacy development, Chapter Nine illustrates
how a secondary teacher named Grace Harris used the conceptual framework
shown in Figure 1.1 to design and implement disciplinary literacy instruction in
a high poverty urban school. Together with a literacy researcher named Kathryn
Accurso, we illustrate how Grace used SFL tools to scaffold the disciplinary literacy development of ELLs who were also labeled as “students with limited or
interrupted formal education” (SLIFE). Specifically, we document the literacy
development of “Valencia,” an immigrant student from Guatemala. Over two
years, she learned to read and write autobiographies, poetry, scientific descriptions, mathematical reports, and social studies arguments by analyzing model texts
and drawing on a wide variety of multilingual and multimodal resources. The
purpose of the chapter is to provide readers with an example of a case study that
pulls together theoretical concepts, teaching practices, and an analysis of student
learning. The chapter concludes with guidance for teachers to produce their
own case studies, which can support multilingual students’ disciplinary literacy
practices and teachers’ professional development from inside their classrooms
(Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009).
A Key Feature of Each Chapter: Exploring the Praxis of
Teaching and Researching Disciplinary Literacy Development
Each chapter concludes with a “praxis” section (Freire, 1993, p. 119). The concept of praxis draws on the work of social justice educator Paulo Freire, who
challenged the unproductive divide that exists between theory and practice by
asking educators to reflect on the classroom experiences of students and teachers in a way that engages with the complexities of classroom life. Central to a
praxis perspective is a commitment to understanding the linguistic and cultural
resources that all students bring to their education as they attempt to retain a sense
of themselves as members of the multiple communities to which they already
belong, while attempting to construct new identities and new ways of knowing
through learning how to read, write, and critique the dense technical texts they
encounter in and out of school. Freire (1985) writes:
The act of reading cannot be explained as merely reading words since
every act of reading words implies a previous reading of the world and a
subsequent rereading of the world . . . For me, this dynamic movement is
central to literacy. (p. 18)
Writing from an SFL perspective, Hasan (2003) calls this back and forth practice of understanding words through how they are used as “reflection literacy”
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A Critical Perspective
(p. 446). She maintains that this type of literacy requires that students are able to not
only decode and interpret texts, but also reflect on the social significance of how
language and other meaning-making systems construct knowledge. She writes,
“the literate person should be able to interrogate the wording and the meaning of
any utterance” to determine whose perspective is presented, whose perspectives
are excluded, and how different ways of constructing knowledge impact the world
we live in (2003, p. 447). The ability to question how knowledge is constructed
inside and outside of classrooms is highly relevant to every student in the current
political climate, as facts and opinions often blend in highly coercive ways. To this
end, the “praxis” section at the end of each chapter will guide readers in using
Figure 1.1 to collect and analyze data on how schools approach teaching students
who are officially designated as ELLs. Collectively, these sections are designed to
support research groups in achieving three related goals:
•
•
•
To develop a case study of an ELL or former ELL in the context where
members of the research group teach, are completing degrees, or are meeting
licensing requirements;
To design an SFL-informed curricular unit that draws on students’ linguistic
and cultural resources and is aligned with state and national standards; and
To reflect on the impact of instructional practices on student learning, especially students’ abilities to produce well-developed and coherent disciplinary
texts with greater expertise.
In collecting and analyzing data for these three interrelated goals, it is important to attend to the ethics of conducting classroom research (e.g., Bogdan &
Biklen, 2003). The collection of classroom data for a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation typically requires the researcher to work through their school’s
Institutional Review Board (IRB) to ensure that requirements related to gaining
informed consent and protecting participants’ rights and confidentiality are met.
In contrast, for the purposes of completing a professional development task, preand in-service teachers typically work with school administrators or teacher education programs in less formalized ways. In collecting data of any kind in schools,
it is important to uphold high ethical and professional standards by not disturbing
the flow of classroom interactions and protecting the rights and confidentiality of
students and participating teachers.
In addition, as will be discussed in Chapter Six, determining who is and is
not an ELL is not straightforward. For the purposes of praxis tasks, ELLs will be
defined as those having limited access to and support for learning how to read
and write disciplinary texts because of issues related to differences between the
language of schooling and their home language practices (see Table 1.1). Such
students may be newly arrived immigrants in a bilingual program, students in an
ESL or Sheltered English Immersion class, or multilingual students who were
born in the United States but have not received sustained instruction in how
A Critical Perspective
19
disciplinary texts make meaning in ways that are different from everyday ways of
using language.
The end-of-chapter praxis tasks will build over each successive chapter and
will be grounded in the grade level and content area that is most relevant to the
research group. Therefore, I encourage readers to preview all of the chapters
and note that they are sequenced to support readers in exploring the meaning
of Figure 1.1 as it applies to understanding the nature of literacy practices in the
embedded institutional contexts in which students and teachers work, to designing linguistically and culturally responsive curriculum using SFL tools, and to
analyzing changes in students’ disciplinary literacy practices using action-oriented
case study methods (see Chapter Nine).
Last, although the questions at the end of each chapter are geared toward conducting case studies in K-12 classrooms in the United States, groups can modify
tasks to fit other contexts of interest (e.g., after-school programs, adult education
settings, workplace education programs, tutoring sessions, online education, university settings, or international contexts).
Praxis
Forming Collaborative Research Groups
The following discussion questions are designed to support readers in forming
collaborative research groups with members who share an interest in a grade level
and content area.
Topics for discussion
1.
2.
Where were you born and what language(s) were used in your home, community, and at school when you were a child?
What memories do you have of going to school and learning to read and
write in your first language and/or an additional language in elementary
school?
a. What kinds of tasks do you remember engaging in?
b. How would you characterize these experiences?
c. How did these experiences shape your sense of yourself as a learner?
3.
What memories do you have of learning to read, write, and participate in
classroom discussions when you were in middle or high school?
a. What kinds of tasks do you remember engaging in? (Consider subject
areas such as English, social studies, math, and science.)
b. How would you characterize these experiences?
c. How did these experiences shape your sense of yourself as a learner?
20
A Critical Perspective
4.
What kinds of experiences and expertise do you bring to this group project
(e.g., knowledge of more than one language, experience working in formal
or informal educational contexts, access to a school, disciplinary knowledge,
research experience)?
How were your schooling experiences similar to or different from the students you teach or will likely teach in the future?
Share your language and literacy biographies with one another and highlight
commonalities and differences using Table 1.A. Add additional columns as
topics emerge.
5.
6.
TABLE 1.A Group Members’ Literary Biographies
Name and Birth
Literacy
contact
place and learning
information language(s) experiences
in
elementary
school
7.
Disciplinary
literacy
experiences
in secondary
school
Workrelated
experiences
and areas
of expertise
Implications Topics of
interest
for your
work with
diverse
learners in
schools
Based on your discussion, brainstorm some possible topics of interest that
you and/or the members of your group might explore. Record these topics
in Table 1.B.
TABLE 1.B Terms and Concepts
Topic/term
8.
Definition and other terms
associated with this concept
(include page numbers for
future reference)
Other notes (e.g., references
for further reading;
connections to other courses/
topics of study)
Individually or as a group, list interesting and/or confusing terms or phrases
related to concepts introduced in this and later chapters. Keeping a running
record of terms will help you gain a better understanding of concepts and
allow you to use them in your work as a teacher/teacher researcher.
Notes
1 It is difficult to represent the diversity of students learning disciplinary “Englishes,” such
as the English of literature, historical texts, scientific discourse, and mathematics, with
labels such as “ESL” or “emergent bilingual.” In this book, I use the terms “English language learner,” “multilingual,” and simply “student” to capture the fact that all students
A Critical Perspective
21
in U.S. schools are learning English for disciplinary purposes in very different content
areas and they use multiple languages and varieties of language in productive ways in
and outside of school.
2 I would like to thank Angel Nieto for his support in translating this example.
3 In line with ethics of research, all names of students, teachers, schools, and cities in this
book are pseudonyms unless individuals have co-authored or presented their work at a
conference with me and therefore have made their contributions public.
4 The ACCELA Alliance (Access to Critical Content and English Language Acquisition)
was a professional development collaborative between the University of Massachusetts,
Amherst and urban schools in Western Massachusetts. In collaboration with university
faculty and doctoral students, over 60 practicing teachers earned a master’s degree in
education and a state license to teach English as an additional language by conducting
action research projects in their classrooms. See Chapter Five.
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2
CELINE’S QUESTIONS
Race, Immigration, and Literacy
Development in Schools
Imagine walking into the room and all you see is a classroom full of white native
English speakers. And you think, “Am I in the right classroom? Are there more
people coming because the bell just rang? Is this a joke?” Sometimes I feel like out
of all the school I am the only black person who is willing to take this class.
–“Celine,” U.S. high school student and former ELL
This chapter provides a case study of the schooling experiences and literacy
development of a student named Celine. In 2011, Celine, an immigrant from
Portugal, was attending a high school in Massachusetts called “Lincoln High.”
The data for this case study were collected by a team of pre-service teachers who
were enrolled in a required course for their licensure programs related to becoming secondary English language arts teachers or English as a second language
teachers in the United States or internationally.1 Guided by the six principles
outlined in Chapter One and illustrated in Figure 2.1, I collaborated with this
team to analyze how programs at Lincoln High supported Celine in: (1) learning
new content knowledge (the ideational function of language); (2) constructing
new roles and identities through the use of language and other meaning-making
resources (the interpersonal function of language); and (3) managing the cohesive
and coherent flow of ideas and perspectives in extended texts written for different
purposes and audiences (the textual function of language, Halliday, 1993).
However, as the data discussed in this chapter will reveal, when Celine attempted
to enroll in a college-track journalism class, her teacher, “Mr. Banks,” through
no fault of his own, was not prepared to provide her with feedback in ways that
contributed to her ability to produce a well-crafted editorial about race, language,
and equity at Lincoln High. Rather, guided by a form-focused conception of
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
FIGURE 2.1
25
Text/context dynamics in schools
language, he painstakingly provided Celine with word- and sentence-level corrections, crossed out key paragraphs, and told her she was doing a “beautiful job.”
Through classroom observations and interviews, it was clear that Mr. Banks cared
deeply about both his students and equity issues. In class, he invited students to
speak their minds and tackle tough social issues through their writing. Nonetheless,
like many teachers, he was never provided with the kind of professional development opportunities necessary to respond to students’ texts in productive, meaningoriented ways. As a result, he could not support Celine in publishing a well-crafted
editorial for the school or local paper, which was a goal of the course. To provide
readers with insights into the experiences of Celine and Mr. Banks, this chapter
explores the following question:
•
What is “academic” or “disciplinary literacy” and how is it different from
more “everyday” ways of using language and other meaning-making systems
(e.g., gestures, images, and graphics)?
26
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
Celine’s Literacy Practices: A Case Study
In the fall of 2011, Celine, who had immigrated to the United States from Portugal five years earlier, made her presence known in her high school journalism
class as she often spoke her mind on matters of race, language, class, and gender
in ways that sometimes made her predominantly White, monolingual classmates
shift in their seats. Celine was one of the few students of color in this elective
English class at Lincoln High, a school that enrolled approximately 1,000 students
from the surrounding linguistically, racially, socioeconomically, and religiously
diverse community (40% of students were of color, 25% were eligible for free or
reduced lunch, and 15% were officially classified as ELLs). While it was prestigious at Lincoln High to become fluent in French or Spanish by taking advanced
language classes or travelling internationally, it was less prestigious to speak varieties of these languages because one was from a multilingual family.
Like most public schools, the students attending Lincoln High came together
in an institutional context where their linguistic and cultural practices mixed and
clashed with the linguistic and cultural practices of other students, teachers, and
administrators. These clashes were highly consequential for the social and academic trajectories of students. For example, Celine spoke a variety of Portuguese
at home, standardized English with teachers at school, and hybrid varieties of
English, Spanish, and African American English when interacting with peers in
class, in the hallways, and at lunch. She identified as “Black,” but not “African
American,” spoke unaccented English, and had exited the school’s ESL program,
but still had trouble reading and writing dense texts despite no longer being designated as an ELL.
Celine’s fluid use of her home language, peer language, and disciplinary varieties of English complicate institutional labels such as “ESL,” “bilingual,” or
“mainstream,” and erode the usefulness of binary classifications such as “native/
non-native speaker,” “first/second language,” or “social/academic language.”
A more accurate way to describe Celine is “multilingual” (de Jong, 2011, p. 14)
or “translingual” (García & Wei, 2014, p. 19). These terms describe the growing
number of students who use different languages and varieties of languages—at
home, in school, when playing sports or participating in after-school activities, in
their religious practices, and at work—to accomplish social, academic, political,
and economic work that matters to them.
Mr. Banks, Celine’s journalism teacher, did not talk about Celine as “multilingual” or “translingual,” but was aware that Celine brought valuable linguistic and
cultural resources to his class and encouraged her to draw on these resources in
completing class assignments. He also encouraged Celine to express her opinions
and designed his course to support all students in exploring topics of personal relevance and to write for a wider audience by requiring them to submit editorials
to the school and local newspaper, some of which were published. In addition,
Mr. Banks’ journalism class was heterogeneously mixed, meaning any student
FIGURE 2.2
Celine’s editorial for her high school journalism class (page 1 of 2)
28
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
could elect to enroll regardless of their previous academic record or educational
goals. Celine had her eye on attending a historically Black college and registered
for Mr. Banks’ class because she thought it would help her to improve her
English, especially her writing. Figure 2.2 shows an editorial Celine wrote in
Mr. Banks’ class about her experiences as a multilingual student of color who had
previously been enrolled in the district’s ESL program.
Crossing Linguistic, Cultural, and Institutional
Boundaries in Schools
Celine’s path into this untracked class was made possible when she passed the
state’s English language proficiency exams, exited the school’s ESL program, and
was re-classified as “formerly limited English proficient.” In Celine’s editorial
she described how the transition from ESL to “regular classes” made her more
aware of her race and the relationship between race and participation in college
preparatory classes. She wrote that it was “lonely . . . sad, disappointing, and confusing” to be the only student of color in an academically demanding class. She
further elaborated that it was frustrating to “feel that you are the only one there
to defend your race, beliefs, and culture” and that she missed the multicultural
environment of the ESL program where she felt “more comfortable and confident.” She added that her feelings of isolation were further aggravated by the lack
of teachers of color and provided demographic data on the student population in
the school. She concluded her editorial by asking readers to consider how racism
is “happening every time I enter the classroom” and the effect this invisible form
of discrimination had on students like her at Lincoln High.
These feelings of profound otherness are common in multilingual “contact
zones” in schools, especially in the context of globalization, where students’ linguistic and cultural resources meet, collide, and often go unrecognized as having
value by other students, teachers, and administrators (Pratt, 1991, p. 31). Conflict
can ensue when people move from one place to another and when, as a result,
their meaning-making or semiotic practices come into contact with one another.
Jan Blommaert (2010) describes the nature of this conflict, arguing that people—
in this case Celine, her peers, and her teacher—
manage or fail to make sense across contexts; their linguistic and communicative resources are mobile or lack such semiotic mobility, and this is a
problem not just of difference, but of inequality. It is a problem exacerbated by the intensified processes of globalization. (p. 3)
Blommaert further explains the meaning of “mobile semiotic resources” and
provides a useful frame for reflecting on Celine’s experiences as an immigrant
attending a U.S. high school. He argues that globalization entails the movement of people across spaces that have always been someone else’s. These spaces,
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
29
especially schools, are “filled with norms, expectations, and conceptions of what
counts as proper and normal . . . and what does not” (p. 6). Semiotic mobility in
Celine’s case is her trajectory through stratified, controlled, and monitored tracks
in high school where language always “gives you away” as being a particular kind
of student in consequential ways (p. 6). Anyone who has attended or worked in
a U.S. high school is made aware, sometimes tacitly and sometimes very explicitly, of how meaning-making resources, such as language, gestures, and dress,
work in day-to-day school interactions to construct complex and shifting racial,
ethnic, gendered, and class-based identities, which can be very consequential
for students’ academic trajectories. Stated another way, Blommaert’s concept of
semiotic mobility refers to how students use different varieties of oral language,
writing styles, dress, gestures, and other meaning-making resources to signal their
membership in different historically situated communities that have more or less
power relative to other communities, especially when they attempt to cross linguistic, racial, ethnic, class, gendered, and religious cultural boundaries (see also
Rampton, 2017).
For example, Celine’s editorial signals her membership in the community
of students of color and ELLs at Lincoln High, and her sense of isolation in
college preparatory classes. Using Blommaert’s words, her language “gives her
away” as coming from the institutionally marginalized space populated by multilingual students of color at Lincoln High as she moves into the college-bound
track occupied by predominantly monolingual, English-speaking, middleclass, White students. This college-bound class is a space that has historically
excluded immigrants like Celine on the assumption that they are not capable
of participating in a challenging academic curriculum and should be provided
a more remedial one based on their perceived lack of academic abilities (see
Chapter Eight).
A close linguistic analysis of Celine’s text also “gives her away” as having a
strong political stance and as having been taught by teachers, like Mr. Banks,
who encouraged her to voice her opinions in class as part of participating in
democratic education. These teachers supported her in developing a level of
English proficiency required to share her perspective in an extended piece of
writing about a complex social issue. In addition, her text demonstrates that she
is able to use a variety of tenses, including the third person “s” in the present
tense (e.g., comes, makes), the irregular past tense (e.g., was, made), regular past
tense (e.g., learned, liked, wanted), present progressive (e.g., is happening), and
the future tense (e.g., will feel) to signal time and manage when events happened. For anyone who has studied a world language for many years, this level
of language proficiency, especially in writing, represents a significant social,
linguistic, and cognitive accomplishment. For example, research suggests that
when language learners are asked to write extended texts, it is not uncommon
for them to produce a series of short clauses loosely connected by the words
and, so, or because (e.g., Gebhard, Chen, & Britton, 2014). To illustrate the
30
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
difference, if Celine were less proficient in English, she might have produced a
sentence similar to the one shown here:
My name is Celine and I come from Portugal, and I am taking a journalism class and I am not in ESL and it is hard because I am the only person of
color in this class.
This more concrete noun-verb-noun pattern linked by words such as and
and because is prevalent in language learner texts because it more closely matches
the sentence patterns used in everyday conversations (e.g., Eggins & Slade,
2005). This pattern stands in contrast to the denser clause structures needed
to construct disciplinary meanings in the types of texts students are required
to read and write in upper elementary grades, secondary school, college, and
higher paying jobs found in today’s post-industrial economy (e.g., Callahan &
Gándara, 2014).
Text/Context Dynamics
Given that Celine is traversing a number of different contexts related to home,
community, and peer worlds, including school, and eventually work, a critical social semiotic perspective of language, learning, and social change argues
that she will need to expand the meaning-making resources she uses to construct everyday meanings as well as more discipline-specific ones (e.g., Fang &
Schleppegrell, 2010). It should be noted at the outset of any discussion of linguistic variation that all oral, written, and multimodal meaning-making systems are highly complex, but they are complex in different ways because they
accomplish different functions. For example, as illustrated in Table 2.1, at the
“everyday” end of the spectrum, languages and gestures function to support
interactions such as recounting the events of the day; learning how to play a new
videogame with a friend; or participating in religious activities. These everyday
uses of languages and other meaning-making systems are used to construct
context-embedded meanings that differ from how discipline-specific language works
to construct more decontextualized meanings. For example, technical language,
equations, graphs, and tables are used to explain the results of a scientific study
of local water quality, provide an explanation of high school dropout data, argue
for a particular interpretation of a literary text, or enact a local campaign regarding a hotly contested political issue.
Other differences between everyday and discipline-specific language practices
involve language mixing and switching. Everyday, “here-and-now” language
practices tend to afford more fluid possibilities for mixing varieties of languages,
whereas disciplinary texts tend to privilege standardized, national varieties of language with selective use of code mixing and switching. The tendency toward
TABLE 2.1 A Continuum of Differences Between Everyday and Disciplinary Multimodal/
Multilingual Texts
Everyday
Disciplinary
(adapted from Eggins, 2004; Fang, 2014; Schleppegrell, 2004)
Examples: Telling a story at a family event,
making a “to do” list, posting to Facebook,
teaching someone how to play a video game
Less planned and more in the moment
Greater use of varieties of languages and
mixing of varieties of languages
Greater varieties of roles and identities
participants take up and move between
in the flow of interaction (e.g.,
family member, friend, neighbor,
acquaintance, co-worker)
More interactive and greater use of
gestures and intonation
Greater use of everyday, concrete word
choices
Greater regularity in sentence structure
(e.g., subject-verb-object)
Greater use of body language to construct
social distance and status dynamics
Greater reliance on the conjunction and to
connect clauses
Use of video, pictures, icons, emojis,
symbols, images, and sounds to
construct meaning
Examples: Writing a lab report in science, giving
a PowerPoint presentation on a political issue,
explaining the solution to a math problem on an
exam, analyzing a poem
Highly planned, revised, and edited in
advance
Greater use of standardized varieties of
language with selective mixing of
languages; greater use of disciplinespecific rhetorical patterns, sentence
patterns, and word choices
Fewer and more institutionally fixed roles
and identities available to participants to
take up and move between (e.g., student,
teacher, administrator, policy maker)
Less interactive and less use of gestures and
intonation
Greater use of very abstract, disciplinespecific words, phrases, and symbols
Greater use of a variety of sentence
structures to pack more information into
sentences (e.g., longer noun, adverbial,
and prepositional phrases; use of relative
clauses, that clauses, and nominalizations*)
Greater use of discipline-specific meaningmaking choices to construct social
distance and authority (e.g., declarative
sentences and use of action verbs as
opposed to thinking and feeling verbs)
Greater use of a greater variety of
conjunctions to structure a text and
convey specific relationships between
clauses (e.g., however, furthermore, as a
result, moreover, nonetheless)
Greater use of discipline-specific formatting
conventions and graphics to construct
meaning (e.g., headings, charts, maps,
equations, conceptual diagrams)
* As described in more detail in Chapters Four and Five, nominalization is the process of a word that
is not a noun being realized as a noun. For example, the verb to revolt can become the noun revolution.
That noun can then be packed into a longer noun phrase that provides more information, such as the
social, political, and economic revolution.
32
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
cooperative and individual work is also an important difference. In the context
of everyday interactions, people tend to share an understanding of the purpose of
the interaction and often participate in activities in highly collaborative ways as
opposed to individually. If there is a lack of understanding in an everyday interaction regarding how to accomplish a task, or if the language needed to accomplish
the task is not shared, then people can shift from an oral explanation to one that
uses drawings, diagrams, or charts; or from a more monolingual discussion to a
multilingual one that draws on different languages; or from a technical to a more
everyday way of explaining a difficult concept. They can also seek clarifications
by asking questions, using facial expressions to signal confusion, or pointing to
images or concrete objects in the immediate context to fill in information gaps.
In this way, participants keep the negotiation of meaning moving forward, and
complete the task jointly.
Everyday interactions also tend to construct a wider range of complex, shifting social roles related to familiarity, social status, and identity that function to
construct solidarity, exclusion, deference, and resistance. In contrast, disciplinary
texts tend to construct more institutionally fixed, socially distant, and authoritative roles and identities (e.g., Kramsch, 1985). Therefore, disciplinary literacies,
relative to everyday ones, tend to rely on abstract, discipline-specific vocabulary
and dense grammatical constructions that are required to construct disciplinespecific ways of knowing, presenting oneself, and managing the flow of information. These grammatical constructions tend to pack more meaning into sentences
through the use of long, abstract noun phrases, specific kinds of verbs, and the
addition of prepositional and adverbial phrases (e.g., Christie & Derewianka,
2008). Disciplinary texts also tend to be much more decontextualized, meaning
they do not rely on concrete objects, situational clues, or back and forth dialogue.
Rather, language and other multimodal representations such as graphs and equations construct the context by packing meaning into each sentence or image so
the representation has a better chance of being interpreted as a stand-alone act of
communication. From this perspective, the word text refers to the wide range of
multimodal representations that students engage with in their daily interactions
in and out of school (Fairclough, 1989). These representations include talk, print,
images, graphics, equations, charts, symbols, and emojis.
Consider the following examples, which illustrate how this kind of meaningpacking can happen in a single sentence:
1.
2.
3.
Learning disciplinary literacies presents multilinguals and their teachers with
a challenge.
Learning disciplinary literacies at the upper elementary and secondary levels
of schooling presents multilinguals and their teachers with a challenge.
Learning disciplinary literacies at the upper elementary and secondary levels
of schooling in the context of current school reforms presents multilinguals
and their teachers with a challenge.
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
33
Notice how the subject of Sentence 1 (“learning disciplinary literacies”) can
be packed with more information by adding a prepositional phrase (“at the upper
elementary and secondary levels” as in Sentence 2), and even another prepositional phrase (“in the context of current school reforms” as in Sentence 3). For
language learners who have not had much access, support, and practice in making
sense of this kind of densely packed language, it is often difficult to make sense of
who (the subject) is doing what (the verb) to whom (the object) and under what
circumstances (prepositional and adverbial phrases that give information about
time, manner, and place). This difficulty is intensified when the words refer to
unfamiliar and abstract ideas as opposed to familiar and more concrete ones.
Celine’s Educational Background
Celine’s ability to use dense grammatical structures in writing about more
abstract political ideas can also be attributed to a strong foundation in her home
language. For example, Celine had the advantage of having attended school in
Portugal where she learned to read and write in Portuguese. Studies regarding
bilingualism have documented that previous formal schooling and disciplinary
literacies in one’s home language are powerful resources for learning disciplinary concepts in an additional language (e.g., Hakuta, 2011). In middle school in
the United States, Celine was also taught by a highly respected Spanish-English
bilingual ESL teacher. In line with the research on bilingual education, this
teacher encouraged Celine and other multilingual students to use their home
language as a tool to make sense of new content despite the state’s official lack
of support for bilingual education at the time. The district also provided Celine
with Portuguese-English tutors from the community and content-based ESL
instruction from fully licensed ESL teachers who were knowledgeable about
second language learning theories and approaches to designing content-based
language instruction.
Finally, an analysis of Celine’s editorial suggests that she received instruction from teachers at Lincoln High who recognized that a student’s home language and culture are an integral part of a student’s identity as well as a valuable
meaning-making resource that students can draw on in tackling challenging academic tasks (e.g., Dyson, 1993; García & Wei, 2014). For example, Mr. Banks,
like many of Celine’s former teachers, expected and encouraged her to write
extended texts about topics she knew something about and was invested in
exploring for authentic purposes and audiences. In addition, Mr. Banks provided
her with explicit instruction in how to organize an editorial using the course
textbook and model texts he clipped out of newspapers. Celine used this explicit
instruction and modeling as a guide to begin and end her paper with thoughtprovoking questions. In addition, she elaborated on her thesis about how her
schooling experiences were making her more “aware of [her] race” by describing
her feelings, providing demographic data on her school, and stating her academic
34
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
goals for the future. She concluded her text with powerful insights regarding the
consequences of the soft-touch racism she had experienced at Lincoln High.
This high level of institutional support for multilinguals’ literacy development
stands in stark contrast to studies of other school districts (e.g., Menken, 2008).
These studies show that many ESL and content area teachers often deliberately
delay introducing ELLs to reading and writing extended texts until they first
demonstrate mastery of the English sound system and can write simple, grammatically correct sentences (e.g., Gebhard, 2002, 2004). This widely accepted
approach to teaching listening, speaking, reading, and writing separately and in a
lock-step fashion is based on a belief that literacy progresses from the mastery of
sound and letter relationships to the development of high-frequency sight words,
then to the ability to write simple sentences and controlled paragraphs, and eventually to the ability to comprehend and produce a structured five-paragraph
essay. While this approach may seem like common sense given that it appears to
proceed from apparently “simple” to more “complex” linguistic forms, research
shows that it does not afford students the opportunity to draw on a broad range
of social, cultural, linguistic, and cognitive resources when interacting with a
challenging text for a meaningful purpose (e.g., Dyson, 1993). In contrast, studies
of literacy development in and out of school have demonstrated that even very
young children use images, talk, gestures, and print in overlapping ways with
parents and teachers to construct meaning when interacting with texts that are
way beyond their individual linguistic and cognitive abilities (e.g., bedtime stories, Heath, 1983). Other studies illustrate the powerful ways in which language
learners of all ages are able to draw on their prior knowledge of a topic, anticipate
and make predictions based on a variety of linguistic and graphic clues found in
texts, and tap into their knowledge of how extended texts work based on how
they have been socialized to use language and other meaning-making resources
in both their home and additional languages (e.g., Dyson, 1993). Unfortunately,
research has also demonstrated that when ELLs are not allowed to use their home
language in school, are not provided with guidance in how to deconstruct a particular kind of text for a particular purpose, and do not have compelling reasons
to invest in making sense of challenging reading and writing tasks, resistance and
failure are often the result (e.g., Gutiérrez, Larson, & Kreuter, 1995).
In contrast to studies that have documented the failure of many schools to
support the disciplinary literacy development of ELLs, an analysis of Celine’s
text and the context in which it was produced reveals a more promising set of
contextual factors. These include Celine’s ability to read and write in Portuguese;
her prior knowledge of academic content; her understanding of the social norms
of formal education; and the instructional support she received from teachers
who rejected deficit perspectives regarding what immigrant students, especially
students of color, are capable of accomplishing in school. These factors supported
Celine in exiting the district’s ESL program; scoring “proficient” on the state’s
mandated exams in English language arts, math, and science; enrolling in college
FIGURE 2.3
Celine’s editorial with Mr. Banks’ comments
36
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
preparatory classes; and planning for her future with teachers and a guidance
counselor who helped her navigate the college application process (e.g., taking
college entrance exams, filling out college applications, looking for financial aid).
Despite these gains, a review of Celine’s text also indicates that she will likely
have considerable trouble reading and writing the dense disciplinary texts she will
encounter in college should she be able to gain admittance and afford the prohibitive costs of college tuition. To achieve proficiency in reading and writing dense
disciplinary texts and perhaps be eligible for certain scholarships, Celine will need
to learn how to develop the content of her texts more fully (i.e., the ideational
function of language), construct herself as someone who knows how to interpret
data critically in making concrete calls for action (i.e., the interpersonal function
of language), and weave her ideas together cohesively and strategically into compelling arguments that move beyond her personal experiences in communicating
with wider audiences (i.e., the textual function of language). However, most
teachers do not have an explicit understanding of how language works to make
meaning in the types of texts they routinely require students to read and write in
their classes (e.g., Gebhard, Chen, Graham, & Gunawan, 2013). As a result, most
teachers do not know how to effectively respond to student writing, especially
texts produced by ELLs (e.g., Ferris, 2003). This inability is reflected in the comments Mr. Banks made on Celine’s two-page editorial as shown in Figure 2.3.
Mr. Banks’ Feedback
A review of Mr. Banks’ comments shows that he, like many hardworking teachers, exerted a good deal of time and effort in responding to Celine’s text. Based
on classroom observations and informal interviews with Mr. Banks, his intention
was to support Celine in producing a compelling editorial, while also encouraging her to develop a sense of herself as a writer. However, as anyone who has
spent time grading stacks of student papers knows, responding to student writing
is challenging and time-consuming work that can leave both teachers and students deeply dissatisfied. Teachers do not know what kind of feedback to provide
when there seem to be an infinite number of problems to address regarding organization, sentence structure, verb tenses, word choices, spelling, and punctuation.
And students cannot always decipher the comments teachers diligently make,
nor do students know how they should use these margin comments, if they can
decipher them, in revising their texts (e.g., Ferris, 2003).
Because Mr. Banks lacked professional preparation in working with ELL
writers, he was not sure where to begin in giving Celine feedback, but wanted
to be comprehensive and encouraging. And Celine most likely scanned his
feedback quickly, saw that she had scored a high mark, and moved on to other
homework assignments thinking all was well. Moreover, even if Celine had
been required to revise this text, she most likely would not have known how
to use Mr. Banks’ feedback, which included correcting aspects of punctuation;
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
37
adding words and phrases in between the lines and in the margins; and crossing
out words, phrases, and entire paragraphs. From Celine’s perspective, it most
likely would also have been unclear why Mr. Banks thought some linguistic
choices were more appropriate than others (e.g., hail instead of come from; uses
of the pronoun I versus you) or why whole paragraphs describing her painful
schooling experiences were considered extraneous (e.g., “But would you ever
think that its racism happening every time I enter the classroom? . . . Am I the
only one that is willing to challenge myself?”). In the end, like many students,
she may have made surface edits and resubmitted the paper, but most likely
would not have developed a deeper understanding of how language works to
build content information about abstract topics or how to weave information
together across a text coherently to achieve a broader range of purposes in writing for an expanded audience.
Rethinking the Word “Grammar” From an SFL Perspective
Faced with this all-too-common scenario, many educators are asking what kind
of professional development opportunities might enable dedicated teachers, like
Mr. Banks, to respond more productively to students’ texts and provide students,
like Celine, with more targeted feedback and instruction. And further, how can
teachers better support all students in being able to read, write, and critique challenging disciplinary texts for authentic academic and political purposes? A critical
perspective of SFL offers teachers a different way of approaching disciplinary
literacy teaching in that it provides a fundamentally different way of thinking
about “grammar” than the traditional views that have historically informed the
teaching and learning of languages (e.g., Gebhard & Martin, 2011). For example,
some teachers, based on their own learning experiences, tend to conceptualize language as a set of formal rules that govern sounds, words, sentences, and
essay structures. Other teachers tend to ignore formal aspect of students’ language
development based on the assumption that a student’s ability to speak, read, and
write in different disciplines will develop more or less naturally and that too
much attention to grammar can actually interfere with a student’s innate biologically driven capacity to acquire a second language (e.g., Krashen, 1985). As will
be discussed in Chapter Three, it is important to note that an SFL perspective
of language does not discount the importance of direct instruction in formal
aspects of how language works, nor does it discount the fact that all children
are endowed with the astounding capacity to develop highly complex linguistic
systems in their home language(s) and additional languages without any formal
instruction before they enter school.
However, SFL differs greatly from form-focused and purely cognitive orientations to language teaching in one highly significant way: critical SFL pedagogy pays much greater attention to the social, historical, and political dynamics
that exist between a text, like Celine’s editorial, and the context in which an
38
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
individual, like Celine, develops an ability to read and write challenging texts
over time in institutions such as schools. In this respect, SFL does not view language as a set of fixed formal rules that teachers should drill and practice, nor does
it view language as a purely cognitive capacity that will develop by itself. Rather,
SFL attempts to explain how the meaning-making resources available to learners
expand as they cognitively and socially mature over time. This expanded repertoire extends the range of functions learners perform with language and other
meaning-making systems in the contexts in which they interact – first within
their homes and communities as young children, then in different content areas
as they progress from elementary to secondary school, and later as they join the
civil society and the world of work as adults.
As will be explained in greater detail in subsequent chapters, this contextsensitive perspective of disciplinary literacy development makes clear that learning is a social process that takes place in the home, in school, and at work through
the kinds of interactions and relationships we have with others and the beliefs,
values, and ideologies that are constructed through these interactions. Halliday
and Hasan (1985) capture the contextual nature of language and learning in social
institutions in the following way:
Learning is, above all, a social process; and the environment in which educational learning takes place is that of a social institution, whether we think
of this in concrete terms as the classroom and the school, with their clearly
defined social structures, or in the more abstract sense of the school system, or
even the educational process as it is conceived of in our society. Knowledge
is transmitted in social contexts, through relationships, like those of a parent
and child, or a teacher and pupil, or classmates, that are defined in the value
systems and ideologies of the culture. And the words that are exchanged in
these contexts get their meaning from activities in which they are embedded,
which again are social activities with social agencies and goals. (p. 5)
This expansive conception of text/context dynamics in social and ideological
institutions like schools will be explored in greater detail in the chapters that follow. In addition, these chapters will outline concrete pedagogical steps designed
to support teachers like Mr. Banks and students like Celine and will be illustrated
with samples of teachers’ approaches to designing curriculum and analyses of
students’ literacy practices in different contexts.
Summary
This chapter provided a brief case study of the schooling experiences and literacy development of a student named Celine who immigrated from Portugal
and attended a diverse high school in Massachusetts. A research team, including
pre-service teachers, analyzed how programs and practices supported Celine and
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
39
other students in: (1) learning new content knowledge (the ideational function of
language); (2) constructing new roles and identities through their use of language
and other meaning-making resources (the interpersonal function of language);
and (3) managing the cohesive and coherent flow of their ideas in extended texts
written to signal their membership in different historically situated communities
that have more or less status and power relative to other communities (the textual
function of language). However, when Celine attempted to enroll in a collegetrack journalism class, her teacher was not prepared to provide her with feedback
on her writing in ways that contributed to her ability to write journalistically using
the language typical of a newspaper editorial. This chapter argued that a critical
SFL perspective can offer teachers a different way of approaching the teaching of
disciplinary literacy practices by providing them with a fundamentally different
conception of “grammar” than the ones that have historically informed education.
Specifically, SFL suggests that disciplinary literacies, relative to everyday ones, rely
on technical vocabulary and dense grammatical constructions to construct subjectspecific ways of knowing. Therefore, a background in SFL can support teachers in
responding more productively to students’ texts and providing students with more
targeted feedback and instruction to support all students in being able to read,
write, and critique challenging disciplinary texts for authentic academic and political purposes (e.g., see Gebhard, Accurso, & Chen, 2019, for a review of empirical
studies regarding teachers’ uses of SFL-informed pedagogies).2
Praxis
Making a Plan for Collecting Qualitative Case Study Data
Depending on the configuration of your research group, gaining access and permission to conduct a case study of a learner will take time and require adhering
to specific school and university policies regarding visiting schools and conducting classroom observations. Therefore, it is best to gain access to a classroom
as soon as possible. In addition, it is important to protect both students’ and
teachers’ confidentiality by using pseudonyms for students, teachers, and schools.
It is equally important to ensure students’ learning is not interrupted and teachers’ workloads are not added to by case study research activities (see Bogdan &
Biklen, 2003; Dyson & Genishi, 2005 for a discussion of ethical issues in conducting qualitative research).
Task Directions and Topics for Discussion
1.
To begin developing a case study of a multilingual student’s literacy practices
modeled after Celine’s, at least one person should plan on conducting a minimum of three to five classroom observations over several weeks, or more
depending on your group’s goals and the extent of your project. During
40
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
these observations, data collection can take a number of forms depending on
the nature of your access. Minimally, your group should collect the following information, which is typically available online or can be collected on
site through your pre-practicum, practicum, or work experiences. Note that
the collection of these data can also support the completion of various tasks
required by most licensure programs.
•
•
•
•
Demographic information regarding the community and the school
(typically available online, see also Chapters Six and Nine)
Information regarding various local, state, and national standards (typically available online, see also Chapters Six, Seven, and Nine)
Curriculum frameworks or guides (typically available online or can be
obtained through informal interviews with teachers)
A description of the type of instruction the district or the school provides for students designated as ELLs (e.g., dual bilingual education,
transition bilingual education, ESL pull out, ESL push in, Sheltered
English Immersion, see Chapter Six; typically available online or can be
obtained through informal interviews with teachers)
•
•
•
Information regarding how students are identified as ELLs and how they
are assigned to specific programs in a school (see Chapter Six)
Field notes from observations
•
•
•
Be aware that program names, descriptions in policy documents,
and what actually happens in classrooms do not always match up
cleanly for a host of complicated reasons related to the institutional
capacity of schools and historically weak investments in teacher
education.
In writing field notes, it is important to describe in careful detail
what you see and hear, not evaluate students, teachers, and schools
based on too little information. For example, describe the layout
of the school and where classes for ELLs are located; the layout of
the classroom and the nature of resources available in classrooms
(e.g., technology, reference materials, school supplies); the number
of students assigned to the class; and information regarding students’ race, class, gender, language(s), and countries of origin as it
becomes available. However, please note that issues of identity are
always complex and need to be approached carefully (e.g., Celine
identified as Black, but not African American).
Samples of curricular materials (e.g., class handouts, worksheets, reading
materials, see Chapter Five and Nine)
Samples of student work, especially writing samples (see Chapter Five
and Nine)
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
41
If possible, depending on your level of access and the goals of your project,
your group might also attempt to collect the following types of data.
•
•
•
•
Samples of assessments of student work (see Chapter Nine)
Interviews with classroom teachers about their experience working with
ELLs (see Chapter Nine)
Interviews with students about their learning experiences (see Chapter Nine)
Interviews with parents and/or community representatives about their experiences with public schools.
Please note that in conducting this type of fieldwork it is important to
respect the time and privacy of teachers and students. Before collecting information beyond what is readily available online and through observations,
consider whether additional data is necessary to address your group’s research
questions.
2.
Make a plan for collecting data using Table 2.A to guide your work.
TABLE 2.A Qualitative Case Study Data Collection Plan
QUALITATIVE CASE STUDY DATA COLLECTION PLAN
(adapted from Bogdan & Biklen, 2003; Dyson, 1993; Dyson & Genishi, 2005)
Data to be collected
Responsible person Date needed Notes (links, names of
contacts, and the like)
Demographics
Standards
Curriculum frameworks
Type of language programs
for students
Placement information
Fieldnotes
Sample curriculum
Samples of student work
Assessments
Interview with teacher(s)
Interviews with student(s)
Interviews with parents and/
or community members
Notes
1 This course met the standards for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
(TESOL) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). The pre-service
teachers who collected and analyzed data used in this chapter include Rachel Hoogstaten,
Na Lin, Hanni Thoma, Pierre Tiberi, and Lin Wu.
42
Race, Immigration, and Literacy Development
2 Findings regarding these benefits of SFL pedagogies have been substantiated by largescale quantitative analyses of student learning outcomes following SFL-based interventions, as well as small qualitative case studies of teachers’ uses of SFL tools in different
content areas (e.g., Accurso, Gebhard, & Purington, 2017; Aguirre-Muñoz, Park,
Amabisca, & Boscardin, 2008; Brisk, Hodgson-Drysdale, & O’Connor, 2011; Gebhard,
Chen, Graham, & Gunawan, 2013; Humphrey & Macnaught, 2016; Schleppegrell &
de Oliveira, 2006; Schleppegrell, Greer, & Taylor, 2008).
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Eggins, S., & Slade, D. (2005). Analyzing casual conversation. London: Equinox.
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Gebhard, M., Accurso, K., & Chen, I. (2019). Paradigm shifts in the teaching of grammar
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3
SKINNER, CHOMSKY, AND HALLIDAY
Shifting Conceptions of Grammar
and Language Learning
When I think of the word grammar, I think of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and things
like that—I am not sure what they have to do with teaching math.
–“Hunter Reed,” pre-service secondary math teacher
When I learned Spanish in middle and high school, I had to memorize a lot of
vocabulary and grammar rules. I got mostly A’s, but I still can’t speak it or really use
it even after studying it for years.
–“Peter Green,” pre-service secondary science teacher
It really bugs me when people have bad grammar. We need to get back to the basics
and learn proper English.
–“George Williams,” pre-service secondary history teacher
I think grammar is waste of time. I never was taught grammar, and I have always
loved reading and writing. If anything, I think it gets in the way of me communicating and being creative.
–“Alexandra Costa,” pre-service secondary English language arts teacher
Pre-service secondary teachers made these comments when I asked them to
respond to the word “grammar” and the role of grammar instruction in the
teaching and learning of languages and literacy practices in school. Their comments are representative of how many teachers have been socialized to think
about grammar based on their educational experiences (e.g., Borg, 2015). For
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
45
example, traditional grammar, which is closely tied to the study of Latin, Greek,
rhetoric, and logic, was taught in what used to be called grammar schools. The
remnants of this tradition are what many of us associate with learning parts of
speech, diagramming sentences, and prescriptive rules regarding linguistic correctness (Christie, 1993). These parts of speech are used in edicts such as don’t
split an infinitive, don’t end a sentence with a preposition, don’t begin a sentence with a
conjunction, and never use the first-person pronoun ‘I’ in academic writing. Not surprisingly, these beliefs and practices have given the word “grammar” a bad name, and
for good reason. These edicts for “proper” or “appropriate” language use take
the focus of instruction off meaning and communication, impose arbitrary rules
of correctness that accomplished writers do not always follow, do not necessarily lead to greater fluency and higher quality writing, and stigmatize varieties of
languages used by racialized minorities and working-class people (e.g., Flores &
Rosa, 2015; Godley, Carpenter, & Werner, 2007).
As a result, several influential literacy experts maintain that explicit grammar instruction should be removed from the curriculum regardless of whether
instruction is for first or second language learners (e.g., Elbow, 1973; Krashen,
1987). This situation has created a challenge for educators trying to inject
critical awareness of language into schools to support teachers and students
in analyzing how languages and other multimodal systems, such as images,
graphs, and equations, work in the types of texts students routinely encounter
in elementary school, secondary school, and the workplace (e.g., New London
Group, 1996).
With these transitions in mind, literacy researchers from the University of
Sydney began collaborating with classroom teachers working in disadvantaged
schools in Australian in the 1980s (e.g., Rose & Martin, 2012). The purpose of
this collaboration was to explore how teachers could benefit from rethinking
grammar from a meaning-making perspective drawing on Michael Halliday’s
systemic functional linguistics (SFL). Since then, SFL scholarship has expanded
dramatically to include a focus on the development of disciplinary literacies across
grade levels, in different content areas, in different languages, and in diverse policy contexts (e.g., de Silva Joyce & Feez, 2016).
In the United States, a growing number of SFL researchers are collaborating
with K-12 teachers to use this meaning-oriented and context-sensitive perspective of grammar to design curriculum, instruction, and assessments in response to
the demands of school reforms (e.g., Brisk, 2014; de Oliveira & Iddings, 2014;
Fang & Schleppegrell, 2008; Gebhard & Harman, 2011). These researchers are
not advocating a “back to the basics” approach to teaching grammar as called
for by George Williams, the pre-service history teacher quoted at the beginning
of the chapter. Nor do they call for a return to rote learning of formal structures as represented by the voices of other pre-service teachers who described
their language learning experiences as shaped by “drill,” “memorization,” and
the learning of decontextualized grammar “rules.” Rather, SFL scholars in the
46
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
United States hope to support teachers in systematically and functionally expanding, not replacing, the meaning-making repertoires of all students so that all students have a better chance of being able to navigate the multiple cultural contexts
they participate in or desire to enter over the course of their lives.
For example, in Chapter Two, Celine confronted challenges as she tried to
navigate the diverse language practices, associated cultures, and identities attached
to being an immigrant of color attending a U.S. high school. Celine spoke Portuguese at home with family; varieties of English, Spanish, and African American English with peers; and standardized English with teachers. She also pushed
herself to learn academic varieties of English that she knew were more readily
available in honors classes than in other, lower tracks in her high school. However, her journalism teacher, Mr. Banks, like many teachers, lacked an explicit
knowledge of how language works in the types of texts he routinely assigned
students to read and write in his class. He was therefore unable to make the
workings of journalistic language visible, open to critical reflection, and usable to
students who were new to reading, writing, and critically discussing genres such
as editorials. As a result, despite the high motivation and commitment of both
Celine and Mr. Banks, Celine did not publish anything for a wider audience in
the school or local newspaper.
To avoid outcomes such as these, SFL practitioners attempt to support the
disciplinary literacies of all students, especially those who come from historically marginalized groups. To assist teachers in working toward this aim, this
chapter provides a brief overview of three different conceptions of grammar that
have influenced language teaching and learning practices in schools (e.g., de Silva
Joyce & Feez, 2016). These perspectives are rooted in the work of B.F. Skinner,
who understood grammar as a form of verbal behavior that is learned through
drill and practice; Noam Chomsky, who theorized grammar development as an
innate cognitive process that occurs through natural interactions; and Michael
Halliday, who conceptualized grammar as a functional meaning-making system
that expands to reflect and construct the cultural contexts in which it is used.
In addition, this chapter describes how these three perspectives influence classroom interactions or discourse practices in ways that support or constrain students
in developing language, learning new content knowledge, and expanding the
range of identities available to them in school (e.g., Cazden, 1988; Christie, 2005;
Kramsch, 1985).1 The questions this chapter explores are:
•
•
•
What is “grammar” and how have different theoretical conceptions of grammar influenced the teaching and learning of language and literacy in schools
(e.g., behavioral, psycholinguistic, and social semiotic approaches)?
What are the characteristics of an SFL or social semiotic perspective of grammar and how does it differ from other prevailing conceptions?
What do different perspectives of grammar look like in classroom practice
and how has each perspective been critiqued?
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
47
Skinner: A Behavioral Perspective
Language Is a Behavior and Learning Is Accomplished
Through Drill and Practice
A Skinnerian perspective of language and language learning maintains that language is a form of observable behavior and that verbal and written behaviors
are learned through drill and practice in the use of correct linguistic forms (see
Lightbown & Spada, 2013 for a review). Within this paradigm, the role of the
classroom teacher tends to be oriented toward providing rewards such as praise,
grades, and other tokens to reinforce formal grammatical correctness. In U.S.
schools, the influence of this perspective is reflected in programs that drill and
practice phonemic awareness, high-frequency sight words, sentence patterns,
linguistically controlled reading passages, and highly structured writing tasks at
the near exclusion of other aspects of literacy development such as inferencing,
interpreting, critically reflecting, and engaging with texts for fun (e.g., August &
Shanahan, 2006).
Behavioral Perspective of Grammar in Classroom
Discourse Practices
The following classroom interaction illustrates a behavioral perspective of ESL
teaching (Chaudron, 1988, p. 38):
1. Teacher: The plural for number five, Lisa.
2. Lisa:
What is this–
3. Teacher: Plural!
4. Lisa:
What are these. These are books.
5. Teacher: Very good! Very good! Alright, if I said, uh, this is a man. What
would be the plural?
6. Student: These are men. M-E-N.
7. Teacher: Good! Good memory!
In this interaction, the teacher is helping beginning ELLs work through a set
of workbook exercises focusing on pluralizing English nouns (e.g., book/books,
man/men) and rewarding students for correct responses with praise (e.g., “Very
good!” and “Good!” in lines 5 and 7). In this interaction, the focus of instruction
is not on learning language through discussion of a high-interest topic or a critical
analysis of the linguistic choices found in a text, but on drilling and practicing a
discrete grammar rule regarding forming plurals in standardized English.
Many of us who have learned an additional language in school are very familiar with this pattern of classroom interaction. The teacher initiates an interaction by asking a question with a single, known, correct answer, as illustrated in
line 1. The student responds with a form-focused answer, as shown in line 4. And
48
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
the teacher evaluates the student’s response in regard to its grammatical correctness, as in line 5. This pattern has been described by classroom discourse analysts
as an Initiation-Response-Evaluation or IRE pattern of classroom talk. Research
shows that this pattern is highly prevalent not only in language classrooms, but in
many pedagogical situations, revealing the degree to which schools tend to value
a behavioral perspective of learning (e.g., Cazden, 1988).
This perspective is reflected in the comments of two pre-service teachers
introduced in the beginning of this chapter. Recall George Williams’ assertion
that teachers should get “back to the basics” so students can learn “the rules of
proper English.” Likewise, Peter Green, a pre-service science teacher, described
how he had to “memorize a lot of vocabulary and grammar rules” when he was
being taught a national variety of Spanish spoken in Spain (as opposed to a Latin
American variety).
Chomsky: A Psycholinguistic Perspective
Language Is Rule-Governed Creativity and Language
Acquisition Is Innate
Alexandra Costa, another pre-service teacher quoted at the beginning of this
chapter, rejected a behavioral conception of grammar, claiming that grammar
drills are a “waste of time” and interfere with “communicating” and “being creative.” This sentiment is common in the field of English language arts and reflects
a movement away from the explicit teaching of grammar rules and text structures, based in part on the revolutionary ideas of psycholinguist Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky (1965) refuted Skinner’s conception of language as a form of verbal
behavior and put forth a psycholinguistic explanation of language and language
development. In making a case against behaviorism, Chomsky noted that very
young speakers of all languages are able to develop a highly sophisticated linguistic system without ever being taught all the grammatical rules of their home
language or languages (see Lightbown & Spada, 2013 for a review).
For example, in regard to tense systems, young children are able to signal
different aspects of time without ever having been provided with formal explanations or drill and practice in how different tenses work in the languages they
speak. As illustrated in Table 3.1, standardized English has twelve distinct ways of
constructing and shaping speakers’ intuitive conceptions of time. These ways are
different from other languages and varieties of English that have either fewer or
more elaborate ways of marking aspects of time. African American English, for
example, has more nuanced ways of constructing aspects of the present tense than
standardized English (e.g., “They be playing soccer during recess,” Green, 2002,
p. 220). In addition, Chomskyan scholars note that children tend to overgeneralize grammatical rules in ways that suggest their grammatical competence develops more or less on its own (Roeper, 2007). For example, if a child produced
TABLE 3.1 Twelve Ways English Constructs Time Through its Tense System
Graphic representation of
the grammatical construction
of time
Name of tense and its uses
English examples
Simple present or “habitual”
tense to convey that a
process is habitual, repeats,
or occurs regularly.
Simple past to convey that a
process occurred at a defined
moment or time period in
the past.
Simple future to make claims
about a process that will
occur later or to make a
promise or prediction.
Present continuous or “now
tense” to make claims about
processes occurring at the
present moment or during
a stretch of time (e.g., this
second, this week, this year).
Past continuous to express an
ongoing process in the past
or an ongoing action that
was interrupted.
•
Future continuous to express
an ongoing process in the
future or an ongoing process
that gets interrupted.
•
Present perfect to express
that a process has been
experienced, or has been
completed during an
unspecified time.
Past perfect to express that
a process was completed in
the past before another in
the past.
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
I study Spanish every
day.
She plays soccer on
Tuesdays.
I studied Spanish
yesterday.
She played soccer
when she was younger.
I will study Spanish
tomorrow.
She will play soccer
next Tuesday.
I am studying Spanish
now.
She is playing soccer
this season.
I was studying Spanish
in the library when the
fire alarm went off.
She was playing soccer
until it began to rain.
I will be studying
Spanish in college
until I go abroad.
She will be playing
soccer until the season
ends.
I have studied Spanish.
She has played soccer
in a league before.
I had studied Spanish
before I went to
Puerto Rico.
She had played soccer
for a number of years
when she was asked to
go professional.
(Continued)
50
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
TABLE 3.1 (Continued)
Graphic representation of the
grammatical construction
of time
Name of tense and its uses
English examples
Future perfect to express the
idea that a process will be
completed at a future time
often before another process.
•
Present perfect continuous
to express duration for an
ongoing process taking place
now and continuing.
•
Past perfect continuous
to express duration for
an ongoing process that
completed in the past at
a specific time or before
another process. Often there
is the implication that one
event caused or is the result
of another.
Future perfect continuous
to express duration for an
ongoing process up to a
point of time in the future
or before another process in
the future.
•
•
•
•
•
•
I will have studied
Spanish for four years
by the time I am 18.
I will have played my
soccer match before it
gets dark.
I have been studying
Spanish for three years.
She has been playing
soccer for as long as
her brother.
I had been studying
Spanish for many
years when I entered
college.
I had been playing
soccer for four years
before I began to play
professionally.
I will have been
studying Spanish for
six years by the time
I move to Puerto Rico.
I will have been
playing soccer
professionally for
15 years by the time
I retire.
the utterance, We goed to Abuela’s house and a parent responded, Yes, we went to
Abuela’s, a child might reply, Yep, we wented, despite never having heard wented
from others. Chomskyan linguists analyze novel grammatical constructions such
as these as evidence that children have an underlying grammatical capacity to signal that an event occurred at a specific point in the past using the morphological
word ending -ed, even though children cannot tell you what a verb is, explain
the differences between a regular and an irregular verb (e.g., talk/talked, go/went),
or tell you what the difference is between the simple past and the past progressive
(I went versus I was going).
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
51
Moreover, as anyone who enjoys playing with language is aware, the ability
to creatively invent an infinite number of novel utterances using a finite number of underlying grammar rules does not end with childhood. For example,
consider Chomsky’s (1957, p. 15) famous example of how speakers are able to
process creative grammatical constructions such as “Colorless green ideas sleep
furiously,” even though this sentence does not logically make sense given that
something cannot be green and colorless, ideas do not sleep, and the word “furious” is more associated with insomnia than rest. However, we are able to make
sense of this unique, syntactically related set of words because we have an intuitive understanding of English grammar—and we may admire the poetry of such
a novel utterance.
Another often cited example in support of a Chomskyan perspective of language processing is an English speaker’s ability to make sense of the seemingly nonsensical creative utterances found in Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” poem (as cited
in Pinker, 1994). This narrative poem, which was included in the sequel to Alice’s
Adventures in Wonderland, uses a slew of invented words to tell the story of how a
mythical beast called the Jabberwock was killed. These words are still understandable (or at least guessable) to users of English because Carroll cleverly uses English
syntax and morphological endings2 to signal grammatical categories on invented
nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, as in this excerpt from the poem:
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe. (Pinker, 1994, p. 89)
It is important to note that creative grammatical constructions are not limited
to the musings of famous authors, but are part an everyday part of generating new
ways of knowing and constructing one’s cultural identity through language. For
example, hip-hop artists have made powerful linguistic and cultural contributions to how youth use varieties of language worldwide (e.g., Alim, Ibrahim, &
Pennycook, 2009). Also consider the way technologies have produced new verbs
such as to google, tweet, and text. Moreover, these new verbs have also generated
new nouns to express new social, cultural, and political problems such as google
bombing, tweet storming, and sexting.
Based on insights such as these, psycholinguists argue that the mind is not a
blank slate as behaviorists claim. Rather, they maintain humans have evolutionarily developed a distinctive form of cognition that works to process linguistic
data in ways that are akin to the way computers process information. These
scholars maintain that this linguistic-specific form of cognition is different from
other forms of cognition, such as memory, because it enables humans to process
linguistic input, formulate linguistic output, and tacitly generate the rules for a
52
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
specific language following generative grammar rules or parameters that govern
all human languages. Chomsky (1986) called these parameters “universal grammar” and described this distinctively human capacity using the metaphor of a
“language acquisition device” (p. 3).
Based in part on Chomsky’s groundbreaking ideas, the 1980s saw a rejection
of traditional grammar and behaviorist approaches to teaching grammar rules. For
example, Stephen Krashen’s influential natural approach to second language acquisition encourages teachers to design lessons to support students in naturally acquiring, rather than consciously learning, grammatical forms (Krashen, 1987). In other
words, rather than memorizing grammar rules and drilling linguistic patterns,
Krashen maintains teachers should support students in participating in communicative activities such as playing games, singing songs, reading for pleasure, and
freewriting to generate ample amounts of linguistic input and output for the brain’s
language centers to process. Krashen also argues that focusing too much attention
on grammatical correction interferes with students’ innate ability to develop linguistic competence because it results in learners overly monitoring their linguistic
input and output, and thereby raising what he called the affective filter. Krashen
(1987) hypothesizes that this metaphorical filter blocks linguistic data from being
processed by a learner’s language acquisition device, as described by Chomsky.
Psycholinguistic Perspective of Grammar
in Classroom Discourse Practices
The following classroom interaction illustrates a Chomskyan or psycholinguistic
approach to ESL instruction (Lightbown & Spada, 2013, p. 132, bold added for
emphasis):
1. Student:
2. Teacher:
3. Student:
4. Teacher:
5. Student:
6. Teacher:
7. Student:
8. Teacher:
9. Student:
It bugs me when a bee sting me.
Oh, when a bee stings me.
Stings me.
Do you get stung often? Does that happen often? The bee stinging
many times?
Yeah.
Often? (teacher turns to students who aren’t paying attention). OK. Sandra and Benoit, you may begin working on a research project, hey?
(teacher turns her attention back to ‘What bugs me?’)
It bugs me XXX (not decipherable) and my sister put on my clothes.
Ah! She borrows your clothes—When you’re older, you may
appreciate it because you can switch clothes, maybe. (teacher turns
to check another student’s written work). Melanie, this is yours, I will
check– OK. It’s good.
It bugs me when I’m sick and my brother doesn’t help me– my– my
brother, cause he– me–.
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
53
10. Teacher:
OK. You know– when XXX (not decipherable) sick, you’re sick at
home in bed and you say, oh, to your brother or your sister: ‘Would
you please get me a drink of water?’ – ‘Ah! Drop dead!’ you know,
‘Go play in traffic!’ You know, it’s not very nice. Martin!
11. Student: It bug me to have–
12. Teacher: It bugs me. It bugzz me.
13. Student: It bugs me when my brother takes my bicycle.
In this interaction, ten-year-old ELLs have been asked to discuss the topic
“What bugs you?” The interaction is intended to be more communicative as
it focuses on discussing a topic that might be of interest to students rather than
drilling and practicing a specific grammar rule such as the formation of plurals.
The teacher asks an authentic question as opposed to ones that require students
to display an understanding of a grammar rule (e.g., “Does this happen often?”
in line 4). The teacher also elaborates on students’ responses as a way of indirectly teaching vocabulary (e.g., “Ah! She borrows your clothes” in line 8).
With reference to grammatical errors, the teacher recasts students’ responses,
sometimes with emphasis, to indirectly call their attention to a grammatical
form. However, the teacher keeps the focus of the interaction on the topic as a
way of generating comprehensible input, practice, and feedback to support the
development of linguistic competence. This pattern is evident in lines 1 to 3
where the teacher provides indirect feedback regarding the use of the present
tense “s” to support the student in generating the verb form “stings,” as well as
in lines 11 to 13 when she draws attention to the verb form “bugs.” In addition, the teacher indirectly calls attention to an underlying phonological rule
in English regarding the pronunciation of “s” after a consonant that is voiced
(e.g., b, d, g, m, n) as opposed to a consonant that is unvoiced (e.g., p, t, k).
This underlying phonological rule of standardized English is one the teacher
may or may not be aware of depending on her knowledge of linguistics (e.g.,
/bug/ + /s/ = bugz).
Psycholinguistic Approaches to Teaching Writing:
The Process Approach
Chomsky’s theories have also influenced how writing is taught in U.S. schools.
For example, within the field of composition studies, scholars such as Peter
Elbow suggest too much focus on formal correctness contributes to writer’s
block, feelings of insecurity, an inability of students to discover their thoughts
and be creative, and eventually a strong dislike of writing. As a result of Elbow’s
(1973) influential book Writing Without Teachers and compelling research produced by scholars in composition studies, teachers are often encouraged to
adopt a process approach to teaching reading and writing (e.g., Atwell, 1987). This
approach encourages teachers to assume a facilitator role in the classroom and
54
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
avoid explicitly teaching rhetorical structures, sentence-level grammar, spelling,
and punctuation until they first support students in discovering and honing their
thoughts through a recursive process that involves:
•
•
•
•
•
•
Pre-writing activities such as freewriting, brainstorming, and creating wordwebs to help students discover topics and ideas.
Drafting to support students in exploring and developing their thinking
through the act of writing, reading, and re-writing.
Getting feedback from peers and teachers to support students in re-thinking
how they approach producing a text for a particular purpose and audience.
Making revisions to the content and structure of a text based on the feedback
they receive from peers and teachers.
Editing texts to address targeted mechanical problems related to sentencelevel grammar, spelling, and punctuation. These targeted mechanical issues
are often addressed through mini-lessons.
Providing opportunities for students to publish or share their work with a
wider audience for authentic purposes.
Collectively, both Krashen and Elbow’s research provides an important and
valuable corrective to behavioral “drill and kill” approaches to teaching language
and literacy in schools. However, in practice, both perspectives have a number of
limitations (Delpit, 1988; Hyland, 2004). First, both assume that the processes of
learning one’s home language, an additional language, and to read and write academically are propelled by the same innate human capacity to acquire language
that appears to be operational in infancy and childhood. However, a number
of studies suggest this may not be the case. For example, research indicates that
it is harder to acquire native-like pronunciation and many of the fine-grained
nuances of a language’s grammatical system, especially aspects of pronunciation,
after puberty. In addition, studies suggest that older language learners may have
an advantage over younger ones because they can draw on prior knowledge
and other kinds of cognition such as their ability to notice and critically discuss linguistic patterns in ways that children cannot. In other words, counter to
Krashen’s theory, studies suggest that older learners benefit from actively noticing
grammatical patterns and strategically discussing the linguistic options available to
them in different communicative contexts as opposed to “naturally” acquiring
literacies in the ways young children acquire oral language in the context of their
homes (see Lightbown & Spada, 2013 for a review).
Second, Krashen’s ideas have been heavily critiqued because they lack empirical evidence and have resulted in language classrooms looking and sounding like
elementary settings where students, even in high school, participate in game-like
activities that lack age-appropriate disciplinary content. Likewise, Elbow’s process approach, while based on much stronger empirical findings, tends to favor
more expressivist forms of reading and writing such as narratives, personal essays,
and poetry at the expense of reading, writing, and critiquing more technical and
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
55
transactional disciplinary genres such as scientific reports, mathematical explanations, and historical arguments (e.g., Rose & Martin, 2012).
Last, and perhaps most importantly, purely psycholinguistic explanations of language and literacy development tend to attribute too much to what may or may
not be happening in the minds of individual learners at the expense of helping
educators attend to and take more responsibility for the nature of social, cultural,
and political forces that support and/or constrain students in developing disciplinary literacies in school (e.g., Gebhard, 2004). In my experience, pre- and in-service
teachers who have only been briefly introduced to psycholinguistic explanations
of language and literacy development through a course or a single professional
development workshop tend to account for variations in learning outcomes in ways
that position teachers as having very little influence over student learning. When
confronted with data regarding the persistent inability of ELLs and other historically marginalized learners to make academic gains “naturally,” these teachers often
attribute failure in school to the student’s hypothetical affective filter, or whether a
student is “outgoing” or “shy” and therefore generates more or less linguistic input
and output, or whether a child comes from a home that provides a “rich” literacy
environment. The problem with these overly simple explanations of differences in
educational outcomes is that they position teachers as agentless, take responsibility off schools as powerful institutions that shape students’ academic literacies, and
ultimately have the potential to contribute to racist, classist, and sexist explanations
of why some students succeed and others fail.
Halliday: A Social Semiotic Perspective
Language Is a Social Semiotic System and Learning Is an Expansion
of This System in the Multiplying Contexts in Which It Develops
In response to the limitations of behavioral and psycholinguistic explanations
of academic literacy development in schools, educators working in a variety of
international contexts have turned to Halliday’s SFL to combat pendulum swings
regarding language and literacy education in schools—pendulum swings that
often make the most vulnerable in schools even more vulnerable. These swings
include debates regarding “skills” versus “project-based” instruction, “product”
versus “process” approaches to teaching reading and writing, and “traditional”
versus “progressive” approaches to designing curriculum.
SFL offers a possible way out of these false, historically constructed binaries
by not conceptualizing grammar as either a set of decontextualized rules learned
through drill and practice, or as a purely innate human endowment that will
develop naturally by itself through social interactions. Rather, SFL scholars argue
that grammatical systems expand over a person’s lifetime as they perform an
increasing number of functions through languages and other meaning-making
systems by interacting with an ever-expanding number of people in a greater
and greater variety of contexts, including home, civic organizations, school, and
56
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
work. As these meaning-making systems expand, explicit grammatical knowhow becomes a powerful social, cognitive, and political tool that functions to
construct new ideas and experiences (the ideational function of language), enact
a greater variety of social roles and relationships (the interpersonal function of
language), and manage the coherent flow of communication in oral, written, and
multimodal texts in the diverse contexts in which language and other meaningmaking systems are used (the textual function of language, Halliday, 1993).
More importantly for the purposes of this book, SFL practitioners maintain
that teachers play an influential role in expanding the linguistic repertoires of
all students to enable all students to construct subject matter knowledge, take
up authoritative voices, and construct coherent extended texts as they learn to
read, write, and discuss disciplinary genres essential to their academic success and
potential social mobility. Future chapters, especially Chapter Nine, illustrate how
teachers working in urban schools with multilingual learners have developed the
ability to use SFL pedagogical tools to design, implement, and reflect on student
learning as they work toward this goal while also trying to negotiate the demands
of current school reforms. (Chapters Six and Seven detail these reforms, including English-only mandates, the passage of No Child Left Behind legislation, the
adoption of the Common Core State Standards, the Next Generation Science
Standards, and WIDA standards.)
However, before describing how teachers have used SFL concepts in their
classrooms, it is important to first get a sense of what these concepts are. Therefore, before showing a classroom discourse example that illustrates a social semiotic perspective of grammar, the following sections provide a more in-depth
description of Halliday’s grammar, and how it is organized around three meaningmaking functions. The concepts introduced here will be further explained in subsequent chapters, which also offer illustrations of how teachers have used SFL in
their classrooms to support their students’ disciplinary literacy development in
critical ways.3
Halliday’s Conception of Text/Context Dynamics
and the Functions of Language
Halliday explains how language and other meaning-making systems accomplish
the remarkable feat of simultaneously constructing ideas and experiences, negotiating social roles and shifting identities, and managing the flow of discourse in
different contexts. For example, local classroom contexts are constructed by the
oral, written, and multimodal/multilinguistic texts teachers and students produce
and interpret in schools. Such texts might include:
•
•
Oral interactions in multiple languages about the actions of characters in a
picture book in a kindergarten class
A multimodal text on the life cycle of butterflies in a third-grade science class
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
•
•
•
•
57
A bilingual teacher-made instructional packet on the Continental Congress
for middle school students
A student essay on the use of code mixing and switching in a literary text
A website page that introduces high school students to a computer programming task
A physics textbook chapter on torque.
Collectively, these various kinds of school-based texts or genres have different
purposes and audiences and construct different disciplinary knowledge and contexts. They also use identifiable and teachable graphics, organizational structures,
sentence structures, and word choices to construct disciplinary know-how and
student identities.
To dig deeper into Halliday’s theory of text/context dynamics and to support
educators in analyzing the processes of text production and interpretation, the
rest of this chapter focuses on the innermost circle shown in Figure 3.1. This discussion provides a brief overview of Halliday’s theory of how linguistic choices
FIGURE 3.1
Text/context dynamics in schools
58
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
construct disciplinary ideas, enact social relationships, and manage the coherent
flow of information in extended disciplinary discourse (e.g., Halliday & Hasan,
1985). As illustrated in Figure 3.1, central to Halliday’s theory of language, learning, and social change is an understanding that language and other meaningmaking systems, such as images, graphics, and equations, simultaneously perform
three interrelated functions in every act of producing and interpreting an oral,
written, or multimodal/multilingual text (e.g., Unsworth, 2008). These are the
ideational, interpersonal, and textual functions.
The ideational function, as the name suggests, constructs ideas and experiences.
In school contexts, Derewianka and Jones (2016, p. 21) describe this function as
constructing the “fields of knowledge, understandings, and concepts” associated
with a disciplinary domain. This function is realized through the field choices
a language user makes in producing a text. A student might describe a baseball
game to a friend using everyday language in a straightforward way, as in He hit
the ball over the fence. On the other hand, she might use language more specific
to the field of baseball in writing a journalistic or literary text by selecting fieldspecific verbs/verb groups, nouns/noun groups, and prepositional phrases that tell
when, where, and how an event occurred. For example, David Ortiz of the Red
Sox squared himself to home plate and drove a 100 mile-per-hour fastball out of Fenway
Park to win the game. In this second sentence, the same event is constructed using
a longer, more specific noun group (David Ortiz of the Red Sox), more carefully
selected verbs (squared himself, drove), and a baseball-specific prepositional phrase
(out of Fenway Park) that constructs not just the context of an everyday ballgame,
but a major league baseball game in one of the most famous ballparks in the
world. Similarly, the same student might encounter a word problem in a physics
class that asks her to calculate the time it takes a baseball to reach David Ortiz if
the speed of the ball is 100 miles-per-hour and the distance between the pitcher’s
mound and home plate is 60.5 feet. In this kind of text, physical observations
regarding a baseball game are re-contextualized as a physics problem and are often
realized in a graphic and in the form of mathematical symbols in an equation,
such as t=d/v, or time equals distance divided by velocity (see Doran, 2017 for further
discussion of SFL and physics).
Second, the interpersonal function constructs social identities, relationships,
power dynamics, attitudes, and feelings. This function is realized through the use
of tenor resources that include, for example, commanding someone to do something (e.g., SHUT THE DAMN DOOR!), making a factual statement (e.g., The
door is open.), or asking someone politely to consider doing something (e.g., Could
you please shut the door?). In addition, tenor resources support language users in
constructing degrees of possibility and certainty as well as levels of emotion, evaluation, or judgment (Martin & White, 2005). Recognizing how tenor resources
are used in disciplinary texts supports students in learning to read between the
lines of a text to shift from literal, to inferential, and more interpretive readings of
texts in and out of school. Tenor resources also support students in constructing
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
59
texts more expertly depending on their purpose and audience. For example, scientific discourse tends to avoid highly emotional language to construct seemingly
neutral facts as opposed to personal opinions. In addition, scientific texts tend to
use language to qualify or avoid making strong claims that cannot be substantiated or generalized. For instance, consider the difference between the sentences
shown in Table 3.2. This table illustrates how different modal verbs (e.g., must, will,
can, could, might) construct degrees of certainty from high to low and how attitudinal language constructs ideological positions from positive to negative regarding the topic of recycling. In addition, tenor resources include ways of making
claims, toward positive and negative poles, to express the degree to which something exists or does not exist or happened or did not happen, for example, using
positive and negative markers (e.g., is/is not, does/does not, has/has not).
Last, the textual function manages the flow of ideas in texts to support coherence and cohesion in extended discourse. This function is realized through mode
resources, which include, for example, the repetition of an idea through the use
of pronouns and near synonyms to keep the focus of a text on a specific topic
while also building up new ideas related to the topic over several sentences,
TABLE 3.2 Examples of Tenor Resources (Derewianka, 2011; Droga & Humphrey, 2003;
Martin & White, 2005; Schleppegrell, 2004)
Use of declarative
sentences as opposed to
commands or questions
to construct a “factual”
statement
Use of modal verbs to convey degrees Use of attitudinal language to
of possibility or levels of certainty
convey emotion, evaluation,
and judgment from negative to
positive
The modal verb must constructs The word sacred intensifies the
Evidence makes clear
a high degree of certainty
positive attitude toward the
communities must
topic of recycling
recycle to protect the
planet’s sacred resources.
Possible
Certain Negative
Positive
The modal verb can constructs a The absence of emotional,
Evidence suggests
medium degree of certainty
evaluative, or judgmental
communities can
language constructs a neutral
recycle to preserve the
and objective stance toward
planet’s resources.
the topic of recycling
Possible
Certain Negative
Positive
The modal verbs could and might The words very unclear
Evidence suggests
construct a more negative
construct a low degree of
communities could
attitude toward the topic of
certainty and signal a degree
recycle, but it is very
recycling
of doubt
unclear what the
Certain Negative
Positive
benefits of these efforts Possible
might be.
Note: Positive and negative polarity can be coupled with modality (e.g., must/must not)
60
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
paragraphs, or longer stretches of discourse. Consider the following opening lines
of a biographical essay:
Cesar Chavez was born in 1927 in Yuma, Arizona. He dedicated his life
to improving the working conditions of migrant farm workers. As a union
leader, he and Dolores Huerta cofounded the National Farm Workers
Association in 1962.
The author’s linguistic choices keep the focus on one main topic, Cesar
Chavez, through the use of pronouns and other nouns that build up more information about Chavez in ways that coherently and cohesively weave together
new ideas with given information (e.g., Cesar Chavez, he, a union leader). In addition, writers can cohesively connect ideas built up from one sentence to the next
to express particular kinds of relationships that are essential for constructing particular genres associated with different disciplines. For example, as illustrated in
Table 3.3, there are different types of cohesive devices that support the construction
of cause and effect relationships (e.g., therefore, as a result, consequently), additive
relationships (e.g., in addition, furthermore, moreover), sequencing relationships (e.g.,
first, second, then, next, last), and ways of clarifying information in explanations and
arguments (e.g., for example, in other words, for instance, more specifically). Likewise,
time markers can signal key genre stages in narratives (e.g., once upon a time, one
day, next, suddenly, after, in the end) and in historical texts (e.g., in 1963, after 1981,
then in 1986, since 2000).
Using SFL-informed pedagogy, students at all levels of language proficiency
can be taught to identify and use cohesive devices to improve their comprehension and production of particular genres when writing for specific purposes
and audiences (e.g., recounts, narratives, explanations, arguments). Teachers
can instruct students, even beginning language learners, to notice how cohesive
TABLE 3.3 Examples of Cohesive Devices Used in Different Disciplinary Genres
(Derewianka, 2011; Droga & Humphrey, 2003; Halliday & Matthiessen,
2004; Schleppegrell, 2004)
Types of Relationships
Time relationships
Examples
Use in Different Genres
One day, then, next, suddenly, since,
Narratives
in the end, even now
In 1963, after 1981, then in 1986,
Biographies, memoirs,
between 1995 and 2000, since 2000
historical recounts
Sequencing relationships First, second, third, last, in sum
Scientific procedures,
mathematical proofs
Cause/effect relationships Therefore, as a result, consequently,
Explanations in
different disciplines
Additive relationships
In addition, furthermore, moreover
Arguments in different
disciplines
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
61
devices work in the different kinds of disciplinary genres they require students to
read and write in school to improve students’ reading comprehension and writing abilities (e.g., Gebhard, Chen, & Britton, 2014; see also Chapters Four, Five,
and Nine).
In sum, Halliday’s articulation of the three functions of language and how
these functions are realized in classroom literacy tasks can support teachers in
designing curriculum and instruction that enables students to notice and critically
discuss the language choices speakers and writers, including themselves, make to:
•
•
•
Construct subject matter knowledge through the use of discipline-specific
verbs/verb groups, nouns/noun groups, prepositional phrases, and adverbs
(i.e., field choices that realize the ideational function of language)
Negotiate different voices, identities, social roles, power dynamics, and ideological stances through the use of: statements, questions, or commands;
highly emotional or more neutral language; and modal verbs that construct
more or less possibility (i.e., tenor choices that realize the interpersonal function of language)
Manage the flow of information in extended discourse by repeating key
words, using pronouns and select genre-specific cohesive devices, and weaving given and new information together in texts (i.e., mode choices that
realize the textual function of language).
SFL Perspective of Grammar in Classroom Discourse Practices
A number of studies have been conducted in the United States that provide
compelling evidence of the potential of SFL-based pedagogy to support the disciplinary literacy development of multilingual learners in these three targeted
ways. In particular, a growing number of studies have explored how teachers
can use SFL metalanguage, or language for talking about language, to support
students’ reading, writing, and discussion of grade-level texts. An example of one
such investigation is Moore and Schleppegrell’s (2014) study of how teachers and
students in a high-poverty elementary school used SFL metalanguage to analyze
authors’ word choices in literary texts and provide textual evidence to support
their claims—something many students are not expected to do until they are
in secondary English language arts classes. I selected this study from among the
many that have been published because it illustrates how teachers can use one
or two SFL concepts to focus their instruction in very practical ways to support
beginning multilingual readers and writers, even very young ones, in engaging in
close reading of grade-level texts.
In Moore and Schleppegrell’s study, 12 classroom teachers and nine instructional coaches working in a school district that served large numbers of students from Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq participated in a professional development
project that introduced them to SFL theory and pedagogical tools (O’Hallaron,
62
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
Palincsar, & Schleppegrell, 2015; Palincsar & Schleppegrell, 2014; Schleppegrell,
2013). The research team incorporated SFL metalanguage into this professional
development program based on a growing body of literature that suggests metalanguage can enhance both teachers’ and students’ linguistic awareness in ways
that deepen and sharpen their understanding and ability to critically analyze
disciplinary discourse (e.g., Gebhard, Chen, & Britton, 2014; Macken-Horarik &
Morgan, 2011). Moore and Schleppegrell analyzed transcripts of classroom interactions to explore the potential benefits of teachers using this metalanguage with
their multilingual students to support them in discussing, interpreting, and evaluating characters in grade-level literary texts. Specifically, they analyzed teachers’
and students’ uses of SFL metalanguage in the context of a unit that focused
on the legend of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree. This text
was one all teachers at the elementary level were required to teach. Working
within this constraint, the research team designed SFL-informed lessons to support teachers and students in analyzing the actions, reactions, emotions, and
judgments of the characters to enable students to write open responses about
characters—a genre students are routinely required to write in English language
arts classes and on state-mandated exams. In some instances teachers used technical metalanguage associated with SFL and in others they developed their own
more student-friendly terms informed by SFL theory to capture how language
works in texts to “turn up” or “turn down” the force of an emotion, evaluation,
or judgment (Moore & Schleppegrell, 2014, p. 97).4
As Table 3.4 illustrates, the particular SFL practices the team used included
highlighting (literally) the types of verbs that are associated with specific characters. These types of verbs included doing verbs to express what characters did
in the story (e.g., chopped, stomped), sensing verbs to express characters’ internal
TABLE 3.4 Types of Verbs that Make Meaning in Narratives (Derewianka, 2011; Droga &
Humphrey, 2003; Martin & White, 2005; Schleppegrell, 2004)
Verb types
Function
Examples
Doing verbs
To construct what a character did;
what happened
To construct the internal thoughts
and feelings of characters; used in
narratives to show how characters
reflect or evaluate events
To construct how characters talk to
each other or about events and
ideas in dialogue
To construct descriptions or to relate
two pieces of information to one
another; the most common being/
relating verbs are to be and to have
George swung his axe and
chopped down the tree.
George worried when his father
called him into the house.
Sensing verbs
Saying verbs
Being or
relating verbs
George’s father yelled, “Come
here!” with a stern voice.
The tree was tall and had
many branches.
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
FIGURE 3.2
63
Example of the “attitude line,” a classroom artifact representing the
polarity continuum
thoughts and feelings (e.g., worried, felt), and saying verbs to capture the voice
of a character in speaking with another character or about an event (e.g., yelled,
whispered).
In addition, the team created a tool they called the attitude line (Figure 3.2)
that supported teachers and students in highlighting and discussing words that
expressed characters’ attitudes and the force of these attitudes (Moore & Schleppegrell,
2014, p. 97).5
The following classroom interaction illustrates how students were able to use
the attitude line to interpret how the author selected words to show rather than
tell how characters in the narrative felt (Moore & Schleppegrell, 2014, p. 102,
bold added for emphasis):
1. Nadra:
I, uh, I . . . put George felt, George felt frustrated, sad, down,
and hurtful and bummered out
2. Other students: Bummered? He felt bummered?
3. Teacher:
He felt frustrated and what?
4. Student 1 (from Bummed out.
Nadra’s group):
5. Student 1:
(reading off Nadra’s paper) Frustrated, hurt and bummed out.
Sad, down, bummed out.
6. Teacher:
Wow, all of those words. Those are a lot of emotions. WHY
do you think he felt like that?
7. Nadra:
Because he, because when he, because, you know how he
cut the, uh he felt, he cut the tree down, then uh, when his
dad wake up in the morning and he saw it, he went, he called
his, uh, son. Then George went, said he called him in like
a, like in a bad voice, not like a good voice, and George was
like walking SLOOOWLY to him, and that’s how I got all
of these words, because he got like frustrated like he’s not
going to know what to do, and SAD because he cut the tree.
In this interaction, the students had just finished working in small groups to
analyze a sentence from the narrative that read, “George walked slowly into the
64
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
room.” A student named “Nadra” offered a host of inferences regarding George’s
feelings based on her group’s discussion. These included “frustrated, sad, down,
and hurtful and bummered [bummed] out” (line 1). In the end of this interaction, Nadra returned to the reading passage to provide textual evidence to make
a text-based inference regarding the main character’s emotional state when she
put extra emphasis on the word “SLOOOWLY” (line 7).
This interaction illustrates how Halliday’s theory of grammar as a meaningmaking resource can be transformed into effective pedagogical tools to support teachers in apprenticing multilingual students to read, write, and critically analyze grade-level texts. In this case, SFL-inspired practices such as using
metalanguage to analyze different types of verbs and ways of constructing attitudes supported students in reading, discussing, and writing about characters in
grade-level texts. SFL metalanguage provided teachers and students with tools
that they used “not only to better understand how disciplinary knowledge is
constructed, but also to evaluate it, participate in disciplinary discourses, and ultimately contribute to shaping those discourses” in classroom practice (Moore &
Schleppegrell, 2014, p. 93).
In contrast to a behavioral perspective of grammar, learners in Moore and
Schleppegrell’s study were not drilling and practicing sounds, words, and decontextualized sentence patterns as a way of displaying knowledge of discrete formal
grammar rules or an understanding of decontextualized vocabulary words. Nor
were they reading short, carefully controlled reading passages or leveled books
that are typically devoid of literary value. Moreover, in this class, the teacher did
not separate the teaching of different “skills,” such as listening, speaking, reading,
and writing into different times of the school day. Rather, using an SFL approach
to literacy development, these four interrelated aspects of disciplinary literacy
instruction were integrated into one class that explicitly focused on how language
works to make meaning in grade-level stories.
A key advantage of this approach is that teachers did not wait until their students had reached some ill-defined level of language proficiency before beginning to support students in engaging with disciplinary reading and writing tasks,
nor did they arbitrarily separate the teaching of speaking, listening, reading, and
writing into distinct levels of instruction. These practices may lead teachers to
inadvertently withhold engagement with challenging texts until they feel their
students have reached some threshold level of oral language proficiency (Gebhard,
2004, 2005).
In addition, similar to a psycholinguistic approach to language teaching, students were negotiating meaning through specific classroom discourse practices
(e.g., Walsh, 2011). For example, the teacher in the above text asked more openended why questions (e.g., “Why do think he felt that way?” in line 6) than
display questions, which would require simple one-word responses that could be
evaluated as correct or incorrect (e.g., IRE, see Cazden, 1988; Christie, 2005;
Walsh, 2011). In addition, students had the opportunity to hold the floor while
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
65
they formulated their thoughts through their use of language, as demonstrated
in line 7. Last, students took up different roles in the discussion, including roles
typically reserved for teachers, as evidenced in lines 2 and 4 when other students provided Nadra with corrective feedback regarding her pronunciation of
“bummed out.”
Unlike behavioral or psycholinguistic approaches to teaching language, SFL
pedagogy very deliberately and explicitly targets key meaning-making features
in disciplinary texts. As Moore and Schleppegrell’s analysis makes clear, an SFL
approach to teaching and learning is distinct because it enables teachers and students to notice and name the key linguistic features of a text in principled ways,
so students can progress from literal, to inferential, and then critical interpretations of assigned readings as well as provide textual evidence to support their
claims. In regard to the field, teachers might support students in classifying different kinds of verbs, or what SFL scholars call processes. In regard to tenor, teachers might support students in analyzing how authors use “attitudinal” resources
to construct characters in literature (Moore & Schleppegrell, 2014, p. 97). As
Moore and Schleppegrell’s study illustrates, these meaning-making resources can
be concretely taught to beginning language learners to support them in unlocking
meaning when reading and writing subject-specific texts regardless of their proficiency level, age, and previous schooling experiences. In the words of Moore and
Schleppegrell (2014), students who participated in the study were not just learning grammatical labels such as noun and verb, they were “learning to use [SFL’s]
grammatical metalanguage to make meaning in discussions about texts, engaging
with the language of the author in interaction with each other” (p. 103).
Summary and Critique of Different Perspectives
of Grammar and Approaches to Language
Teaching and Learning in Schools
This chapter opened with the voices of pre-service teachers who described very
different understandings of what grammar is based on their own schooling experiences and how useful grammar instruction might be in their future work as
educators. These teachers tended to adopt more behavioral and psycholinguistic
conceptions of grammar. This chapter provided an explanation and critique of
these conceptions of grammar, as well as an introduction to a social semiotic
perspective rooted in Halliday’s theory of SFL. The three perspectives are summarized in Table 3.5.
As noted in Table 3.5, in the extreme, a behavioral perspective maintains that
language is a form of observable behavior and that verbal and written behaviors
are learned through drill and practice of correct linguistic forms. Within this
paradigm, the role of the classroom teacher tends to be oriented toward providing rewards in the form of praise and grades in response to students’ language
production as a way of conditioning the “proper” use of a single, standardized,
Valorizes disciplinary uses of language and may devalue home and
community ways of using language, leading to the reproduction
of dominant ways of knowing, being, and doing (note: learning to
read, write, and speak in disciplinary ways will not by itself address
persistent problems associated with racism, sexism, and classism)
Can be technically and theoretically demanding for teachers; some
say it is not a realistic approach to improving the disciplinary literacy
practices of ELLs, especially in policy contexts that do not support
robust forms of teacher education and professional development
Indirect corrective feedback instead of
overt focus on errors
• Errors are clues into a learner’s
developing linguistic competence,
which will naturally occur
• Does not adequately account for
the differences between natural
development of everyday language in
early childhood and active learning of
specialized disciplinary literacy practices
in school as learners grow older
• Does not adequately account for social,
cultural, and political dimensions of
literacy development in schools
•
•
Critiques
Representative •
approaches
to language
variation
Teachers correct errors overtly
and use a variety of token
systems to reward the use of
“correct” grammatical forms
(e.g., praise, grades)
• Does not account for learners’
innate mental capacity to learn
languages or comprehend and
produce novel utterances
• Does not attend to social,
cultural, and political forces
shaping language and literacy
development in schools
•
•
Conception
• Language is a form of verbal
• Grammatical competence unfolds
of language
behavior
naturally following rules governing of
and learning • Grammatical patterns are learned
all human languages
through drill and practice
Representative • Practicing “correct” language
• Communicative activities to generate
pedagogical
patterns, often in a progression
linguistic input and output (e.g.,
practices
that proceeds from part to whole
playing games, singing songs, reading/
(e.g., sounds, words, sentence
writing for pleasure, discussing topics
structures, text structures)
of high interest)
Representative • IRE discourse patterns
• More “natural” or everyday discourse
classroom
(initiation-response-evaluation)
patterns (e.g., open-ended questions,
discourse
focused on formal correctness
students hold the floor for extended
practices
(e.g., display questions)
turns and take up a variety of roles)
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Learners’ development of new ways of knowing, being, and doing
with language and other semiotic systems within expanding cultural
contexts (e.g., home, school, and work)
Language is a functional meaning-making system
Grammatical systems expand systematically and functionally to
reflect and construct knowledge, and the cultural contexts in which
language and knowledge simultaneously develop over time
Challenging tasks that require students to read, write, and discuss
texts in discipline-specific ways
Teachers model and jointly complete demanding tasks with students,
guiding them to notice how language works to construct disciplinary
ideas, to enact voice, and to manage the flow of information
Discussion about an author’s language choices as being part of a
system of available choices
Discussion about how language users, including students, make
specific kinds of meaning-making choices when communicating
with specific audiences for specific purposes
Explicit attention to grammar issues from the perspective of the
social, cultural, and political contexts in which language is used
Use of metalanguage to support students in analyzing the merits of
specific linguistic choices in a given context
Focus
•
•
• Learners’ observable linguistic
behavior
Social Semiotic Paradigm (Halliday, Hasan, Vygotsky, Fairclough)
Learners’ innate cognitive capacity to
process languages
Psycholinguistic Paradigm (Chomsky, Krashen)
Behavioral Paradigm (Skinner)
TABLE 3.5 Conceptions of Grammar in the Teaching and Learning of Language and Literacy in Schools
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
67
nationalized language. As discussed in this chapter, there are shortcomings to
this approach. First, it does not account for the innate capacity humans have for
acquiring languages. Second, it does not account for the wide varieties of languages students and teachers use in and out of school as they negotiate boundaries
between the communities to which they belong or wish to belong. And third, it
does not address important sociocultural factors that influence students’ access to
and institutional support for learning to read and write challenging subject matter
in school.
In response to the limitations of a strictly behavioral approach, more psycholinguistically oriented researchers argue that language is an innate form of
cognitive processing and that grammatical competence will unfold naturally following rules governing all human languages (Chomsky, 1965). Teachers who
align themselves with this perspective tend to design communicative activities to
support students in engaging in more interactive practices. While an improvement over “drill and kill” approaches to teaching and learning, this perspective
has also been heavily critiqued (e.g., Delpit, 1988). Critics maintain that psycholinguistic perspectives do not account for the differences between the innate
development of everyday languages in early childhood and the active and deliberate learning of subject-specific literacies in school as learners grow older and
rely on other kinds of cognition, such as prior knowledge, memory, pattern
recognition, the ability to abstract, and metalinguistic knowledge. In addition,
this perspective does not adequately consider the influence of political forces that
shape learners’ literacy development in schools as institutions. As later chapters
will discuss, schools tend to provide students with differential access to and supports for learning how to read, write, and critique subject matter texts based
on tracking systems that break down along race and class lines. Moreover, in
practice, a psycholinguistic perspective does not require teachers to have a highly
explicit understanding of language or language pedagogy. Rather, it tends to
privilege teachers who are perceived as “native speakers,” rather than teachers
who have pedagogical knowledge and experience living and working through
multiple languages. In other words, a purely psycholinguistic perspective of language and learning can collude with de-professionalizing policies that suggest “if
you can speak it, you can teach it.”
In response to the limitations of psycholinguistics, educational linguists working with Michael Halliday at the University of Sydney in the 1980s began developing a systematic and functional approach to teaching disciplinary language in
schools, hence the name: systemic functional linguistics. This socially and culturally rooted perspective suggests that languages and other semiotic systems,
such as images, graphics, and equations, are functional meaning-making systems
that develop over time in learners’ homes, in their communities, at school, and
at work to construct and reflect context-specific ways of knowing, being, and
doing. From an SFL perspective, the job of the teacher is not to attempt to
replace students’ valuable home and community ways of using language, but to
68
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
expand students’ grammatical resources so they can read, write, and critically
discuss the kinds of texts they will encounter in learning and using mathematics,
science, history, and language arts in and out of school. As illustrated in Moore
and Schleppegrell’s (2014) study, and as will be discussed in greater detail in later
chapters, teachers can design linguistically and cognitively challenging tasks to
apprentice students, including young bilinguals, to reading, writing, and critically
discussing grade-level texts in discipline-specific ways.
However, SFL approaches to teaching disciplinary literacies have also been
critiqued on a number of grounds. First, some scholars see SFL pedagogy as
valorizing academic discourse in ways that maintain racist ideologies regarding
linguistic diversity in schools (e.g., Flores & Rosa, 2015). As a result, some view
SFL-based instruction as serving a more reproductive as opposed to emancipatory agenda, especially given that learning to read and write in discipline-specific
ways will not eliminate persistent race, class, and gendered biases at work, in
schools, and in society (e.g., Luke, 1996). Other critics claim this approach is
too theoretical and technical for teachers and therefore not a realistic approach
to teacher education (e.g., Ferris, 2011). Given that the U.S. educational system
has historically demonstrated weak commitments to teacher professional development and sporadic commitments to racial, class, and gender equity, these critiques have merit. Moreover, they take on extra meaning when teachers work
in school districts that demand they follow scripted curricula and do not allow
them to design their own materials responsive to the needs of their students and
community. Nonetheless, as will be presented in subsequent chapters, a growing
body of research conducted in different grade levels and content areas suggests
that SFL-based pedagogies can support teachers in addressing persistent inequities, even when they work in schools that give them very little room to maneuver
(e.g., Gebhard & Harman, 2011).
Praxis
Collecting and Analyzing Transcripts of Classroom Interactions
As the data illustrated in this chapter reveal, classroom interactions reflect different
perspectives regarding how teachers approach their work with language learners.
To explore the topics presented in this chapter in greater detail, make arrangements
to audio record and transcribe classroom interactions involving students who have
been identified as ELLs. These students can be in a bilingual, ESL, or content-based
classroom. The purpose of this task is to support you in noticing how tacit theories
of language and learning shape classroom interactions between teachers and students in ways that are consequential for students’ literacy development. This kind of
noticing is called analyzing classroom discourse, or how turns at talk in classrooms
work to construct ideas and experiences, social identities and power dynamics, and
manage the flow of communication (e.g., Christie, 2005).
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
69
Keep the following tips in mind for collecting and preparing a transcript as
a group:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Producing an accurate transcript takes a surprising amount of time, revision,
and attention to detail. However, the time it takes yields many benefits in
regard to noticing the differences between oral and written language and
the degree to which teaching and learning is more complex than we might
otherwise think.
Given the demands of producing a high quality transcript, it is useful to have
different members of the group work on successive drafts, with each revision
adding greater detail and degrees of accuracy. This approach also gives each
member of the group a deeper appreciation of how complex language and
social interactions in classrooms are.
Having a good audio recording is crucial to this task. Most cell phones have
this capability, but ambient noise can be a problem. Therefore, think about
where you can place the recording device so that it is out of the way, but also
will pick up students’ voices.
For the purpose of professional development, it is not necessary to transcribe an entire class. Therefore, in deciding what to transcribe, I suggest
focusing on a part of the class that is related to instruction as opposed
to other kinds of administrative tasks teachers and students perform (e.g.,
attendance, collecting papers, making announcements). Once you have
selected an instructional portion of the class, focus on transcribing a threeto five-minute segment that is related to the content goals of the class and
your topic of interest, and that includes interaction between teachers and
students, or students and students.
When transcribing and analyzing classroom talk, it is worth reiterating that
teaching and learning are very complex activities. This means a short transcript cannot be taken as indicative of a teacher’s approach to supporting his
or her students’ language and literacy development. Moreover, most teachers, depending on the purpose of a teaching event, use a combination of
behavioral, psycholinguistic, and sociocultural practices in productive ways.
Therefore, when transcribing and analyzing classroom talk, the goal is not
to label teachers as believing in one paradigm over another or to judge them
as being either good or bad teachers. Rather, the goal is for group members
to learn to identify how different perspectives regarding language and language development are manifest in classroom interactions and shape students’ learning opportunities.
Task Directions and Topics for Discussion
1.
2.
Review your group’s observational fieldnotes and accompanying audio file.
Select a short clip of audio data (e.g., three to five minutes in length).
70
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
3.
Transcribe this clip using the conventions shown in the transcripts presented
in this chapter. These conventions include:
a. Numbering each line.
b. Capturing exactly what participants say. In other words, do not edit
the language used by teachers and students to make it look and sound
more like written discourse as opposed to oral discourse. It is normal
for classroom talk to be full of false starts, repetitions, and incomplete
sentences.
c. If students mix or switch between languages, work with a multilingual
member of your group to transcribe this clip. In the event that no one
in your group speaks the languages of students, then consider finding a
colleague who can help you with this task. Also think of a way to compensate them for their contribution to your work. Either way, transcribe
exactly the language used in the interaction. You can supply translations
in parentheses (see Chapter Nine).
d. Capturing important aspects of non-verbal communication using notes
in brackets. This information functions like stage directions in the script
of a play.
e. Marking emphasis, volume, long pauses, and overlapping speech as follows:
•
•
•
•
4.
Bold to realize emphasis
CAPITALS to realize volume
Brackets around a number of seconds to indicate a pause and the
length of the pause (e.g., [3.5]). This convention helps you notice “wait
time” as well as other ways silence is used in class in meaningful ways.
Indenting to signal overlapping speech. This is helpful to capture
how students and teacher negotiate who has the floor and the right
to speak about what and when (e.g., on-task interruptions, off-task
interruptions, side conversations happening at the same time).
Once you have a quality transcript, review it as a group.
a. Make any comments regarding what you expected, what you noticed,
and what was surprising or unexpected about this interaction (e.g., how
much teachers talk compared to students, who participates, and who
does not).
b. Analyze the transcript using the concepts presented in this chapter:
•
•
What kinds of interactional patterns are evident (e.g., IRE, use of
display questions regarding language forms or content knowledge,
use of open-ended questions to invite discussion, providing students
with indirect feedback in the form of a recast, discussions of linguistic
choices readers and writers make to achieve a specific purpose when
communicating with a specific audience about a disciplinary topic)?
What conceptions of language and literacy development are enacted
in your transcript (keeping in mind that it is just one short clip and
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
•
•
5.
6.
71
not necessarily representative of other ways that languages are used
in this class or school)? Behavioral, psycholinguistic, social semiotic?
Support your interpretations with evidence from the transcript by
describing key lines in the transcript that illustrate your point.
Make some preliminary inferences regarding what students might
be learning through their participation in classroom activities (e.g.,
formal aspects of language, an ability to take turns in a discussion, an
ability to focus on how language works in a specific way to make
meaning). Again, it is important to underscore that claims regarding student learning cannot be made based on such minimal data.
Rather, the purpose of this task is to practice connecting theoretical concepts with classroom observations to support your ability to
reflect on classroom practices in informed ways.
Based on your group’s data collection and analysis, begin to make a list of
action items to inform your future work as teachers (e.g., assigning more
authentic grade-level reading and writing tasks, drawing students’ attention
to how language works in specific ways to make meaning in your content
area, supporting students in participating in classroom discussions, supporting
students in giving linguistic evidence for their inferences and interpretations).
Be as concrete as you can to support translating conceptual ideas into practice.
Use Table 3.A to support you in analyzing classroom discourse practices.
Feel free to expand this table to capture topics of interest that emerge.
TABLE 3.A Analyzing Classroom Discourse Practices
ANALYZING CLASSROOM DISCOURSE PRACTICES
Topic
Line(s) in
Connections to Implications for
the transcript key concepts in teaching and
this chapter
learning disciplinary
literacies in schools
What language, languages, or
varieties of language are used
in class? Do teachers and students
shift between languages and
varieties of language in
classroom discussions?
Amount of talk: Who talks, how
much, and what is the function
of their talk? Who is silent? How
does silence function?
Control over interactions: How do
students get the floor to participate?
How do classroom practices
support equitable participation?
(Continued)
TABLE 3.A (Continued)
ANALYZING CLASSROOM DISCOURSE PRACTICES
Topic
Control over the content: How
are new topics introduced?
Who controls what topics are
introduced into the discussion
and if these topics get taken up?
What are the functions of
teacher and student talk?
Is an IRE discourse pattern
prevalent (Initiation-ResponseEvaluation)? Does the teacher
use “wait time” to give students
a chance to participate? Does the
teacher use more open-ended
or closed “yes/no” questions?
Do teachers and students expand
on each other’s contributions to
construct meaning?
Support for disciplinary literacy
development: How do the
teacher and students use language(s)
and other meaning-making systems
to construct disciplinary concepts
(e.g., code switching, use of
objects, images, and graphics)?
Support for the expansion of
student identities: How do
the teacher and students use
language(s) and other meaning
making systems to expand the
range of identities students’
construct in school?
What perspectives of grammar
and literacy development are
constructed in this interaction
(e.g., Skinner, Chomsky,
Halliday)?
Other topics of interest related
to race, class, and gender
construction
Other topics related to your
discipline and career trajectory
Line(s) in
Connections to Implications for
the transcript key concepts in teaching and
this chapter
learning disciplinary
literacies in schools
Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday
73
Notes
1 James Gee (2008) defines a discourse as ways of talking, listening, reading, writing, acting, believing, valuing, and using tools and objects in particular settings at specific times,
so as to display or recognize a particular social identity. He maintains that a discourse
creates social positions or perspectives from which people speak, listen, act, read, and
write, think, feel, and believe.
2 Syntax refers to word order. Morphology refers to the system of meaningful parts of
words such as prefixes (e.g., anti-, de-, re-, un-) and suffixes (-ly, -ed, -ish, -ism).
3 Some readers may find it more useful to read a practice-oriented chapter first and then
return to this more theoretical one. My suggestion is to pick either a theoretical or practical entry point and re-read chapters with different goals to develop both conceptual
and pedagogical insights.
4 In SFL terms, these linguistic resources are part of a language’s appraisal system (see
Martin & White, 2005).
5 Reprinted from Using a functional linguistics metalanguage to support academic language development in the English Language Arts. J. P. Moore & M. J. Schleppegrell, 2014, Linguistics
and Education, 26, 92–105. Reprinted with permission.
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4
GENRES, REGISTERS, AND THE
TEACHING AND LEARNING CYCLE
1. Hi Meg,
My name is Kara Simon. It was nice to meet you at the orientation last evening.
I had emailed you towards the end of last semester about enrolling in Education
684. I am a STEP English student and am very interested in enrolling in this
course, my Spire ID # is 12345678. Thank you and I look forward to hearing
from you.
Kara Simon
2. Dear Professor Gebhard,
I am a 2006 UMass Amherst alum with a BA in English and have just been accepted
as a Non-Degree graduate student. I am very interested in enrolling in Education
684 - Reading, Writing, Language & Thinking. Is this at all possible? (I am planning to apply to the School of Education this fall to begin full-time work toward
the M.A.) I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you further and could
perhaps attend the first class to see if enrolling would be an option. Thank you for
your consideration. I hope to hear from you soon!
Best regards,
Barbara O’Shea
3. Dear Meg,
I am a second year masters student in LLC, and I am interested in teaching English
as a foreign language in my own country. I would like very much to enroll in
EDUC 684, as I am very interested in learning more about this subject. Please let
me know if this is possible.
Sincerely
Huifang Liu
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 77
4. Dear Professor,
I am a second year UTS student in the STEP English program. I am very interested in your required EDUC 684 course and I am wondering if I might be able
to register despite the fact that SPIRE states that the course is full. I look forward
to hearing from you.
Sincerely
Isabel Johnson
5. Hello Professor, My name is Yu Yan. I am wanna register for 684 bc I gotta have
it for graduation. Could you please let me in the class? Yu Yan Zhou
6. Dear Dr. Gebhard,
My name is Ellen Haas, and I am trying to enroll in ED 684 for the fall, and SPIRE
is telling me I need special permission from the teacher (you) in order to enroll. I
am in the STEP program, so I don’t think there should be any restrictions on my
enrollment. Could you let me know what to do in order to enroll in this class??
Thank you very much.
Take care!
Ellen
The above emails were sent to me a number of years ago by graduate students
wishing to enroll in a course designed to introduce them to SFL, genre theory,
and an SFL approach to designing curriculum. These graduate students represent
different ages, genders, and linguistic, racial, ethnic, cultural, and national backgrounds. As an SFL researcher and teacher educator, I began collecting these
emails because I was struck by the variation in the linguistic choices graduate students make in constructing these seemingly simple requests. For example, some
have the genre elements of a business letter and others are more like text messages. Some provide lots of institutional details and are more formal, while others
give few specifics and use a more informal and direct tone.
Given this variation, when I first started incorporating SFL into my teacher
education courses, I decided to use a set of approximately 10 emails (with pseudonyms) to introduce pre- and in-service teachers to SFL concepts and teaching
practices by guiding them in analyzing the genre, field, tenor, and mode features
of these short texts. My purpose was to have them intuitively discover how
language choices simultaneously construct ideas (field), enact self-other dynamics (tenor), and manage the flow of discourse (mode) in ways that can have
intended and unintended consequences within the complex institutional context
of a college campus. In addition, I was interested in guiding teachers in using
these insights to outline how they might use SFL tools to design curriculum,
instruction, and assessments to support newcomers to the university in making
more strategic linguistic choices to achieve their purposes in communicating with
78
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle
faculty. Teachers, even those with no background in linguistics and without having read any SFL scholarship, typically find analyzing these emails to be an engaging and eye-opening experience because it allows them to reflect on how they
interact with others through this mode of communication. More importantly, a
discussion of these emails provides them with insight into challenges students at
all levels of schooling encounter when they enter a new cultural context, such
as a university, school, or classroom, where they are expected to use language in
new ways, with new people, to accomplish new kinds of potentially high-stakes
tasks. Therefore, using these sample emails, the purpose of this chapter is to
explore the following questions:
•
•
•
•
How are text/context dynamics implicated in the ways texts are produced
and interpreted in institutional contexts, especially schools?
What are some of the main genres students are required to read, write, and
discuss in school? Are there predictable, identifiable, and teachable ways
these genres are typically organized?
How do field, tenor, and mode resources work together to construct meaning in different genres? Are there predictable, identifiable, and teachable ways
field, tenor, and mode resources are configured to construct meaning in the
genres students are routinely asked to read, write, and discuss in school?
How can teachers use an explicit knowledge of genre types and field, tenor,
and mode resources to design, implement, and critically reflect on their students’ literacy practices?
To explore these questions, this chapter supports readers in delving deeper
into Halliday’s theory of language, a Vygotskian perspective of development,
and a Freirean approach to action research to support ELLs’ disciplinary literacy practices and their teachers’ professional development. This chapter begins
with an SFL analysis of the above emails and a brief outline of a curricular
unit developed by teachers in one of my courses using SFL concepts and an
SFL-based approach to literacy instruction. This approach, called the teaching
and learning cycle (TLC), was first developed by linguists and teacher educators in Australia and has been shown to improve the literacy gains of students
(e.g., Derewianka & Jones, 2016). Next, this chapter describes how literacy
researchers and teacher educators in the United States have used the TLC to
support the disciplinary literacy practices of K-12 students, especially ELLs.
Based on a brief review of three teacher education programs in the United
States informed by SFL, I present an expanded TLC that attempts to address
current problems in U.S. education by adding additional stages that focus on
planning culturally responsive and standards-based curricular units; critically
reflecting on student learning and equity issues through data collection and
analysis; and sharing the findings from critical reflections with a wider audience of teachers, administrators, literacy researchers, and policymakers. This
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 79
chapter concludes with a praxis section that guides readers in planning a curricular unit using this expanded TLC.
Text/Context Dynamics: Analyzing Email Requests
Sent to a Professor
When I ask pre- and in-service teachers in my master’s level courses to review
the emails that open this chapter, many of them describe the discomfort they
feel when they have to send an email to a professor—especially if it is someone
they do not know and the communication is about something important. They
express uncertainty about how to hit the right tone given the social distance
and status differences that typically exist between students and faculty (i.e., tenor
choices), what information to include (i.e., field choices), and how to manage the
flow of information to get to the point quickly (i.e., mode choices).
To make these choices, some teachers, especially experienced or older ones,
describe drawing on their prior knowledge of the genre of a business letter to
get started. For example, the writer of Email 2 uses a greeting (“Dear Professor
Gebhard”) and closing (“Best regards”), as well as line spacing that is typical of a
business letter to establish a more formal tone. In contrast, younger, pre-service
teachers who have more knowledge of the university’s acronyms draw on this
insider information to make their requests more detailed and potentially more
persuasive. For example, the writer of Email 4 was able to pack a lot of institutional knowledge into one single, very long noun group to identify herself as “a
second year UTS student in the STEP English program” as she made a request to
register for an over-enrolled class.
Teachers also talk about not knowing how formal or informal to be given that
graduate students, especially in my department, and in the United States more
generally, tend to call professors by their first names. Those from international
backgrounds often describe not liking this level of familiarity because they prefer
to maintain more traditional understandings of the roles and responsibilities of
students and faculty. For example, to construct their identities in relation to mine,
the authors of the sample emails use different forms of address in composing their
emails:
←Dear Dr. Gebhard—Dear Professor Gebhard—Hello Professor—Dear
Meg—Hi Meg→
These forms of address can be understood along a cline, or scale. At one end,
tenor choices construct greater social distance through the use of institutional
status markers. On the other end, the decision to use my first name flattens out
hierarchical structures and creates familiarity.
Teachers in my courses often stress the necessity of getting the tone or
tenor right because of problems they have encountered in registering for
80
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle
required courses and planning their schedules. They note that the authors of
these emails seem to be trying to strike the right balance between deference
and assertiveness. For example, the writer of Email 4 uses highly attitudinal
language (e.g., “I am very interested”) and a deferential modal verb (e.g.,
“might be able to register”), and phrases her request using a statement, not a
question or command. In discussing these different choices, teachers note that
requests are not always constructed grammatically in the form of a question
(e.g., “Could you please let me in the class?”), but are sometimes realized in
the form of a statement (e.g., “I am very interested in enrolling,” as in Emails 1
and 2), perhaps as a way to frame the request as a statement of fact that is less
open to negotiation.
Interestingly, teachers also notice other kinds of linguistic choices writers
make to construct a sense of urgency without using an offensive command, such
as Register me for this required class now! For example, they note how the writer of
Email 6 coupled field and tenor resources to express irritation with the process of
registering for a required course using an online system called Spire. In analyzing
this email, teachers comment on how the writer made field choices that construct
the computer system as having more agency and control over registration than
students and faculty (e.g., “SPIRE is telling me I need special permission from
the teacher (you) in order to enroll”). They also highlight tenor choices such as
the use of a double question mark (??) to express irritation.
This email invariably inspires teachers in my courses to talk about the problems
they have encountered in getting into required courses and the steep increase in
tuition costs, even at a state university (for example, UMass has increased tuition
for state residents by 27% from 2011 to 2017—an increase that has caused many
students to take out more loans and some not to finish). When the topic of
money comes up, teachers tend to reference discourses of consumerism, which
construct students as clients, faculty as service providers, and the university as
selling a product in the form of a degree or teaching license. These more marketdriven constructions of the purposes of higher education are at odds with how
many have been socialized to view the mission of public education and the institutional identities of students and faculty. For example, some find Email 5 objectionable, remarking that not only are the field and tenor choices highly informal,
but that the author’s language use also signals a pure compliance orientation to
education (e.g., “I am wanna register for 684 bc I gotta have it for graduation”).
Others find Email 5 funny. In response, one teacher reported that as she increasingly used forms of communication that blend oral and written linguistic choices
(mode), such as text messaging and Instagram, she began to pay less attention to
issues of formality and audience. Jokingly, she remarked, “Everyone is my friend,
and the world is my audience!”
When I explain that Email 5 was written by a young international student
who had never been to the United States and had never before enrolled in a
graduate course, some students begin to view his linguistic choices from a very
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 81
different angle. For example, some remark that he probably did not understand
the degree to which wanna and gotta are highly informal. Moreover, given his
newcomer status, he probably had not yet developed the field resources needed
to define the nature of his request using the alphabet soup of program acronyms
proliferated on college campuses (e.g., UTS, LLC, STEP).
I also share that when I attended graduate school in the late 1980s, email was
just beginning to be used as a means of communication among students and
faculty. At that time, I had never had to produce a text like this, let alone do so
in a second language. Rather, back in the day, advising and registration were
conducted in face-to-face interactions, and in interactions supported by printed
documents such as a list of program requirements, a course catalogue, and a
course schedule. I suggest that face-to-face interaction, particularly in contrast
to quickly drafted email exchanges, affords faculty members the opportunity to
take the lead in advising sessions, providing guidance to new students who will
later be able to manage institutional tasks more independently. It also allows faculty and students to get to know one another and design a program of study that
is more suited to students’ evolving interests and professional goals, especially at
the graduate level.
In sum, discussing these emails with teachers in my courses provides insights
into the complexities of text/context dynamics, as illustrated in Figure 4.1.
These insights grow as teachers complete course assignments, conduct fieldwork
FIGURE 4.1
Text/context dynamics in schools (focus on genre and register)
82
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle
in schools, and complete their student teaching experiences—all of which
require that they translate social semiotic theories regarding language and learning into curriculum, instruction, and assessments as described in Chapter Three.
Pre- and in-service teachers who have made an investment in learning to use
SFL in these ways describe the work as initially very challenging because it asks
them to unlearn a lot of what they think language is and what “good” teaching
and learning looks like based on their previous experiences as students. Nevertheless, many describe how learning to analyze students’ textual practices using
SFL tools enables them to think much more deeply and concretely about how
they can design instructional materials that attend not only to the development
of content knowledge, but also disciplinary language from a much more inclusive perspective. In addition, they demonstrate an expanding awareness that
language not only reflects the context in which it is used, but also constructs of
the context itself. For instance, teachers are typically able to make connections
between the linguistic choices the writers of these emails made and the broader
cultural, institutional, economic, and political contexts in which these texts are
situated and interpreted. That is, they are able to identify linguistic choices that
signal, for example, the negative impact of new technologies, the rising costs of
college tuition, and ideological shifts regarding the purposes of higher education. In addition, they are able to analyze a specific email that broke with their
cultural expectations regarding what constitutes an appropriate way of communicating with a professor.
While most agree that the linguistic choices “wanna” and “gotta” in Email 5
are not strategic, teachers who initially make snap judgments about writers based
on their language use are able to move past these judgments. In addition, many
of the teachers in my courses have had the experience of trying to use a new
language in crossing linguistic and cultural boundaries. These border crossers are
often people who are themselves first-generation college students, users of nondominant varieties of English, people who have lived in non-English speaking
countries for an extended period, or international students new to the United
States (for a discussion of border crossing see Giroux, 1992). Drawing on their
lived experiences as insiders and outsiders, many of these teachers are able to
speculate on why a young man from China might make specific linguistic choices
precisely because he lacks an understanding of the cultural context he is entering
and a knowledge of the range of linguistic choices available to him in communicating within this specific context.
SFL, Genres, and Registers
The point of this chapter is to illustrate how looking closely at texts can
heighten teachers’ awareness of text/context dynamics to support their work
with ELLs in K-12 classrooms. In addition to conducting a field, tenor, and
mode analysis based on the genre of email requests, as presented above, pre- and
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 83
in-service teachers in my courses are typically able to intuit a set of genre stages
that are likely to be functional for the purpose of writing an effective email
request to a professor. Genre stages refer to the way a speaker or writer
approaches organizing or “staging” an extended text to accomplish a particular goal, such as making a request (Martin & Rose, 2008, p. 6). The specific
genre stages teachers tend to identify in analyzing these emails are: a greeting,
a statement of one’s institutional identity, a statement of a problem or issue
motivating the request, the request itself, a closing, and a signature. While the
term genre is often associated with literary studies, SFL scholar Suzanne Eggins
notes that in the context of teaching and learning, this term captures “how
things get done, when language is used to accomplish them” in different social
contexts (2004, p. 55).
As Figure 4.1 illustrates, “things get done” in social contexts, which Halliday
and Hasan (1985) suggest can productively be examined at two levels: context of
culture and context of situation. Context of culture describes the expanding range
of all genres and genre relations operating within a particular context. For example, the cultural context of a teacher education program is constructed through
a range of genres that include research articles, case studies of different learners, field notes from classroom observations, lesson plans, curricular unit plans,
reflections on student learning, district curriculum guides, state standards, highstakes exams, and state and federal policy statements. These genres construct
professional knowledge and practices in the interdisciplinary field of education.
These genres are not enacted through the use of strict templates that exist in a
concrete and fixed way, but function much more like ideological frameworks
that become internalized as a result of how we are socialized to use language
and other meaning-making systems as we are apprenticed into the profession of
teaching.
Registers, on the other hand, are much more concrete. As will be discussed in
greater detail in Chapter Five, registers are the specific configurations of field,
tenor, and mode choices people make in producing an individual text and what
they interpret when they hear sounds, or see lines on a page, images, and graphics. Drawing on terminology from linguistic anthropology, Halliday refers to this
aspect of text/context dynamics as the context of situation. Halliday and Hasan
(1985) write that every text is:
an instance of social meaning in a particular context of situation. It is a product
of its environment, a product of a continuous process of choices in meaning that we can represent as paths or passes through the networks that
constitute the linguistic system. (p. 11, emphasis added)
This “linguistic system” includes ways of pronouncing or graphically rendering sounds and images (e.g., would very much like to, want to, wanna), selecting particular words (e.g., enroll, STEP English, SPIRE), grouping and ordering words
I am a second year UTS
student in the STEP
English program
I am very interested in your
required EDUC 684
course and I am wondering
if I might be able to register
despite the fact that SPIRE
states that the course is full.
I look forward to hearing from
you
Statement of
institutional
identity
Statement of
request
Sincerely
Isabel Johnson
Dear Professor,
Greeting
Additional
information
to support
the request
Closing
Signature
SAMPLE
EMAIL
GENRE
STAGES
Verb choice signals the professor
should reply (look forward to
hearing)
Greeting choice avoids the
problem of knowing if
the instructor has earned a
doctorate, as well as issues of
gender and status associated with
Mr. or Ms. in academic contexts
Uses I
Uses a being verb am to describe
self in relation to the university
(a second year UTS student in
the STEP English program)
constructing a specific context
of situation
Uses long, packed noun groups
(e.g., your required EDUC 684
course) to communicate a lot of
information quickly
Field Choices
REGISTER FEATURES
TABLE 4.1 Genre and Register Analysis of an Email to a Professor
Starts with I to signal the
main topic
Repeats I to stay on topic
and build information
about the writer
Uses cohesive devices and
and despite to connect
ideas
Repeats I to stay on topic
and build information
about the writer
Uses declarative statements to
establish a set of facts
Uses language to express feelings (very
interested)
Uses the modal verb might to signal
possibility rather than make a more
direct request
Signals the genre of a
formal business letter
Signals the genre of a
formal business letter
Signals formality, social distance, and
status differential
Uses a declarative statement that
acts as a request; could imply an
expected affirmative response or
could be a polite way of closing
Choice of sign-off and use of full
name signals formality and social
distance
Mode Choices
Tenor Choices
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 85
syntactically (e.g., I am a second year UTS student in the STEP English program), and
structuring longer stretches of discourse to accomplish a particular social purpose
(e.g., organizing the stages in an email request).
To illustrate how genre stages and register variables are realized in a specific
text, Table 4.1 provides an analysis of Email 4. The genre stages are listed in
the left-hand column. These stages were identified by a group of teachers in
one of my courses after a discussion of the commonalities and differences they
noticed across ten emails. I asked these teachers to determine which stages they
thought were functional, and therefore required for the text to function as a
request (as opposed to some other purpose), and which stages they thought were
more optional. In addition, I asked them to approach this task as if they were
going to use their analyses to design a workshop for newcomers to the university, especially international students, on effective ways of communicating with
faculty through email.
Translating SFL Theory into Classroom Practice
After teachers conduct this analysis, I introduce them to the teaching and learning
cycle (TLC), originally a five-staged approach to literacy instruction developed in
the 1980s by SFL scholars, teacher educators, and classroom practitioners working
in disadvantaged schools in Australia (e.g., Derewianka & Jones, 2016; Rose &
Martin, 2012). These stages include:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Building background knowledge of the field
Supporting students in reading authentic texts
Deconstructing a target text collaboratively with teacher guidance
Jointly constructing a text to support students’ writing development with
teacher guidance
Requiring students to produce a text more independently.
The purpose of introducing teachers to this cycle in conjunction with an
analysis of these emails is to demonstrate how SFL theory can be translated into
classroom practice relatively quickly and effectively. For example, after just one
course meeting, pre- and in-service teachers suggested the following practices to
faculty related to teaching the genre of email requests based on their emerging
understanding of SFL and the TLC:
Stage One: Build students’ background knowledge of the field as it relates to their
program of study by asking them to introduce themselves using their new
institutional identity as well as other identities they care to share using
different languages or varieties of language (e.g., First year STEP student
in the 180 Days Pathway, former journalist, mother, photographer, chemistry
teacher, hiker, Puerto Rican).
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Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle
Stage Two: Support students in reading program descriptions, licensure requirements, and graduation requirements to develop a deeper understanding
of the institutional context they are entering. In this activity, students
read selected handouts, highlighting key words and phrases, and ask questions as they come up. In addition, students break into pairs and draft an
outline of their program of study based on an initial pass through these
documents.
Stage Three: Deconstruct the genre and register features of several model emails
to make institutional knowledge, genre knowledge, and the pros and cons
of different word choices highly visible and open to public reflection and
debate. Text deconstruction activities can be simultaneously instructive,
humorous, and critical as students notice and discuss the potential meanings of different ways of organizing information, using specific phrases, or
deciding on particular wording (e.g., wanna, gotta).
Stage Four: Jointly construct a sample email together as a whole group to further hone genre knowledge and discuss language choices. For example,
students can select a language other than English if the student and faculty
member share a language. They can play with different ways of addressing and signing off to try creating more or less social distance depending
on their familiarity with the receiver of the email. And they can discuss
personal and cultural preferences regarding how they choose to address
faculty and want faculty to address them (e.g., discussion of preferred
pronouns).
Stage Five: Have students independently construct an email to their advisor
requesting an appointment to review their program of study, professional goals, and opportunities on and off campus related to their interests
using their new knowledge of the institutional context in which they are
attending school and their new understanding of this genre and how linguistic choices construct ideas (field), their voice or identity (tenor), and
the flow of their email (mode).
SFL in Action: The Teaching and Learning
Cycle in K–12 Schools
In the context of K-12 schools, the genre of an email request is not as relevant to students’ academic trajectories, but being able to read, write, and critique other types of genres such as literary narratives, scientific explanations,
and mathematical arguments is central to students’ ability to manage the literacy
demands of schooling. From a sociocultural perspective of development, as discussed in Chapter Three, the TLC has a number of distinct features that make
it very different from a behaviorist “drill and practice” approach or a psycholinguistic “natural” approach. For example, the TLC actively draws on students’
background knowledge and language practices, provides high quality models,
engages students in collaborative reading and writing tasks, and actively guides
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 87
students in making disciplinary knowledge and literacy know-how highly visible
and open to critical reflection.
As described in the teachers’ suggestions for teaching the genre of email, during Stage One of the TLC, building knowledge of the field, teachers actively draw on
students’ everyday knowledge of a topic, and in doing so, engage students’ everyday ways of using language. Stage Two focuses on supporting students in reading to
build content knowledge and further guides students in learning about a specific
topic. During Stage Three, teachers collaboratively work with the whole class to
deconstruct model texts as a way of concretely analyzing how expert writers organize information using genre stages and how they make specific linguistic choices
within sentences and clauses to construct disciplinary ideas (field choices), construct their identities as writers (tenor choices), and manage the flow of information coherently and cohesively (mode choices). During Stage Four, the focus of
instruction shifts from close reading activities to the craft of writing. During this
stage, teachers guide the whole class in jointly constructing a text with student input
using newly learned subject matter, genre, and register knowledge. And last, during Stage Five, the independent construction stage, students draw on the knowledge
they have co-constructed in class to produce more expert subject-specific texts
on their own or with less support from their teachers, peers, and family.
In teaching disciplinary literacy practices following this method, it is important
to note that effective teaching also involves carefully managing how all students
go about completing demanding academic work. For example, using the TLC,
teachers do not typically organize their classes around ability groups. Rather,
teachers assign the same challenging work to all students and differentiate the
nature and amount of support they provide students to ensure all students are
actively apprenticed to disciplinary ways of reading, writing, and talking about
meaningful work. This kind of scaffolding also mitigates classroom motivation
problems that ensue when students get bored and off-task because assignments
are too easy, or get frustrated and off-task because assignments are too hard (e.g.,
Spaulding, 1995). In addition, these pedagogical practices can support teachers in
constructing all students as having something valuable to contribute to knowledgebuilding in the classroom while affirming students’ identities as capable learners
(Nieto & Bode, 2018).
In other words, the TLC is a way to support all students regardless of their
race, class, gender, or language proficiencies, in working within a zone of proximal
development (ZPD). This zone is defined as the distance between what a learner is
able to do unassisted and what they are capable of accomplishing with guidance
from more expert peers and teachers in school and from siblings, family members, and other adults in their community outside of school (Vygotsky, 1978).
In Vygotskian terms, this level of social and linguistic support enables teachers to
build on students’ everyday or “spontaneous” ways of knowing to develop more
“schooled” or “scientific” ways of talking, reading, and writing about subject
matter knowledge in their home language and additional languages (Vygotsky,
88
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle
1986, p. 148; in regard to ELLs’ classroom literacy development, see Lantolf &
Thorne, 2006; Walqui, 2006; Walqui & van Lier, 2010).
The Teaching and Learning Cycle and Martin’s Genre Theory
A key problem in schools is that designing effective literacy scaffolds can be difficult when teachers do not have an explicit knowledge of how language and other
meaning-making systems work to construct discipline-specific meanings in the
genres they routinely require students to read and write in their class. This problem was highlighted in Chapter Two, which described how a journalism teacher
named Mr. Banks worked hard to support Celine, a former ELL and student of
color, in writing an editorial about the topic of institutional racism in her school.
Ultimately, he was not able to provide her with the kind of linguistic scaffolding
she needed to publish her editorial for a wider audience.
In the 1980s, this problem led to a highly productive collaboration between
SFL scholars and teachers working in disadvantaged schools in Sydney, Australia.
Led by Jim Martin, a student of Halliday’s, this group worked to create a classification system of the genres students are regularly required to read, write, and discuss
in different disciplines as they advance in grades and the texts they encounter
become increasingly specialized (Rose & Martin, 2012). These high-frequency
genres include narratives, recounts, observations, explanations, and arguments.
Martin and his colleagues argue that, like all genres, these types of texts are “staged,
goal-oriented social processes [that draw on] recurrent configurations of meaning
and enact the social practices of a given culture” (Martin & Rose, 2008, p. 6).
Some register features typical of these school genres are shown in Table 4.2.
In regard to the culture of schooling and disciplinary literacy practices, Martin
and Rose (2008) note that as learners participate in expanding sociocultural contexts in and out of the classroom through their use of different genres, they are
apprenticed, or not, to systems of knowledge and to participating in specialized
cultural activities (e.g., community events, religious ceremonies, school-based
tasks, professional organizations, political networks, and the like). To participate
in these specialized activities, learners must expand their meaning-making repertoires as they advance in grades, enter college or the workforce, and participate
in their communities as adults. However, Martin and Rose, similar to Halliday,
maintain that as some students transition from home to elementary and then
secondary schools, their access to learning how to use disciplinary genres and
registers becomes more and more limited as schools offer a differentiated curriculum that tends to break down along race, class, gender, and language proficiency
lines (see Chapter Eight). Martin and Rose (2008) conclude that this kind of differentiation reproduces class structures and economic inequities, particularly for
students whose home language differs from the language of schooling. Therefore,
one of the goals of Martin’s genre theory in relation to the TLC is to provide
teachers with a research-based way of analyzing, naming, and teaching how the
Narratives
• Personal narratives
• Narrative poetry
• Ballads
• Fables, myths, &
folk tales
• Science fiction
• Fantasy
• Romance
• Horror
• Mystery
• Comic books &
graphic novels
• Films
Recounts
• Personal recounts
• Historical recounts
• Scientific recounts
• Procedural
recounts
Genre
To entertain and
engage others in an
interesting series of
events; tends to have
a message that is
sometimes stated, but
not always. Narratives
can be fictional or
non-fictional
To tell what happened
step-by-step in a
personal event, a
historical event, a
science experiment, or
an approach to solving
a math problem
Purpose in Different
Disciplines
Schleppegrell, 2004)
Orientation or
setting
• Series of complications
related to the
development of the
plot that leads to the
climax of the narrative
• Series of resolutions or
falling actions resulting
in the conclusion or
denouement
• Commentary on
the meaning or
the theme, but not
always explicitly
stated
•
Orientation that
introduces the topic
• Record of events
sequenced in time
• Commentary that
provides a reaction or
evaluation (optional)
•
Likely Genre Stages
Verbs and nouns related to the topic
Circumstances of time, manner, and place to support the
discipline-specific nature of the recount (e.g. first, second, last)
(Continued)
Doing verbs to construct actions that move the plot along
Sensing verbs to capture character’s internal world, thoughts, and
feelings
• Saying verbs to construct dialogue and character’s disposition and
emotions
• Specific proper nouns (e.g., Harry Potter, Hogwarts, 4 Privet Drive)
• Packed noun groups to describe and add detail (e.g., the long, sharp
blade dripping with blood)
• Attitudinal language to express feelings, judge character’s behavior,
and evaluate events
• Circumstances to construct time and place in the orientation (e.g.,
one day), support the arc of the narrative (e.g., suddenly, in the end,
even now), and add detail to sentences regarding when, where,
how, and for what purposes something happened
• Illustrations in children’s books, comics, and graphic novels
• Images and sound in films
•
•
•
•
Likely Register Features
TABLE 4.2 High Frequency Genres Used to Construct Disciplinary Knowledge in School (Derewianka & Jones, 2016; Rose & Martin, 2012;
Explanations
• Causal explanations
• Factorial
explanations
• Systems
explanations
Genre
TABLE 4.2 (Continued)
To explain how
things work and
why things happen
(e.g., explanation of
immigration patterns,
causes of global
warming, proving
a mathematical
statement)
Purpose in Different
Disciplines
•
•
•
Identification
of the topic or
phenomenon
Sequencing of cause,
factors, sequence of
events, or parts of a
system
Generalization
Likely Genre Stages
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Specialized verbs and nouns related to the topic
Being/relating verbs (e.g., is, has, appears, seems, consists of,
comprises, is defined as, symbolizes, represents, is called)
Packed nouns groups to describe and add detail (e.g., a single-celled
organism)
Abstract nouns (e.g., photosynthesis, identity construction)
Generalizable nouns or categories rather than proper names (e.g.
governments, green plants, Native American authors)
Repetition of key words, synonyms, and pronouns to build new
information but still stay on the main topic
Cohesive devices to clarify (e.g., for example, in other words, namely,
specifically)
Declarative sentences and modality to construct degrees of
possibility or certainty (e.g., may, could, should, must)
A more impersonal or detached voice to construct authority
Graphics (e.g., graphs, pie charts, flow diagrams, Venn diagrams,
classification system)
Likely Register Features
Arguments
• Political speeches
• Letters to the
editor
• Research papers
that take a position
on a scientific
debate
• Critical responses
to literature, film,
or artwork
• Critical responses
to a historical event
To persuade people to
do or think something
(e.g., arguing for
an interpretation of
theme in a novel,
arguing for or
against a particular
interpretation of
a historical event,
weighing evidence
regarding a scientific
discovery, using
statistics to make
an argument for or
against something)
•
•
•
•
•
Statement of the
issue that provides
background, states
a position, and
previews the main
argument points
Argument 1: Makes
point, provides
elaboration, including
sometimes a rebuttal
or statement of
opposing positions
Argument 2: Makes
point, provides
elaboration, including
sometimes a rebuttal
or statement of
opposing positions
Argument 3: Makes
point, provides
elaboration, including
sometimes a rebuttal
or statement of
opposing positions
Reiteration of
the position and
calls for action or
recommendations
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Specialized verbs and nouns related to the topic
Use of statements, questions, and commands depending on the
purpose and audience
Repetition of key words, synonyms, and pronouns to build new
information and still stay on the main topic
Use of a more personal or detached voice varies based on the
purpose and audience
Saying verbs to report what others have said or think (e.g., states,
claims, argues, suggests, points out, maintains, concludes)
Use of modality to open up possibilities or strengthen claims (e.g.,
may, could, should, must)
Attitudinal language to focus or adjust attitudes (e.g., extremely,
utterly, entirely, absolutely, somewhat, possibly)
Carefully selected cohesive devices to connect ideas in particular
ways (e.g., adding information, marking time, indicating cause and
effect, making concessions)
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Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle
genres of schooling are apt to be staged and how speakers/writers tend to make
register level choices within a specific discipline to achieve particular social, academic, and political goals (e.g., Martin & Rose, 2008).
The effectiveness of coupling Martin’s genre theory with the TLC has been
demonstrated by a number of qualitative and quantitative studies conducted in
Australia. For example, Gibbons (2003) analyzed how two elementary science
teachers used the TLC to design a unit of study on magnetism to support multilingual students in shifting from everyday conversational ways of talking about
magnets to more discipline-specific and abstract ones (e.g., “it sticks together”
→ “the north pole and the south pole attract,” p. 265). Gibbons reports that the
TLC provided a framework for teachers to mediate between students’ everyday
experiences with magnetism and more generalized knowledge of this topic in the
science curriculum. As a result, students simultaneously developed new ways of
using English and constructing disciplinary knowledge.
In another study that focused on writing at the secondary level, Humphrey
and Macnaught (2016) used mixed methods to analyze ninth-grade English students’ persuasive writing development over 18 months. In their study, students
who spoke a variety of home languages showed growth in the logical development of ideas within paragraphs, the use of expanded noun groups to package
key ideas, and the management of multiple points of view through the use of
SFL-based pedagogical practices.
These findings have been supported by large-scale quantitative analyses of
classroom data. For example, Rose (2015) reported similar findings from a quasiexperimental study of literacy gains in an Australian middle school. This study
analyzed pre- and post-TLC writing samples and standardized reading test scores
from a target group of 310 struggling readers and writers, including students
identified as ELLs. These data were analyzed alongside data from a comparison
group of 377 higher performing students. Rose reports that the most significant
finding was the accelerated rate of literacy gains in the target group. Average
literacy gains for this group were consistently more than one grade level over the
course of the intervention. Furthermore, 20% of these students made gains of two
or more grade levels (Cullican, 2006; Rose, 2015).
A Caveat
It is important to note that genres, like all social practices, vary depending on
the context of culture in which they evolve and the specific context of situation
in which they are used, as demonstrated by the different emails analyzed at the
beginning of this chapter. Therefore, the genre classification system shown in
Table 4.2 is intended to heighten teachers’ awareness of how genres are often
staged in predictable ways to get work done with language and other multimodal semiotic means (e.g., text layout, use of graphics, charts, and equations).
However, teachers and students should keep in mind that genres, like cultures,
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 93
change as speakers and writers invent new means of communicating to perform new social practices. Therefore, given the dynamic and creative nature of
human activity and communication, there is no classification system or set of
genre templates that will capture the great variety of multimodal/multilingual
texts students read and write in and out of school. This caveat needs to be stressed
because schools have historically strived for efficiency and standardization by
behaviorally drilling and practicing text structures such as the five paragraph essay
and attending almost exclusively to aspects of formal correctness such as spelling and punctuation. Paulo Freire, a social justice educator from Brazil, refers
to this method of literacy teaching as coming from a “banking model of education” (1993, p. 72). This model is characterized by teachers attempting to deposit
knowledge into the heads of passive learners through lecturing, memorization,
and the testing of accepted facts—not the construction, reflection, and questioning of knowledge and language practices through a problem-posing approach to
curriculum design. Therefore, it is important to stress that the TLC is designed
to support joint construction and critical reflection on the meaning-making choices
people make, not the rote learning of fixed linguistic forms.
SFL, Genre Theory, and the TLC in the
Context of U.S. School Reforms
Inspired by the promising work of teachers and scholars in Australia, a growing
number of literacy researchers and teacher educators in the United States have
recontextualized SFL, genre theory, and the TLC to address persistent inequities
related to language teaching and literacy development in U.S. schools, especially
for historically marginalized, multilingual learners (e.g., Achugar & Carpenter,
2014; Aguirre-Muñoz, Chang, & Sanders, 2015; Berg & Huang, 2015; Brisk,
2014; de Oliveira, 2016; Fang, Sun, Chiu, & Trutschel, 2014; Gebhard & Willett, 2008; Harman, 2018; Schleppegrell, 2004). For the purposes of this chapter,
I highlight three U.S. initiatives because of their longevity and record for producing empirical evidence regarding the benefits of SFL-informed teaching practices.
The first, developed by Mary Schleppegrell, is an example of one of the earliest uses
of SFL in teacher education in the United States. The second, directed by Maria
Brisk, provides an example of a long-term university-school partnership in Boston.
And the third, led by myself at others at the University of Massachusetts, is an
example of how SFL informed an action research collaborative that included community members, two urban school districts, and university students and faculty.
SFL in the California History Project and
the Language and Meaning Project
Mary Schleppegrell was one of the early implementers of an SFL-informed
research agenda aimed at improving the disciplinary literacy practices of
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Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle
multilingual learners and the professional development of their teachers in the
United States. Beginning in the late 1990s, Schleppegrell and her colleagues collaborated with teachers in California to analyze the academic language demands
placed on students by state curricular frameworks and aligned exams. Collectively, they identified the genres teachers were required to teach and students
were required to read and write in school. In addition, they made recommendations regarding how state frameworks could be revised and aligned to support
all students, not just ELLs, in developing “pathways” to academic literacy across
disciplines as they transitioned from elementary to secondary schools (Schleppegrell, 2003, p. 20).
As part of this work, Schleppegrell and her colleagues developed the California History Project (CHP). This project introduced secondary history teachers to
using SFL tools to deconstruct meanings in history textbook passages and primary
source documents. CHP teachers planned lessons that incorporated SFL analysis
and found that the approach enabled more in-depth discussions and understandings of history content (Achugar, Schleppegrell, & Oteíza, 2007). In summarizing
their findings, they write that students whose teachers participated in CHP made
significantly greater gains on the state exams in terms of their ability to demonstrate content knowledge and write academic arguments than students whose
teachers had not participated in the workshops. Further, ELLs were among those
who showed the greatest benefits (see also Schleppegrell & de Oliveira, 2006;
Schleppegrell, Greer, & Taylor, 2008).
Schleppegrell has continued this line of inquiry in a second project with
elementary teachers of multilingual students in a high poverty school district
in Michigan. As discussed in Chapter Three, the goals of this project, called
The Language and Meaning Project, focused on designing curricular materials and
researching how teachers and young multilingual students engaged with SFL
tools as they read, wrote, and discussed English language arts and science texts
(e.g., Moore & Schleppegrell, 2014). Findings from this project support the conclusions of earlier SFL studies and contribute new understandings regarding the
benefits of students developing a functional metalanguage, or language for talking about how language works, in deconstructing and constructing challenging
texts. As illustrated in Chapter Three, young ELLs used SFL metalanguage to
develop content knowledge and a critical awareness of how authors, including
themselves, make language choices to construct ideas, their voice, and the flow
of information in grade-level reading and writing tasks (see also O’Hallaron &
Schleppegrell, 2016; Palincsar & Schleppegrell, 2014; Schleppegrell, 2013).
In reflecting on the findings from both projects, Schleppegrell (2015) makes
clear that teachers are more likely to take up SFL when they see it as helping
them meet state standards and adapting curricular materials they are required to
use to achieve their instructional goals. Further, teachers are more likely to use
SFL in productive ways when they see it as an effective pedagogical tool, not as
an add-on language requirement detached from their primary goal of teaching
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 95
content knowledge. Schleppegrell also comments on the benefits of “building
teams of collaborating teachers, especially at the same school site” because teachers benefit greatly from designing curriculum with others while reflecting on
student learning collectively. She adds that children also benefit “when their
teachers talk about language in similar ways as they move from year to year and
from subject to subject” (2015, p. 48).
SFL and Whole School Change at Russell Elementary in Boston
At the elementary level, another project that has received international recognition is Maria Brisk’s long-term professional development partnership with an
elementary school in Boston (Brisk, 2014). In 2007, at the urging of the mayor,
Brisk and colleagues from Boston College entered into this partnership with
Russell Elementary School. At the time, this school served students of color from
Latino, Haitian, Cape Verdean, and Vietnamese communities. Specifically, 58%
identified as Latino, 26% as African American, 10% as Asian, and 6% as White.
Of these, 51% were officially classified as ELLs.
With the strong support of the principal, the goal of this project was to implement and research the impact of a school-wide approach to teaching writing
using the TLC. As Brisk (2014) describes, focus genres included procedures,
recounts, reports, explanations, arguments, and fictional narratives. During the
first year of the partnership, a team of researchers worked with teachers in third,
fourth, and fifth grade to focus on two core genres. In subsequent years, additional grade levels and genres were added. By year three, when teachers had
gained a knowledge of how to teach each genre, the project shifted to supporting
teachers and students in noticing how register choices work in disciplinary texts
and how to draw on students’ multilingual resources to support the development of disciplinary knowledge and literacies (e.g., Brisk, Hodgson-Drysdale, &
O’Connor, 2011; Brisk & Ossa Parra, 2018).
In documenting the effectiveness of this ongoing collaboration, Brisk (2016)
describes how in 2007, Russell was one of the lowest performing schools in
Boston based on state test scores. Because of these low scores, Russell was
designated a “Level 5” or “failing school” and was at risk of being taken over
by the state. Ten years later, based on test scores that surpassed other Boston
public schools, Russell was ranked a “Level 1” or “high performing” school. In
accounting for this dramatic shift, Brisk (2016) credits the remarkable leadership of the principal and the sustained collaboration between teachers at Russell and colleagues at Boston College, which included yearly, monthly, and
weekly workshops and meetings. For example, at the start of each year, Brisk
and her colleagues led two-day professional development workshops organized
around three central tasks: (1) to introduce teachers and administrators to SFL,
genre theory, and the TLC; (2) to collectively reflect on students’ language and
literacy development and propose priorities for the upcoming year; and (3) to
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Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle
collectively establish a calendar for when and how specific genres would be
taught at each grade level over the course of the academic year. Teachers,
administrators, and researchers also met monthly in grade-level teams to review
goals, share curriculum materials, and reflect on student writing samples collected by researchers from Boston College who conducted weekly observations
and collected classroom data.
The reciprocal nature of this professional development partnership was an
essential element of its success. Brisk (2016) comments on how the structure of
the partnership provided learning opportunities for both faculty and students at
Russell Elementary and Boston College. For example, she describes how courses
for pre-service teachers at Boston College were revised to incorporate SFL,
genre theory, and the TLC based on the ongoing work of teachers at Russell.
Moreover, doctoral students were able to conduct research in collaboration with
teachers and students and publish their findings as a way of further contributing
to the field of literacy development and multilingual education.
SFL and Action Research: The ACCELA Alliance
The ACCELA (Access to Critical Content and Language Acquisition) Alliance is a third example of an SFL-informed professional development program. ACCELA received federal, state, and university funding between 2002
and 2014. The purpose of ACCELA was to support the professional learning of
paraprofessionals, teachers, principals, doctoral students, teacher educators, and
literacy researchers who were invested in developing more productive and equitable ways of responding to sweeping changes taking place in Massachusetts and
other states. These changes included rapid demographic and economic shifts, the
advent of the standardization and accountability movement, and the passage of
anti-bilingual education mandates (see Chapters Six and Seven). Sonia Nieto, a
faculty member who taught courses in multiculturalism and the Puerto Rican
experience at UMass and in the ACCELA Alliance, captures the impetus for
ACCELA in her analysis of U.S. census data from the year 2000:
18% of U.S. residents speak a language other than English at home, with
Spanish the language spoken by half of these. Also in 2000, the number of foreign-born or first-generation U.S. residents reached the highest level in U.S. history, 56 million, or triple the number in 1970. And
unlike previous immigrants who were primarily from Europe, only 15%
are now from Europe, with over half from Latin America and a quarter from Asia . . . Poverty too continues to be a serious problem in our
nation . . . While Whites represent just over 9% of the poor, Blacks are
over 22% and Hispanics over 21% of those living in poverty. These numbers also point to a chronic problem in terms of teacher retention: The
turnover rate for teachers in high-poverty schools can climb as high as
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 97
50%, creating even more uncertainty and unpredictability in such schools.
At the same time that the number of students of color, those who speak
languages other than English, and those who live in poverty has increased,
the nation’s teachers have become more monolithic, monocultural, and
monolingual. (2005, pp. 5–6)
In summarizing the implications of these changes, Nieto makes clear that
teacher educators today need to grapple with what it means to recruit, prepare,
and retain teachers to work with students who in many cases will have very different backgrounds and experiences from them. And while she recognizes the
fact that social and economic structures contribute to these issues and constrain
meaningful change, she argues that:
we cannot afford to sit around and wait for these structural changes to
take place. They do not appear to be happening any time soon and, in
the meantime, too many young people are being lost. The times call for
working on what can be done to help keep the most caring and committed
teachers in our public schools. (Nieto, 2005, p. 8)
With this sense of urgency, Jerri Willett, a critical literacy scholar at UMass,
spearheaded the development of the ACCELA Alliance in 2002. The Alliance
brought together faculty from the University of Massachusetts with professionals
and community members from two urban school districts serving large numbers
of students designated as ELLs, many of whom had strong ties to Puerto Rico.
ACCELA consisted of three programs of study. The first, directed by Theresa
Austin, supported bilingual paraprofessionals and community leaders in completing an off-campus bachelor’s degree in general studies (e.g., Austin, Willett,
Gebhard, & Montes, 2010; Correa, 2010). The second, directed by Jerri Willett
and me, supported practicing elementary and secondary teachers in earning a master’s degree in education and an additional license to teach ESL and/or reading
(e.g., Gebhard & Willett, 2008). The third was a doctoral program that supported
predominantly multilingual doctoral students in using ethnographic methods
and SFL tools to collect and analyze data with classroom teachers (e.g., Accurso,
Gebhard, & Selden, 2016; Gebhard, Harman, & Seger, 2007; Gebhard, Shin, &
Seger, 2011). All three programs offered off-campus courses that were held in
local schools and other community settings. More importantly, following a praxis
approach (Freire, 1993), these courses were designed to support participants in:
•
•
•
Identifying culturally relevant topics or problems to guide the learning of
new disciplinary knowledge and literacy practices;
Understanding sociocultural perspectives of language, learning, and change;
Understanding state and national standards and assessment systems from a
critical perspective;
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Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle
•
Collecting, analyzing, and reflecting on data from the community and/or
schools in collaborative groups comprised of local educators, doctoral students, and UMass faculty; and
Producing action research studies to be shared with community members,
colleagues in schools, in teacher education courses, and at regional, national,
and international conferences.
•
The broad goal of ACCELA was reciprocal learning in which the expertise of all participants, especially multilinguals, was cultivated. In the words of
post-colonial scholar Homi Bhabha, this created a “third space” that was not
representative of the culture of the university, the school, or the community
(1994, p. 36); rather, it was a hybrid of all three. This hybrid space was socially
constructed through the use of linguistic and cultural practices associated with
students’ and teachers’ home worlds and school worlds, as well as the university
world of theory and research. This hybrid third space provided the “mediational
context and tools necessary for future social and cognitive development” (Gutiérrez, Baquedano-López, Alvarez, & Chiu, 1999, p. 92).
Over the twelve years that ACCELA existed, it attempted to create hybrid
pedagogical spaces that simultaneously supported multilingualism, students’ disciplinary literacy practices in English, and educators’ professional development.
It did so through the use of action research projects that required teams of teachers and literacy researchers to use SFL tools and the TLC to identify content
objectives, disciplinary literacy objectives, and social justice objectives. ACCELA
incorporated a very explicit focus on praxis (Freire, 1993) by drawing on students’ and teachers’ linguistic and cultural funds of knowledge to make content-based
curriculum more effective, engaging, and culturally relevant (Ladson-Billings,
1995; Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzáles, 1992; Nieto & Bode, 2018).
ACCELA’s Approach to the TLC
ACCELA faculty modified the original TLC to support teachers in conducting action research projects as part of meeting course requirements, completing
licensure requirements, and contributing to the knowledge base of teaching.
As illustrated in Figure 4.2, the result was a expanded, ten-staged approach to
planning and teaching culturally relevant curricular units aligned with state and
national standards, critically reflecting on student learning, and sharing findings from action research projects to build the institutional capacity of local
school districts and the university in regard to the education of multilingual
and multicultural learners. In what follows, each stage of this expanded TLC is
explained with examples from the work of ACCELA teachers who collaborated
with doctoral students to publish their work in leading journals in the field of
language and literacy development. These examples focus mostly on the work
of elementary teachers. However, additional examples provided in Chapters
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 99
FIGURE 4.2
The expanded teaching and learning cycle (TLC) – an approach to supporting multilingual students’ literacies and teachers’ professional development through action research
Five and Nine focus on secondary classrooms and the disciplines of math and
science. Across these examples, note that, similar to Maria Brisk’s (2014) work
at Russell Elementary, ACCELA teachers typically used the TLC to first focus
on one genre essential to their curriculum standards and then progressed to other
genres in purposeful ways. ACCELA teachers who followed this example first
taught students the same genre over multiple curricular units, but varied the
content or field. With each go-around of the expanded, ten-stage TLC, teachers gained greater expertise in using SFL and the TLC, while students strengthened their ability to read and write discipline-specific texts that were longer,
more coherent, and of overall higher quality (e.g., Gebhard, Chen, & Britton,
2014; Gebhard, Shin, & Seger, 2011; Gebhard, Willett, Jiménez Caicedo, &
Piedra, 2011).
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Stage One: Planning Linguistically and
Culturally Responsive Curriculum
As many teachers can attest, careful planning is the starting point of successful
instruction, even for teachers with years of experience. During this comprehensive planning stage, ACCELA teachers developed a deeper and more critical
understanding of:
•
•
•
•
The linguistic and cultural resources students bring to their education and a
knowledge of the communities from which students come;
Subject matter knowledge and ways of connecting subject matter knowledge
to students’ lives;
The priorities of school administrators in the context of high-stakes testing
practices; and
State and national standards and assessment systems.
Using a backwards design approach (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005), ACCELA
teachers planned curricular units by first identifying a pressing issue or topic of
cultural relevance to their students. Second, they stipulated the specific genre
they were going to target as a way of teaching all students how to read, write, and
critically discuss grade-level subject matter knowledge about this topic. Third,
teachers specified which state and/or national standards their unit and daily lessons addressed and began to brainstorm how these standards would be taught and
assessed. Teachers drew on their emerging knowledge of SFL and genre theory
to accomplish this aspect of planning standards-based curriculum, instruction, and
assessments in ways that were aligned with students’ interests, investments, and
linguistic and cultural funds of knowledge.
In attempting to translate SFL and genre theory into standards-based classroom
practices, it is important to note that ACCELA teachers did not need to become
SFL experts before they got started using SFL concepts. Rather, teachers were
encouraged to identify one or two SFL tools that might help them get some leverage on a problem they and their students faced in engaging with dense disciplinary
discourses. As one ACCELA teacher named Lynne Britton remarked, “A little
SFL and genre theory goes a long way” (Gebhard, Chen, & Britton, 2014, p. 123).
She reported that it enabled her to go “deeper into texts” with students in ways
that were anchored to what “they can do with language now and what they need
to learn next to move along a linguistic pathway that makes developmental sense”
(p. 123). She contrasted this approach to the disjointed “curriculum surfing” she
felt characterized her approach to designing curriculum in the past. In addition,
she reported that a little SFL and genre theory allowed her to connect, rather
than separate, the teaching of vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing, and content
knowledge in ways that built students’ academic literacy practices over time rather
than “jumping from topic to topic and genre to genre” (p. 123).
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 101
Echoing Lynne’s experiences, other ACCELA teachers used the expanded
TLC to plan units that reflected: (1) their students’ investment in writing for a
wider audience about an issue of relevance; (2) a high-stakes genre students needed
to learn how to read, write, discuss, and critique to be successful in school; and
(3) specific content standards teachers were required to address. For example, a
second grade ACCELA teacher named Wendy Seger planned units that supported
her multilingual students in blogging with family and friends locally and in Puerto
Rico to teach them how to read, write, and critique recounts, reports, friendly letters, and persuasive letters, all while addressing Massachusetts English language arts
standards (Gebhard, Shin, & Seger, 2011). At the upper elementary level, a fourth
grade teacher named Amy Rivera Piedra planned a unit around how to write more
expert personal narratives by analyzing the genre and register features found in
mandated textbook materials and in personal narratives written by Puerto Rican
authors. In doing so, she also targeted specific Massachusetts English language arts
standards (Gebhard, Willett, Jiménez Caicedo, & Piedra, 2011). And at the secondary level, Holly Graham, an ACCELA doctoral student who returned to teaching,
planned a unit to support her multilingual middle school students in meeting a wide
variety of new standards (Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science
Standards, and WIDA Standards) by writing advocacy letters to the federal government on behalf of a local species of bat that was being decimated by a disease called
“White Nose Syndrome” (Gebhard & Graham, 2018).
Stage Two: Identifying Model Texts and Determining
Assessment Criteria for Students’ Final Projects
During the second planning stage of the expanded TLC, ACCELA teachers were
encouraged to identify published model texts and/or write their own model
texts to support students in learning new disciplinary knowledge and developing
associated genre knowledge. This stage is meant to address current school reforms
that place more emphasis on teaching students how to read more critically and
write more expertly across grade levels and in all content areas, including in
mathematics and science classrooms (e.g., Common Core State Standards and
Next Generation Science Standards; see Chapters Six, Seven, and Nine).
For example, in planning her fourth grade personal narrative unit, Amy Rivera
Piedra was required to use a mandated textbook that included pre-selected model
texts. However, she augmented the mandated materials with a narrative written by the acclaimed Puerto Rican children’s author, Eric Velasquez. She and
the class paraprofessional also wrote their own model texts, personal narratives
about their experiences growing up as Puerto Ricans. Amy planned to have her
students read, discuss, and analyze the linguistic choices made by all these different narrative authors. Amy also developed an SFL-informed rubric to assess
students’ abilities to produce their own compelling personal narratives at the end
of this unit (Gebhard et al., 2011). This rubric, titled “Are you on your way to
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expert writing?”, captured the criteria Amy planned to use in assessing students’
final projects. Based on the standards Amy targeted in her unit and the linguistic
choices she noticed in the model texts, these criteria included:
•
•
•
An orientation that introduces the characters and setting and provides the context for the main complication in the story. The writer uses circumstances
of time and place as well as longer noun groups to describe people and the
setting.
A complication that is constructed through a sequence of events that builds the
plot through verbs that capture what characters did (doing verbs), what they
said (saying verbs), and how they felt (sensing verbs) in response to problems
and events in the narrative. The writer selects verbs that are precise and varied. In addition, the writer uses time markers such as one day, next, then, all of
a sudden, after that, in the end, and even now as a way of building the arc of the
narrative.
A resolution or an attempt to resolve the problem. This conclusion often
includes the characters’ reflections through the use of sensing verbs or a
comment by the narrator to make the point of the story explicit.
Building on Amy’s work, other ACCELA teachers developed SFL rubrics
aligned with Massachusetts English language arts standards, as well. For example,
Figure 4.3 shows a rubric developed by Jackie Bell to guide her in teaching and
assessing narratives written by multilingual students in her second grade general
education class. In preparing this unit, she quoted the specific Massachusetts English language arts standards she was targeting:
Students will be able to write a narrative in which they recount a wellelaborated or short sequence of events, including details to describe actions,
thoughts, and feelings and use of temporal words to signal events in order
and provide a sense of closure. (MA.W.3)
The rubric she developed reflects this standard and demonstrates her knowledge of the genre and register features of a narrative and the criteria she used to
assess students’ final projects. This rubric captures the same expected genre stages
of a narrative that Amy focused on, including an orientation, complication, and
resolution. However, Jackie’s rubric used a scale of 1 to 3 (lowest to highest) to
outline some expected register features for each genre stage. For example, a Level 3
orientation included “describing words to tell about characters in the story,
adjectives to describe the setting, and language about time to tell when the story
happened.” Similarly, a Level 3 complication would “tell about a problem using
language in order through a series of events.” Last, she defined a Level 3 resolution as an “ending [that] is interesting, makes sense, and tells how the problem
got solved.”
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 103
FIGURE 4.3
A genre based rubric used to assess second-grade grade students’ narratives and to guide the planning of scaffolding activities
Stage Three: Building the Field of Knowledge
Stage Three is the first instructional stage of the expanded TLC. The TLC
approach makes clear that it is crucial to level the playing field for students with
different levels of background knowledge and language proficiency before assigning challenging reading and writing assignments. During this stage, teachers do
this by first drawing on what students already know and can do with language,
and then scaffolding deeper content and genre knowledge through hands-on
tasks and discussion. Moreover, this stage of the TLC consists of much more than
asking students to brainstorm on a topic for five minutes and then diving into
a demanding text. Rather, this stage requires teachers to carefully design several
lessons to immerse students in a specific field of knowledge through engagement
with images, video clips, discussion questions, and the use of oral and written
materials in the students’ home language(s) and English, all with clearly defined
subject matter and literacy objectives in mind.
For example, in designing a social studies unit to teach Puerto Rican third
graders about Puerto Rican migration, Lynne Britton designed several pre-reading
activities over the course of a week to develop students’ understanding of this
topic and the specific linguistic resources they needed to develop to be successful
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in reading and writing grade-level texts about this topic in English. With Lynne’s
guidance, students brainstormed interview questions in Spanish and English for
family members who had migrated to Massachusetts. Then, for homework, students used these questions to interview their family members about why they
had migrated. When students returned to class the next day, they shared their
responses, which Lynne categorized and graphed on chart paper. On the y-axis
the class tallied families’ reasons for migrating and on the x-axis they tallied the
number of responses in each category. This discussion and charting activity, conducted using both Spanish and English, captured the knowledge and experiences
of families in the local community regarding the topic of migration. These reasons included education, employment, access to health care, and family. With
Lynne’s continued assistance, these activities prepared students to read gradelevel explanations of Puerto Rican migration in English (Gebhard, Chen, &
Britton, 2014).
Stage Four: Modeling Reading Through Text Deconstruction
This stage involves guiding students as a whole class and in small groups in noticing and naming how specific genres are structured and how authors make specific
register choices to construct ideas (field), enact a tone (tenor), and manage the
flow of information in their texts (mode). It is important to note that ACCELA
teachers did not ask students to notice and name all of these aspects of language
at once. Rather, they targeted a few carefully selected genre and register features
reflective of the instructional goals they established during Stage One. In addition, as Derewianka and Jones (2016) remark, students need multiple experiences
with a new genre before genre knowledge can become internalized.
For example, as discussed previously, Amy Rivera Piedra designed a unit
that required fourth grade multilinguals in a general education class to read,
analyze, and write personal narratives. During this text deconstruction stage of
the expanded TLC, Amy introduced students to the narrative rubric she had
created as a way of drawing their attention to the genre and register features
of this specific type of text. She had students use the rubric as a reading tool,
to analyze three different model narratives. The first narrative was written by a
well-known Puerto Rican children’s author, the second was written by Amy,
and the third by the class paraprofessional. Later in the unit, when students
were writing their own narratives during Stage Six of the expanded TLC, they
used this same rubric to analyze and give feedback to a peer, and they also analyzed, revised, and self-assessed their own narrative. And given that narrative
is an essential genre in the discipline of language arts, Amy used many of these
same guided reading activities and handouts to teach subsequent units during
the academic year that also focused on narratives written by award-winning
Latinx authors, including a unit planned around the novel My Name is Maria
Isabel by Alma Flor Ada (1993). Each time Amy practiced modeling reading
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 105
in this way, she gained greater expertise in using SFL and the TLC, while her
students strengthened their ability to read discipline-specific texts.
Stage Five: Modeling Writing Through Joint Text Construction
By this midpoint in the expanded TLC, all students should have a very clear
understanding of the purpose of the writing project they are producing during
the unit and how their work will be assessed in regard to content knowledge
and the disciplinary literacy practices that construct this knowledge. Having this
understanding, as well as access to model texts and other social supports, alleviates
a lot of the guess work, stress, and writer’s block students experience when they
have to write an extended text about new content knowledge, whether in their
first language or an additional one. Moreover, at this point in the TLC, students
should have been guided in reading and deconstructing carefully selected texts,
so they are well prepared for the demands of writing a similar text (e.g., a specific
type of recount, narrative, explanation, or argument).
During this stage, ACCELA teachers built on how they scaffolded disciplinary
reading practices to scaffold similar writing practices. Teachers prepared students
for grade-level writing tasks by engaging them in a whole class activity called
jointly constructing a model text. Similar to the joint construction of an email discussed previously, this stage involves teachers facilitating the production of an
expert model text with student input. The goal of this stage, which may extend
for several lessons, is to make linguistic know-how and decision-making highly
visible and open to discussion. This stage is also designed to further expand students’ linguistic repertoires and critical awareness of the linguistic choices available to them in producing disciplinary texts.
For example, in modeling how to write a personal narrative for her fourth
graders, Amy focused students’ attention on how they could write effective dialogue that captured not just what characters said, but how they felt about what
they were saying. Importantly, this focus on dialogue lesson aligned with her
unit objectives and the criteria listed on her rubric. In addition to students brainstorming lists of different saying verbs that also construct emotion (e.g., whispered,
mumbled, stated, claimed, yelled, screamed, roared), she asked students to think about
the use of code-mixing in narrative dialogue, particularly in model texts they
had read. As a class, they decided that it was important for one of the characters in their jointly constructed narrative to speak Spanish rather than English.
Together, students wrote the dialogue with Amy in ways that drew attention to
the diverse and purposeful uses of code-mixing in “translanguaging” literature
(see Sommer, 2004).
In another example of modeling writing through joint text construction, an
ACCELA teacher named Rachel Ellis used a large sheet of chart paper tacked up
on the blackboard to jointly construct a personal narrative with her multilingual
third graders. Their story relates the experiences of a boy who was not happy
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that his parents painted his baby furniture pink in redoing a bedroom for his new
sister. As shown in Figure 4.4, Rachel scaffolded the joint construction process by
providing students with language from the rubric she created during Stage Two.
On the left side of the chart paper, she listed three genre stages: orientation, complication, and resolution. Students had grown accustomed to using these words
over the course of the year in reading, writing, and class discussions. On sticky
notes beneath each genre stage, Rachel listed examples of key register choices
that might support students in accomplishing the purpose of the genre stage. For
example, under “orientation,” she posted sticky notes reminding students to use
describing words in telling “where” and “when” a story takes place and “who” is
involved. Under “complication,” she listed key time markers to remind students
of some of the ways authors use language to make their stories flow (e.g., “one
FIGURE 4.4
Joint construction of a personal narrative in a third grade class
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 107
day,” “next,” “finally”). And under “resolution,” she wrote “how the problem
gets solved or not.” Next, she provided students with a graphic of how each
genre stage maps onto the arc of a narrative. And finally, on the right, she scribed
students’ oral contributions as the class jointly constructed a story.
Stage Six: Constructing a Disciplinary
Text More Independently
Stage Six builds on all of the other stages and requires students to produce a text
with much less guidance from teachers, peers, and family members. However,
ACCELA teachers’ expectation was rarely that their students would produce
disciplinary texts entirely on their own during this stage of the TLC. Thus, the
word “independent” in the name of this stage can be a bit of a misnomer because
teachers were encouraged to couple the TLC with the process approach of teaching writing to provide students with opportunities to get feedback from their
peers, family members, and teachers when drafting, revising, and editing their
work (e.g., Atwell, 1987).
Stage Seven: Presenting Work to an Authentic Audience
A key part of literacy teaching using the expanded TLC is identifying an expanded
audience for students’ projects as a way of potentially motivating students to
invest in the hard work of learning to read and write in new ways and of making
questions regarding the purpose and audience for students’ work more concrete
and less hypothetical. In my experiences working with students of all ages, I have
found they are not always motivated to complete a demanding written assignment if the audience is only the teacher and if the purpose, from their perspective, is just to complete an assignment to get a grade. This lack of motivation
can be especially acute if students have a history of getting poor grades and have
come to feel badly about themselves as readers and writers. Therefore, Stage
Seven of the expanded TLC draws on Anne Dyson’s (1993) notion of designing
a permeable curriculum that not only makes use of students’ linguistic and cultural
funds of knowledge, but also puts them in dialogue with a wider audience than
the teacher.
ACCELA teachers took up this suggestion in ways that fit with what they
were already doing prior to entering the program. For example, teachers required
students to present their work to classmates, posted students’ writing on bulletin
boards, and displayed students’ work at community events such as open houses.
However, based on ACCELA coursework, many teachers made an additional
effort to connect with students’ families and communities. For example, Amy
planned a culminating event for students’ families to showcase their narrative
writing. At the event, she served Puerto Rican dishes such as arroz con gandules
and played the song En mi Viejo San Juan, an anthem for many Puerto Ricans
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that was featured in one of the model texts students had read during Stage Four,
Grandma’s Records (Velasquez, 2001). In addition, the ACCELA doctoral student
working with Amy, Juan Pablo Jiménez Caicedo, played a variety of versions of
this song at this event, which led to a spontaneous dance party as students, teachers, and parents moved desks out of the way to make room for a dance floor. This
event enabled Amy and other staff to interact with families around something
positive and upbeat rather than the topics that normally led Amy and the administration to contact parents (e.g., social, academic, and behavioral problems, see
Gebhard et al., 2011).
Other examples of ACCELA teachers expanding the purpose and audience
of students’ work included letter-writing campaigns to school administrators and
government officials. For example, Wendy Seger’s fifth grade students researched
the benefits of recess so that they could write persuasive letters to their principal
about reinstating their afternoon recess, something that had been removed from
their schedules to make more time for test preparation. The principal was so
impressed with the quality of the students’ writing that he agreed to do so (Gebhard,
Harman, & Seger, 2007).
Stage Eight: Assessing Student Work
Assessment tends to provoke anxiety in students, especially multilingual learners
using a new language for academic purposes. It is also time-consuming for teachers, especially those who assign a lot of writing. However, some ACCELA teachers found grading student work to be less time-consuming, less discouraging, and
actually rewarding when they began using SFL-informed rubrics to track changes
in their students’ literacy practices over time. These teachers were skillful in
using a backwards design approach where they clearly articulated the assessment
criteria for students’ final projects during Stage Two of the TLC and then used
Stages Four, Five, Six, and Seven to apprentice students to meeting these criteria
(Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).
For example, at the elementary level, Lynne Britton designed a series of three
units focused on the genre of explanations in different disciplines. Her first unit
focused on factorial explanations regarding Puerto Rican migration. The second
unit focused on biographical explanations, with a focus on the life of Sonia Sotomayor, the first Puerto Rican U.S. Supreme Court Judge. The third unit focused
on scientific explanations of climate and weather patterns in Puerto Rico and
Massachusetts. As she was planning these units, Lynne noted that her students
habitually linked run-on sentences with the word and regardless of the genre they
were producing. As a result, she set an objective to expand students’ ability to
notice and name a greater variety of cohesive devices that are more functional for
creating the logical relationships needed to explain a phenomenon. Specifically,
she identified authors’ use of time-order words and dates in historical explanations (e.g., In 1954, later, from 1979–1984, finally in 1992) and causal words in
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 109
scientific explanations (e.g., as a result, therefore, for these reasons). She included
these criteria in the assessment rubrics she designed for use in Stages Four through
Eight of the TLC. In addition, Lynne included class participation criteria in her
assessment materials to address her social justice goals for these units, which, in
addition to focusing on culturally relevant topics and having high expectations for
students, included supporting students to participate in class in ways that fostered
collective learning (Gebhard, Chen, & Britton, 2014).
Importantly, Lynne approached assessment from the perspective of not just
giving grades, but from wanting to reflect on student learning and her teaching
practices so she could better identify new content, literacy, and equity goals in
developing future units of instruction. She also found presenting analyses of her
students’ literacy practices to other colleagues and literacy researchers at local,
state, and national conferences a rewarding form of professional development that
resulted in new professional opportunities. These aspects of an action research
approach to pedagogy—critical reflection and professional development—are
captured in Stages Nine and Ten of the expanded TLC.
Stage Nine: Critically Reflecting on Instruction
Through Data Collection and Analysis
As a structured way of reflecting on their instruction and the impact it had on students, ACCELA teachers completed a number of action research projects. These
projects were connected to required coursework and state assessments required
for licensure. These requirements, similar to those in most U.S. teacher licensure programs, included a case study of a learner, the design of a curricular unit,
an analysis of the impact of teaching practices on student learning, and a capstone leadership project. To guide ACCELA teachers in meeting their licensure
requirements as well as connecting theory to practice, action research projects
included:
•
•
•
•
Profiling the local communities and schools where they were teaching (see
Chapter Eight);
Analyzing classroom discourse practices using transcribed audio/video data
(see Chapter Three);
Collecting samples of student writing and tracing changes in a focus student’s ability to produce a target genre more expertly over time (see Chapter
Nine); and
Critically analyzing the content and literacy demands of state curricular
frameworks and aligned high-stakes exams (see Chapters Six and Seven).
For example, to critically reflect on her practice and its impact on student
learning, Lynne Britton collected data on changes in three focus students’ literacy
practices over an academic year. Her primary focus was on analyzing changes in
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FIGURE 4.5
Lynne’s focal students’ Fountas and Pinnell reading scores
students’ abilities to produce two different genres, narratives and explanations.
However, she was also required by her school to assess students’ reading development using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System (Fountas
& Pinnell, 2008). This system provides a formative assessment of K-8 students’
abilities in the domains of decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. This instrument was not field tested with bilingual learners and is considered to be a more subjective measure than others because it is administered
by classroom teachers in ways that may vary or be biased. Nonetheless, as Lynne
implemented the TLC, she noticed gains in all three of her focus students’ reading scores, with the greatest gains made by a newcomer named “Damaris” (see
Figure 4.5).1
In making sense of these findings, Lynne worked with an ACCELA doctoral
student named I-An Chen. They noticed that the Fountas and Pinnell system
assesses students’ abilities to read increasingly demanding fiction and non-fiction
texts on a gradient from Level A–Z. At level A, aligned with the types of texts
students encounter in kindergarten, students were assessed on their ability to
read short sentences about everyday topics realized through simple grammatical patterns (subject-verb-object). At level Z, aligned with the types of texts
students encounter in grade 8, students were assessed on their ability to read longer, discipline-specific passages that realize meaning through denser grammatical
constructions and technical word choices. The fiction texts tend to be narratives exhibiting canonical narrative genre and register features, while the nonfiction texts tend to be scientific explanations, scientific reports, or biographical
explanations—all text types that Lynne and her students had analyzed over the
course of the year. While we certainly cannot make any causal claims regarding
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 111
students’ gains in reading these genres given the enormous number of factors that
could have contributed to their reading development over the year (e.g., general
cognitive maturity, reading and writing activities in other classes and at home),
we can speculate that their close study of narratives and explanations over the
academic year supported the development of their academic reading abilities as
well (Gebhard, Chen, & Britton, 2014).
Stage Ten: Sharing Findings From Action Research
The final stage of the expanded TLC is focused on professional development.
This stage draws on the work of Marilyn Cochran-Smith and Susan Lytle (1993),
whose highly influential book Inside/Outside: Teacher Research and Knowledge
argues that teachers’ professional development can be greatly enhanced if they
participate in conducting research inside their own classrooms rather than reading about research conducted in someone else’s. These authors also argue that
teachers can play an important role in contributing to the knowledge base of
teaching and learning from their insider perspective. However, since the passage
of No Child Left Behind in 2002, the concept of teacher research has received
less and less attention. As Chapters Six and Seven will discuss, this has happened
because school reforms have shifted away from building the institutional capacity
of schools by funding robust forms of professional development toward mandating more standards and ways of holding teachers accountable for meeting these
standards through costly assessment systems (e.g., Spring, 2014). Therefore, one
of the goals of ACCELA was to resurrect Cochran-Smith and Lytle’s (1993)
conception of teachers as producers of knowledge from inside their classrooms
and to provide venues for them to present findings from their research to others
outside their immediate contexts as a way of contributing to the knowledge base
of what teachers need to know and be able to do.
For example, as part of meeting the requirements for their degrees, ACCELA
teachers presented findings from their action research projects to other ACCELA
teachers, school administrators, and UMass faculty at ACCELA-sponsored
events. In addition, many teachers continued to collaborate with UMass doctoral students and faculty after completing the program. These teachers presented
their research at state, national, and international conferences, and published their
work as book chapters or journal articles in the field of language and literacy
development.
Summary
This chapter supports teachers, teacher educators, and literacy researchers in
translating SFL and genre theory into culturally relevant and effective pedagogy
for multilingual learners. This chapter builds on previous discussions to Halliday’s
SFL to further develop a model of text/context dynamics in K-12 schools (see
112
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle
Figure 4.1). It provides a discussion of the concept of register, which refers to the
collective field, tenor, and mode choices a person makes in a particular context of
situation. In addition, this chapter introduced Martin’s genre theory and the teaching
and learning cycle (TLC) as means for exploring and teaching the context of culture
of different disciplines in elementary and secondary schools.
Next, this chapter briefly described how Mary Schleppegrell, Maria Brisk,
and their colleagues used SFL-informed professional development practices to
support teachers in designing and implementing disciplinary literacy teaching for
multilingual students in K-12 schools in the United States. Last, this chapter provided a detailed discussion of how participants in the ACCELA Alliance recontextualized the TLC to respond to current problems facing teachers and students
working in urban schools in Massachusetts. ACCELA participants expanded the
TLC to include stages that focus on planning culturally responsive and standardsbased curricular units; critically reflecting on student learning and equity issues
through data collection and analysis; and disseminating findings to a wider audience of teachers, administrators, literacy researchers, and policy makers.
Praxis
Planning a Curricular Unit Using the Expanded TLC
Working in collaborative groups, use the expanded TLC to plan a curricular
unit that is both culturally responsive and standards-based. The tasks below target Stage One: Planning Linguistically and Culturally Responsive Curriculum
(see Figure 4.2). In particular, these tasks are designed to support your group
in charting connections between state standards, content knowledge, and genre
knowledge; establishing content objectives and language objectives for a curricular unit; and becoming familiar with the genre and register features students
need to critically notice and strategically use to meet the objectives of the unit
you are planning.
Task Directions and Topics for Discussion
1.
2.
Review the curriculum frameworks and/or state standards your students are
required to meet and the genres they are typically required to read and write
in your discipline, especially on high-stakes exams. If you are expected to
adhere to a particular textbook, review the disciplinary topics and genres in
this textbook as well.
Brainstorm a list of three to five core disciplinary concepts students are
required to know and the main genres used to construct this knowledge
in your content area based on your review of curricular frameworks and
your emerging understanding of genres. Use Table 4.A to chart the connection between state standards, content knowledge, and genre knowledge. For
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 113
example, if you teach English language arts, state standards typically require
students know the elements of fiction and that they develop this knowledge
by reading, writing, and discussing literary narratives. Likewise, if you teach
science, state standards typically require students know how species are classified and that they develop this knowledge by reading, writing, and discussing scientific explanations.
TABLE 4.A Planning Standards-Based Curriculum Using the Expanded TLC
PLANNING STANDARDS-BASED CURRICULUM USING
THE EXPANDED TLC
State standard Disciplinary
Genre (e.g., types of recounts, narratives, explanations,
content knowledge arguments, reports, procedures, etc.)
3.
Reflect on fieldwork conducted in previous praxis sections (e.g., classroom
observations, knowledge of students and their communities, knowledge
of the school and classroom context, understanding of classroom discourse
practices). Based on your fieldwork, begin planning a curriculum unit using
the expanded TLC by identifying:
a. A content focus for the unit (e.g., knowledge of animal classification
systems);
b. A genre focus (e.g., scientific explanations of animal classification systems); and
c. Concrete ways of drawing on students’ linguistic and cultural resources
to support them in exploring this content area in culturally relevant and
responsive ways (e.g., use of multilingual materials, expanding the audience for students’ written work to achieve a specific purpose in communicating with a specific audience, targeting a specific equity issue).
4.
Become familiar with the genre and register features of the type of text
you have targeted for this unit of instruction. Your group can accomplish
this task by reviewing Table 4.2. In addition, conduct independent research
regarding how SFL scholars have identified the genre stages and register features central to teaching and learning disciplinary knowledge in your specific
content area and at the grade level of your students. Do this by conducting
a quick online search of articles and book chapters using search terms such
as SFL, teaching and learning cycle, genre, the name of the target genre, and
the content area you will teach. This search is likely to produce a list of
article-length treatments of SFL pedagogical practices that will be helpful
114
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle
in developing a deeper understanding of how language and other meaningmaking systems work in the specific genres your students are required to
read, write, and critically analyze in your content area. In addition, the following are excellent references:
a. For elementary, see Brisk (2014)
b. For middle school, see Humphrey (2017)
c. For K-12 in different disciplines, see Christie & Derewianka (2008),
Derewianka and Jones (2016), and Schleppegrell (2004)
d. In mathematics, see O’Halloran (2000)
e. In science, see Fang (2005)
f. In history, see Coffin (2009)
g. In English language arts, see Macken-Horarik, Love, Sandiford, and
Unsworth (2018).
5.
Based on your emerging understanding of SFL and genre theory, use
Table 4.B to construct a table similar to Table 4.1 that captures the expected
genre and register features for the type of disciplinary text you are teaching.
This table should list the typical genre stages and register features used to
realize this genre’s purpose within a given context of culture. Note: Genres
are not templates and register features vary greatly depending on a text’s purpose and
audience. Therefore, the goal of this task is to support you in developing an
explicit understanding of how meaning is often, but not always, made in the
specific type of text you will deconstruct and jointly construct with students
when implementing the expanded TLC.
TABLE 4.B Description of Expected Genre and Register Features for Targeted
Disciplinary Text
DESCRIPTION OF EXPECTED GENRE AND REGISTER FEATURES
FOR TARGETED DISCIPLINARY TEXT
Name and function
of expected genre
stage
Field patterns
(e.g., use of types
of verbs, noun
groups, adverbs, and
prepositional phrases)
Tenor patterns (e.g.,
use of statements of
fact, questions, or
commands; use of
modal verbs; use of
attitudinal language)
Mode patterns (e.g.,
ways of weaving
given and new
information together;
use of specific cohesive
devises)
*add more rows to capture additional genre stages and their register features as necessary
6.
Identify three readings focusing on the same topic and representing the same
genre. Pick texts you are likely to require your students to read. Make copies of these texts to share with your group. These texts can come from
Genres, Registers, and the Teaching Learning Cycle 115
7.
mandated textbooks or other sources. As a group, analyze the genre stages
and register features of these three texts in ways that follow this chapter’s discussion of emails. Using different colored markers, highlight the genre stages
of the text and key register features related to field, tenor, and mode choices.
Given that this is your first attempt, do not worry about coming to 100%
agreement. Rather, the goal is for your group to notice and name patterns in
order to be able to support students in also noticing and naming patterns
in the types of texts they must be able to read, write, and critically discuss
in and out of school.
Collectively reflect on your first attempt to analyze the genre and register
features of the type of text you will assign students to read and write in the
future. How might your analysis guide you in designing instruction using
the expanded TLC? In addition, how culturally responsive are the texts you
selected in relation to the students and community where you work or are
likely to work in the future? How might you include texts that draw on community funds of knowledge and address topics relevant to this community?
Note
1 Reprinted from “Miss, nominalization is a nominalization”: English language learners’ use
of SFL metalanguage and their literacy practices. M. Gebhard, I. Chen, & L. Britton, 2014,
Linguistics and Education, 26, 106–125. Reprinted with permission.
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5
REGISTERS
Critically Analyzing Field, Tenor,
and Mode Choices
A little SFL and genre theory goes a long way.
—Lynne Britton, elementary ESL teacher and ACCELA participant
As mentioned in Chapter Four, Lynne made this comment in the context of
reflecting on how she translated SFL theory into classroom practice. Lynne,
like other ACCELA teachers whose work will be highlighted in this chapter,
is an example of a teacher who had high expectations for herself and her students. She was also willing to experiment with systemic functional linguistics
(SFL) to see how it could support the literacy development of her multilingual
second graders. For example, not long after I introduced Lynne to the strategy
of tracking participants to teach students how authors build ideas using repetition, synonyms, and pronouns, Lynne used this technique to guide her second
graders in making sense of a short poem about butterflies (Gebhard, Chen, &
Britton, 2014, p 114):
1. Teacher:
2. Students:
3. Teacher:
4. Student 1:
5. Teacher:
6. Students:
7. Teacher:
Let’s look at this one. What does this title say?
Butterflies
Butterflies. And so butterflies is the what, Angel? The?
The noun.
The noun or . . .?
Participant.
Awesome. You guys are so smart. Right after lunch, you’re fueled
up and ready. So, it’s the noun, or participant. Does it say “butterflies” again in the poem?
8. Student 2: No
9. Teacher:
(agrees) It doesn’t. ( Juana raises hand)
120
Registers
10. Teacher:
11. Student 3:
12. Teacher:
13. Student 1:
14. Teacher:
15. Students:
16. Teacher:
17. Student 3:
18. Teacher:
19. All:
20. Teacher:
21. Student 1:
22. Teacher:
23. Student 1:
24. Teacher:
25. Student 1:
26. Teacher:
27. Student 3:
28. Student 4:
29. Teacher:
30. All:
31. Teacher:
32. Juana:
33. Teacher:
34. Juana:
35. Teacher:
(to Student 3) What are you thinking?
It’s “we.”
Oh, we. We refers to the butterflies? Ok, so do we think that . . .
(sits up and points, interrupting) Flowers.
Oh, hold on . . . we is a . . .?
Noun
Noun or participant.
Cuz it’s the butterflies.
Great, so let’s read the whole thing.
(reading aloud) We are multicolored flowers of the air.
Hmmm. “We” is the noun. And is there . . . what is this
over here?
I know, I know!
It’s talking about flowers?
No, butterflies.
What is butterflies? What’s referring to the butterflies?
(quiet) Flowers
Flowers. That’s right. And how do we know? How do we
know that?
You talked about that.
Yup . . . Flowers um have the same . . . the butterflies have the
same colors as flowers.
Right, OK, so it’s making a comparison. So here in this poem
how many participants do we see, if we include the title?
(counting) One, two, three
And is it all the same thing? It’s all butterflies, right?
Yeah
And how many different ways does it say butterflies?
We, butterflies, and flowers
Three . . . so you guys are really smart because you figured out
how to track the participants even when the word isn’t the same.
It would be easy if it said, “butterflies, butterflies, butterflies.”
You would know that in an instant, right?
As the transcript above shows, during a whole class discussion, Lynne asked
students to help her track the participants, or nouns referring to butterflies, which
prompted a student to notice that “butterflies have the same colors as flowers”
(line 28) and another student to identify a chain of nouns that included, “we, butterflies, and flowers” to support of her peer’s observation (line 34). Collectively,
this discussion guided students in discovering how figurative language worked in
specific ways in this poem.
This example, similar to data presented in previous chapters, demonstrates that
very young children are able to use SFL tools in highly productive ways when
teachers pick an SFL tool well suited to achieving their curricular goals. This
Registers
121
example also shows, in Lynne’s words, how “a little SFL” can go a long way—
and that SFL is not as hard to understand and use as critics have claimed. Rather,
if teachers, like their students, are provided with examples, have guidance, and
are given room to experiment, they are able to able to use SFL tools to develop
their own understanding of how language works and scaffold their students’ abilities to engage with disciplinary texts. To illustrate how ACCELA teachers, like
Lynne, have used SFL tools in these their classrooms, this chapter explores the
following questions:
•
•
How can teachers use SFL tools to develop an understanding of how language works in the texts they routinely require students to read and write?
How can teachers use SFL tools to design curriculum, instruction, and assessments to support all students in developing disciplinary literacy practices?
To address these questions, this chapter moves outward from the innermost
circle shown in Figure 5.1 to delve deeper into the concept of register and provides
examples of how ACCELA teachers have used the concept of register to design,
implement, and research their multilingual students’ literacy development. While
Chapter Four focused primarily on English language arts and narratives in the
primary grades, this chapter focuses on a wider variety of content areas, genres,
and grade levels.
FIGURE 5.1
Text/context dynamics in schools (focus on genre and register)
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Registers
Field: Constructing Content, Ideas, and Experiences
To review, field choices construct ideas and experiences, thereby realizing the
ideational function of language. Field choices include the selection of different
types of verbs or processes, different kinds of nouns or participants, and different
kinds of adverbs and prepositional phrases called circumstances. These linguistic
choices construct the content of a text in a particular context of situation. These
terms represent a meaning-oriented perspective of grammar and can support students, regardless of their age, language proficiency, or the content area they are
learning, to notice and critically examine what linguists call transitivity patterns.
Transitivity patterns refer to figuring out “who did what to whom under which
circumstances,” a helpful thought process when students are confronted with a
particularly dense sentence structure or get a little suspicious about how something is worded (Thompson, 2014, p. 32).
Transitivity patterns are fairly easy to trace in everyday texts that construct
meaning using concrete words that map onto grammatical structures in a direct
way. However, “who did what to whom under which circumstances” is harder
to figure out when sentences become more complex and when the participants
become packed with more abstract information. For example, compare the following three sentences:
•
•
•
The balloon popped with a bang.
The air expanded inside the balloon and it exploded.
We hypothesized that the relationship between the temperature and the volume of a
gas is directly proportional.
As illustrated in Table 5.1, the first sentence is made up of just one clause and
tells what happened in a very direct, word-for-word way. In other words, it tells
“who did what under which circumstances” in that order. When clauses are constructed in this direct way, the grammar is said to be congruent with the meaning
(Christie & Derewianka, 2008, p. 151). In the second sentence, transitivity is still
easy to map even though the sentence is made up of two independent clauses
connected by the word and. However, transitivity in the third sentence is much
harder to track, and therefore comprehend for beginning second language learners. Note that the third sentence is made up of two clauses: the first is a dependent clause that includes the conjunction that, and the second is an embedded
independent clause with a long, packed, and abstract noun group in the subject
position. In this example, 11 words form the subject of the embedded clause,
which is a lot of words for a beginning language learner to wade through before
they get to the verb “is.”
The different transitivity patterns in these sentences illustrate one of the reasons why reading and writing in disciplinary ways become more challenging in
the upper grades, especially in the sciences. As discussed in Chapters Three and
Process
Did what?
Participant
What?
Circumstance
In what manner?
with a bang.
Process
Did what?
Participant
What?
Circumstance
Where?
inside the balloon
Conjunction
and
hypothesized
Process
Did what?
We
Participant
Who?
Conjunction
that
Participant
What?
the relationship between the
temperature and the volume of a gas
Complex sentence with a packed and abstract noun group
expanded
The air
Two independent clauses linked by and
popped
The balloon
Simple sentence (a single clause) that uses concrete nouns
TABLE 5.1 Transitivity in Simple and More Complex Sentences
Process
is
Participant (refers to balloon)
What?
it
Attribute
directly proportional.
Process
Did what?
exploded.
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Four, teachers can follow the teaching and learning cycle (TLC) to guide students in unpacking dense transitivity patterns by noticing how different kinds of
processes, participants, and circumstances work to make meaning in the texts they are
routinely required to read and write.
Process Types
Processes refer to different kinds of verbs. The traditional definition of a verb
is an “action.” However, from an SFL perspective, this definition is not very
accurate because some verbs construct different ways of thinking about ideas
and experiences, sensing the physical world, or linking ideas and experiences.
Therefore, Halliday uses the term processes to capture how verbs construe not
just actions or ways of doing, but also ways of saying, sensing, being/relating, and
existing (see Table 5.2).
As discussed in Chapters Three and Four, research demonstrates that even
students in the elementary grades can use functional metalanguage, such as labels
that name different types of processes, to progress from literal to more interpretive and critical understandings of the texts they encounter in schools (e.g.,
Moore & Schleppegrell, 2014). To support this progression, there are a number
of practical ways teachers can introduce students to noticing and naming process
types when they are engaged in literacy tasks. First, developmentally, research
shows that as students advance in grades, they are required to shift from discussing, reading, and writing about more personal topics to critically analyzing
discipline-specific texts (e.g., Christie & Derewianka, 2008). As a result, the process types students encounter in different disciplines become much more precise,
technical, and abstract as they advance in grades. In teaching students to read
closely and discuss what they read critically, teachers can guide students in highlighting, literally, the processes or verbs they encounter in a passage; discuss what
these words mean and why authors might have selected certain verbs over others; and encourage students to use more precise verbs when discussing or writing
about the same topic.
Teachers can also draw students’ attention to how the choice of a specific
saying process combines with aspects of the language’s tenor system to construct
how someone feels about what they said (e.g., whimpered, screamed, said, stated,
reported, argued). Analyzing saying processes is a highly practical way of exploring the
unstated feelings, attitudes, or beliefs of characters in fictional texts (e.g., Moore &
Schleppegrell, 2014). This approach can also be used to identify the stance or
unstated bias of authors of non-fictional texts (e.g., Carpenter, Achugar, Walter, &
Earhart, 2015).
When guiding students in unpacking the meaning of texts in this way, it is
important to note that classifying different types of processes can be very straightforward or it can get very slippery, especially when meanings are nuanced. In
working with ACCELA teachers using an expanded version of the TLC, I stress
Construct experiences
through actions
Doing (also called
action or material
verbs)
Saying (also called
verbal verbs)
Construct the mental
state or internal
world of humans or
non-humans who
are given humanlike qualities
Describe, classify,
or otherwise link
two pieces of
information
Make claims that
some-thing or
someone exists or
existed
Sensing (also called
mental verbs)
• Thinking verbs
• Feeling verbs
• Wanting verbs
• Perceiving verbs
Being (also called
relating or having
verbs)
Existential
Construct ideas and
experiences as
spoken or reported
Function
Process Type
There is a house
There are several types of chemical compounds
Once upon a time, there was a mouse
To make, create, build, craft, design,
construct, produce, fabricate, assemble,
manufacture, engineer
In arguments and explanations: to imply,
suggest, say, state, report, claim, maintain,
attest, argue, proclaim, conclude
In fiction and non-fiction literary texts:
to whisper, stammer, yelp, plead, beg,
shout, scream, roar
To know, remember, recollect, understand,
recognize, comprehend, learn
To wish, wonder, hope, like, love, dislike,
loathe, hate, detest
To sense, see, touch, feel, hear, taste, smell,
observe, notice
Is, are, was, were
Has, have, had,
Refers, is called, seems
Examples
Teachers can type a short text or select a key passage
for analysis focusing on one aspect of the text such as
process types. This analysis should focus on noticing
patterns in texts to support the content goals of an
instructional unit. Students should not just label certain
linguistic features for the sake of labeling and testing.
• Over time, with practice and support, students can use
SFL to analyze texts more independently as they develop
critical reading and more expert writing practices.
Students can be instructed to highlight processes in texts
and categorize them by type as a way of moving from
literal, to inferential, and then to critical interpretations
of what they read.
•
•
Students are required to develop more varied, precise,
and abstract ways of constructing ideas and experiences
as they shift from reading and writing personal narratives
in the primary grades to other kinds of informational
texts in secondary school (e.g., types of reports,
explanations, arguments; see Chapter Four)
•
Implications for Practice
TABLE 5.2 Processes or Verb Types (Derewianka, 2011; Droga & Humphrey, 2003; Schleppegrell, 2004)
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that the goal of analyzing process types is to support readers in noticing patterns
and naming how meaning is being constructed in a specific text. The goal is not
to label verbs for the sake of labeling or to test students’ accuracy in using SFL’s
technical terms.
I also stress that it is neither necessary, nor practical, to analyze an entire text
in such close detail, especially in the upper grades when texts become longer and
more complex. Rather, using the expanded TLC introduced in Chapter Four,
I encourage teachers to select a key passage that is essential to their instructional
goals. During Stages Four and Five of the expanded TLC—Modeling Reading and Modeling Writing—teachers can either photocopy a selected passage or
type it on a worksheet. They can then project it on an overhead or show it on a
screen so they can work alongside students in using different colored highlighters
to notice and name the processes, or other aspects of the text (e.g., genre stages,
field, tenor, and mode choices) they want students to attend to in learning content knowledge and developing disciplinary literacy practices. This approach can
help guide students in learning to read and write in more expert ways (see praxis
section of this chapter for more detail).
SFL in Action: Analyzing Processes in The Giving Tree
In introducing pre- and in-service teachers to the power of exploring field
choices in texts, I demonstrate how teachers can use SFL tools to support students
of any age in reading, analyzing, and discussing The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Silverstein’s (1964) provocative picture book tells the story of a tree who
loves a boy and their relationship as the boy grows older. The narrative unfolds
through a set of genre stages that include a series of mini complications and their
resolutions, which I have teachers identify using different colored highlighters on a
one-page typed version of the story. Teachers note that the first of these complication/resolution sequences involves the boy wanting money and the tree giving
him her apples to sell. Next, the boy wants a house, so the tree tells the boy to
chop down her branches to build one. As time passes, the boy is again unhappy
and wants to sail away. The tree tells him to cut down her trunk to make a boat,
which the boy does. In the end, the boy returns, now an old man, who just wants
a quiet place to sit. The tree, who is now a stump, offers herself as a place where
the boy can rest. The narrative’s final resolution is that the old man sits down and
stays with the tree, and the tree is happy.
After reading this story aloud as a class, just as I would with elementary and
secondary students, I ask members of the class to highlight all the processes or
verbs that go with the tree and those that go with the boy to see if they notice any
patterns. Without any background in SFL, they determine that the boy’s character is constructed using mostly doing verbs (e.g., cut, take, chop, carry, sail ) with
the exception of the repetition of the sensing verb want. The tree’s character, on
the other hand, is constructed using mostly sensing verbs that include love, verbal
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verbs such as whispered and sighed, and the being verb was in the sentence “the tree
was happy” (or sad or lonely in other parts of the narrative).
Based on this quick analysis of field choices, our discussion of this story’s
meaning typically centers on conceptions of unconditional love, motherhood,
gender dynamics, and the relationship between humans and the environment.
In addition, I encourage teachers, as I would students, to give textual evidence
to support their interpretations to model how they can use a similar practice of
unpacking meaning and discussing interpretations of texts with their students.
Participant Types
Teachers and students alike also benefit from developing a greater awareness of
the different types of participants or nouns and noun groups they encounter in
different kinds of texts. The traditional definition of a noun is “a person, place, or
thing.” However, in Halliday’s meaning-focused grammar, what’s more important is that people, places, and things participate in social processes. Therefore,
the term participants is meant to capture how people, places, and things bring
about the occurrence of different processes (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2006). For
example, in shifting from literal, to more inferential, and then critical interpretations of historical texts or texts written about politically charged topics,
students must develop more precise ways of answering the seemingly simple
question “who did what to whom under which circumstances.” Students need
to develop this ability because disciplinary texts are often written in ways that
unintentionally and sometimes very intentionally obscure responsibility, euphemize highly negative events, and exaggerate the impact of positive ones ( Janks,
2010; Schleppegrell, 2004; Young & Fitzgerald, 2006). In addition, historical
texts are often written from the perspective of those in power and therefore
construct “reality” from a specific perspective that is not always shared by others.
For example, were women given the right to vote in 1920 or did they fight for it?
During the Vietnam war, were mistakes made or did someone in particular actually make them? And in the summer of 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, were
White supremacists exercising their First Amendment rights or committing hate crimes?
Using an understanding of the interaction between process and participant
types, as shown in Table 5.3, students can engage in literal and interpretive discussions of the texts they read by exploring how doing verbs (also sometimes
called action or material verbs) construct “doers,” “agents,” and those who are
“done to.” They can also learn how to read between the lines when doers or
agents are grammatically hidden or constructed in a more positive or negative
light depending on the author’s stance. Likewise, students can be guided in noticing and discussing how sensing verbs and saying verbs construct particular kinds
of actors in literary, historical, and political texts. For example, in analyzing literary texts, students note that male characters, such as the boy in Silverstein’s
picture book, are constructed through a preponderance of doing or action verbs
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that construct them as agents of their own destinies for good or ill. In contrast,
women’s experiences, like the tree, are often constructed through a greater number of sensing processes, which construe women as people whose experiences are
shaped less by their own actions and more by their emotions and feelings and the
actions of others (e.g., Droga & Humphrey, 2003, p. 35).
TABLE 5.3 Participant or Noun Group Types (Derewianka, 2011; Droga & Humphrey,
2003; Schleppegrell, 2004)
Participant Type
Examples
Implications for Practice
Doers (also
called agents)
Chemicals that leaked into
waterways destroyed the
wetland habitats.
My mother’s favorite vase was
shattered to pieces on the floor.
The solution was heated to 100
degrees Celsius.
Ten teachers were randomly
selected for participation in
a study of their beliefs about
grammar.
• Teachers can support students
in noticing how action verbs
construct agency and make
“who did what to whom” very
transparent.
• Teachers can also support
students in noticing when the
doer is grammatically buried
or even left out to avoid blame
or responsibility (e.g., use of
passive versus active voice) or
to make a text appear more
objective or scientific
(e.g., scientific observations).
• Teachers can support students
in noticing how characters
in literature or authors of
informational texts use sensing
verbs. This kind of analysis
supports students in moving
from literal to more inferential
understandings of texts and
to use more precise verbs in
producing texts of their own.
• Teachers can support students
in noticing how characters in
literature or authors
of informational texts use saying
verbs. This kind of analysis
supports students in moving
from literal to more inferential
understandings of texts and
to use more precise and more
varied verbs in producing texts
of their own.
Done to
Sensors
Sayers
He felt lonely, longed to be home
again with his parents, and
hoped that no harm would come
to him as he marched North to
Gettysburg.
Copernicus hypothesized that the
sun is at rest near the center
of the universe, and that the
Earth revolves annually around
the sun.
Harry’s first cousin, Dudley, is
always whining, sniveling, and
demanding.
Nixon denied any knowledge of
the Watergate break-in.
The number of deaths on the
island of Puerto Rico after
Hurricane Maria speak loudly
to the issue of environmental
injustice.
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Participant Type
Examples
Implications for Practice
Generalized
participants
My abuela Æ migrants from
Puerto Rico
The air in the balloon Æ gasses
This triangle Æ equilateral
triangles
Packed
participants
(also called
long nominal
groups)
Trapped greenhouse gases
Adjacent angles measuring
60 degrees
The tall, imposing skyscrapers of
New York City
• Teachers can support
students in recognizing and
using generalizable nouns
or participants as they move
from reading, writing, and
talking about the personal and
particular to more abstract
ways of constructing ideas and
experiences.
• Teachers can guide students
to highlight long nominal
groups to support their reading
comprehension.
• Teachers can also show
students how to pack more
meaning into nominal
groups as a way of effectively
“adding details” in producing
disciplinary texts.
An additional type of participant is referred to as a generalizable participant.
Students encounter these kinds of nouns/noun groups as they shift from telling
personal narratives and reading in the primary grades, to reading, writing, and
discussing discipline-specific informational texts in the upper grades. SFL scholars
have provided compelling evidence that students need to be able to recognize
and use generalizable participants in moving from the personal and particular to
the more general and abstract (e.g., Christie & Derewianka, 2008). For example,
multilingual elementary students in Lynne Britton’s class learned to use generalizable participants after reading and writing about their families’ migration experiences (Gebhard, Chen, & Britton, 2014). Specifically, as they moved away from
sharing specific family stories to writing more generalized historical explanations,
they were guided in shifting from talking about abuelo and abuela in class discussions to using generalizable participants such Puerto Rican migrants in their writing.
In addition, they discussed how migrant as opposed to immigrant captures the fact
that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.
Moreover, disciplinary texts tend to pack participants with a lot of information
to create longer nominal groups or what students in Lynne’s class called “chunky
participants” (Gebhard, Chen, & Britton, 2014, p. 112). For example, when
Lynne’s students read and wrote about global warming, they highlighted participants such as dangerous trapped greenhouse gases. This practice supported their reading comprehension and their ability to pack disciplinary meanings into chunky
participants in their own writing.
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Circumstance Types
A third component of the field system is how language packs details about a
process into a single clause or sentence through the use of circumstances. As illustrated in Table 5.4, students can improve both their reading and writing abilities
by attending closely to how writers, including themselves, construct time, place,
manner, and cause within a sentence when writing a text for a particular purpose
and audience.
TABLE 5.4 Circumstances Types (Derewianka, 2011; Droga & Humphrey, 2003; Schleppe-
grell, 2004)
Circumstance
Type
Function
Example
Implications for Practice
Time
Construct a point in
time, the duration
of an event, and/
or the frequency of
an event
•
Place
Construct specific
location, direction
to a place, and/
or the distance to
a place
Manner
Construct how, by
what means, and/
or to what extent
something happens
The stock market crashed
on October 29,
1929, causing the
Great Depression,
which lasted almost
a decade. Since then,
the US economy has
experienced other
crashes, including
in 2008.
She tucked the tattered
notebook in her
flowered backpack,
under the few
belongings she packed
as she walked several
miles to the train
station on the desolate
stretch of Route 47.
36 grams of table salt
(NaCl) were poured
in 100 mL of water
and stirred with a glass
rod until it dissolved
completely.
As a result of the Brown
versus Board of
Education ruling, racial
segregation in public
schools was declared
unconstitutional
in 1954.
Causal
Construct the cause,
purpose, and/or
reasons behind an
event
•
Teachers can
support students’
active reading
practices by having
them highlight
how authors
pack details into
clauses to construct
particular kinds
of meanings
associated with
different disciplines
(time markers in
historical texts;
cause and effect
in scientific texts;
place in literary
texts; and manner
in a variety of
disciplines).
Teachers can
support students in
using circumstances
more expertly in
their own writing
based on an
analysis of expert
texts in their
discipline.
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Tenor: Constructing Voice, Social Roles, and
Power Dynamics
As discussed in previous chapters, the interpersonal function of language constructs social identities, relationships, power dynamics, attitudes, and emotions.
This function is realized through the language’s tenor system, which includes
grammatical mood, modality, and appraisal resources.
Grammatical Mood
As illustrated in Table 5.5, language users consciously and subconsciously develop
different ways of establishing relationships, institutional identities, and social roles
through the way they offer information and make statements using the declarative
mood, ask questions using the interrogative mood, or give commands using the
imperative mood. For example, developmentally, very young children do not have
a full command of the language’s mood system. Therefore, they often use single
TABLE 5.5 The Grammatical Mood System (Derewianka, 2011; Derewianka & Jones,
2016; Droga & Humphrey, 2003; Schleppegrell, 2004)
Grammatical
Mood
Function
Example
Implications for Practice
Statements: the
declarative
mood
To give
information,
to construct a
fact (even when
it might be an
opinion)
•
Questions: the
interrogative
mood
To ask for
information or
for someone to
do something;
to make an offer
To command
or to express
something
forcefully
Today we are going
to develop a better
understanding of
what a linear function
is using equations,
graphs, and written
explanations.
Would anyone like to
share your group’s
responses to the
problem?
Commands:
the
imperative
mood
Look at each of the
graphs in the
textbook. Next,
decide if it represents a
linear function. Then
explain your reasons.
Work in pairs and
then report back. You
have five minutes, so
get started!
Students can
analyze the use of
question, statements
of “fact,” and
commands to
explore roles and
power dynamics
in literary texts,
films, and political
discourse (e.g., who
talks, who is silent,
who uses statements
to construct
authoritative
“facts,” who
asks questions
and listens to the
responses, who
gives commands,
and are they
followed or not?)
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words and intonation to make statements or requests such as Cookie!, meaning
I want a cookie, Here’s a cookie, Can I have a cookie?, or Give me a cookie! As they
cognitively and socially mature, they develop the grammatical resources needed
to interact with others using questions, statements, and commands in more selective and purposeful ways. For example, they learn to how to offer information, make suggestions, ask for clarification, make requests, and demand action
(Halliday, 1993).
In classroom discourse, students are socialized into and can be explicitly taught
how to negotiate new social dynamics and identities in school by consciously
attending to grammatical mood, as well as other aspects of tenor related to constructing productive and respectful classroom interactions and relationships (see
Chapter Three). For example, Derewianka (2011, p. 110) describes how patterns
of interactions in classrooms determine who is the “expert,” the “mentor,” the
“facilitator,” or the “disciplinarian,” as well as who is the “novice,” the “learner,”
the “knower,” or the “subverter.” She adds that how these roles are negotiated
through statements, questions, and commands determines whether the relationships between teachers and students, and students and other students are “supportive, cool or stressful” (p. 110).
Table 5.6 illustrates how grammatical mood can influence classroom dynamics. This example comes from a mixed age/ability high school algebra class and
builds on the examples of classroom discourse presented in Chapter Three. It
demonstrates how mood and field resources work together in classroom talk as
the teacher, “Mr. Moody,” tries to get his reluctant students to discuss linear
functions.
This example illustrates how the mood system, in conjunction with field
choices, is used to negotiate interactions and construct social roles and disciplinary knowledge. In regard to implications for practice, as discussed in the praxis
section of Chapter Three, pre- and in-service teachers can record and transcribe
classroom interactions as a way of reflecting on classroom dynamics and learning opportunities. For example, they can analyze how their use of statements,
questions, and commands construct institutional roles and identities in ways that
can be highly consequential for students’ learning and the kind of relationships
enacted between themselves and their students. In addition, Derewianka (2011)
suggests students can be explicitly taught how to participate more productively
in pedagogical conversations by learning how to use statements, question, and
commands when working in groups and participating in whole-class discussions
(e.g., I agree, I disagree, I would like to add, Our group said the same thing, Our group
had a different answer, What’s your opinion?, What do you want to add?, Do you have
a different answer?, Say more about that). Last, in regard to supporting students’
critical literacies, teachers can use these same tools to analyze dialogue in novels,
films, and political debates as a way of exploring identities, roles, and power
dynamics in these types of texts.
TABLE 5.6 Use of Field and Tenor Resources in a High School Math Class
Transcript
Analysis of field and tenor choices
1. Mr. Moody: Today we are going
to develop a better
understand of what a
linear function is using
equations, graphs, and
written explanations. We
will do this in groups
and then discuss it. For
homework you have a
worksheet that you’ll
complete on your own.
2. Mr. Moody: So, using the definition we
talked about yesterday
and that I put on the
top of your handout,
look at each of the six
graphs. Next, decide
if it represents a linear
function or not. Then
explain your reasons
using the definition. Talk
it out in your groups and
then report back. You
have about five minutes,
so let’s get started!
(students work in groups using
both Spanish and English,
the teacher moves from group
to group, some students
have their heads down on
their desks)
•
The teacher gives directions by
making statements of fact using the
declarative mood. In part, these
statements establish his institutional
role as the teacher. They also
establish the purpose of instruction
and what the homework will be
(i.e., aspects of the field of algebra
through the choice of specific
processes, participants, and
circumstances).
• The teacher gives directions using
a series of commands (e.g., look,
decide, explain, work, report, get started)
in ways that further construct his
institutional role as the person who
controls the topic of conversation
(linear functions), who talks, and
when (e.g., whole class, small
groups, individually).
• The teacher moves from group to
group to get students on task and
answer questions. He spends a little
more time with groups that need
more help. He does not interrupt
the flow of conversation in groups
that seem to be on track.
• The teacher uses multimodal and
multilingual resources to decrease
the social distance that often exists
between teachers and students in
high schools. For example, he does
not stand at the front of the room
and lecture, but moves from group
to group, sometimes kneeling so he
is on eye level with students. He
switches between a math register
and everyday registers in English and
Spanish. He points to the graphs and
traces their shape with his figure to
further explain what a function is.
• Students seem to react positively
to Mr. Moody’s interactions with
them. Most get to work while also
joking around.
(Continued)
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TABLE 5.6 (Continued)
Transcript
Analysis of field and tenor choices
3. Mr. Moody: Okay, let’s get back
together and see what
you came up with.
Would anyone like to
share? (4 seconds of silence)
•
4. Mr. Moody: No takers? (3 seconds of
silence) I noticed a lot
of you had some good
ideas. Should we do the
first one together to get
started?
•
5. Mr. Moody: Okay Mayjay, let’s do the
first one together because
I have the feeling your
group is on the right
track.
•
•
We said this first one is
linear because it’s like,
like the line is straight,
so like there isn’t a curve.
•
7. Mr. Moody: Yeah, right. That makes
sense. It is a linear
function because the
equation produces a
straight line, you can
graph a straight line. Does
the next group want to
add to that?
6. Mayjay:
The teacher asks an open-ended
question to share the floor with
students, but they resist participating
despite most having made progress
in completing the task. He allows
“wait time” to see if someone will
take the floor.
Students continue to resist taking
the floor. To model and scaffold
classroom participation structures
that co-construct knowledge and
language, he provides a declarative
statement that constructs students as
having disciplinary understanding and
as being capable students. He then
uses a question to encourage students
to respond, while also offering to
make the task less challenging by
doing the first one with them.
The teacher nominates a student
who can contribute to the
construction of the target concept.
He uses a command to prompt
participation and a statement of
encouragement to confer academic
ability to this student’s group.
Student uses the declarative mood to
construct mathematical knowledge
and her role as a capable math
student.
The teacher evaluates the student’s
response and elaborates on it using
a series of declarative statements
and mathematical field choices.
He then asks a question to prompt
another group to contribute to the
discussion to further construct the
students’ understanding of a linear
function using Mayjay’s language.
Modality: Constructing Degrees of Possibility and Certainty
In the context of Chapter Three, I introduced the concept of modal verbs. These verbs
function to construct different degrees of possibility and/or certainty. They include
may, might, can, could, shall, ought to, need to, has to, will, and must (see Table 5.7).
Modal Nouns
Modal Adverbs
Modal Verbs
Modal Type
Can, could, should
The senator should vote in
favor of that bill.
Probably, likely, usually
The bill will probably pass the
senate.
Probability, likelihood
There is a strong likelihood
the bill will pass the senate.
Maybe the bill will pass
the senate.
Possibility, chance
There is a possibility the
bill will pass the senate.
Medium
May, might
The senator might vote in
favor of that bill.
Maybe, perhaps, possibly
Low
Examples at Different Degrees of Modality
Will, must, have to
The senator will vote in
favor of that bill.
Always, never, definitely,
absolutely
The bill will definitely pass
the senate.
Certainty, necessity
It is a certainty that the bill
will pass the senate.
High
TABLE 5.7 The Modality System (Derewianka, 2011; Droga & Humphrey, 2003; Schleppegrell, 2004)
• Teachers can support students in noticing
and critically discussing how modality is
used in texts.
• Students can draw on their discussion
to use modality in their speaking and
writing in more nuanced ways (e.g.,
making space for other perspectives,
not overstating a claim, constructing a
reasoned stance, not overcommitting to a
perspective, hedging).
Implications for Practice
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We use these modal verbs, as well as modal adverbs (e.g., absolutely, probably,
maybe) and modal nouns (e.g., certainty, probability, possibility), to take up harder or
softer positions while making statements, asking questions, and giving commands
(Halliday, 1993).
This aspect of tenor is important because as children advance in grades and
develop content knowledge in different disciplines, they need to expand and
attend more consciously to how language users, including themselves, make
choices regarding modality. For example, children in the elementary grades typically read and write stories with their friends and teacher and share these stories
with their families. However, as they advance in grades, they are required to
read, write, and critique informational texts. These texts use modality in more
specific and nuanced ways to explain and persuade. Therefore, students need to
be able to notice how modality is used in historical and scientific texts so they
can determine if information is being presented in a balanced and objective way
or not (e.g., Derewianka & Jones, 2016; Schleppegrell, 2004).
Moreover, in their own classroom talk and writing, students need to make
space for other perspectives in interacting with people who may not share their
views and they need to be careful not to present their opinions as taken-forgranted facts. Teachers can support students in expanding their knowledge of
modality by having them highlight and discuss authors’ use of modal verbs, modal
adverbs, and modal nouns and then support students in making more intentional
modal choices of their own.
Appraisal: Expressing Feelings, Evaluating
Things, and Judging People
As Derewianka and Jones (2016) make clear, language users “don’t interact by
simply exchanging questions, statements, commands, and offers . . . we express
attitudes, engage the listener or reader, and adjust the strength of our feelings
and opinions” (p. 25). Together these aspects of the interpersonal function form
the appraisal system. As Martin and White (2005) describe, this system is used to
express human emotions related to matters of the heart (e.g., love, hate) and feelings of well-being or insecurity (e.g., happy, afraid). It is also used to evaluate the
worth, value, or quality of something (e.g., an expertly crafted film) and to judge
people’s actions and moral character (e.g., brave, weak, cowardly). While appraisal
resources include the use of adjectives, it is important to note that emotions,
evaluations, and judgment can also be communicated indirectly through how
language users choose specific processes, participants, and circumstances as illustrated in Table 5.8.
In regard to pedagogical practices, students can be taught to notice how
language, as well as images and sounds, work to communicate attitudes in a
host of different genres across different disciplines (e.g., historical recounts, personal narratives, scientific arguments, mathematical explanations). For example,
Example
The film documented the
indescribable pain of parents
whose children lost their lives at
Columbine, Sandy Hook, and
then Parkland High School.
Focus: The feeling and emotions
of parents
Political leaders have taken note
of the well-organized student
movement against gun violence in
the wake of a school shooting in
Parkland, Florida.
Focus: Evaluation of a thing, a
student movement
Many, regardless of where they
stand on the Second Amendment,
accuse state and federal lawmakers
of being weak when it comes
to addressing the issue of gun
violence in the United States.
Focus: A judgment of the
behavior and moral character
of politicians
Aspect of Appraisal
Language used to
express human
emotions related
to matters of the
heart, degrees of
satisfaction, and a
sense of security
Language used to
evaluate the quality
of things; ways of
reacting to an event;
ways of appraising a
work of art or natural
phenomenon
Language used to judge
people’s behavior;
ways of critiquing
someone’s moral
character
• Students can be taught to use highlighters
to identify language that constructs human
emotions, evaluations of things, and
judgments of people.
• Students can make lists of words and
phrases to support them in shifting form
literal to more inferential and critical
interpretations of texts.
• Students can take note of how different
disciplines use appraisal resources in
different ways. For example, they can
notice how writers of scientific discourse
try to be objective, descriptive, and analytic
as opposed to emotional. Therefore,
students can be taught to use appraisal
resources strategically in producing
scientific texts.
• Literary texts, on the other hand, are
artfully crafted to invoke emotions,
evaluations, and judgments. Therefore,
students can be taught to use appraisal
resources in specific ways when they
are producing poems, narratives, literary
descriptions, responses to literature, and
critical reviews.
News reports
Advertisements (through
images, language, and music)
Poetry
Editorials
Arguments
Reviews of performances,
books, works of art and
music
Arguments
Implications for Practice
Sample Genres
TABLE 5.8 Appraisal Systems (Derewianka & Jones, 2016; Droga & Humphrey, 2003; Martin & White, 2005)
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students can be guided in using highlighters to identify language that constructs
human emotions, evaluations of things, and judgments of people. Students can
make lists of these words and phrases to explore the literal meanings of words
and then shift to more inferential and critical readings. Similar to how students
can be taught to identify and analyze how different kinds of processes, participants, and circumstances make meaning in texts, they can also be shown how to
take note of how expert writers use appraisal resources in patterned ways. For
example, they can notice how writers of scientific discourse tend to aim for a
tone of objectivity by making declarative statements of fact with judicious use
of appraisal resources to evaluate and judge the merits of something in ways that
are very different from how a literary text uses appraisal resources to construct
emotions and judgments.
SFL in Action: Fifth Graders’ Tenor Choices in
Writing Persuasive Letters
An example of how one ACCELA teacher guided her multilingual students in
exploring mood, modality, and appraisal resources is found in a case study conducted by Wendy Seger (Gebhard, Harman, & Seger, 2007). As mentioned in
Chapter Four, Wendy was enrolled in an SFL course as part of earning a master’s
degree in education and a license to teacher ESL. At the time, she was teaching
fifth grade at “Fuentes Elementary School.” This school served 700 students, all
of whom were eligible for a free or reduced lunch. Nearly half of these students
reported speaking Spanish at home and nearly all were failing the state mandated
exams in reading, English language arts, and mathematics. The administration’s
response to students’ low scores was to take away their afternoon recess to make
more time in their daily schedule for test preparation activities. To make matters
worse, the school’s gym had been declared off-limits because of a fire. This meant
that in addition to not having recess, gym class consisted of students jogging
up and down one of the school’s staircases or playing improvised games in the
hallway. Wendy firmly believed that students’ attention, and therefore learning
and test scores, would be improved if they were able to get some much-needed
exercise.
Given these circumstances, Wendy wanted to apply an SFL approach to
teaching English language arts to accomplish two related goals: first, she wanted
to support students in writing persuasive letters to the administration as a way of
possibly getting their recess reinstated; and second, she wanted to try her hand at
using some of the SFL tools she had been introduced to through her participation
in the ACCELA Alliance. To this end, Wendy designed a curricular unit that
supported students in reading scientific explanations about the benefits of recess
and writing formal, persuasive letters to their principal to get their recess back. To
accomplish these goals, Wendy following the expanded TLC presented in Chapter Four. Specifically, Wendy drew on students’ background knowledge of the
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problem, guided them in reading excerpts from research articles on the benefits
of recess, modeled the genre and register features of a formal persuasive letter, and
supported students in producing individually authored letters to the principal.
To reflect on students’ learning at the end of the unit, Wendy collected and
analyzed writing samples. Her case study focused on one student named “Julia.”
Julia was a highly motivated 11-year-old who had received instruction mostly in
Spanish in grades K-3. According to school records, assessments given in Spanish determined she was a fluent, grade-level reader in her first language, but still
struggled with reading and writing grade-level texts in English. Nonetheless,
after the passage of an anti-bilingual education initiative in Massachusetts, Julia
was “mainstreamed” in fourth grade and received no additional language support
from bilingual or ESL specialists.
Samples of three texts Julia produced during this unit focusing on recess are
shown in Figure 5.2.1 An analysis of these texts shows a clear shift in Julia’s use
of tenor resources from the beginning to the end of the unit. For example, in
Text 1, Julia uses the imperative mood to construct an authoritative voice. She
does not use any commands such as “Vote for Recess!” or “Boycott Fuentes!”
However, her drawing of students marching and holding protest signs, as well
as her use of many exclamation marks, suggest that she is commanding rather
than asking the administration to act. In contrast, Text 2, which is Julia’s notes
from the class’s collective reading of excerpts from a published research article,
constructs a set of authoritative statements using declarative statements. And last,
Julia’s final letter (Text 3) constructs a much more mature and respectful tone as
compared to her initial drawing, but still a strong voice through the use of commands such as “please consider giving us a break” and her closing line, “Please
think about it.”
A review of these texts also shows a clear shift in Julia’s use of modality.
For example, her first text uses modal verbs in the negative, written in capital letters (e.g., “that is not fair that students in Fuentes CAN NOT HAVE
RECESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!”). In addition, her use of the verb need functions much like
the modal verb must. Interestingly, in her final letter, Julia’s still uses modality to
construct a high degree of certainty, but she also makes room for other perspectives. In addition, she uses the modal will to make a promise to the administration.
For example, she writes, “We know you will be concerned about time. We will
work until 11:35. Then give up five minutes of our lunch. We will finish our
work” (underlining added here to illustrate Julia’s use of modality).
Last, in regard to appraisal, there is also a clear shift from Text 1 to Text 3.
For example, in Text 1, Julia conveys emotions with angry faces, claims of being
“tired,” and claims that the situation is “not fair.” In contrast, her research notes
(Text 2) use a different set of appraisal resources—ones that do not express human
emotion as much as evaluate things. For example, she notes a “clear and positive
link,” “moderately vigorous playground activity,” and “widely held belief.” She
also judges people’s behavior as “more satisfied, alert, and attentive.” And last,
FIGURE 5.2
Julia’s use of tenor resources in three texts arguing for recess to be reinstated (Gebhard, Harman, & Seger, 2007, pp. 423, 427)
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her final draft conveys the human emotions of “getting bored” and “not having
fun” in terms that one would expect from an 11-year-old, but she couples these
attitudes with evaluations of “learning better” and getting “straight to work” in
making concessions to the administration.
After collecting the students’ final letters, Wendy made an appointment
with the principal. Her students had worked hard, but Wendy wasn’t sure the
administration would grant their request. However, the principal was impressed
with their letters. He noted that students stated their points clearly through their
use of carefully developed arguments and counter-arguments and he consented
to their request. In a response letter to the class, he stated that students could
have a ten-minute recess for the remainder of the year if they were prepared
to find these minutes during other parts of the day (e.g., transitions between
activities, lunch). The following Monday morning, he delivered the letter to
the students and complimented them on how articulate they were. When he
left, Wendy described the atmosphere in the room as “electric,” as the students
realized that their efforts had won them back their recess (Gebhard, Harman, &
Seger, 2007, p. 427).
Mode: Managing the Flow of Information
Most of us have had the experience of trying to produce an extended text and
not knowing how to smoothly add information to a given topic or transition to a
new topic. In addition, anyone who has spent time reading student work knows
that novice writers often jump from topic to topic without developing their
ideas in a coherent and cohesive way. In SFL terms, this is a mode problem. As
described in Chapter Three and illustrated in Figure 5.1, mode choices are how
we realize the textual function of language. In explaining this function, Derewianka and Jones (2016) write:
it is through the textual resources of language that we are able to organize
our ideas, attitudes, and so on into texts that coherently hang together and
relate to the context. The choices we make will depend on the mode (oral,
written, multimodal) and the medium (print, digital, sound, etc.). (p. 30)
SFL scholars have identified several ways that language and other multimodal
systems perform these textual functions in systematic ways. These include: ways
of weaving together given and new information, the use of nominalization, the use
of carefully selected cohesive devices, and ways of tracking participants across a longer
stretch of discourse. These four aspects of mode can be used to scaffold students’
reading comprehension (e.g., Gibbons, 2003). They can also be used to help
students reflect, revise, and evaluate their own writing (e.g., Gebhard, Chen, &
Britton, 2014).
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Weaving Given and New Information:
Theme and Rheme Patterns
One of the problems novice writers face is being able to shift from one topic to
the next by weaving given and new information together cohesively and coherently. In SFL terms, this is referred to as constructing cohesive theme/rheme patterns. Theme is the first part of a clause. Also referred to as given information, the
theme signals the focus of the clause and the author’s point of departure. The rheme
is anything that comes after the theme to add new information about the topic.
Table 5.9 shows five types of theme/rheme patterns that support the cohesive and
logical progression of ideas in extended stretches of discourse in different disciplines. For example, informational paragraphs are typically organized around one
main topic or theme, such as a paragraph about isosceles triangles that defines what
they are and then adds details about specific characteristics of these triangles. Such
a paragraph might stay on topic through theme repetition, as in the example text
about isosceles triangles shown in Table 5.9. In this example, each sentence begins
with the same theme, but not the same words. The author uses the pronoun it as a
way of staying on topic and not repeating the long noun group “a right isosceles
triangle” over and over again.
A second common theme/rheme pattern is referred to as the zig-zag pattern
(Eggins, 2004, p. 324), where the rheme of one sentence becomes the theme of
the next. As illustrated in an example from U.S. history in Table 5.9, the rheme
or new information in the first sentence is the American Revolution of 1776.
This rheme, “revolution,” becomes the theme or given information in the next
sentence, which then goes on to introduce the new idea of taxes. In a zig-zag
fashion, “taxes” becomes the theme or given information in the next sentence,
which then provides new information about taxes on tea. “Tea” then becomes
the theme or given information in the next sentence and the rheme or new
information is the “Boston Tea Party.” This zig-zag pattern is commonly found
in informational texts.
Oftentimes, authors of disciplinary texts use nominalization in conjunction
with the zig-zag pattern. Nominalization most often involves converting a verb
to a noun, such as changing revolt into revolution. Nominalizations are an important characteristic of disciplinary language for two reasons: first, they allow an
author to create zig-zag patterns to build the content of their text; and second,
they turn verbs or processes into more abstract nouns that, once realized as
abstract ideas, can be elaborated on and packed with more information. For
example:
•
•
•
Revolt Æ Revolution
The American Revolution . . .
The American Revolution, which began on April 19, 1775 with the battles of Concord and Lexington . . .
These taxes included the tax
on tea, which resulted in the
famous Boston Tea Party.
This revolution started because the
King of England was taxing
the Americans too much.
A right isosceles triangle
has one angle that measures
90 degrees and two angles that
measure 45 degrees each. It
has two legs of equal lengths
because of their corresponding
angles. It has an area that
can be determined by the same
formula for all triangles.
Boston is where the American
Revolution of 1776 began.
Theme repetition
(including
same word,
synonyms,
pronouns)
Zig-zag (rheme
in one clause
becomes theme
in the next)
Example
Pattern
Schleppegrell, 2004)
• Teachers can guide students in using
different colored highlighters to notice,
list, categorize and critically discuss how
authors of published texts use themes in
different ways depending of the genre
they are producing (e.g., a narrative,
historical recount, mathematical
description, scientific explanation).
The sentence’s starting point or theme is a
right isosceles triangle shown in bold. The
rheme, which is underlined, adds new
information about this theme.
Each sentence begins with the same theme
using the pronoun it, which is repeated
as a way of staying on topic without
having to repeat the long noun group a
right isosceles triangle.
The first sentence ends by introducing
the American revolution. This rheme
becomes the theme of the next sentence.
In a zig-zag fashion, the rheme of the
second sentence becomes the theme of
the third, and so on.
This pattern creates cohesion between
given and new information as an author
is building the field across an
extended text.
(Continued)
• These activities support active reading,
reading comprehension, genre
knowledge development, and critical
discussions of how authors artfully
weave together information and
attitudes in literary and informational
texts.
Implications for Practice
Function
TABLE 5.9 Ways of Building Ideas through Theme/Rheme Patterns (Coffin, 2009; Derewianka, 2011; Droga & Humphrey, 2003; Eggins, 2004;
On January 2, 1961, John F.
Kennedy was inaugurated
as the 35th President of
the United States. On
November 22, 1963, he was
assassinated. In the United
States, people of a certain age
can recall vividly where they
were when Kennedy was shot.
With fear and frustration, many
Puerto Ricans continue to live
without power and running
water in the aftermath of
Hurricane Maria.
Because of the narrowing of the
arteries, there is increased blood
pressure. As a result, patients
with high blood pressure have a
greater chance of having a heart
attack or a stroke.
Time and
place themes
(ideational
themes)
Connecting
themes (textual
themes)
Attitudinal themes
(interpersonal
themes)
Example
Pattern
TABLE 5.9 (Continued)
• Students can use these same methods
of highlighting, listing, categorizing,
and discussing theme patterns to reflect
on and revise the texts they and their
peers produce in order to enhance
their capacity to create well-crafted,
coherent, and cohesive texts.
The sentences’ starting point draws
attention to when or where something
happened to accent time and place.
The sentence’s starting point focuses on
cause and effect.
Other kinds of connecting themes signal
different kinds of relationships between
clauses, sentences, and paragraphs. For
example, adding information (in addition,
furthermore, also); sequencing (first, second,
third, last); or contrasting information
(however, in contrast, on the other hand).
The sentence’s starting point focuses on
the speaker/writer’s attitudes to draw
attention to feelings, evaluations, and
judgments.
Implications for Practice
Function
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A third type of theme marks time. These ideational themes use the circumstance of time to organize a series of events according to when they happened
and are very common in historical texts (Coffin, 2009). In the example shown
in Table 5.9, the focus is on when John F. Kennedy was born and when he was
assassinated. It is worth noting that other ideational themes use different types of
circumstances to focus on the place where something happens.
A fourth kind of theme accents the attitude of the speaker or writer. These
interpersonal themes begin sentences with expressions that focus on the speaker/
writer’s feelings, evaluations, and judgments. In the example given in Table 5.9,
the author’s theme choice accents the feelings of “fear and frustration” experienced by Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Last, connecting or textual themes are used to signal specific relationships
between clauses, sentences, and paragraphs. As discussed in previous chapters,
textual themes in oral discourse might include and, so, but, like, and cuz. However, in making sense of disciplinary meanings, writers need to construct more
specific connections between ideas across extended texts using textual themes
such as as a result, in addition, however, therefore, in contrast, first, last, in sum. Teachers
can support students’ reading comprehension by helping them notice and name
these sorts of cohesive devices.
SFL in Action: Tracking Themes in Scientific Texts
As mentioned in the opening of this chapter, Lynne Britton taught her students
to track a participant (butterflies) to notice how meaning was made in a short
poem. Other teachers have used this same technique to support students in noticing how they can stay on track and develop themes in their own writing. For
example, Holly Graham, a middle school English teacher, used this technique to
support students in reading and writing informational texts as a way of responding to the demands of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Next
Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Holly was involved in the ACCELA Alliance as a doctoral student and she used the expanded TLC discussed in Chapter
Four to design and research the implications of using SFL pedagogy as part of
completing her dissertation (Graham, 2015; see also Gebhard & Graham, 2018).
With a colleague from the science department at her school and a friend who
worked at the Fish and Wildlife Service, Holly co-designed a unit focused on the
decimation of a local bat population by a disease called White Nose Syndrome
(WNS). This six-week unit was designed to support a heterogeneous class of
seventh graders in: (1) learning to read scientific explanations about WNS and
how it was impacting local ecosystems; (2) writing persuasive letters to government officials who might be able to affect change on behalf of the bats; and
(3) developing a functional metalanguage to support them in analyzing how language simultaneously constructs ideas, enacts power dynamics, and manages the
flow of information in disciplinary discourse. The questions Holly was interested
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in exploring were: How do students use SFL metalanguage in interpreting and
producing texts? Do their uses of SFL metalanguage support critical language
awareness, reflection, and literacy gains? And, if so, in what ways?
The focus students in Holly’s study included “Kia,” a former ELL, and
“Tally,” another student who had a history of struggling academically. Kia was
born in Puerto Rico and identified as Puerto Rican. She reported speaking Spanish at home with her grandmother, but English with her mother, based on her
mother’s insistence, so she could help her mother improve her English. Out of
all of the students in Holly’s class, Kia had had the weakest apprenticeship to academic reading and writing practices as evidenced by her past grades and very low
scores on state exams. Tally identified as White but associated with Latinx and
African American peers. She spoke English at home with her mother and three
stepbrothers, and in school with teachers, but used varieties of English, including
African American English and code-mixed varieties of Spanish and English with
peers. She also struggled to make sense of dense disciplinary texts as evidenced by
a history of poor grades, low scores on state exams, and a referral to the special
education team.
Based on analyses of classroom transcripts and student writing samples, Holly
found that Kia and Tally engaged with SFL, often playfully, to create their
own functional metalanguage in ways that supported their engagement with
scientific texts and their literacy development. For example, with scaffolding
from Holly, Kia and Tally used SFL tools to engage not only in tracking themes
within texts, but also identifying and tracking patterns across texts in different
authors’ use of genre stages; process, participant, and circumstance types; and
the zig-zag pattern. With reference to tracking themes, Holly supplied students with packages of different colored highlighters and taught them how to
use different colors to track different themes, drawing attention to repeated
words, synonyms, and pronouns that referred to the same idea or concept in an
extended text. An example of how Tally tracked themes is shown in Figure 5.3,
though her original colored markings have been altered to show up in this gray
scale reproduction.
It is important to note that the class had been learning how to track themes
since the beginning of the school year when Holly introduced the practice. In the
context of this unit, Holly used this practice to serve specific instructional goals,
which included teaching students how to “stay on topic, not jump around too
much, [or] drop a lexical chain” in drafting their advocacy letters (Gebhard &
Graham, 2018).2 As the darkest line in Figure 5.3 shows, Tally used one color of
highlighter to track the theme of White Nose Syndrome in her letter to Senator
John Kerry, who represented Massachusetts at the time. As a result of her analysis,
Tally determined that her main theme “tracked well” in a chain that included
the repetition of words and phrases such as “White Nose Syndrome,” “disease,”
“it,” and the abbreviation “WNS.” Moreover, she determined that information
in the letter regarding Senator Kerry’s job in relation to the topic of WNS, shown
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FIGURE 5.3
147
Tally’s tracking of themes in her draft of a letter to then Senator John
Kerry (Gebhard & Graham, 2018)
in one color, and the impact on humans, shown in another color, did not “track
well” and therefore needed to be expanded upon or deleted.
At the end of the unit, Holly mailed students’ final draft letters to the government officials they had selected, one of whom was federal Secretary of
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Agriculture at the time, Thomas Vilsack. Several weeks later, the class received a
reply letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Interestingly, and
unexpectedly, students in Holly’s class used their knowledge of not just mode,
but also field and tenor resources in reacting to this reply. When this certified letter arrived, Holly thought the class would be thrilled. As illustrated in Figure 5.4,
they were not. Kia and Tally gave the USDA a grade of “D” and declared the
FIGURE 5.4
Student analysis of reply letter from U.S. Department of Agriculture
(Gebhard & Graham, 2018)
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response a “horrible, bad letter,” accompanied by a “face palm” stick figure to
graphically display their dissatisfaction. Continuing clockwise from the top of the
letter to the right-side margin, Tally and Kia added additional derogatory comments such as “We know!!,” “They think we are nine,” and “what about the
BATS!!!!????” They also used metalanguage to defend their critique with comments such as “no cohesion” and “Bad thesis!!”
The degree to which students used SFL to critique the government’s
response was even more apparent during the whole-class discussion (Gebhard &
Graham, 2018):
1. Teacher: Great! Now take a look at this letter, are the authors sticking to
what we called the language of science, like when we were explaining the bats and fungus? Longer clauses, clauses combined, using
words like nouns and . . . umm, nouns turned into verbs . . .?
2. Josh:
They kind of are, and they kind of aren’t. I mean at the beginning,
they are . . . but umm . . . well they are being our definition of
chit-chatty, sounds like they are talking, not writing about bats or
science. But they do put lots of stuff before the verb, and new stuff
at the end of sentences, so that’s kind of science-y, but it’s about
the wrong stuff.
3. Kia:
Yea, but their science language isn’t as informational as ours. I feel
like our language was stronger than theirs, and just because they are
the government, maybe they feel that they can do whatever they
want with their language. Our science language though turned
words around more, like nouns and verbs can switch. That’s science language. Like “approximate.”
4. Teacher: (laughing) Ok, anything else?
5. Tally:
With their language, they didn’t impact any new information, like
in science. Or . . . how they are going to try, or how they were
going to make [the problem] better. They didn’t really stay with
the topic either, or how they were going to help the fungus or like
if there was a reason why they can’t do anything about it. They
didn’t give us new facts to explain the fungus, which, umm . . .
I think you need to do when you are explaining something new.
So they didn’t really support their whole letter. Which made the
letter pretty much fall apart. That’s not good science language.
...
6. Josh:
The register is all over the place, the mood I got was, when I was
reading it, was I kept getting distracted [by] it, hopping around all
over the place. I know that they are like trying to inform us and be
like look we are trying our best . . . and then telling us other stuff
like what they are doing and what they do specifically, but I think
that um, they were hopping around too much. And um, they um
like did it on purpose, or else they didn’t even try.
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7. Teacher: It is interesting that you say a register can give you a mood, what
do you mean by that? A register can give you a mood?
8. Josh:
Whether they are taking us seriously or not.
9. Teacher: So a register can put you in a mood of being taken seriously?
10. Tally:
Yes! And they are trying to make us forget what we were writing
them for . . . no lexical chain? No point. No point? No way we
can follow a topic to argue back. It is on purpose Ms. Graham!3
As this interaction shows, Holly asked students to report on their analysis of
the language of the government. A student named Josh responded that the register features of the government letter were reflective of “science-y” language
because the author “put lots of stuff before the verb, and new stuff at the end
of sentences . . . but it’s about the wrong stuff ” (line 2). In the language of this
chapter, Josh was pointing out that the USDA letter writers had used packed participants and textual themes that gave information regarding time, manner, and
place, but not in a way that provided a cohesive or satisfying response. Kia agreed
with Josh and added that the letter was not that informative and that maybe the
government “can do whatever they want with their language” (line 3). Tally
chimed in, arguing that the letter did not “stay with the topic [or state] how they
are going help” the bats. Therefore, she concluded, “they didn’t really support
their whole letter” (line 5). Tally picked up on Kia’s critique of this government
agency and how “they” used language to keep people from arguing back. She
stated, “They are trying to make us forget what we were writing them for . . . no
lexical chain? No point. No point? No way we can follow a topic to argue back.
It is on purpose Ms. Graham!” (line 10).
Summary
In summarizing this chapter, it is helpful to articulate how it fits with the purpose
of this book and builds on previous chapters. In Chapter Two, I introduced the
problems Celine and Mr. Banks confronted in producing a publishable editorial
in a college preparatory English class. I described how Mr. Banks, like many
teachers, attempted to respond to what appeared to be an infinite number of
problems at the genre and register levels in Celine’s text by writing comments in
the margins, drawing squiggles under lines of text, crossing out paragraphs, painstakingly rewriting sentences, and correcting traditional grammatical “mistakes”
and spelling errors. According to Ferris (2003), teachers spend hours responding
to student work in these ways and students typically do not know how to make
sense of these comments despite their teachers’ hard work.
As a way of addressing this problem, this chapter, as well as previous ones,
give teachers an alternative way of thinking about the teaching and learning of
disciplinary literacy practices by providing examples of how “a little SFL goes
a long way.” Chapter Three explored Halliday’s theory of SFL and Vygotsky’s
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conception of development, including ideas regarding the zone of proximal development and scaffolding. Chapter Four presented the concepts of genre, register, and
the teaching and learning cycle and documented how ACCELA teachers have used
these concepts to plan, implement, critically reflect upon, and disseminate findings from action-oriented research projects. These projects were designed to support multilingual learners in reading, writing, and discussing academic texts in
culturally responsive ways that are also aligned with state and national standards.
Building on Chapter Four, this chapter focused on the concept of register by
describing how ACCELA teachers have used an understanding of field resources,
including different types of processes, participants, and circumstances; tenor resources,
including mood, modality, and appraisal; and mode resources, including theme/rheme,
nominalization, cohesive devices, and tracking themes to support students’ critical literacy development.
Praxis
Planning a Curricular Unit Using the Expanded TLC
Working in collaborative groups, continue using the expanded TLC introduced
in Chapter Four to plan a curricular unit that is linguistically and culturally
responsive and standards-based (Figure 4.2). The tasks below target Stage Two:
Identifying Model Texts and Assessment Criteria. In particular, these tasks are
designed to support your group in identifying and analyzing model texts as this
step will inform how you will design very targeted instructional materials to
scaffold disciplinary literacy practices. Aspects of assessment, while touched on,
will be further developed in future chapters given the demands of getting started
with conducting a genre and register analysis of a model text. For an example
of how a pre-service teacher used this approach to design a lesson related to
the literary themes in Trevor Noah’s (2016) Born a Crime, see Figure 5.5 at the
conclusion of this chapter. In addition, Chapter Nine provides examples related
to the teaching and learning of mathematical and scientific concepts at the secondary level.
Task Directions and Topics for Discussion
1.
2.
Review the three reading passages you selected at the end of Chapter Four.
These texts should be supportive of planning standards-based curriculum that
is also linguistically and culturally responsive (see Stage One of the expanded
TLC in Figure 4.2).
Select one passage that you will conduct a genre and register analysis on based
on your emerging understanding of SFL, disciplinary genres, and disciplinary registers. The first couple of times you conduct a genre and register
analysis it may seem like an unnecessarily time-consuming and onerous way
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3.
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to approach planning curriculum. However, with practice, teachers and students, even very young ones, develop the ability to conduct these kinds of
analyses rather quickly and with good results (e.g., Gebhard, Chen, & Britton,
2014; Moore & Schleppegrell, 2014).
Prepare to conduct a genre and register analysis:
a. Use Table 4.2 and your independent reading of SFL literature (see
Chapter Four’s praxis section) to prime your thinking about the type
of passage you selected, which should represent a high-frequency/highstakes genre in your content area (e.g., a type of recount, narrative,
report, explanation, or argument). Use Table 5.A to summarize your
understanding of some of the expected ways language and other semiotic
systems are typically used in the type of text you are targeting.
TABLE 5.A Expected genre and register features
GENRE
REGISTER
Expected genre stages Expected field choices Expected tenor choices Expected mode choices
*add additional rows as needed
b. Make a commitment to developing a beginning understanding of SFL
concepts, not mastering them, not capturing every last possible feature
you could notice and teach about this text, and not worrying about
making mistakes. Rather, keep in mind your goal is to develop three or
four new ways of literally seeing and then explicitly and critically teaching your
students how language and other meaning-making systems work in a demanding
reading and writing project you will assign.
c. Because you most likely have never looked at language in this way
before, expect it to be challenging and to make some revisions to your
thinking as you go along. Also, because SFL is not about teaching fixed
rules for language usage, members of your group may come up with different analyses. This is to be expected. ACCELA teachers who embraced
some of the fuzziness of SFL and used their collective disciplinary judgment tended to be those who made the most strides in using SFL tools
for teaching and learning.
d. Have an open mind so you can discover something new about language
that will inform how you approach reading, writing, and critically discussing the genres you encounter in completing your degrees and entering the
work force (e.g., reading and writing about theoretical concepts, case studies of a learner, curricular units, lesson plans, analyses of student learning).
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e. Purchase a package of colored highlighters because you will mark up
your passage with different colors to help you see patterns in how authors
make meaning in expected and unexpected ways at the genre and register levels.
f. Make multiple copies of your passage so you can focus on one aspect of
the text’s genre and register at a time: first, genre stages; then, field; next,
tenor; and last, mode choices.
4.
5.
Conduct a genre analysis of the passage you selected. Highlight and name
the genre stages in the text you selected. To support you in completing this
task, review Table 5.A and the analysis of emails in Chapter Four. In naming
the genre stages, it is helpful to ask, “What is the job of this paragraph, set
of sentences, or sentence?”, especially if you are analyzing a short text that is
not separated into multiple paragraphs.
Prepare to conduct a register analysis on a key portion of your text. This
analysis will include looking at the field, tenor, and mode choices a particular
author made in producing a specific text in a particular context of situation.
Remember, the purpose of conducting this close linguistic analysis is for
you to develop a deeper and more explicit understanding of how language
and other meaning-making systems work at the clause level in a genre you
routinely assign or will assign students to comprehend and produce. This
analysis will provide you with valuable information required to implement
the expanded TLC.
a. Select a portion of your text for register analysis:
•
•
•
•
As a rule of thumb, limit the length to 100 to 150 lines of text. The
purpose of limiting the amount of text you analyze at the register
level is to support you in learning to use SFL tools in a meaningful
and manageable way for the purpose of designing curriculum, instruction, and assessments—not to become a theoretical linguist. Therefore, keep in mind that the purpose of analyzing this passage is to help
you focus the purpose of the instructional unit you are designing and
plan carefully how you are going to explicitly scaffold both disciplinary
knowledge and literacy practices for all students, including ELLs.
You can analyze a passage that is longer or shorter, but keep in mind
that the goal is to learn how to use SFL to see patterns in a genre
you will routinely assign students to read, write, and discuss (e.g.,
recounts, narratives, explanations, reports, arguments).
If you are working with a short text that is about 100 to 150 lines in
total, analyze the entire text (e.g., emails, The Giving Tree).
If you are working with very short texts, such as a type of poem or
set of mathematical explanations, analyze several examples in order
for a patterned way of using meaning-making resources to emerge.
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•
If you are working with a longer text, select an important section
of the passage that is closely aligned with goals of the unit you are
designing (e.g., an explanation of an important graph in a math or
science textbook, the introduction to an argument regarding a major
historical event, an interaction between characters in a novel that
reveals a character’s transformation). Figure 5.5 shows an example of
such excerpting from an eighth grade English language arts classroom.
b. Break your selection into clauses. Recall that sentences in disciplinary
texts can be long and densely packed with embedded clauses and abstract
vocabulary or they can be short and very concrete (see Table 5.1). These
differences can make analyzing the register of a text at the sentence level
more or less difficult, as the case may be. Therefore, to support your
analysis of dense texts, I recommend breaking up your passage to focus
on the clause, not the sentence. To do this:
•
•
•
Identify the main verbs in your passage. These are the ones on which
time or tense is marked.
Decide which participants and circumstances go with each main
verb using the simple question “who did what to whom under
which circumstances?” to guide your intuition about each clause.
Place a backslash between clauses. The following is an example of a
packed sentence broken down into three separate clauses. The main
verbs, those marked with tense, are in bold.
After the avalanche, despite the blinding snow and driving wind, the hikers
climbed to a small outcropping of rocks/ where they took shelter in a
quickly improvised snow cave/ and made a small fire to keep from freezing to death.
•
•
•
Note that sometimes words that seem to be verbs are actually functioning like participants and circumstances (e.g., blinding snow, driving
wind, to keep from freezing to death).
Note also that we do not typically repeat unnecessary words. For
example, in the third clause, there is no need to repeat the subject
“they” before “made a fire.” This missing grammatical participant
can be inferred and is said to be ellipsed.
Some teachers find it helpful to type key passages with the clause
breaks on separate lines to support students’ reading comprehension
and their collective ability to analyze dense texts during classroom
discussions (see example in Figure 5.5 at the end of this section).
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6.
155
Once you have marked the clause breaks, analyze the field resources that construct disciplinary ideas and experiences in your passage:
a. Using one color, highlight all the processes that have tense markers (e.g.,
are making, were making, made, will make, had been making, can make, could
have been making, could not have been making, see Table 3.1 for a review of
the tense system in English).
b. Using a different color, highlight the participants that act as the “doers”
and the “done to” (see Table 5.3). As an example, the participants in
each clause below are underlined. This example illustrates the difference
between a noun acting as a participant versus a circumstance.
After the avalanche, despite the blinding snow and driving wind, the hikers
climbed to an outcropping of rocks/ where they took shelter in a quickly
improvised snow cave/ and [they] made a small fire to keep from freezing
to death.
c. Using another color, highlight the circumstances that provide details
regarding time, place, manner, purpose, and cause (see Table 5.4). As an
example, the circumstances in the following clauses are in italics.
After the avalanche, despite the blinding snow and driving wind, the hikers climbed
to an outcropping of rocks/ where they took shelter in a quickly improvised snow
cave/ and [they] made a small fire to keep from freezing to death.
These circumstances provide information regarding time (“after the avalanche”), manner (“despite the blinding snow and driving wind”), place (“to
an outcropping of rocks”), manner and place (“in a quickly improvised snow
cave”), and purpose (“to keep from freezing to death”).
Make a field table in which you list and categorize the following:
•
•
•
The specific processes the author selected and their type (e.g., action,
saying, sensing, relating, existential)
The specific participants the author selected and their type (e.g.,
“doer” or “done to,” sensor, sayer, generalized participant, packed
participant)
The specific circumstances the author selected and their type (e.g.,
time, manner, place, cause).
e. Identify any patterns in how field resources in this passage construct ideas
and experiences. See the sample table of field resources (Table 5.B) for
an example.
•
in a quickly improvised
snow cave/manner
and place
*Add additional rows as needed to determine a pattern, teaching focus, and assessment criteria for students’ final projects
to keep from freezing
to death/causal
•
to an outcropping of
rocks/place
•
Teach students to highlight and make lists
of how expert writers use circumstances
to add details regarding time, place,
manner, purpose, and cause.
Possible activity: Have students compare
two copies of the same reading passage,
one with and one without circumstances.
Require students to produce texts with
circumstances of time, manner, place, and
cause as a way of adding detail to their
final projects.
Assess the degree to which students
“add details” to their texts using a
wider variety of circumstances that are
functional for their specific purpose and
audience.
Implications for Practice (instruction & assessment)
•
Emerging
Patterns
Hikers/doers shelter/done to after the avalanche/time Details in texts are
constructed through the
They/doers a small fire/
use of circumstances
[They]/doers
done to
despite the blinding
snow and driving
wind/manner
Circumstance Type
Climbed/doing
Took/doing
Made/doing
Participant
Type
(done to)
Participant
Type (doer)
Process
Type
SAMPLE TABLE OF FIELD RESOURCES
TABLE 5.B Sample Table of Field Resources
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f.
7.
157
Based on the field patterns you notice, brainstorm some ideas regarding
how you might use insights from your analysis to design grade-level disciplinary literacy development instruction using the expanded TLC (see
Figure 4.2).
Analyze tenor resources that construct the author’s voice and the relationship
between the author and the reader, and/or between characters in the passage
you selected.
a. Note the author’s choice of grammatical mood (e.g., use of commands,
statements, questions, see Table 5.5).
b. Using a fresh copy of the text, highlight instances of modality, if the
author uses any at all (e.g., might, may, can, should, must, certainly, perhaps,
see Table 5.7).
c. Using a different color, highlight how the author uses appraisal resources,
if any, to construct emotions, evaluations of things, and judgments of
people (see Table 5.8)
d. Make a table such as Table 5.C to identify any patterns in how tenor
resources construct meaning in this passage. Based on the tenor patterns
you notice, brainstorm some ideas regarding how you might use insights
from your analysis to support your students’ grade-level disciplinary literacy development using the expanded TLC (see Figure 4.2).
TABLE 5.C Sample Table of Tenor Resources
SAMPLE TABLE OF TENOR RESOURCES
Type of
Degree of
Grammatical Mood Modality
Appraisal
Type
Emerging Patterns Implications for
Practice (instruction &
assessment)
*Add additional rows as needed to determine a pattern, teaching focus, and assessment criteria for students’ final projects
8.
Analyze the author’s choice of mode resources in this passage to manage the
flow of information and attitudes coherently and cohesively:
a. Highlight all of the cohesive devices the author uses (see Table 3.3)
b. Highlight the theme of each clause. Make a list of these themes and see
if there is a particular pattern that emerges to support the progression and
development of themes in this passage (see Table 5.9 for some typical
patterns)
c. Highlight instances of nominalization. Nominalizations are very
prevalent in informational texts, but less so in narratives. Notice how
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nominalization supports the construction of abstract ideas and experiences, which is an aspect of field, but they also the support the zig-zag
pattern of theme progression in informational texts, which is an aspect
of mode.
d. Select a key theme or participant in this passage and track it using a highlighter (e.g., the main topic in an explanation or a character in a novel).
Write out the lexical chain that forms across the passage to see how the
author builds the field of the text while also staying on topic (e.g., see
Figure 5.3).
e. Make a table such as Table 5.D to identify patterns in how mode
resources construct meaning in this passage. Based on the mode patterns
you notice, brainstorm some ideas regarding how you might use insights
from your analysis to support your students’ grade-level disciplinary literacy practicing using the expanded TLC (see Figure 4.2).
TABLE 5.D Sample Table of Mode Resources
SAMPLE TABLE OF MODE RESOURCES
List of
Cohesive
Devices
List of
Themes
List of
Nominalizations
Type of
theme/rheme
patterns (e.g.,
zig-zag)
Tracking
Participants
Emerging
Patterns
Implications
for Practice
(instruction &
assessment)
*Add additional rows as needed to determine a pattern, teaching focus, and assessment criteria for
students’ final projects
9.
As an example of a concrete lesson that was developed as a result of praxis
activities such as those listed above, Figure 5.5 shows an artifact from an
English language arts lesson designed by a pre-service English language arts
teacher named Zemora Tevah. Zemora created this lesson in collaboration
with Holly Graham as part of completing coursework and pre-practicum
requirements in a secondary English master’s degree and licensure program
at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In this program, teachers are
required to develop a curricular unit using the expanded TLC. This handout
was developed to teach multilingual eighth graders how to read, write, and
critically discuss Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime (2016), a memoir that explores
issues of race, language, and identity in apartheid South Africa. Note the following about Zemora and Holly’s lesson:
a. The goal of the lesson is stated and reflects the goals of the curricular
unit. While not listed on this handout, this lesson is also aligned with
specific state and national standards.
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FIGURE 5.5
159
A pre-service teacher’s handout designed to support the reading and
analysis of Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime
b. The handout requires students to track the pronoun “I” in a selected
passage from their assigned text. This task scaffolds students in analyzing
the literal, inferential, and literary meaning of the passage. Zemora and
Holly developed this focus as a result of:
•
•
•
•
•
Exploring one literary theme in this memoir (e.g., shifting concepts
of race, language, and identity);
Selecting a key passage;
Breaking the passage into clauses for students to support reading
comprehension and analysis using highlighters;
Conducting a register analysis and identifying a specific SFL tool
students could use to unlock the meaning of the text (tracking participants that refer to “I”);
Asking students to select five clauses that capture aspects of Trevor
Noah’s identity based on their analysis.
c. During the lesson, students used the handout and shared their insights.
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d. Holly and Zemora analyzed classroom discussion and evaluated samples
of students’ work to reflect on the effectiveness of the lesson.
e. In the context of completing a larger project using the expanded TLC,
students used their close analysis and discussion of Trevor Noah’s memoir to write short memoirs of their own using the genre and register
features they identified.
Notes
1 Reprinted from Reclaiming recess in urban schools: The potential of systemic functional linguistics for ELLs and their teachers. M. Gebhard, R. Harman, & W. Seger, 2007, Language
Arts, 84(5), 419–430. Copyright 2007 by the National Council of Teachers of English.
Reprinted with permission.
2 Holly introduced the concept of lexical chains, which refers to how strands of meaning are expressed in strings of words that are “related by repetition, similar or opposite meanings, association, or part/whole relationships” (Butt, Fahey, Feez, Spinks &
Yallop, 2000, p. 211).
3 Figures 5.3, 5.4, and this transcript are reprinted from “Bats and grammar: developing
critical language awareness in the context of school reform.” M. Gebhard & H. Graham,
2018, English Teaching: Practice and Critique. Reprinted with permission.
References
Butt, D., Fahey, R., Feez, S., Spinks, S., & Yallop, C. (2000). Using functional grammar: An
explorer’s guide. Sydney: National Centre for English Teaching and Learning.
Carpenter, B.D., Achugar, M., Walter, D., & Earhart, M. (2015). Developing teachers’
critical language awareness: A case study of guided participation. Linguistics and Education, 32, 82–97.
Christie, F., & Derewianka, B. (2008). School discourse: Learning to write across the years of
schooling. London: Continuum.
Coffin, C. (2009). Historical discourse: The language of time, cause and evaluation. New York:
Bloomsbury.
Derewianka, B. (2011). A new grammar companion for teachers (2nd ed.). Sydney: Primary
English Teaching Association.
Derewianka, B.M. & Jones, P. (2016). Teaching language in context (2nd ed.). South
Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.
Droga, L., & Humphrey, S. (2003). Grammar and meaning: An introduction for primary teachers.
New South Wales, Australia: Target Texts.
Eggins, S. (2004). An introduction to systemic functional linguistics (2nd ed.). New York:
Continuum.
Ferris, D.R. (2003). Response to student writing: Implications for second language students. New
York: Routledge.
Gebhard, M., Chen, I., & Britton, L. (2014). “Miss, nominalization is a nominalization”:
English language learners’ use of SFL metalanguage and their literacy practices. Linguistics and Education, 26, 106–125.
Gebhard, M., & Graham, H. (2018). Bats and grammar: developing critical language
awareness in the context of school reform. English Teaching: Practice & Critique, 17(4),
281–297.
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Gebhard, M., Harman, R., & Seger, W. (2007). Reclaiming recess in urban schools: The
potential of systemic functional linguistics for ELLs and their teachers. Language Arts,
84(5), 419–430.
Gibbons, P. (2003). Mediating language learning: Teacher interactions with ESL students
in a content-based classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 37(2), 247–273.
Graham, H. (2015). Using systemic functional linguistics to inform a language pedagogy in a
middle school English classroom. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Halliday, M.A.K. (1993). Towards a language-based theory of learning. Linguistics and
Education, 5(2), 93–116.
Halliday, M.A.K., & Matthiessen, C.M.I.M. (2006). Construing experience through meaning:
A language-based approach to cognition. London: Continuum.
Janks, H. (2010). Literacy and power. New York: Routledge.
Martin, J.R., & White, P.R.R. (2005). The language of evaluation: Appraisal in English.
London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Moore, J., & Schleppegrell, M.J. (2014). Using a functional linguistics metalanguage to
support academic language development in the English Language Arts. Linguistics and
Education, 26, 92–105.
Noah, T. (2016). Born a crime: Stories from a South African childhood. New York: Spiegel & Grau.
Schleppegrell, M.J. (2004). The language of schooling: A functional linguistics perspective.
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Silverstein, S. (1964). The giving tree. New York: Harper & Row.
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London: Equinox.
6
POLICIES AND PRACTICES TO
SUPPORT ELLS’ DISCIPLINARY
LITERACY DEVELOPMENT
A Civil Rights Perspective
I’m never sure who is and who isn’t an ELL in my class. I just treat them all the
same.
–“Mrs. Ward,” seventh grade social studies teacher
Many teachers talk about treating all students the same regardless of their language backgrounds and previous schooling experiences as a point of pride.
They describe how they do not differentiate between who is and is not an ELL,
but hold all students accountable regardless of language, race, class, and gender differences by providing all students with the same instruction. On the face
of it, there is something laudable about teachers talking about their work from
a “difference-blind” perspective given the number of studies that find teachers
who have high expectations for all students are more successful than those who do
not (e.g., Lucas, 2011). However, research also demonstrates that race, class, gender, and language are highly consequential to how students experience schools.
Further, effective teachers are not colorblind or difference-blind at all (e.g., Nieto
& Bode, 2018). Rather, studies such as those discussed in Chapters Three, Four,
and Five demonstrate that effective teachers: (1) attend closely to learners’ diverse
backgrounds, needs, and interests in planning linguistically and culturally responsive curriculum; (2) design literacy scaffolds to enable students to meet state and
national standards by modeling, deconstructing, and co-constructing high-stakes
genres with students to make linguistic know-how highly visible and open to
critical reflection; (3) analyze the texts produced by their students to assess their
school’s ability to address persistent inequities in educational outcomes; and
(4) share their work with colleagues to support their professional development
and that of others (see the extended TLC in Figure 4.2).
A Civil Rights Perspective
163
In addition, effective teachers are aware of the complexities of federal and state
policies designed to protect the civil rights of multilingual students, both within
their immediate classroom context and the larger institutional context of schooling in
which they work (see Figure 6.1). For example, since the signing of NCLB legislation in 2002, more ELLs have dropped out of school because they have not
had adequate access and support for learning how to read and write disciplinary
genres on high-stakes exams required for graduation (Darling-Hammond, 2006).
Moreover, teacher education programs have historically not prepared teachers to
teach both disciplinary knowledge and the associated disciplinary literacy practices (Turkan, de Oliveira, Lee, & Phelps, 2014). For example, licensed ESL and
bilingual teachers develop a knowledge of bilingualism, second language acquisition, second language literacy development, and language pedagogy, but most
have not studied a specific content area in great depth. Likewise, elementary
and secondary content teachers typically have a knowledge of child or adolescent development and the content area they teach, but typically do not have an
adequate knowledge of how ELLs develop disciplinary literacy practices (e.g.,
Gebhard, Chen, Graham, & Gunawan, 2013; Turkan et al., 2014). As a result,
ELLs and former ELLs, such as Celine who was profiled in Chapter Two, often
struggle when they transition from ESL/bilingual programs to general education classes in ways that jeopardize their access to an equitable education (e.g.,
Darling-Hammond, 2006; Harklau, 1994, 2000; Ortmeier-Hooper, 2012).
FIGURE 6.1
Text/context dynamics in schools (focus on genre and register)
164
A Civil Rights Perspective
To explore the complexities of this institutional problem, the purpose of
this chapter is to provide readers who are new to considering the education
of multilingual students from a civil rights perspective with a greater understanding of how schools determine who an ELL is and how policies have developed over time to respond to the educational needs of this growing population.
In addition, this chapter describes an influential organization in the area of K-12
language education called the WIDA Consortium (World-class Instructional
Design and Assessment). This organization has developed language development standards, assessments, professional development workshops, and research
initiatives drawing, in part, on the ideas of Halliday and Vygotsky (WIDA,
2012). The purpose of these initiatives is to inform the teaching, learning,
and assessment of disciplinary literacy development in English and Spanish in
the United States and worldwide. To support readers in better understanding and critiquing institutional policies, programs, and assessments designed for
ELLs, including those developed by WIDA, this chapter explores the following
questions:
•
•
•
What is the institutional definition of an “ELL” and how has the demographic profile of this population changed over time?
What language policies and programs have historically been institutionalized
in the United States to protect the civil rights of ELLs? How successful have
these programs been?
What is the WIDA Consortium and how has it attempted to respond to the
professional needs of educators who are responsible for teaching all students
how to read, write, and discuss disciplinary texts in the context of current
high-stakes school reforms (e.g., NCLB, CCSS, NGSS)?
To explore these questions, this chapter begins with a demographic profile
of students who are designated as ELLs in U.S. public schools and an outline of
different types of bilingual and ESL programs that have been institutionalized to
protect these students’ civil rights. Next, this chapter describes how the WIDA
Consortium created a comprehensive set of language development standards
and assessments, which have been adopted by many states and countries. These
standards are aligned with the CCSS and are intended to guide national, state,
and school-level policies to support the disciplinary literacy development of students learning in English and/or Spanish in the United States and around the
world. More central to the purpose of this book is that the conceptual framework informing WIDA is anchored in a social semiotic perspective of language
and literacy development that draws, in part, on Halliday’s SFL and Vygotsky’s
concept of the zone of proximal development (see Chapters Three, Four, and
Five). This chapter concludes with a praxis section that guides readers in comparing an ESL or bilingual classroom with a general education classroom to
draw attention to some of the challenges ELLs confront in local schools as they
A Civil Rights Perspective
165
traverse institutional boundaries and how educators can use the expanded TLC
to address these challenges.
Twenty-First Century Demographic Changes
in U.S. Public Schools
The population of students attending K-12 public schools in the United States
has become linguistically, racially, economically, and culturally more diverse over
the last several decades, making updates to the professional development of all
K-12 teachers and teacher educators a high priority. For example, the population of students who identify as “White” dropped from 29 million in 1995 to
25.6 million in 2011. Simultaneously, the population of students who identify as
“Black” or “Native American” remained more or less constant, the population
of students who identify as “Asian” rose, and those who identify as “Hispanic”
nearly doubled from about 6.0 million to 11.8 million during the same time
period (NCES, 2013). These changes have resulted in a steady increase in the
number of students who are officially designated as ELLs. The federal government, in line with the official definition established by NCLB legislation, uses
the institutional label ELL for students who: (1) are between the ages of three
and 21; (2) attend an elementary or secondary school; (3) speak a language other
than English; and (4) have a proficiency in English that is insufficient to support
academic learning in general education courses where English is the language of
instruction (NCLB, 2002).
However, given this definition, it is very difficult to determine the exact number of ELLs attending U.S. public schools. In large part, this is because there are
significant inconsistencies in the ways different states require schools to identify ELLs, assess their English proficiency, and track changes in their proficiency
over time (e.g., Valdés & Castellón, 2011). Regardless, survey data indicates that
a high proportion of U.S. citizens speak a language other than English at home.
For example, 2011 census data indicates this figure to be 20% or 60.6 million
Americans over the age of five. From this group, although they use varieties of
their home languages and English in very important ways not addressed by the
survey, over 22% report speaking English “not well” or “not at all” (U.S. Census
Bureau, 2013).
U.S. Department of Education statistics show similar demographic changes
in the population of ELL students attending elementary and secondary schools.
For example, in 1993, the population of ELLs attending schools was estimated at
2.1 million or 5.1% (NCES, 2004). By 2011, this figure more than doubled to
4.4 million, or 9.1% of the overall school population, leading to a projection that
by the year 2025 one out of every four students attending a public school in the
United States will be officially classified as an ELL (NCES, 2013). Not surprisingly, almost every state has been impacted by these changes in some way. States
reporting the highest percentages of ELLs include California (25%), Nevada
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A Civil Rights Perspective
(20%), New Mexico (17%), Texas (15%), and Hawaii (14%; NCES, 2013). Many
other states with lower overall percentages of ELLs have still experienced dramatic increases in the number of ELLs attending public schools, such as North
Carolina (153% increase from prior year), Georgia (148%), and Nebraska (125%).
Historically, these states have had lower numbers of ELLs compared to states
that were formerly Spanish speaking territories of Mexico before being invaded
and taken over by the United States in 1848 (Capps, Fix, Murray, Ost, Passel, &
Herwantoro, 2005). These figures make it clear that all teachers working in public schools will likely, at some point in their careers, be responsible for supporting
the disciplinary literacy development of ELLs. This likelihood is true regardless
of whether they teach in urban, rural, suburban, or small town school districts.
In addition, it is important to note that ELLs are not a homogeneous group.
Rather, they represent approximately 400 different languages and come from
parts of the world that differ greatly from previous waves of immigrants to the
United States (Ramsey & O’Day, 2010). For example, in the 1900s most immigrants were White and born in Europe. In contrast, recent immigrants come
mostly from Latin America. They also represent a wider range of the world’s languages, cultures, and religions than in the past. In 2012, out of the over 60 million
Americans who reported speaking a language other than English at home: 62%
spoke Spanish; 5% Chinese, including Cantonese and Mandarin; 3% Tagalog;
and 2% many other languages including Arabic, Korean, and Vietnamese (Nwosu,
Batalova, & Auclair, 2014).
Moreover, counter to what many believe, ELLs are not always immigrants
(Capps et al., 2005). Nationally, approximately 8% are “American Indian/Alaska
Native” (NCES, 2008). States with the highest percentages of Native American
students include Alaska (31%), Oklahoma (19%), and New Mexico (10%; NCES,
2013). Other non-immigrant multilinguals have strong ties to Puerto Rico,
a Spanish speaking territory of the United States. Therefore, it is important to
note that many students who are institutionally designated as ELLs were born in
the United States, are U.S. citizens, have relied on U.S. public schools for their
education almost exclusively, and still have not been supported in learning to
read and write disciplinary texts despite many years of schooling (e.g., Valdés &
Castellón, 2011).
Though there is incredible diversity among students who carry this institutional label, ELLs share some commonalities. They are likely to be students of
color who contend with racism, poverty, and the social, economic, and political
problems that accompany poverty. These problems include homelessness, hunger, a lack of access to basic health care, and limited access to technology (e.g.,
Capps et al., 2005). They are apt to be concentrated in under-resourced schools
and taught by teachers who have not been adequately prepared to support them
in simultaneously learning both content knowledge and disciplinary literacy practices (e.g., Turkan et al., 2014). For example, schools with higher percentages
of ELLs are also likely to have higher percentages of new and inexperienced
A Civil Rights Perspective
167
teachers—a trend that is likely to only further widen the persistent educational
disparities that exist for students whose home language is not English or is
a non-dominant variety of English (e.g., Cosentino de Cohen & Clewell, 2007;
Roblero, 2013).
Collectively, these trends constitute a serious challenge to the premise that the
purpose of public schooling is to provide all students with access to free and equitable education as a way of fostering individual freedom and social mobility as
well societal democracy and economic growth. In response, a number of policy
makers have called for greater resources to be dedicated to the recruitment and
professional development of pre- and in-service teachers who are ready to take
responsibility for the disciplinary literacy development of all students, including ELLs (e.g., Turkan et al., 2014). However, a review of policies across all
states reveals only a few have licensing requirements for all teachers that focus on
the education of ELLs. This lack of attention has become a pressing problem as
elementary and secondary teachers are increasingly held accountable for teaching
all students how to read and write disciplinary texts as a result of the passage of
NCLB legislation in 2002, and the widespread adoption of the CCSS in 2010.
In addition, there are too few ESL and bilingual teachers to reasonably support the education of ELLs across all content areas, especially in the upper grades
where disciplinary knowledge becomes more specialized. Credentialed ESL and
bilingual specialists are knowledgeable of linguistics, principles of first and second
oral language development, bilingualism, multiculturalism, language pedagogy,
and language policies. However, they are not routinely prepared to teach how
disciplinary genres and registers work across all content areas, nor do they typically
have access to materials that would support the development of more advanced
content-based instruction (e.g., McLaughlin, Glaab, & Hilliger Carrasco, 2014).
Nonetheless, it is common for ESL and bilingual teachers to be assigned to teach
in multiple content areas using whatever resources they can find. This low level
of institutional support does not provide ELLs with a solid enough foundation in
disciplinary literacy practices to support them in receiving an equitable education
and navigating the literacy demands of a rapidly changing social and economic
world (e.g., Gebhard, 2004; New London Group, 1996).
Elementary, secondary, ESL, and bilingual teachers are aware of the intensification of the demands placed on them without additional support. For example,
Gándara and her colleagues provide compelling evidence that content area teachers feel unprepared to design curriculum, instruction, and assessments for ELLs
(Gándara, Maxwell-Jolly, & Driscoll, 2005). In a large scale survey of teachers
working in small, medium, and large school districts in California, these authors
report that teachers feel extremely challenged by their inability to teach disciplinary literacies to ELLs. These teachers ranked finding appropriate curricular
materials as one of the most significant obstacles to their ability to teach ELLs and
indicated that they used the same textbook materials with ELLs as with non-ELLs
despite acknowledging the inappropriateness of this make-do strategy. Moreover,
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A Civil Rights Perspective
secondary teachers reported feeling a greater degree of insecurity about teaching
ELLs than their elementary counterparts who have had more coursework and
experience teaching reading and writing. Equally concerning is that the teachers
who participated in this study, including those who worked in schools with high
numbers of ELLs, reported receiving very minimal, if any, professional development focusing on how to teach ELLs over the previous five years of their careers.
This lack of professional development is troubling because NCLB legislation
placed a great deal of emphasis on teacher quality (e.g., Lucas, 2011). When
NCLB was passed into law, it included provisions to ensure all students would
be taught by highly qualified teachers who were required to pass state licensure
exams and meet other standards related to teaching in their discipline. However,
NCLB’s definition of high quality was relatively silent on the topic of what all
teachers need to know and be able to educate the growing number of language
learners who struggle in negotiating the demands of disciplinary discourses, fail
high-stakes exams, and as a result are unable to graduate from high school (e.g.,
Darling-Hammond, 2006).
Students’ Civil Rights and Approaches
to Language Education
Data regarding the failure of schools to meet the needs of ELLs, coupled with the
lack of adequate forms of professional development, provoked the U.S. Department of Justice to exert more pressure on state educational systems. For example,
the federal Department of Justice found that teachers in Massachusetts were not
meeting the educational needs of ELLs, which they declared was a violation of
students’ civil rights as stipulated by the Federal Equal Educational Opportunities
Act of 1974. As a result, in 2013, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education mandated a professional development course and specified a set
of standards that all pre- and in-service teachers needed to meet through an initiative called Rethinking the Teaching of English Language Learners (RETELL) if
they were to earn or retain their teaching license.
This mandate is representative of the role the Department of Justice has historically played in advocating for the rights of ELLs based on the landmark Supreme
Court case Lau v. Nichols in 1974 (e.g., de Jong, 2011). This case originated
in San Francisco when a group of Chinese parents filed a lawsuit against the
school district maintaining that their children did not have equal access to the
public education system if instruction was provided in a language that was not
comprehensible to them. The San Francisco Unified Schools responded that the
district was not in the wrong because it provided Chinese American students
with the same educational services that all students received. However, based on
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Supreme Court disagreed and sided with the
parents. In their ruling, the court stated that providing ELLs with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers, and curriculum does not provide equal access to public
A Civil Rights Perspective
169
education if students do not understand the language of instruction. The courts
thereby made a landmark decision in declaring that “same does not imply equal”
(e.g., de Jong, 2011, p. 138).
After this groundbreaking ruling, the Department of Education’s Office of
Civil Rights created the Lau Remedies, which required school districts to identify
students’ home language, assess their English proficiency, implement appropriate models of educational support, and assess the effectiveness of programs for
language learners. During the 1970s and 1980s, many educators interpreted the
Lau Remedies as a mandate for bilingual education and began implementing
a variety of programs types that differed greatly in their ideological perspectives,
goals, pedagogical approaches, and effectiveness. For example, bilingual immersion, two-way, and dual-language bilingual programs share the goal of supporting full academic biliteracy and multiculturalism for all students enrolled based on
a belief that linguistic and cultural diversity are social, cultural, cognitive, political,
and economic assets in an increasingly globalized world. Therefore, these programs
are designed for groups of bilingual students who speak the same home language
and English-speaking monolingual students whose families want their children to
become fully bilingual and bicultural (e.g., bilingual charter and private schools,
de Jong, 2011).
These bilingual schools are different from “maintenance” and “transitional”
bilingual programs, which were designed for ELLs only. Maintenance bilingual
programs are structured to support students in continuing to develop literacy in
their home language while also developing literacy in an additional language.
Transitional programs, in contrast, only provide a limited amount of home language instruction to facilitate students’ transition to all-English instruction as soon
as possible based on a belief that the goal of schooling is to support the acculturation of ELLs to the dominant language and culture as quickly as possible (e.g.,
de Jong, 2011).
Studies comparing the effectiveness of these different approaches have found
that programs that support full disciplinary biliteracy tend to be more successful
than those that support monolingualism (e.g., Thomas & Colliers, 2002). Moreover, states that configure policies to support full bilingualism have higher rates of
success in educating ELLs than states that advocate English-only programs (e.g.,
Lopez & McEneaney, 2012). However, it is important to note that program labels
can be very misleading because they are not always implemented with fidelity
given that teachers often lack the professional expertise and curricular resources
needed to deliver high-quality bilingual instruction. For example, teachers in
the United States, compared to teachers in other parts of the world, typically
lack academic fluency in more than one language because of the United States’
commitment to monolingualism. Moreover, teachers who do have fluency in
more than one language often lack the professional expertise needed to design
quality bilingual disciplinary instruction, making the success of these programs
precarious. Last, status differentials between different language communities are
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A Civil Rights Perspective
influential in shaping the effectiveness of programs. For example, ELLs from
marginalized communities attending schools in poorer districts have fewer institutional supports for quality instruction than ELLs from high-status communities
who attend schools in wealthier neighborhoods. Therefore, status issues often
determine the degree to which a bilingual program will be adequately funded,
properly implemented, publicly supported, and result in desired social, economic,
and political outcomes (e.g., Brisk, 2006).
K–12 ESL Program Types
Push-in and Pull-out ESL
In regard to K-12 ESL programs, some are designed such that an ESL specialist
is “pushed in” to classrooms to co-teach with content teachers. In other schools,
students are “pulled out” of content classes and attend a certain number of ESL
classes matched to their level of language development, meaning ELLs are “mainstreamed” for a greater number of content classes as their English proficiency develops. Regardless of whether a school implements a push-in or pull-out program,
ESL classes should be taught by teachers who have expertise in:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Linguistic systems
Language and literacy development
Multiculturalism
Planning, implementing, and reflecting on language instruction
Language assessment practices
Language teaching technologies
ESL methods
ESL research
Policies shaping the education of ELLs.
An international organization called Teachers of English to Speakers of Other
Languages (TESOL), has determined that these areas of expertise will enable ESL
teachers to support the language and literacy development of ELLs, help immigrant students and their families navigate the cultural demands of U.S. schooling,
and assume leadership roles in their schools and communities to advocate for
their students.
Sheltered English Immersion (SEI)
One specific approach to ESL instruction is called sheltered English immersion
(Table 6.1). This method is often vaguely defined as a teaching strategy that uses
language and content to make academic subject matter more comprehensible
to language learners. However, explanations of the phrase “sheltered English
A Civil Rights Perspective
171
TABLE 6.1 Sheltered English Immersion (SEI)
Goals
Description and Critique
Knowledge Base of Teaching*
Support students
designated as “ELLs”
in developing
content knowledge
and the literacy
practices that
construct this
knowledge
Instruction centers on
designing curriculum
to support both
language and content
objectives
Critics argue that
this approach
does not support
multilingualism or
challenge monolingual
ideologies. In addition,
critics question
if it is possible to
teach disciplinary
knowledge without
teaching how genres
and registers work to
make specialized, noneveryday meanings.
Teachers have expertise in a
discipline (e.g., math, science,
history, English language arts)
and an understanding of:
• Basic structure and
function of language
• Second language
acquisition
• The nature of oral
language interaction in
literacy development
• The nature of academic
literacy development
• Sociocultural, emotional,
and political factors shaping
second language learning
• The diversity and
backgrounds of ELL
populations
• SEI principles and
strategies outlined in the
Sheltered Instruction
Observation Protocol
(SIOP) model
• Methods of assessing ELLs
• Federal and state laws
pertaining to ELLs
* This list is based on SEI standards for pre- and in-service teachers in Massachusetts.
immersion” rarely provide specifics regarding what ELLs should be “sheltered”
from or how to make dense texts comprehensible when ELLs are immersed in
the academic reading and writing demands of high-stakes school reforms (e.g.,
NCLB, CCSS). Wright (2015) provides some clarity by explaining that the word
“sheltered” is a metaphor for simplifying academic language without “watering
down” the content to “protect” ELLs from the often overwhelming language
demands of “mainstream” content-based instruction (p. 92).
To further clarify what this approach to instruction looks like in classroom
practice, Echevarria, Vogt, and Short (2007) developed the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol or SIOP model. This model provides educators with
a 30-item planning and reflection guide to support them in designing, implementing, and assessing the quality of content instruction for ELLs. This model
gained wide acceptance because evidence suggests it is a valid and reliable
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A Civil Rights Perspective
pedagogical approach for teachers and observation tool for administrators. The
30-point guide focuses attention on:
•
•
•
•
•
Building students’ background knowledge of the content being studied (e.g.,
hands-on tasks, use of multimedia and instructional technologies).
Providing students with comprehensible input (Krashen, 1985). Drawing on
a psycholinguistic perspective of second language acquisition, comprehensible input is modified language that is just slightly above the learners’ current
level of language proficiency. With beginning language learners, comprehensible input is characterized by a slower rate of speech; the use of more
regular word order; limited use of dense clauses; the repetition of key words;
the use of gestures, visuals, and demonstrations to convey meaning in nonlinguistic ways; the elaboration of language learners’ contributions using
complete sentences and more technical vocabulary; and the use of frequent
comprehension checks.
Providing students with ample opportunities for oral interactions with peers
through pair and small-group tasks, in addition to teacher-led whole-class
instruction.
Providing students with ample time for practice and the application of new
language forms to support them in developing both disciplinary knowledge
and literacies through their use of talk and print.
Assessment of students’ progress toward meeting both content and language
objectives.
The combination of explicit attention to both language and content objectives is a highly significant component of the SIOP model. However, as the
developers of this model make clear, this approach is not meant to replace
crucial bilingual and ESL services, especially for beginning and intermediate
language learners. The developers of the SIOP model are also clear that attention to language means more than focusing on isolated vocabulary words, but
should include a focus on aspects of registers and genre in modified contentbased materials.
Nonetheless, it should be noted that SEI approaches such as the SIOP model
can inadvertently play into practices that “submerge” rather than “immerse”
ELLs in English-only classrooms in a sink-or-swim fashion. This type of submersion is all the more likely for students whose teachers have not been provided with adequate forms of professional development and whose schools have
inadequate institutional supports for bilingual and ESL education (e.g., access
to native language supports and appropriate curricular materials). In addition,
as students become more proficient in everyday English, the practice of continuing to simplify language can also be a problem, especially because studies
have shown teachers often have low expectations for ELLs based on deficit
views related to their immigration status, race, class, and gender (Gutiérrez,
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173
Larson, & Kreuter, 1995). These two issues—a lack of teacher professional
development and general low expectations for ELLs—are important to combat
because they are key factors that influence students’ academic trajectories in
school (e.g., Valdés, 1995).
Therefore, all teachers, including ESL teachers, bilingual specialists, and content area teachers, need to be very purposeful and reflective about how they
modify the instruction they provide (e.g., speech, tasks, reading materials, writing
assignments, assessments). In addition, they need to be explicit about how they
design curriculum, instruction, and assessments to move all students along a continuum that values everyday meaning-making practices while also supporting the
development of more expert and critical ways of using multilingual/multimodal
resources within specific disciplines (e.g., Derewianka & Jones, 2016).
Previous chapters have provided a discussion of some of the key differences
between everyday language practices and more discipline-specific ways of using
talk, print, and graphics in school. At the “everyday” end of the continuum,
similar to definitions of “comprehensible input,” word choices tend to be more
concrete and refer to objects or events occurring in the immediate context.
In addition, grammatical patterns tend to be more regular and less dense, and
the meanings of longer stretches of discourse are typically negotiated through
face-to-face exchanges among speakers. In contrast, disciplinary varieties of language tend to be less spontaneous and interactive. They rely on varied and much
denser grammatical structures that pack more information into long clauses,
use more abstract and discipline-specific words, and use specific genres stages
in structuring the development of an extended text for a specific purpose and
audience.
Therefore, rather than protecting or “sheltering” ELLs from challenging texts,
advocates of an SFL approach to academic literacy instruction maintain that teachers and students need to develop an explicit and critical awareness of how language
and other meaning-making systems work in the genres students are routinely
required to read, write, and discuss in their respective content areas and grade
levels. These genres, as discussed in previous chapters, include literary narratives,
mathematical explanations, scientific explanations, and arguments regarding historical events (e.g., Derewianka & Jones, 2016). As described in these chapters,
an SFL approach supports teachers in actively and critically apprenticing all students in analyzing how expert language users make specific linguistic choices to
construct disciplinary content knowledge (i.e., the field), construct the voice of a
text depending on their purpose and audience (i.e., tenor), and manage the flow
of information to support the development of a coherent and cohesive extended
stretch of discourse (e.g., mode). A number of SFL scholars have also made clear
that providing students with a critical apprenticeship to reading, writing, and critiquing grade-level disciplinary texts necessitates supporting K-12 students’ use of
their home language and community resources, even in states that have enacted
English-only mandates (e.g., Brisk & Ossa Parra, 2018; Colombi, 2009).
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A Civil Rights Perspective
The WIDA Consortium
An SFL perspective of disciplinary literacy development, in part, informs the
work of a leading organization called the WIDA Consortium (Berg & Huang,
2015). This consortium’s original goal was to develop a research-based set of
English language development standards and assessments as part of responding to
the demands of NCLB and CCSS because states were in dire need of more reliable, valid, and fair methods of measuring ELLs’ language proficiency and progress (Bailey & Carroll, 2015). According to the organization’s website, WIDA
began as a federally funded project among four states (Wisconsin, Indiana, Delaware, and Arkansas) and formed its name using the first letter of each. As the
consortium expanded to include other states, it was renamed the World-class
Instructional Design and Assessment Consortium to accommodate its acronym.
Over time, WIDA’s mission has expanded to include advancing the “academic
language development and academic achievement for children and youth who
are culturally and linguistically diverse through high quality standards, assessments, research, and professional learning for educators” (www.wida.wisc.edu).
According to the WIDA website, the consortium values “innovation, collaboration, [and] social justice,” which it defines as “challenging linguistic discrimination, cultural biases, and racism in education.”
Drawing on a social semiotic perspective of language and learning, WIDA’s
definition of academic literacy focuses on how language and other semiotic
systems such as images, graphs, and mathematical symbols work to construct
disciplinary meanings across content areas and in particular grade levels. This
definition draws attention to how genres are comprised of stages, how sentences
are syntactically constructed at the register level, and how disciplinary vocabulary
is used to construct meaning in different content areas. As defined by Gottlieb
and Ernst-Slavit (2014):
Academic language is a complex concept that can be defined differently
by researchers espousing distinct philosophical and methodological perspectives. Although often referred to as a list of ten important words for
a unit of study, academic language is much more than vocabulary . . . [It]
refers to the language used in school to acquire new or deeper understanding of the content and to communicate that understanding to others . . .
[It] is characterized by the specific linguistic features associated with academic disciplines, including discourse features, grammatical constructions,
and vocabulary across different language domains or modalities (listening,
speaking, reading, writing) and content areas (language arts, mathematics,
science, and social studies/history, among others). (pp. 2–3)
As of 2018, 39 states belong to the WIDA Consortium in addition to over 300
international schools in nearly 80 countries. While membership is fluid, WIDA
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175
provides participating institutions with tools for assessing, placing, and monitoring the English and/or Spanish language proficiency of students enrolled in
English as a second language, Spanish as a second language, or Spanish-English
dual bilingual programs.1 Since its formation, WIDA’s evolving conceptual
framework has informed the development of academic language development
standards and assessments for K-12 English and Spanish language learners in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, the Center for Applied Linguistics,
and a data management company. These standards are intended to guide the
teaching, learning, and assessment of English and/or Spanish as an additional
language in the disciplines of language arts, math, science, and social studies for
a rapidly growing, very diverse, and highly mobile student population. Therefore, a knowledge of these standards, or, more importantly, an ability to apprentice ELLs to meeting these standards, has become essential to the work of all
teachers, not just ESL and bilingual specialists.
WIDA’s English language development standards are assessed using a standardized exam called the ACCESS for ELLs (Assessing Comprehension and
Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners).
Their Spanish language development standards are assessed using an exam
called PODER (Prueba Óptima del Desarrollo del Español Realizado). These
criterion-referenced proficiency assessments are designed to measure students’
level of disciplinary literacy in English, Spanish, or both in grades K-12 in
the United States and internationally. As of 2018, test items for both exams
are developed and field tested by the Center for Applied Linguistics, while
a private company is responsible for printing, distributing, scoring, and reporting assessment data.
In 2012, WIDA revised the standards and assessments to make them more
aligned with CCSS and NGSS as a way of keeping pace with sweeping changes
in states that adopted these default national standards. The 2012 WIDA standards,
more reflective of an SFL perspective of disciplinary literacy development, targeted five school-based ways of using language and other semiotic systems such as
equations, graphs, and diagrams to construct content-specific meanings in grades
K-12. These varieties of disciplinary language include:
•
•
•
•
•
Standard 1: Social and Instructional Language
Standard 2: The Language of Language Arts
Standard 3: The Language of Mathematics
Standard 4: The Language of Science
Standard 5: The Language of Social Studies.
Unlike traditional language proficiency standards and assessments that target
general vocabulary and grammatical forms, WIDA standards and assessments
attempt to address the interrelated domains of speaking, listening, reading, and
writing in specific content areas. In addition, these standards attempt to address
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A Civil Rights Perspective
the increasing cognitive and linguistic demands associated with learning to read,
write, and critically discuss dense disciplinary texts at different grade levels (Bailey &
Huang, 2011). In other words, rather than focusing narrowly on vocabulary
items, sentence-level grammar, and students’ abilities to discuss, read, or write
short texts in English or Spanish, WIDA attempts to account for the disciplinary literacy development of learners who are of different ages and therefore have
different levels of cognitive maturity, have different levels of formal schooling
and literacy in their home language, and are in the process of developing content
knowledge in different subject areas associated with different grade levels (e.g.,
math, science, social studies, and language arts).
In an attempt to account for these complex and interacting variables, the
WIDA standards are organized not only around disciplinary language standards 1
through 5, but also grade levels and language proficiency levels. In other words,
each of the five disciplinary language standards is meant to be interpreted with
regard to what disciplinary language might include for students in different gradelevel clusters including kindergarten, grade 1, grades 2–3, 4–5, 6–8, and 9–12.
In addition, the standards are meant to be interpreted with regard to what disciplinary language might look like for students at different “tiers” of language
proficiency at each of these grade levels. Tier A includes beginners, Tier B intermediate learners, and Tier C more advanced learners.
Across these intersecting domains related to age, language proficiency, and
content area, students are assessed using a system with six levels. Level One represents the lowest and Level Six the highest within a progression that includes the
categories entering, beginning, developing, expanding, bridging, and reaching (WIDA,
2012; see Table 6.2).
TABLE 6.2 WIDA Proficiency Levels (adapted from WIDA, 2012)
Level 1: Entering
•
•
•
Level 2: Emerging
•
•
•
Student relies primarily on oral interactions with peers
and teachers, as well as gestures and graphic supports to
negotiate disciplinary meanings orally and with print
Student uses gestures, body language, and graphic
representations to communicate in the content area
Student relies primarily on single words and formulaic
phrases to participate in and complete disciplinary tasks
Student relies on oral interactions with peers and teachers,
as well as gestures and graphic supports to negotiate
disciplinary meanings orally and with print
Student uses graphic representations to communicate
content knowledge
Student is able to comprehend and construct subject-verbobject sentence patterns when participating in disciplinary
tasks
Level 3: Developing
•
•
Level 4: Expanding
•
•
•
•
Level 5: Bridging
•
•
•
•
Level 6: Reaching
•
•
•
•
Student relies on oral interactions with peers and teachers,
as well as gestures and graphic supports to negotiate
disciplinary meanings orally and with print
Student is able to comprehend and construct a greater
variety of words and sentence patterns associated with
a specific content area in extended oral and written
discourse (e.g., longer noun groups, use of passive
constructions, use of complex clauses)
Student relies less on oral interactions and other kinds of
supports to comprehend and produce more expert oral,
written, and multimodal disciplinary texts
Student uses extended oral and written discourse associated
with specific genres to achieve more purposes when
communicating with different audiences
Student can comprehend and use more varied and
complex grammatical patterns associated with disciplinary
discourse
Student is able to comprehend and use a greater variety of
discipline-specific words and phrases, including idiomatic
expressions
Student uses oral and written discourse in ways that
approach grade-level proficiency
Student is able to comprehend and produce organized,
cohesive, and coherent extended texts using specific genre
conventions to achieve specific disciplinary purposes when
communicating with different audiences
Student is able to comprehend and produce a greater
variety of sentence lengths of varying linguistic complexity
Student is able to comprehend and use specialized
technical words and phrases and graphic representations in
disciplinary ways that approach grade-level proficiency
Student is able to comprehend and use oral and written
discourse in grade-level ways for a variety of academic
purposes and audiences
Student is able to flexibly adjust to different registers
to comprehend and produce organized, cohesive,
and coherent extended texts using specific genre
conventions to achieve specific disciplinary purposes when
communicating with different audiences
Student is able to comprehend and produce a variety
of sentence lengths of varying linguistic complexity to
relate information and ideas with precision for each
content area
Student is able to comprehend and use specialized
technical words and phrases and graphic representations in
grade-level, disciplinary ways
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A Civil Rights Perspective
Drawing on Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development, each
level is determined by the degree to which learners rely on support from teachers
and peers as they attempt to perform increasingly demanding oral and written
tasks in school. As learners progress from Level 1 to Level 6, they are able to
comprehend and produce longer, denser, and more technical genres in the target
language with less and less assistance from teachers, peers, and family members
and with less reliance on multimodal supports. For example, over time and with
adequate supports, students at Level 1 progress from understanding and producing
single words and phrases accompanied by gestures, facial expressions, and material objects to Level 6 where they are able to comprehend and produce extended
texts that make meaning using more abstract terms and phrases associated with the
study of science, math, social studies, and literature in English, Spanish, or both
using discipline-specific registers. Said another way using concepts from SFL, as
language learners progress from Level 1 to 6, they are able to read, write, and
discuss a wider range of genres that construct disciplinary meanings through the
use of registers that use: long noun phrases and embedded clauses to pack more
information into individual clauses; a full range of the language’s tense system to
manage time in different ways in extended texts; discipline-specific graphic elements such as equations, tables, and figures; and expected genre stages required
to construct narratives, arguments, explanations, and other kinds of informational
texts (see Chapters Three, Four, and Five).
In regard to teaching practices that support this progression, the WIDA Consortium advocates that teachers scaffold students’ development of genre and register knowledge to help expand their discipline-specific literacy practices (Gibbons,
2015; Walqui, 2006; Walqui & van Lier, 2010). In line with the expanded TLC
described in Chapter Four, this kind of scaffolding includes providing learners with:
•
•
•
•
Model texts as a way of making genre and register expectations clear
Opportunities to deconstruct and critically discuss the language choices more
expert writers make in communicating for specific purposes and audiences
(e.g., choices regarding text structure, sentence grammar, tone, vocabulary
items, and use of graphics)
Time to plan and co-construct similar texts in small groups and together as a
whole class
Targeted disciplinary language instruction and feedback from teachers
as students work through the process of producing a well-edited final
product.
WIDA maintains that as students become more expert in using disciplinary literacies, the level of scaffolding they receive should drop away. New disciplinary literacy goals can then be established carefully and explicitly along
a continuum that gradually expands rather than replaces students’ multilingual/
multimodal resources as they are guided in reaching higher and higher levels of
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179
disciplinary literacy proficiency required for academic success in each content
area. Therefore, as learners progress from Level 1 to Level 6, they incrementally
rely less and less on model texts, direct instruction, and feedback regarding the
use of register features and genre conventions. Thus, Level 6, labeled “reaching,”
describes the language proficiency of students who no longer need specialized
instruction as mandated by civil rights legislation and court rulings because students can “use a range of grade-appropriate oral or written language for a variety
of academic purposes and audiences” in each content area (WIDA, 2012, p. 9).
Responses to WIDA
Assessment specialists, literacy scholars, teacher educators, and teachers have
reacted to WIDA in both positive and negative ways. In regard to the benefits
of WIDA’s efforts, a review of recent scholarship suggests four major contributions. First, assessment specialists such as Bailey and Huang (2011) note that
before WIDA first developed English language development standards in 2004,
there were no standards with “anything close to this notion of language fused
with academic content” (p. 345). Therefore, one of WIDA’s most significant
contributions is K-12 standards with an “exclusive focus on language used in
the school context . . . [that] reflect the reality of the kinds of language teachers should reasonably be held most responsible for developing—the language
necessary for school success” (pp. 358–359). However, like other assessment
experts, Bailey and Huang (2011) note that the WIDA standards are not based
on empirical evidence. This critique highlights the longstanding difficulties of
defining progress criteria and performance targets for such a diverse, highly
mobile population of students who attend different local schools, in different
districts, and in different states, which, collectively, result in incomparable levels
of institutional support for high-quality ESL and bilingual education (Cook,
Linquanti, Chinen, & Jung, 2012).
A second contribution WIDA has made to the field of ESL and bilingual
education is the consortium’s explicit recognition that the goal of language
instruction is not to replace students’ home, peer, and community literacy
practices by attempting to produce monolingual speakers of imagined national
varieties of English or Spanish. In other words, WIDA’s English and Spanish
language development standards are not overly specified, nor are the six levels
of proficiency fixed to the goal of “native” language proficiency given the
impossibility of defining, let alone measuring, such a diverse, always expanding,
and ever-shifting meaning-making system. This under-specification may help
counter problems that arise when assessments too tightly define discrete linguistic outcomes associated with the ideologically loaded conceptions of a native
speaker (Mahboob & Barratt, 2014). For example, language educators have
noted that the societal imagination of a “native English speaker” is often used to
mandate prestige varieties of standardized American or British English spoken
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A Civil Rights Perspective
by White, middle and upper class speakers versus regional or ethnic varieties of
Englishes used in the United States, England, and around the world. To avoid
this pitfall, the WIDA Spanish language development standards do not privilege
Castilian varieties of Spanish used in Spain over other varieties of Spanish used
in Latin America and elsewhere. Instead, WIDA attempts to define and measure the disciplinary literacy practices teachers need to teach and students need
to learn in English, Spanish, or both in grades K-12 to be successful in math,
science, history, and language arts.
A third way WIDA has contributed is that it conceptualizes disciplinary literacy
development as much more than learning new vocabulary words (Uccelli, Galloway, Barr, Meneses, & Dobbs, 2015). For example, WIDA’s 2012 standards focus
teachers’ attention on expanding students’ abilities to make sense of increasingly
dense grammatical structures, and increasingly specialized ways of rhetorically
organizing extended discourse in different content areas. This shift is important to
note because pedagogical interventions designed to expand students’ vocabulary
knowledge, while productive, have not demonstrated significant gains in students’
abilities to comprehend, produce, and critically analyze extended disciplinary
texts. In making this assertion, Uccelli and her colleagues write:
Many vocabulary-focused interventions have evidenced significant growth
in vocabulary knowledge, yet only modest gains in reading comprehension . . . The discrepancy between developmental and intervention studies
may not be surprising if we understand measures of vocabulary knowledge
in developmental studies as indicators of the wider set of language skills
(i.e., skill in packing dense information, connecting ideas, organizing discourse), which individuals develop in synchrony as they use language for
real purposes. Among many plausible explanations for the less than satisfactory results of vocabulary-focused interventions, one possibility is that
an exclusive focus on vocabulary might fail to target additional academic
language skills that are also critical for text comprehension. (Uccelli et al.,
2015, p. 340)
Fourth, WIDA is not just in the business of testing, although many educators unfamiliar with the breadth of the consortium’s work equate WIDA with
the assessments it has developed in collaboration with the Center for Applied
Linguistics (e.g., ACCESS for ELLs) and the high costs of administering these
assessments. However, counter to this critique, a part of WIDA’s mission is to
research the nature of disciplinary literacy teaching, learning, and assessment and
to provide professional development to teams of ESL and bilingual specialists,
grade-level and content-area teachers, and administrators and policymakers in the
context of high-stakes school reforms (Molle, 2013a, 2013b). As other chapters in
this book make clear, these efforts are noteworthy because most educators working with ELLs do not have:
A Civil Rights Perspective
•
•
•
•
•
•
181
Sustained access to expertise
Time for robust professional development collaborations
Time to produce and field test curriculum, instruction, and assessments
A streamlined way to disseminate learning outcomes to students, parents,
teachers, and other stakeholders
The infrastructure needed to reflect on and research the impact of curricular
interventions on student learning
The capacity to respond strategically to rapid policy shifts at the state or federal levels.
WIDA attempts to provide consortium members with institutional supports
to develop their capacity in these critical areas through professional development workshops and research regarding the impact of these efforts. For example,
Daniella Molle, a researcher associated with the consortium through the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Educational Research, has conducted several
studies that explore how classroom teachers, district administrators, and state policymakers make sense of WIDA standards and professional development opportunities. In one study, Molle (2013a) describes how a five-month course taken
by educators from 30 school districts supported these educators in engaging in
difficult conversations regarding: (1) the role poverty plays in ELLs’ schooling
experiences; (2) the value of bilingual education; (3) the level of disciplinary
literacy expectations ESL and content area teachers should have for ELLs; and
(4) the degree to which both ESL and content area teachers should be held
accountable for student learning outcomes.
In a second study, Molle and Reveles (2013) analyze the experiences of
teachers, administrators, and WIDA coaches over the course of a six-month
professional development workshop. They write that the reaction to the professional development initiative was mostly positive. They base their findings
on an analysis of states’ professional development plans, interviews with teachers and administrators regarding their experiences in WIDA workshops, and
interviews with WIDA coaches regarding their approach to supporting participants in implementing WIDA standards. Molle and Reveles found that at the
end of the course, several states’ professional development plans had “enhanced
cohesion,” “deepened” the content of professional development efforts to have
a “wider reach,” and made more direct connections to “practice” (2013, p. 2).
For example, several states expanded the audience for professional development
to include not only ESL and bilingual specialists, but also general educators and
content specialists. Molle and Reveles considered this shift a positive one because
of its potential to foster a sense of collective “responsibility for the teaching of
ELLs among all staff: a factor that has been described as essential for the academic
success of language learners” (2013, p. 3).
Despite these positive reactions, other studies are critical of WIDA’s efforts,
especially in the context of inadequate local, state, and federal support for
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A Civil Rights Perspective
teachers’ professional development. A chief critique is that educators’ use of
WIDA standards and professional development resources can vary dramatically
within and across districts; therefore, the noted benefits of the WIDA approach
are not generalizable. Molle (2013b) found this to be the case in her study of
how 39 educators from 14 school districts in Georgia, Maine, New Hampshire,
North Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin used the WIDA standards to
design performance indicators for ELLs.2 She attributes the variation differences
in how ESL administrators in different local contexts define their roles and the
roles of ESL teachers and how districts and states avail themselves of consortium resources (e.g., professional development workshops, publications, online
resources). Molle concludes that all educators require opportunities for collaborative and meaningful professional development anchored to an analysis of students’
literacy development if schools are to support all teachers in becoming disciplinary literacy specialists and that these opportunities must be sustained over several
years. She writes:
Teachers need to be able to take time away from the classroom and design
units that support ELL students’ language development. This time can take
place during the school year or in the summer and involve multiple ways
of developing expertise, but it has to exist. Furthermore, the professional
development opportunities available to ESL teachers need to span several
years. Many educators commented on the ways in which their understanding of the [WIDA] standards has evolved over the years. ESL teachers
reported greatly valuing professional development that is collaborative and
includes teams of general education teachers, ESL teachers, and administrators. Finally, ESL educators find professional development most meaningful when it supports them in working with the WIDA standards to design
language instruction and assessment. (Molle, 2013b, p. 12)
In another study focusing on the implementation of WIDA standards in one
school, Ruslana Westerlund (2014) found similar results. Westerlund, also associated with the WIDA Consortium, analyzed the experiences of teachers, an
academic coordinator, and the executive director of an urban elementary charter
school as they attempted to implement WIDA’s English language development
standards. This school enrolled approximately 250 students, nearly all of whom
identified as Latinx, were designated as ELLs, and were eligible for a free or
reduced lunch. Westerlund makes three claims based on her analysis of semistructured interviews, videos of co-planned and co-taught lessons, and school
documents (e.g., meeting agendas, curricular materials, and student achievement
data). First, Westerlund reports that participants tended to find the WIDA standards too “vague, confusing . . . [and] abstract” (2014, p. 118). For example, one
teacher described the standards as providing a “big picture” and a broadly defined
“end goal,” but not much “direction in how to get there” (p. 82). This teacher
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183
added that she understood that it was the teachers’ responsibility to develop their
own specific performance indicators and curricular materials for their students,
but that these tasks were very “time consuming” (p. 83). Relatedly, Westerlund
found that teachers did not always appreciate the open and generative nature of
the WIDA standards. Rather, they found the responsibility for creating their own
performance indicators to be not only time-consuming, but also contradictory to
their understanding of standards as a set of detailed benchmarks.
Second, teachers found many of the WIDA resources helpful, especially a tool
called the “Can Do Descriptors” for grade-level clusters and the “Name Chart”
for keeping track of individual students’ literacy development. However, learning
how to use these WIDA resources to design content-based tasks and differentiate
instruction for different levels of proficiency was something only experienced
ESL teachers seemed to be able to do. Westerlund reports that other teachers
needed much more time and assistance in developing an understanding of the
connection between disciplinary literacy development and content knowledge
development to be able to design quality learning activities and aligned formative assessments. Echoing Molle’s (2013b) findings, Westerlund (2014) maintains
that policymakers should anticipate that teachers will need sustained professional
development opportunities to develop a conceptual understanding of the WIDA
framework. She adds teachers will need support in the form of time, funding,
and access to expertise if they are to work collaboratively on designing locally
responsive curricular units, analyzing students’ disciplinary literacy gains, and
using their collective insights to develop the capacity of their schools to meet the
needs of multilingual students. Westerlund suggests that the process of building
a school’s capacity to implement the WIDA standards cannot be underestimated
given that language specialists typically do not have content knowledge and general educators typically lack an awareness of how language constructs disciplinary
knowledge.
Westerlund’s third finding relates to the institutional character of the charter school where she conducted her investigation. She notes that the culture
of this school was conducive to teacher learning because administrators did not
force teachers into a defensive stance regarding their ability to translate WIDA’s
complex framework into practice too quickly. Rather, over several years, the
administration provided teachers with access to WIDA professional development
opportunities as well as opportunities to attend state and national conferences.
Teachers also had time to co-plan, co-teach, and consult with highly knowledgeable ESL teachers rather than work in the kind of isolation and endemic
insecurity that often constrains teacher professionalism and works against teachers
taking shared responsibility for student learning (e.g., Lortie, 1975).
Other critiques of WIDA focus on the use of standardized language proficiency
exams such as the ACCESS for ELLs in the context of high-stakes testing practices (see Chapter Seven). Menken, Hudson, and Leung (2014) note how little
evidence there is of the validity of many newly developed language proficiency
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A Civil Rights Perspective
exams. For example, they describe how some ELLs are able to pass statemandated exams in English language arts and math for the general population,
but still do not score at commensurate proficiency levels on exams developed by
WIDA or similar assessments used in New York, California, and internationally.
Therefore, Menken and her colleagues argue that the use of these assessments can
lead to inappropriate placements and unfair penalties for students, teachers, and
schools (e.g., the inability of students to graduate, threats to teachers’ job security,
state takeovers of low-performing schools).
Other scholars describe how WIDA’s efforts ironically make it more difficult for some communities to design bilingual programs responsive to different
local needs (Davis & Phyak, 2015). For example, Davis and Phyak describe the
efforts of a grass-roots coalition of parents, teachers, and literacy researchers as
they attempted to get support for a greater variety of bilingual programs for K-12
students in Hawaii. The coalition’s efforts centered on improving the education
of multilingual learners, particularly working-class speakers of Pacific Islander and
Filipino languages as opposed to more privileged official varieties of Hawaiian.
The authors argue that the state relied on “for-profit” WIDA workshops, which,
while “scientifically based,” still failed to support teachers in designing equitable
bilingual programs for a broader range of languages, thus failing to address the
language rights of local students (Davis & Phyak, 2015, p. 155).
In sum, a review of WIDA’s efforts to support teachers in meeting the civil
rights of linguistically diverse students has been mixed. To its credit, WIDA
is explicitly dedicated to a multilingual and multicultural agenda that is geared
toward supporting students in expanding, not replacing, their ability to communicate in their home language, English, and/or Spanish for a wide range of
disciplinary purposes. It has also put forth an explicitly social semiotic perspective
of language and learning to support teachers in designing and implementing more
robust content-based instruction for learners who come to school at different
ages, with very different levels of language proficiency, and different levels of
content knowledge. In addition, WIDA has attempted to provide professional
development for ESL and bilingual specialists, general educators and content specialists, and local- and state-level administrators within a policy context that tends
to ignore the complexities of teaching and learning in today’s schools. Moreover,
unlike other testing systems, WIDA has created assessments in both English and
Spanish that can guide schools in reflecting on their ability to meet the disciplinary literacy needs of English learners, Spanish learners, and students in bilingual
programs learning both languages.
Furthermore, WIDA’s record is noteworthy given that it operates in a U.S.
policy context that is driven by market forces and has never valued multilingualism, nor supported robust forms of teacher professional development (see
Chapter Seven). Therefore, it is not surprising that WIDA’s efforts have been
met with resistance because they are both ambitious and technical in ways that do
not match traditional approaches to teacher education (e.g., Lortie, 1975). In this
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185
respect, WIDA has attempted to engage the standardization and accountability
movement as a way of mitigating the harm it can do to students and teachers.
This perspective of WIDA is captured astutely by Roberta Frederick, a wellrespected ESL teacher with over 25 years of experience working in high-poverty
schools. Roberta graduated with a master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and has a license to teach ESL. She has worked
in urban districts as an ESL teacher, a program director, teacher educator, and
advocate for students, especially in the area of arts education. Consequently, she
can speak with authority about how waves of educational reforms, including the
adoption of WIDA standards, have shaped the nature of her work with students,
colleagues, and administrators. She states:
WIDA really ratchets up the demands on students and teachers in both
good and bad ways . . . WIDA requires a lot of hard work to understand—
and even more work to implement—because it is not just a list of discrete
standards or a test given at the end of the year . . . it is also a conceptual
framework that focuses on language and teaching in new ways—it’s really
a sophisticated teaching methodology and a philosophy that requires teachers to dig deep and learn how to design curriculum and instruction in new
ways, and schools are not really ready for that . . . We [my district] can’t
stick with anything long enough . . . There is constant administrative turnover and teacher turnover . . . so just when we start to dig in to something
like WIDA and get moving in a good direction, it all changes . . . New
administrators come in and they have all new priorities and good work gets
dropped. That is what has happened with WIDA in my district . . . groups
of us participated in really good PD and got invested, and then it got
dropped. So, right now, most teachers think WIDA is just one more exam
they have to give in the spring that gives results in the following January on
students they probably don’t even teach anymore. (R. Frederick, personal
communication, February 18, 2017)
Roberta’s reactions to WIDA suggest that while the standards, assessments,
and professional development opportunities may be well conceived at a national
level, their implementation at the school level is highly sensitive to the district
context in which they are enacted. As Chapter Eight will make clear, the historical, political, and economic context of public schooling has also worked against
multilingualism as a desired societal goal. Forces in these broader contexts have
also worked against critical approaches to designing curriculum and instruction
for non-dominant students, and robust forms of teacher professional development (e.g., Popkewitz, 1994). Consequently, as Roberta’s words make clear,
educators working at the local classroom level need much more sustained forms
of professional development anchored in a much better understanding of the
educational needs of the students they serve.
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Summary
This chapter opened with the voice of an experienced seventh grade social
studies teacher named “Mrs. Ward” who said with some pride, “I’m never
sure who is and who isn’t an ELL in my class. I just treat them all the same.”
At the time Mrs. Ward made this comment, she had been teaching for almost
15 years in a struggling urban middle school serving mostly poor Latino and
African American students. She also reported that she had not participated in
any sustained professional development opportunities regarding working with
ELLs and former ELLs, a demographic that was rapidly growing in her school.
As this chapter makes clear, Mrs. Ward’s perspective, however well intended,
is misguided and in violation of students’ rights to a free and equitable public
education (e.g., de Jong, 2011). Specifically, in 1974, the Supreme Court
ruled that “same does not imply equal” and that language learners require
specialized instruction to enable them to engage meaningfully with the curriculum offered by public schools. Since 1974, as part of implementing what
became known as the Lau Remedies, schools have institutionalized a range
of language learning programs in response to this landmark court case. These
programs range from those designed to support full disciplinary biliteracy and
global multiculturalism (e.g., dual and maintenance bilingual education programs) to other approaches geared toward English-only and assimilationist ideologies (de Jong, 2011).
Despite the development of policies and programs responsive to the civil
rights of linguistically diverse students since the 1970s, research indicates that
disparities between dominant, White, middle and upper middle class students
and non-dominant students of color who speak world languages and varieties
of English have persisted and intensified (e.g., Darling-Hammond, 2006). As a
result, the U.S. Department of Justice has mandated that teachers in some states
must complete coursework focusing on teaching disciplinary literacies to students
officially designated as ELLs. In addition, most states have adopted new English
language development standards and assessments as part of the standardization and
accountability movement shaping nearly all aspects of U.S. public schooling, as
will be discussed further in the next chapter. An organization that has emerged as
a leader in designing standards and assessments for English learners, Spanish learners, and Spanish-English bilingual learners is the WIDA Consortium. Founded
in 2002 in response to NLCB and CCSS, WIDA’s mission is to advance the
academic achievement of linguistically and culturally diverse learners through
the development of standards, assessments, research, and professional learning
opportunities for educators. WIDA draws on diverse theoretical perspectives of
literacy development, including Halliday’s SFL and Vygotsky’s zone of proximal
development to help language specialists, general educators, administrators, and
teacher educators respond to new waves of educational reforms. However, as the
closing words of Roberta Frederick make clear, teachers need time and sustained
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187
professional development to understand and implement successful approaches to
teaching disciplinary literacy practices to a changing population of multilingual
students attending U.S. public schools.
Praxis
ELLs’ Civil Rights and Institutional Supports for
Developing Disciplinary Literacies
As part of responding to Roberta Fredrick’s call for teachers to “dig deep,” the
following data collection activities provide an opportunity for your group to
analyze how ELLs students’ civil rights are protected in the institutional contexts
where you are collecting and analyzing data. The following tasks will guide you
in comparing the educational experiences of an ELL student in a local ESL or
bilingual program and in a general education class, depending on the nature of
the types of language programs offered locally (e.g., dual, maintenance, or transitional bilingual education; push-in or pull-out ESL instruction; sheltered English
immersion). If you have the opportunity to follow a specific student in different
kinds of classrooms, that would be ideal. If not, then make plans to observe an
ESL or bilingual classroom and a general education class as a way of describing
and comparing the opportunities and challenges ELLs confront in these different
classroom contexts. The following guidelines will help you make this comparison
and inform the development of the curricular unit you are designing.
Task Directions and Topics for Discussion
1.
2.
3.
4.
Schedule observations of either a single ELL who participates in both ESL/
bilingual and general education programming or of one ESL/bilingual class
and one general education class. Keep in mind the ethics of conducting classroom research (e.g., protecting teacher and student confidentiality by using
pseudonyms, being conscious of the many demands placed on teachers,
being open-minded and avoiding making hard and fast conclusions based on
a very limited window on the range of literacy experiences students have in
and out of school).
Review Chapter Two as an example of Celine’s challenges in navigating the
transition between an ESL program and general education classes.
Review your group’s description of the state, school, classroom, and community context from Chapter Two and your transcript analysis from Chapter Three.
Use Table 6.A to take notes that will guide your analysis of how ELLs in
your context are provided with access and support for learning how to read,
write, and discuss disciplinary texts in accordance with all students’ right to
a free and equitable education.
TABLE 6.A Comparing Classroom Supports for ELLs’ Disciplinary Literacy Development
Within an Institutional Context
Bilingual/ESL/
SEI Classes
Description of the class (type, size,
physical layout)
Access to resources (e.g., technology,
quality curricular materials)
Student grouping practices (pairs,
small groups, whole class)
Content focus
Language focus
Equity issues
Use of students’ home language(s)
Use of multimodal resources
(e.g., diagrams, images, videos,
hands-on tasks)
Nature of classroom participation
structures and discourse patterns
that support disciplinary
knowledge and literacy
development (see Chapter Three)
Use of model texts (see Chapter
Three)
Support for disciplinary reading (e.g.,
text deconstruction activities, see
Chapters Four and Five)
Support for disciplinary writing
(e.g., text construction activities,
see Chapters Four and Five)
If possible, collect samples of
student writing. Use Table 6.2
to determine the WIDA level of
selected student(s).
Feedback and assessment practices
Informal interview with teachers
about their work and professional
development opportunities in
relation to supporting ELLs’
disciplinary literacy development
(if possible)
Informal interview with students
about their learning (if possible)
Other topics of interest
General Education Implications
Content Classes
for Designing
Curriculum
A Civil Rights Perspective
5.
189
After completing your observations and comparison, discuss at least five
insights that arise from your completion of Table 6.A that will inform how
you will further develop the curricular unit you are preparing using the
expanded TLC (e.g., being more specific in regard to content, language,
equity goals; making greater connections between your curricular unit and
students’ lives; providing students with more access and opportunities to use
their home language; selecting higher quality and more authentic model
texts; designing scaffolding handouts to make disciplinary literacy practices
more explicit and open to discussion; developing feedback and assessment
systems that are more motivating and supportive of disciplinary literacy
development; see Chapters Four and Five).
Notes
1 As of 2015, states not belonging to the consortium include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, New York, and Texas. These states have developed their own
assessment systems as a way of complying with NCLB legislation (Bailey & Carroll,
2015).
2 WIDA performance indicators are interpretations of the standards written by teachers
and test developers to “show examples of how language is processed or produced within
a particular context . . . [they] are meant to be examples and not fixed guidelines of the
language with which students may engage during instruction and assessment” (WIDA,
2012, p. 10).
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7
SHIFTING CONCEPTIONS OF EQUITY
Standardization, Accountability, and
Privatization in School Reform
My principal routinely asks me to teach the kids who struggle a lot in school,
something I love doing, and I’m invited to give presentations all the time on how
I support all kinds of students in reading, writing, and meeting standards, which is a
good thing—I am not against standards. But according to the state, I am not a very
good teacher because of my students’ test scores. All I have to say is REALLY? As
if, I, all by myself, influenced everything a student knows and does not know on
the day they take a test . . . And now they want to link test scores to teacher evaluations. What a slap in the face!
– “Hanna Godley,” middle school English language arts teacher in Massachusetts
Thankfully I only had to submit edTPA1 once because it cost about $300 . . . It
requires a lot of planning, organization, time, and hard work. And there are parts
of edTPA that can be faked and people who are strong writers have an advantage
because of the amount of reflecting and explaining that is required. But overall, it
made me analyze the different components of a strong unit and lesson and critique
myself using video and pre- and post-assessments of students’ learning. It also really
made me analyze my language choices, something I had never done before.
– “Christina Tucci,” reading specialist in New York
I just scheduled my first of two MTEL exams.2 It was about $150 on top of what
I paid for TK20.3 And that is on top of tuition and books and rent, so I had to put
TK20 on my credit card because I couldn’t use my debit card. I feel like I have put a
lot of money in a hole—I just hope it grows into something! I know a lot of people
complain about [TK20] because the system isn’t very intuitive, but it does give me
a sense of what I am supposed to aim for, what the end goal is, so I’m optimistic.
– “Diane Delvin,” pre-service secondary English language arts teacher in Massachusetts
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The voices of these pre- and in-service teachers reveal how new waves of school
reforms associated with the standardization and accountability movement are
fundamentally changing the nature of public education in ways that hold promise, but are also precarious. To explore the complexities of this new era of educational reform, the questions guiding this chapter are:
•
•
•
What is the standardization and accountability movement and how did this
approach to systemic school change come into being?
What are the implications of the standardization and accountability movement for the teaching and learning of disciplinary literacies, especially for
ELLs and their teachers?
How can educators develop a deeper understanding of how the standardization and accountability movement shapes ELLs’ classroom experiences so
teachers can protect students’ right to an equitable education?
Building on the discussion of ELLs’ civil rights in Chapter Six, this chapter
continues to focus on the institutional context of public education for ELLs and
their teachers illustrated in Figure 7.1. This chapter begins by explaining how
the standardization and accountability movement, which began in 2002 with the
signing of No Child Left Behind legislation, continued to gain momentum with
FIGURE 7.1
Text/context dynamics in schools (focus on genre and register)
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the adoption of the Common Core State Standards in 2010. In addition, this chapter
describes how some states, in an effort to mandate a single standardized national
language for classroom instruction, passed English-only policies, which further
compromised teachers’ ability to support ELLs in meeting new standards through
bilingual approaches to education. Next, this chapter describes how pre- and
in-service teachers are being held accountable for meeting these new standards
for all students, including ELLs, but often with fewer institutional resources and
at great expense. And last, in the praxis section, readers are invited to explore
the meaning of the standardization and accountability movement in the local
context where they are collecting and analyzing data as a way of mitigating the
unintended consequences of school reforms.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
NCLB is a comprehensive bipartisan act passed by Congress in 2002 that expanded
the power of the federal government in unprecedented ways. For example,
NCLB required states to test students annually in core academic subjects, including ELLs who had been enrolled in a U.S. school for at least one year. In addition, it required states to monitor students’ adequate yearly progress (AYP)
toward meeting state standards. If students, including ELLs, failed to meet AYP
targets, schools could be taken over by the state and/or forced to adopt scripted
curriculum aligned with state standards and assessments (e.g., Gutiérrez, Asato,
Santos, & Gotanda, 2002; Lucas, 2011).
The high-stakes nature of NCLB signaled a strategy shift in how policymakers attempted to implement school change. Kathryn McDermott (2011) explains
this shift in a comprehensive analysis of the development of school reforms leading up to NCLB. She argues that, prior to the passage of NCLB, the federal
government attempted to achieve equity in education by providing additional
funding to schools that served students in particular categories to ensure students’ civil rights were being protected. These funds were used to address discrimination based on race, gender, disability, and home language, and included
programs for women’s athletics, students with disabilities, students with special
needs, and those requiring bilingual/ESL services. For example, in line with this
trend in civil rights legislation is the federal government’s passage of the Bilingual
Education Act in 1968. This act provided funding for native language instruction, English instruction, cultural heritage programs, and teacher education (e.g.,
Wright, 2015). Under this system of categorical funding, accountability was narrowly defined as “following the money” to make sure districts complied with
state and federal regulations and accounted for how funds were spent. However,
schools were not held accountable for student learning outcomes. NCLB, guided
by strategies used in the business world, changed this conception of equity by
forcing states to focus on educational outcomes and then holding schools, and
increasingly, individuals, accountable for meeting learning targets. If schools do
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not meet targets, they stand to lose funding, and teachers and administrators their
jobs (e.g., McDermott, 2011).
Advocates and critics of NCLB come from both ends of the political spectrum
(e.g., McDermott, 2011). For example, many conservatives and progressives are
supportive of NCLB’s goal of holding schools accountable for the educational
outcomes of all students by providing all students with access to an academically
challenging curriculum. This belief is based on studies that find students’ performance, including ELLs’, is enhanced when schools establish clear instructional
goals, have high expectations for all students and teachers, and have strong leadership that focuses on curriculum and instruction (e.g., Lucas, 2011). However,
many conservatives feel NCLB is too prescriptive and infringes too much on
the rights of local school boards to determine the best approach to educating
students in accordance with their beliefs and priorities (e.g., teaching evolution
from a particular perspective, approaches to sex and gender education, the issue
of school prayer, the topic of climate change).
Progressives, on the other hand, argue that the law jeopardizes the very students it is intended to help by not addressing fundamental differences between
schools in wealthy communities and those in poorer ones. They maintain that
achievement in public schools has less to do with students’ abilities and more to
do with their zip codes and the tax base of the communities in which they live.
For example, more affluent communities, relative to poorer ones, are able to
generate more funding for public education to provide students and teachers with
access to cleaner and safer schools; better technologically equipped classrooms;
and a broader array of academic and non-academic course offerings including
art, music, dance, theater, physical education, sports, and after-school programs
(e.g., Spring, 2014). Progressives tend to object to NCLB because it ushered in a
business approach to school change that focused too narrowly on financial inputs
and testing outcomes, while advancing the commodification, commercialization,
and marketization of something as cognitively, socially, and politically complex
as teaching and learning (e.g., Au, 2013). For example, many progressives point
to the role market forces increasingly play in public education, particularly private
companies that make profits by selling scripted teaching materials and assessment systems to budget-strapped schools that serve large numbers of poor students, especially ELLs. They argue against the use of these curricular materials
and assessments for three main reasons: they typically are not designed for ELLs;
they work to de-professionalize the workforce by taking curriculum and instruction decisions out of teachers’ and administrators’ hands; and they do not build
the capacity of school districts in regard to supporting the professional development of teachers and administrators in locally responsive ways (e.g., McLaughlin,
Glaab, & Hilliger Carrasco, 2014).
In addition, high-stakes testing systems associated with NCLB may have
undermined the policy’s ability to achieve its intended goal of holding schools
accountable for closing the equity gap. Darling-Hammond (2006) maintains that
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such high-stakes testing systems perversely created counterincentives to supporting student achievement, along with a “diversity penalty” for high-poverty
schools attended by large numbers of ELLs and other multilingual students of
color (p. 659). She explains that because NCLB required the inappropriate testing of ELLs in English, a language they were still in the process of acquiring, “the
most expedient option for schools to increase their scores [was] to allow or even
encourage such students to leave” (p. 659). Therefore, although NCLB focused
much needed attention on the failure of schools to support historically underserved students, such as ELLs, the law paradoxically created testing systems that
pushed these very same students out of school in record numbers.
FIGURE 7.2
Data wall depicting third graders’ scores from mandated state tests in an
urban school
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Shifting Conceptions of Equity
In line with Darling-Hammond’s critique of NCLB, a number of researchers
have documented how high-stakes testing systems can have negative effects on
students’ motivation and engagement, given that both are likely to decrease when
tasks are too challenging, instructional supports are too low, and failure is likely
(e.g., Guthrie, Wigfield, & You, 2012). Teachers’ motivation, sense of efficacy,
and desire to stay in the classroom follow in the same direction when they too
are constructed as failures in staff meetings, local and national news outlets, and in
district, state, and national reports (e.g., Olsen & Sexton, 2009). “Data walls” in
schools are one example of how pernicious such public displays of failure can be.
Figure 7.2 shows a data wall outside the doorway of a third grade class in an urban
elementary school, where more than half of the students were designated as ELLs,
almost all were of color, and nearly all were eligible for a free or reduced lunch
(Gebhard, 2015). The display, titled “Third Grade is Racing to Proficiency,”
represents each third-grader as a race car. These cars are arranged to show how
each student performed on the state exam in English language arts. The irony,
which was not lost on the children who walked by this display every day when
they came to school, is that they were not racing anywhere. Rather, 35 out of
58 students’ cars were in the “warning/failing” category (scores of zero or one).
Only six students scored at the more “advanced” level of four. It is unclear why
school administrators required teachers to make public displays of failure or why
anyone would think such displays could be motivating to students and teachers,
but data walls like these are prevalent in U.S. schools.
English-only Policies and Anti-bilingual
Education Ideologies
In addition to problems associated with testing ELLs in a language they are
just beginning to learn, several policy analysts have convincingly argued that
NCLB created a de facto English-only policy in U.S. public schools by systematically eliminating the words “bilingual” and “bilingual education” from
policy documents at the federal level (e.g., Lucas, 2011). This push toward
English-only instruction has been further reinforced by the passage of antibilingual education legislation in many of the states with the largest numbers
of ELLs. However, such legislation flies in the face of compelling evidence
that bilingual instruction supports better educational outcomes for multilingual
students in an increasingly globalized world (e.g., Lopez & McEneaney, 2012;
Thomas & Collier, 2002; see Chapter Six), and decades of empirical research
that demonstrates bilingualism has social, cognitive, economic, and political
benefits (e.g., Bialystok, 2001). This research indicates that people who have
studied and use two or more languages in their daily and professional lives have
a greater degree of cognitive and semiotic flexibility and outperform monolinguals on standardized tests and college entrance exams (e.g., Bamford &
Mizokawa, 1991). Other research indicates that multiculturalism gives people
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a competitive advantage in the workforce, especially in jobs related to healthcare, education, social service, customer service, marketing, international trade,
and international news media (e.g., Callahan & Gándara, 2014).
However, the benefits of multilingualism are not just about important practical matters such as getting an education and a job. Kramsch (2009) maintains that
learning new linguistic and cultural codes in and out of school is also about strategically and creatively constructing new identities and new ways of understanding oneself and others, sometimes playfully and sometimes painfully. Kramsch
describes this process as “especially necessary in situations where power, status,
and speaking rights are unequally distributed and where pride, honor, and face
are as important as information” (2006, p. 250). She adds that language learners are not just imitating the linguistic forms of “native speakers,” nor are they
simply solving problems when communication breaks down by applying new
communication strategies. More accurately, language learners have “embodied”
past experiences, identities, loyalties, and desires that shape their sociolinguistic
interactions with others across diverse contexts (p. 251). This perspective of language learning is captured in Chapter Two’s portrait of Celine’s language learning experiences in high school. Celine’s ability to produce an academic text in
her high school journalism class was not simply a matter of linguistic proficiency
or knowing how to make the “correct” linguistic choices for a class assignment.
Rather, her editorial about institutional racism was also an act of identity. It was
an attempt to use language to understand herself as a multilingual student of color
attending a U.S. high school, as well as an attempt to have others engage with her
perspective. Kramsch captures this aspect of language education when she writes:
To understand others, we have to understand what they remember from
the past, what they imagine and project onto the future, and how they
position themselves in the present. And we have to understand the same
things of ourselves . . . Today it is not sufficient for learners to know how
to communicate meanings; they have to understand the practice of meaning making itself. (2006, p. 251)
Unfortunately, these cultural and emotional aspects of language teaching and
learning are typically ignored by policymakers, teacher educators, and teachers
despite the documented experiences of students and teachers who wrestle with
linguistic and cultural differences in their daily interactions with one another in
schools. In other words, rather than responding to the complex and powerful
social, political, and economic forces influencing schooling in ways that might
productively help teachers draw on and develop all students’ linguistic and cultural resources to facilitate disciplinary literacy development and cross-cultural
understanding, school reforms in the United States have aggressively pursued
nationalistic, monolingual, English-only policies since the passage of NCLB (e.g.,
Flores & Schissel, 2014; Menken, 2008).
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Gándara and Baca (2008, p. 2001) characterize these policies as creating a
“perfect storm” of negative consequences for ELLs and their teachers. They
describe how federal mandates, such as those outlined in NCLB, have forced
ELLs to take the same high-stakes exams as their non-ELL counterparts regardless of the fact that these exams were not designed for language learners. Therefore, they argue, these assessments are not valid measures of ELLs’ knowledge of
content-area standards, but function more as advanced language proficiency
exams that beginning and intermediate language learners will likely fail. Nonetheless, ELLs’ scores on these exams are included in reports of schools’ progress
toward meeting accountability targets in ways that are highly consequential for
students, teachers, schools, school districts, and local communities. For example,
many states will not allow students to graduate if they have not passed state
exams. Teachers and principals can lose their jobs if their school’s scores do not
show improvement and school districts can lose funding or be placed in receivership if they are declared chronically underperforming, regardless of the number of
ELLs they serve (e.g., Menken, 2008). Given the correlation between ELLs and
poverty, this means the poorest schools and communities, which have the greatest need for resources and stability, are often at the greatest risk of losing funding
and having high faculty turnover rates compared to other schools.
NCLB has also contributed to restrictions around the amount of time ELLs
are eligible to receive support from ESL specialists (e.g., Hakuta, 2011). The
intention of NCLB provisions on this matter may have been to ensure ELLs have
greater access to content instruction and teachers who have disciplinary expertise,
so the responsibility of their education could be shared by all of their teachers,
not just a few ESL and bilingual specialists. This push toward shared responsibility for the education of ELLs is important because ESL and bilingual teachers
have expertise in second language acquisition, bilingualism, and multiculturalism,
but not always the requisite content knowledge to teach math, science, English
language arts, and history, especially at the secondary level where content knowledge becomes more specialized and consequential (see Chapter Six).
However, states have interpreted this aspect of NCLB differently. As a result,
NCLB, in combination with English-only mandates, has pushed many ELLs
into content classrooms before they are able to manage the demands of reading
and writing disciplinary texts without careful scaffolding, especially in the upper
grades where texts become denser, more technical, and require more disciplinespecific background knowledge (e.g., Gibbons, 2006; Walqui, 2006). Research
suggests ELLs may need five to seven years of high-quality literacy instruction
before they are able to read, write, and discuss disciplinary genres at levels that
match their non-ELL peers, especially in the upper grades (e.g., Hakuta, 2011).
Lawmakers, however, have ignored these findings in the same ways they have
tended to ignore compelling data regarding the benefits of bilingualism. Kenji
Hakuta, a professor and leading expert on bilingualism, captures the degree to
which lawmakers have dismissed such research as he describes his experience
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testifying before a senate subcommittee tasked with shaping federal elementary
and secondary education policies:
“Tell me, professor, how long do you think it takes for [ELLs] to learn
English?” My answer may have been an academically guarded one, to the
effect that it depends on how you define proficiency in English and it
would vary a lot depending on the child, but I gave my answer as 5 to
7 years, to which [Senator Claiborne Pell] replied, “Respectfully, professor, I disagree. It should take 6 months.” (2011, p. 167)
Hakuta’s experience, like NCLB and English-only mandates, illustrates the
power of monolingual ideologies shaping educational policies in the United
States.
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Disciplinary
Literacy Development of All Students
Statements by lawmakers such as Senator Pell put unrealistic pressure on content area teachers and their ELL students. However, the widespread adoption of
CCSS and aligned assessments has intensified this pressure (Bunch, 2013; Lee,
Quinn, & Valdés, 2013). The CCSS were developed by the National Governors
Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to build upon and
align different states’ standards across grade levels and content areas. Their goal
was to ensure consistent and rigorous expectations for all students in English language arts, history, science and technology, and mathematics regardless of where
they live in the United States (Council of Chief State School Officers [CCSSO],
2010a).
By 2014, the majority of states had adopted the CCSS. However, many states
did so to access funding incentives from the Obama administration and the Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation. Otherwise, these states may have lost much
needed funding (e.g., Spring, 2014). By the spring of 2015, millions of students
in states such as New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts were tested on their
knowledge of the CCSS using an aligned computer-based assessment developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers
(PARCC), while students in states such as California, Oregon, and Washington were tested using an assessment developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). In addition, millions of students designated as ELLs
took additional language assessments developed by the World-Class Instructional
Design and Assessment Consortium (WIDA), which are also aligned with the
CCSS (see Chapter Six). In many states, these national testing systems are slated
to replace state systems. However, in many schools, national exams are layered
on top of district and state exams. This proliferation of testing is evident in the
experience of Grace Harris, a Massachusetts ESL teacher working in an urban
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high school, who noticed that in April and May of 2015 she lost 25 teaching days
to testing her students in a language they were just beginning to learn. Ironically,
all this time spent testing students on their knowledge of the standards prevented
Grace from providing instruction to support students in meeting these very same
standards.
Experiences such as these are driving many educators to support “opt-out”
campaigns. These campaigns are led by coalitions of parents, teachers, and teachers’ unions designed to push back on high-stakes testing practices and the intrusion of the federal government in local schooling practices. Representing both
conservatives and progressives, the opt-out movement objects to: (1) the loss
of local control in setting standards and assessing student learning; (2) the overtesting of students and loss of instructional time; (3) flawed evaluation systems for
students, teachers, and schools; and (4) the generation of profits for private companies that develop assessment systems and instructional materials at taxpayers’
expense and to the detriment of schools being able to maintain art, music, dance,
theater, world language, and sports programs (e.g., Spring, 2014). As of 2017,
these campaigns have been successful in pressing for changes in the adoption and
implementation of CCSS in Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey,
Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
Regardless of growing resistance from both sides of the political spectrum,
most educators agree that the CCSS and accompanying assessments, for good or
ill, constitute a dramatic shift in the direction of the national education system in
the United States. Leading literacy researchers and teacher educators have characterized this shift in the following way:
It is safe to say that across the entire history of American education, no single document will have played a more influential role over what is taught
in our schools. The [Common Core] standards are already affecting what is
published, mandated, and tested in schools—and also what is marginalized
and neglected. Any educator who wants to play a role in shaping what happens in schools, therefore, needs a deep understanding of these standards.
(Calkins, Ehrenworth, & Leheman, 2012, p. 1)
However, to develop the kind of understanding Calkins and her colleagues are
advocating, it is important to understand how and why the CCSS were developed, how they differ from other standards that have been generated over the
last two decades, why states adopted them, and the implications for students,
teachers, and teacher educators, particularly as they relate to disciplinary literacy
development and ELLs.
In the early 2000s, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) met
to analyze the different ways states had responded to the demands of NCLB,
especially the specific standards each state established for student learning at different grade levels and in different content areas. They also compared the different
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ways each state assessed student learning over time. Based on these analyses and
a comparison with national standards established in other countries, the CCSSO
developed the Common Core State Standards in 2010. Collectively, the developers of the CCSS attempted to achieve the following goals (CCSSO, 2010a):
•
•
•
•
•
•
Establish national standards that are less fragmented, fewer in number, and more
demanding than standards found in many states.
Establish clear goals and a common language to support educators in designing
curriculum and instruction focused on what high school graduates need to
know and be able to do to be prepared for college, higher paying professional work, and civil engagement in a post-industrial and increasingly
computer-mediated, multicultural, and globalized world.
Establish standards for each grade level and content area that incrementally
build to support all students in becoming college and career ready by graduation.
Create system-wide shared responsibility for student learning and an understanding
that development occurs over time. The developers of these standards attempted
to achieve these two goals by articulating a developmental pathway for students across grade levels and content areas starting from an analysis of the
demands of college preparatory classes in English language arts, history, the
sciences, and mathematics and then working backwards, grade by grade, to
stipulate specific academic standards for secondary and elementary grades,
including kindergarten. The aim is that all K-12 teachers share the same goals
for all students and work toward them incrementally and collaboratively
across grades levels and content areas using more constructivist as opposed to
behavioral approaches to teaching and learning (see Chapter Three).4
Support an integrated approach to teaching reading, writing, speaking, listening,
numeracy, and uses of technology to develop students’ abilities to make sense of informational genres across grade levels and disciplines. Central to this focus is greater
attention to supporting the disciplinary literacy development of students at
each grade level and in each discipline. The writers of the CCSS maintain
that an emphasis on informational texts is necessary because “most of the
required reading in college and workforce training programs is informational
in structure and challenging in content” (p. 4). Therefore, the standards
mandate that “70 percent of student reading across the grades should be
informational” (p. 5).
Support all students in being able to manage increasingly complex texts across
a range of disciplines, which includes developing the ability to read, write, and discuss narratives, explanations, and arguments in discipline-specific ways across grades
K-12. Therefore, CCSS requires that all elementary and secondary teachers
be able to teach students how to read, write, and critically discuss disciplinary
genres specific to their content areas. To accomplish this, teachers need to
attend to a “staircase” of language standards, which map literacy development from kindergarten to grade 12 to provide students with the linguistic
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scaffolding needed to prepare all students for futures in college and/or the
workforce (p. 8).
Use technology and computer-mediated ways of teaching to support students in
negotiating the demands of an increasingly computer-mediated and postindustrial society, economy, and political world, especially given the steady
loss of manufacturing jobs in most states.
Emphasize the value of multiculturalism and productive collaboration across differences. The framers of the CCSS explicitly state that students should “actively
seek to understand other perspectives and cultures through reading and listening, and . . . [be] able to communicate effectively with people of varied
backgrounds. They [should be able to] evaluate other points of view critically and constructively” (p. 7).
Reactions to CCSS
The CCSS differ from state standards and aligned exams of the past, which
focused on reading, writing, and mathematical skills separately. In contrast,
the CCSS are conceptually more demanding. The CCSS redefine the nature
of literacy and numeracy across content areas by requiring more attention be
paid to reading and writing disciplinary genres. They make explicit reference
to the value of multiculturalism and redefine the nature of teachers’ work in
highly significant ways. The English language arts standards, for example, stipulate that students need to be able to “gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize,
and report on information and ideas to conduct original research in order to
answer questions or solve problems” (CCSSO, 2010a, p. 4); “integrate information from oral, visual, quantitative, and media sources; [and] evaluate what they
hear, use media and visual displays strategically to help achieve communicative
purposes” (p. 8).
Similarly, the CCSS for mathematics call for greater focus, coherence, and
rigor in curriculum as a way of ensuring students develop conceptual understanding of key concepts, speed and accuracy in calculation, and an ability to
apply math in situations that require mathematical knowledge of algebra, functions, geometry, statistics, and probability through talk, print, and multimodal
representation systems (CCSSO, 2010c). According to the CCSS, mathematically proficient students can apply the mathematics they know to solve problems
arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace through the use of equations,
graphs, computer tools, reading, and writing. For example, they “can explain
correspondences between equations, verbal descriptions, tables, and graphs or
draw diagrams of important features and relationships, graph data, and search for
regularity or trends” (CCSSO, 2010d, p. 6). These types of discipline-specific
literacies are also required by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
These standards call for explicit attention to teaching the language of science and
how scientific registers are used to communicate ideas, construct explanations,
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and frame arguments in ways that go beyond teaching vocabulary (e.g., Lee,
Quinn, & Valdés, 2013; NGSS Lead States, 2013).
As a number of scholars have remarked, the language of CCSS and NGSS
means that conceptions of content area instruction must change. Math can no
longer be conceived of and taught as a set of skills. Science and history cannot
be conceived of and taught as a stable body of facts that students memorize. And
English language arts cannot be conceived of as primarily the study of literature.
In addition, teaching reading cannot be limited to instructing students in how to
decode letters and sounds in the primary grades, nor can writing be understood
as the process of producing grammatically correct sentences (e.g., Beach, 2011;
Cobb & Jackson, 2011; Lee, Quinn, & Valdés, 2013). Rather, the CCSS and
NGSS require that elementary and secondary teachers in all content areas know
how to teach all students, not just those in academic tracks, how to read, write,
and critically discuss the disciplinary genres they are routinely required to read
and write in school as a way of developing students’ content knowledge and
disciplinary literacies (e.g., de Oliveira & Iddings, 2014; see Chapters Four and
Five).
The CCSS also require that both elementary and secondary teachers develop
the ability to critically apprentice all students to being able to use talk, print, and
other meaning-making systems such as equations, graphs, maps, charts, diagrams,
and computer-mediated tools to construct content knowledge specific to the
grade levels they teach. This requirement means taking responsibility for ensuring all students, including ELLs and speakers of marginalized varieties of English,
move along an academic pathway that prepares them to participate equally in
a rapidly changing and increasingly multilingual, multicultural, and computermediated world. The CCSS state:
ELLs bring with them many resources that enhance their education and
can serve as resources for schools and society. Many ELLs have first language and literacy knowledge and skills that boost their acquisition of language and literacy in a second language; additionally, they bring an array
of talents and cultural practices and perspectives that enrich our schools
and society. Teachers must build on this enormous reservoir of talent and
provide those students who need it with additional time and appropriate
instructional support. (CCSSO, 2010b, p. 1)
These requirements are highly significant for classroom practice. In contrast
to previous waves of scripted curriculum and multiple-choice tests, the CCSS
and NGSS demand that teachers prepare students “to demonstrate an understanding of core ideas, carry out research and inquiry related to real world tasks,
collaborate in problem solving, and communicate their use and interpretation of
evidence in clear, compelling ways” (McLaughlin et al., 2014, p. 1). Doing so
will require that teachers begin to depart from traditional practices where they
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are positioned as “sage on the stage” and reward students for memorizing facts
and phrases. In turn, school leaders will need to provide meaningful professional
development to teachers while also engaging students’ families and members of
the community in new ways.
In sum, the CCSS represent a significant reconceptualization of student learning, teachers’ work, and administrative leadership in ways that focus squarely
on disciplinary literacy development, especially for ELLs (e.g., de Oliveira &
Iddings, 2014). The question for many is: how are these standards being implemented in classroom practice, especially given the fiscal problems facing many
school districts, town governments, and states? Mike Kirst, a leading educational
policy analyst, echoes this question. He writes, “It is much easier and cheaper to
change state policy than to change what happens in classrooms. Human and organizational capacity building at the local level is expensive and difficult to carry
out” (Kirst, 2013, p. 6). Kirst maintains that part of this expensive and difficult
work is that teachers will need considerable professional development regarding
the ways CCSS has reconceptualized disciplinary learning and literacies. Further,
teacher education programs and professional standards for teacher evaluation will
need to be renovated to align with CCSS. Thus, though Kirst lauds the reenvisioning of teaching and learning presented in the CCSS, he cautions against
states simply adopting the standards without also laying significant groundwork
for implementing them. Without major changes to traditional teaching practice,
Kirst argues that students will not be well positioned to achieve the ambitious
learning outcomes promised in the standards. To avoid this “cruel hoax,” especially in the context of high-stakes testing, teachers need an increased capacity to
address disciplinary literacies and text complexity:
Increased text challenge will not lead to increased capacity for students to
deal with complexity without increased teacher scaffolding and knowledge of the nature of text and language and how to scaffold conversations
around text in order to manage complexity. It is not at all clear to us
how anything short of a major investment in the development of teacher
knowledge about text at all levels and in all disciplines will allow that to
happen. (Pearson & Hiebert, 2013, p. 25)
Early analyses of the implementation of CCSS, however, indicate that this
level of investment is not being made in schools, and ELLs and other multilingual
students from poor families are suffering the consequences to a greater extent
than other students. For example, Milbrey McLaughlin and her colleagues (2014)
report negatively on early CCSS implementation efforts in California. These
researchers interviewed teachers and administrators in diverse districts across the
state, including rural and urban districts of different sizes in northern, central,
and southern California, regions that serve dramatically different communities in
regard to race, class, language, and political ideologies. All of the districts received
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state funds to support their transition to the CCSS and educators across districts
were initially enthusiastic and willing to collaborate and share resources to a
greater extent than in the past. However, there were clear differences between
how the CCSS impacted affluent and poor communities, particularly those serving large numbers of ELLs. Wealthier districts tended to use these funds to send
teachers to conferences, hire consultants, and purchase curricular materials. Poorer
districts tended to use the funds to rebuild their basic infrastructure in the wake
of past budget cuts that had deeply affected them. For example, schools in poorer
communities used funds to hire back teachers let go during the previous recession
so they could restore manageable class sizes. They also purchased technology and
hired support staff to help to administer computer-based exams, resources more
affluent schools already had. Further, districts that served large numbers of ELLs
had legitimate concerns regarding how the demographics of their schools would
impact their ability to meet the new standards. In regard to the issue of disciplinary literacy development and the CCSS, one interviewee remarked, “It is not just
a big step, for many it is a pole vault . . . Academic language is a foreign language
for many” (McLaughlin et al., 2014, p. 12).
Important demographic differences between poor and affluent schools aside,
McLaughlin and her colleagues underscore that all teachers and administrators they interviewed held deep concerns regarding the professional capacity
of teachers to implement the CCSS. For example, they write that administrators worried that teachers who had themselves grown up taking NCLB era
multiple-choice tests and listening to scripted curricula would not be able to
make the shift to teaching concepts and the applications of concepts since they
have been socialized to think of learning in terms of basic skills. One administrator described how skills-based curriculum packages that require teachers to
follow “teacher proof lesson plans” would not work within a project-based and
constructivist approach to teaching and learning advocated for by the CCSS
(McLaughlin et al., 2014, p. 7).
However, it is not just teachers who need professional development, but
administrators, too. Most principals will never have taught to the CCSS or seen
others do so, making it difficult for them to supervise teachers and act as instructional leaders. Yet district administrators interviewed by McLaughlin and her
colleagues reported that colleges of education have been largely unresponsive to
this need and slow to offer CCSS-aligned courses for pre- and in-service teachers.
Based on this finding, the authors argue that “closer connections between teacher
preparation programs and K-12 systems are necessary to address the current mismatch between what new teachers are prepared to do and the demands of CCSS
implementation” (2014, p. 15).
Another pressing problem these researchers identify is the lack of curricular
materials aligned with the CCSS. In fact, one of the top concerns California
teachers reported in this study was the lack of available teaching materials compatible with the new standards. Given teachers’ limited time and know-how
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for designing their own constructivist, project-based curricular units, the state
adopted commercially made materials, but administrators complained that
many of these materials were of dubious quality. In addition, one superintendent noticed that these new “CCSS-aligned” materials were not much different from previous versions and speculated that this was the result of publishers’
rush to land a large purchase order. This administrator’s suspicion is supported
by a page-by-page comparison of old and new published textbooks, which
revealed that publishers had done little more than “slap shiny new stickers on
the same books they have been selling for years” (Herold & Molnar, 2014).
California administrators expressed similar irritation with the aggressive marketing campaigns that flooded their inboxes, some receiving sales pitches every
ten minutes to buy materials and attend workshops, often at their own expense.
Based on these reports from teachers and administrators, McLaughlin and her
colleagues recommend that a top priority moving forward should be sifting,
sorting, and curating which of these resources is truly CCSS compatible. They
conclude that “practitioners have neither the skills nor time to vet the avalanche
of ‘resources’ coming their way from publishers, vendors and the broad range
of workshop providers that jostle for their attention and dollars” (McLaughlin
et al., 2014, p. 13).
This jostling for dollars has provoked criticism of the CCSS from the right
and the left. Critics question the cost of CCSS implementation and whether or
not the research base informing the CCSS warrants this cost (e.g., Spring, 2014).
In addition, they question the rapid shift of public funds into the pockets of forprofit companies in ways that have done little to build the institutional capacity of schools. For example, conservative groups like the Pioneer Institute and
American Principles Project have estimated that CCSS implementation could
cost nearly $16 billion over seven years (Rebarber, 2012). As a result, they have
encouraged states to consider whether this level of spending is wise when states
have other funding priorities and could use existing standards and assessments
developed as part of NCLB. More liberal critics tend not to object to increases
in public spending on education, but rather the way public funds are being spent
on costly and questionable assessment systems rather than teachers’ professional
development and quality programs for students. Au (2013) captures this critique:
The development of the CCSS and the consequent rolling out of assessments, preparation materials, professional development, and other CCSSrelated infrastructure fits quite well with the neoliberal project of reframing
public education around the logics of private businesses (Apple, 2006) as
well as the shifting of public monies into the coffers of for-profit corporations through private contracts. (p. 5)5
Other critics want evidence that the CCSS will deliver given both the price
tag of implementation and the likelihood of unintended consequences that
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accompany any comprehensive reform effort. As of yet, there are no longitudinal research studies that prove the economy will improve, poverty will be
reduced, and the United States will be more competitive in the global market as
a result of a reform agenda built on the CCSS (Spring, 2014). And some scholars
question whether such a study could even be conducted. Following this line of
reasoning, many ask why the CCSS have not been implemented more slowly
and researched more deliberately through pilot programs that would provide
resources in the form of time, opportunities to collaborate, and participation in
evaluation programs (Karp, 2013).
In sum, critics of CCSS point to a lack of pilot studies, inequitable funding
formulas, the absence of meaningful professional development for teachers and
administrators, and the use of profit-generating assessment systems that displace
instructional time and funding for teachers’ professional development, the arts,
athletic teams, community outreach, and after-school programs, even in better
funded schools serving middle and upper-middle class families. Critics maintain
that CCSS, like NCLB before it, will distract parents, teachers, administrators,
teacher educators, educational researchers, and policymakers from the real causes
of the so-called achievement gap—poverty and the inability of schools to grapple with issues of inequity related to race, class, and language (e.g., Kornhaber,
Griffith, & Tyler, 2014).
Standardization and Accountability in Teacher Evaluation
Value-Added Measures (VAMs)
Regardless of whether one supports, is skeptical of, or is against the CCSS
and aligned assessments, it is clear that they are highly consequential for both
students and teachers. They are even more consequential when students’ test
scores are used to evaluate teachers, as is the case with value-added measures
(VAMs), which are used to quantify how much positive or negative effect an
individual teacher has had on student learning over a given school year. School
administrators are increasingly using these measures, usually in combination
with other forms of teacher evaluation (e.g., classroom observations), to make
decisions about compensation and employment. However, policy analysts caution that:
using VAMs for individual teacher evaluation is based on the belief that measured achievement gains for a specific teacher’s students reflect that teacher’s
“effectiveness.” This attribution, however, assumes that student learning is
measured well by a given test, is influenced by the teacher alone, and is independent from the growth of classmates and other aspects of the classroom
context. None of these assumptions is well supported by current evidence.
(Darling-Hammond, Amrein-Beardsley, Haertel, & Rothstein, 2012, p. 8)
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Darling-Hammond and her colleagues further explain that an individual student’s achievement over the course of a year can be influenced by factors such
as their health, needs, and abilities, as well as class sizes, the quality of curriculum
materials, and the availability of specialists, tutors, and after-school and summer enrichment programs (or the lack of them), especially for students living in
poor communities. Another important factor is the tests being used to measure
achievement, which privilege certain kinds of learning and not others. Given
this range of issues, which are way beyond an individual teacher’s control, these
authors compellingly conclude that value-added methods should not be used
in giving or withholding bonuses or in promoting or firing teachers. Doing so
would not only be an inconsistent way to evaluate teacher effectiveness, but it
would effectively reward or penalize teachers for who they teach.
To provide an example of the flawed ways in which value-added measures
are used to evaluate teachers, Darling-Hammond and her colleagues (2012) relate
the experiences of an award-winning teacher who had transitioned to working
more with ELLs. As a result, her students’ test scores dropped, and she received a
red flag next to her name indicating that she was now included on a list of ineffective teachers who needed remediation. This teacher’s experiences are similar
to those of Hanna Godley, the middle school teacher whose voice opened this
chapter. Experiences like this discourage teachers from working in high-need
schools or with high-need students, making these classrooms even harder to staff
than they already are (Johnson, 2015). Darling-Hammond warns that “the most
tragic outcome will be if VAM measures are used to . . . facilitate dismissals, but
the teachers who are fired are not the ‘incompetent deadwood’ imagined by
advocates” (2015, p. 135). Rather, the teachers who will likely be sanctioned will
be those working with:
the most challenging students in the most challenging contexts and those
whose students are so far ahead of the curve the tests have no items to measure their gains, and perhaps those who eschew test prep in favor of more
exciting, but less testable, learning experiences. If value-added measures
continue to prove untrustworthy, the likelihood that they can be used to
improve the quality of teaching, or of the teaching force, will be remote.
(Darling-Hammond, 2015, p. 135)
In searching for better ways of evaluating teachers, policymakers have put
forth a number of alternatives that have advantages over a single VAMs and short
classroom observations. These more comprehensive assessments use a broader
range of measures, multiple types of data, and teachers’ reflections on the impact
of their practice on student learning. They include the National Board certification, the Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT), and the
Education Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA).
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National Board Certification
Modeled after board certification practices in medicine, certification through the
National Board for Professional Teaching is a process of evaluation in which
experienced teachers voluntarily participate to distinguish themselves as educational leaders. Those eligible must have a bachelor’s degree, a valid teaching
license, and a minimum of three years of employment. In addition, National
Board certification requires candidates to submit an electronic portfolio that
includes descriptions of the context in which they teach, the students with whom
they work, and the goals of their instruction. They also provide sample instructional and assessment materials, video clips of their instruction, analyses of teaching events and classroom interactions, analyses of student work, and reflections
on student engagement and learning. Note that many of these activities are captured in the expanded teaching and learning cycle (TLC) described in previous
chapters and highlighted in the praxis section of each chapter. Upon submission,
National Board portfolios are assessed using rubrics aligned to the board’s professional teaching standards. These rubrics evaluate five aspects of teachers’ practice:
their commitment to students and their learning; their knowledge of the subjects
they teach and how to teach their discipline to diverse learners; their ability to
manage and monitor student learning; their ability to think systematically about
their practice and learn from classroom practice; and their ability to act as members of the professional learning communities to which they belong.
National Board certification has long been considered the gold standard of
evaluating teacher effectiveness because it is based on a strong body of evidence
that demonstrates its assessment process is more valid and reliable than others.
Most notably, these assessments have proven to be a good indicator of gains in
student learning over time because they are discipline and grade specific, evaluate
teaching practices in relation to student learning, and they track teachers’ progress
over time, providing teachers with feedback and targeted guidance for improvement. Further, National Board assessments rely on multiple types of data and are
responsive to local communities and policy contexts (e.g., Darling-Hammond
et al., 2012; Youngs, 2013).
PACT and the edTPA
Given the success of the National Board certification process for experienced
teachers, in 2002, researchers at Stanford University began developing a similar assessment for pre-service teachers called the Professional Assessment for
California Teachers (PACT). The PACT served as a precursor to Stanford’s
development of a parallel, nationally available assessment system known as the
edTPA (formerly the Teacher Performance Assessment). Both the PACT and
the edTPA require pre-service teachers to plan, teach, analyze, and reflect on a
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series of three to five lessons within a larger curricular unit (Pecheone & Chung,
2006). Pre-service teachers are assessed in regard to how they: (1) plan instruction and assessment that focus on developing students’ content knowledge and
associated disciplinary literacies; (2) provide instruction and engage students in
meaningful classroom learning tasks; and (3) assess the impact of their instructional
practices on student learning, including the learning of ELLs and speakers of nondominant varieties of English. Similar to the National Board certification process,
pre-service teachers must submit an electronic portfolio that includes lesson plans,
copies of instructional and assessment materials, video clips of teaching events,
and analyses of samples of student work as described by Christina Tucci, a reading
specialist, whose voice introduced this chapter.
Research regarding the implementation of the PACT and edTPA has shown
mixed results. In their favor, studies suggest that both provide a more valid and
reliable assessment of pre-service teachers’ readiness to enter the classroom than
traditional approaches, which typically include reviewing pre-service candidates’
transcripts and grade point averages, scores on state subject matter licensure exams,
and checklists regarding candidates’ behaviors during their practicum placements
(e.g., Bunch, Aguirre, & Téllez, 2009; Meuwissen, Choppin, Shang-Butler, &
Cloonan, 2015; Price, 2014). Studies indicate that strengths of the PACT and
edTPA are that they focus on student learning, are discipline and grade-level
specific, and rely on multiple types of data (e.g., video, teacher-made curricular
materials and assessments, analysis of student writing samples, use of student test
scores).
These same studies also highlight a number of limitations regarding what these
assessments measure. For example, Bunch, Aguirre, and Téllez (2009) provide
evidence that pre-service elementary mathematics teachers demonstrated proficiency in understanding the importance of modeling and teaching disciplinaryspecific literacy practices that extended beyond focusing on isolated vocabulary
words, but state that only half of the participants described teaching strategies that
build upon students’ home language and community knowledge as resources.
They add that many of the teacher candidates in their study continued to frame
challenges to teaching in deficit perspectives of students’ home languages, families, and communities rather than in their ability to design and implement curriculum, instruction, and assessments for diverse learners. Kleyn, López, and Makar
(2015) provide a similar critique of the edTPA. Their study revealed that the
edTPA does not directly address teacher candidates’ preparation to work with
multilingual students, especially ELLs.
Other critics, while cautiously supportive, have highlighted implementation
problems. These studies suggest that rubrics informing these performance assessments, particularly those that focus on the domain of “academic language” are
particularly “fuzzy,” and therefore result in “bad statistics” and invalid measures of pre-service teachers’ performance in this area (Wilkerson, 2015, p. 4;
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Duckor, Castellano, Téllez, Wihardini, & Wilson, 2014). Other scholars have
analyzed the implementation of the edTPA in New York and Washington,
two states that require licensure candidates to submit edTPA portfolios as part
of completing state licensure requirements (Meuwissen et al., 2015). These
scholars found that only half of the completers understood the purpose of this
assessment and the criteria used to evaluate their work. The participants in this
study also reported friction among stakeholders, including cooperating teachers,
school administrators, and university faculty regarding both the purposes and
process of compiling electronic portfolios. This friction resulted in overall weak
supports for candidates to meet the demands of the edTPA. Collectively, these
scholars suggest rubrics can be modified, timelines adjusted, but collaboration
between stakeholders needs to be improved to facilitate better use of the PACT
and edTPA.
Other critics are less convinced that the edTPA is fixable on the grounds that
it only further contributes to the marketization, privatization, and the commodification of education in the United States (e.g., Price, 2014; Spring, 2014). These
critics question how the PACT, a research-based performance assessment developed by Stanford University for use in California, morphed into the edTPA,
a nationalized teacher assessment administered by a for-profit company named
Pearson. Moreover, these authors object to companies like Pearson encroaching
on the professional domain of local cooperating teachers and teacher educators
who know their teacher candidates, local contexts, and student populations better
than anonymous raters hired by Pearson to evaluate candidates’ emerging abilities to design, implement, and reflect on student learning. However, it should
be noted that universities, especially state funded ones, typically lack the financial
resources and technological infrastructure that would enable them to implement
robust forms of evaluation without passing the cost of these assessments onto
students, a problem that is represented in the voices of the pre-service teachers at
the beginning of this chapter.
Summary
This chapter opened with pre- and in-service teachers’ reactions to a current
wave of school reforms associated with the standardization and accountability
movement. These reforms include: 1) NCLB legislation; 2) English-only policies
reflective of anti-bilingual education ideologies; 3) CCSS and NGSS; 4) highstakes assessments for students and teachers; and 5) the commodification, privatization, and marketization of educational practices that formerly belonged to the
public sector. Analyses of these reforms show that they have generated a host of
unintended consequences, including higher dropout rates for the most vulnerable students and the sanctioning of teachers working in the most disadvantaged
schools. They have also resulted in the shift of the cost of reforms to districts
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serving poor communities and individual pre-service teachers who are required
to pay private companies for assessments that were once under the purview of
colleges and universities. Moreover, research suggests that colleges of education,
even at elite private institutions, have had trouble developing standards-based
assessment systems for pre-service teachers, especially as it relates to planning,
implementing, and critically reflecting on students’ disciplinary literacy development in the context of current discourses shaping text/context dynamics in
schools as illustrated in Figure 7.1. The roots of this trouble are related, in part,
to the scope and costs of the standardization and accountability movement and
the push to privatize aspects of public education. They are also rooted in weak
commitments to the professional development of teachers, a topic that will be
explored in more depth in Chapter Eight.
Praxis
Analyzing the Consequences of the
Standardization and Accountability Movement
on ELLs and Their Teachers
The following data collection and analysis tasks build on fieldwork activities from
previous chapters. These activities are designed to support your research group
in critically exploring and reflecting on both the positive and negative consequences of the standardization and accountability movement in a local school
using the conceptual framework shown in Figure 7.1 as a guide. Reflecting on
the impact of these reforms is important because they have made ELLs particularly vulnerable. Your group’s exploration and reflection can help you take
concrete action toward supporting the positive consequences of current school
reforms and mitigating the negative ones. To complete the following tasks, make
plans to interview both new and more experienced teachers about their reactions
to the standardization and accountability movement. In addition, collectively
discuss the implications of your findings for your group’s approach to designing
curriculum using the expanded teaching and learning cycle shown in Figure 4.2.
Task Directions and Topics for Discussion
1.
Select a member of your group who is able to conduct a brief informal interview with one or two teachers, ideally teachers in your discipline who work
at the school where you have been collecting data. In a brief report, describe
how these teachers see the benefits and limitations of current reforms. Be
sure to begin your report with a brief description of the backgrounds of
these teachers and how their experiences provide a perspective that may
or may not be shared by others working at this school. Use Table 7.A
as a guide.
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TABLE 7.A Analysis of Teacher Interviews Regarding the Standardization and
Accountability Movement
Policy
Positive
consequences
Negative
Connections
consequences to topics
presented in
this chapter
and others
Implications for
your group related
to designing
curriculum using
the expanded TLC
NCLB/State assessments
English-only mandates
and anti-bilingual
education ideologies
CCSS/NGSS
WIDA
Teacher evaluation
systems (e.g., VAMs,
National Board,
edTPA, local systems)
Other local or state
reforms related to
teaching ELLs
2.
Select a member of your group who can review data regarding this school’s
ability to make “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) based on student test scores
on mandated exams. Ideally, you have been collecting data in one school and
can review government websites that provide parents and other stakeholders
with a school report card regarding students’ scores. These websites often
provide information regarding the progress of specific populations (e.g.,
ELLs, former ELLs, students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged
students). In reviewing these data, determine if there are contextual factors
that might account for differences in student learning outcomes based on
observations at this school and information presented in this chapter. Use
Table 7.B as a guide. However, note that different states use different assessments and may not assess students in all disciplines.
TABLE 7.B Analysis of High-Stakes Testing Data
Test
School report
card data
ELL and
former ELL
data
Notes regarding contextual
supports or lack of
supports for all students to
meet the demands of highstakes testing systems
State English language
arts test
State mathematics test
(Continued)
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Shifting Conceptions of Equity
TABLE 7.B (Continued)
Test
School report
card data
ELL and
former ELL
data
Notes regarding contextual
supports or lack of
supports for all students to
meet the demands of highstakes testing systems
State science and
technology test
State social studies test
CCSS-aligned test
(e.g., PARCC,
SBAC)
WIDA language
proficiency tests
(ACCESS for ELLs
in English, PODER
in Spanish)
3.
Select a member of your group to informally interview one or two new
teachers about their experiences in navigating the discourses of the standardization and accountability movement. Possible topics to explore include:
a. Demands on these teachers’ subject matter knowledge
b. Teachers’ ability to translate subject matter knowledge into pedagogical practice responsive to diverse students (e.g., designing standardsbased units, scaffolding content and language practices, developing
assessments)
c. Teachers’ knowledge of students and ability to make connections with
students, families, and communities through the design of curriculum
d. Teachers’ ability to teach disciplinary literacy practices to all students,
including ELLs (e.g., high frequency genres, disciplinary registers, aspects
of text complexity)
e. Teachers’ ability to reflect on student learning, especially students’ abilities to write disciplinary texts with greater expertise as required on most
state exams
f. Teachers’ ability to collaborate with others and take collective responsibility for students’ learning
g. Teachers’ ability to use technology to support student learning
h. Other
4.
Select a member of your group to informally interview one or two experienced teachers about their reactions to the standardization and accountability
movement. Possible topics include those listed in 3a–h.
Shifting Conceptions of Equity
217
Notes
1 edTPA is a performance-based, subject-specific assessment system for teacher candidates
across the country developed by Stanford University (www.edtpa.com).
2 MTEL stands for “Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure.” MTEL tests assess communication and literacy skills as well as subject matter knowledge of teacher candidates
seeking Prekindergarten to grade 12 licenses in Massachusetts.
3 Tk20 stands for “Technology in Kindergarten through Age 20.” It is an assessment,
accountability, and management system to help colleges and universities meet requirements for accreditation. Many colleges and universities use Tk20 to help track teacher
candidates’ progress through the curriculum.
4 Constructivism is a theory of learning that suggests children develop knowledge through
hands-on interactions with objects, the use of language and other meaning-making systems, and by engaging in activities with more skilled others. John Dewey (1933) is often
cited as the philosophical founder of this approach. Jean Piaget (1972) is considered the
chief theorist among cognitive constructivists, while Lev Vygotsky (1978) is the major
theorist among sociocultural constructivists.
5 “Neoliberalism” has become a fuzzy term used to mean different things. In regard to
education, it has come to mean a strong belief in privatization and a reduction in government intervention and spending for public schools. Neoliberal theory argues that a
free market will support greater efficiency, economic growth, technological advancement, and equity in schools (e.g., Kotz, 2015).
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8
PLACING THE EDUCATION OF ELLS
IN A HISTORIC, ECONOMIC, AND
POLITICAL CONTEXT
I don’t understand why teaching ELLs has become such an overwhelming issue.
My grandparents were immigrants—they worked hard and got jobs, and they did
just fine. Why has teaching these students become so political?
– “Mary Bilski,” sixth grade general education teacher
Mary Bilski, a participant in the ACCELA Alliance, asked the question of why
the education of ELLs has become so intensely controversial. With nods of
agreement from other teachers, she added that when her grandparents came
from Poland in the 1950s, they didn’t speak any English, but were still able to
get good factory jobs, buy a nice home, and raise a family without a lot of extra
services and special classes. Mary, like many teachers, wanted to understand
why everything has changed so much and become so much more complicated,
at least from her perspective. This chapter explores Mary’s question by reviewing the historic, economic, and political context of schooling in the United States (the
outermost layer of Figure 8.1) as it relates to multilingual students, including
immigrants.
This chapter begins by briefly explaining the rise of the Progressive Era of
education at the turn of the 20th century and then examines the historical record
of approaches to educating different groups of immigrants in different geographic
and economic contexts in the United States since the development of the modern public school system (e.g., Tyack & Cuban, 1995). This record makes clear
that education has always been politically motivated, and that immigrants and
other marginalized multilingual groups have always experienced public schooling on the one hand as a vehicle for social mobility, and on the other hand as
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Historic, Economic, and Political Context
FIGURE 8.1
Text/context dynamics in schools (focus on genre and register)
a powerful force in the reproduction of social inequalities (e.g., Fass 1989). To
explore these contradictory aspects of public education, this chapter addresses the
following questions:
•
•
•
How have schools historically responded to waves of immigration?
What was the Progressive Era and how do educational reforms associated
with this period continue to shape educational practices and policy debates
today?
How can educators develop a deeper understanding of past school reforms so
they can respond to current changes in the nature of their work, especially
as it relates to designing curriculum, instruction, and assessments for all students, including ELLs and other multilingual students?
The Growth of the Modern School System:
Two Faces of the Progressive Era
In an analysis of the development of public education in the United States, Carl
Kaestle (1983) argues that the impetus to expand public education came from
multiple forces. Significant among these were the simultaneous growth of industrial cities and the rapid increase of non-English-speaking immigrants in urban
Historic, Economic, and Political Context
223
centers in the mid-1800s. Kaestle maintains that these demographic, cultural, and
economic changes in the structure of society resulted in the perception that the
social fabric of the country was in jeopardy. In response, reformers such as Horace
Mann pushed for the expansion of common schools, or free, non-sectarian, public
institutions meant for all students. These common schools were designed in part
to socialize students, including immigrants, into an ethos of republicanism and the
values of the Protestant middle class. This dominant cultural mindset was thought
to fit the needs of a developing capitalistic economy and emerging modern state.
However, educational historian Paula Fass claims that “the school, as it was
envisaged by educators and often imagined by historians, was never as powerful
an integrator, equalizer, or socializer as it has been portrayed” (1989, p. 109).
In her book titled Outside In: Minorities and the Transformation of American Education, Fass explores how immigrants, Blacks, women, and Catholics responded to
common school impulses during the Progressive Era and into the 1930s, 1940s,
and 1950s. She explains how school reforms associated with the common school
movement and Progressive Era were built on the assumption that democracy
and a strong economy could be achieved by expanding voting rights to more
citizens and developing a public education system that socializes more people
into participating in American social, economic, and political life by responding
to their individual needs and abilities. For example, progressives such as John
Dewey (1928) pushed schools to offer hands-on, project-based learning so learners could reach their individual potential. However, he also encouraged teachers
to engage students in inquiry projects that would enable them to learn subject
matter knowledge, explore different trades or academic paths suited to their individual interests and abilities, and develop the dispositions required for participation in a democratic society. Fass maintains that this double commitment to
democratic principles and the “ideology of individual differences” resulted in
essential ambiguities and contradictions that continue to define U.S. education
today (1989, p. 69).
Administrative Progressives and Social Progressives
To explain the origins of these contradictions, David Tyack (1974) chronicles
the transformation of one-room schoolhouses into the modern school system
and how the growth of this system received support from conservatives and social
progressives alike. Conservatives, dubbed “administrative progressives” (Cohen &
Mohl, 1979, p. 4), were interested in the development of large, scientifically
managed schools capable of producing a steady supply of workers and consumers
to serve as wage earners and spenders in the nation’s growing number of factories and retail businesses (Spring, 2018). Tyack (1974) describes the growth of
manufacturing, agribusiness, the rail system, and consumerism as indicators of the
momentum of economic and social changes taking place in both rural and urban
America at the time.
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Historic, Economic, and Political Context
“Social progressives,” on the other hand, were becoming increasingly troubled by the way the development of an industrial and capitalistic state was creating alarming conditions of poverty in urban slums, forcing women and children
to work in appalling factory conditions for low wages, and producing an everincreasing divide between the classes in American society. Social progressives
viewed large modern schools as a technological advancement capable of efficiently providing all Americans—rich and poor, U.S. born and immigrants,
rural and urban—with an education that would equip them with the means for
achieving social and economic mobility, and society with the means for achieving democracy and a strong economy (Tyack, 1974).1
While administrative and social progressives pursued different political agendas
during the Progressive Era, they shared a belief in the social benefits of modernity
and its accompanying technologies (Cohen, 2002; Fass, 1989; Leonard, 2016).
For example, administrative and social progressives both bemoaned the education children received in outdated one-room schoolhouses. They criticized this
form of education on the grounds that teachers were too heavily controlled by
unprofessional, community-based school boards. They also objected to sporadic
attendance and idiosyncratic folk-teaching practices that resulted in children
being unevenly prepared to play a productive role in the rapidly changing industrial economy. Moreover, social progressives strongly objected to the classroom
practices of teachers who lacked a scientific understanding of child development
and too often relied on corporal punishment to control students’ behavior. Social
progressives also decried dismal facilities that lacked heat, running water, and
modern curricular resources such as books, art education, wood-working shops,
and playgrounds, all of which were believed to be necessary for a well-rounded,
humanist education (e.g., Tyack, 1974).
What both administrative and social progressives wanted, albeit for different
reasons, were expanded school facilities modeled after the factory plant and not
altogether different in character than the public schools of today. Administrative
progressives were particularly taken with the factory approach to managing large
groups of students as a way to use time, space, materials, and personnel efficiently. They thought this efficiency could be achieved in schools, as in factories,
through the specialization of function (e.g., disciplinary specialists), a division
of labor (e.g., grade levels, departments, and levels of administration), and careful attention to time (e.g., schedules, bells). As in factories, trained professionals
coordinated activities through an established hierarchy. In schools, this hierarchy
consisted of classroom teachers, department chairs, curriculum specialists, principals, and superintendents. In this way, the nature of schooling, as well as the
architectural character of schools, was transformed by innovations that included
larger schools with longer school days in which students were grouped by age
into different grades. Each grade had a prescribed curriculum in which specialist
teachers taught courses during set periods of time. Bells rang, as in the factory,
and groups of students moved from one specialist teacher to the next, ensuring
Historic, Economic, and Political Context
225
that all teachers and facilities were utilized to the maximum extent in standardized ways to achieve standardized outcomes in the most cost-effective manner.
What social progressives found attractive about these innovations to compulsory
public education was that as schools expanded and became more specialized in
their functions, they became important community centers capable of delivering
a wide range of social services, especially to the poor. These services included
play-based kindergartens, penny lunch programs, health services, after-school
recreation programs, and adult evening classes. They also included new subjects
such as music education, art education, physical education, home economics, and
industrial arts (e.g., Tyack, 1974).
The Schooling of Immigrants in the 20th Century
In describing how immigrant communities responded to reforms associated with
the Progressive Era, a number of historians provide compelling evidence that
multilingual immigrants shared the belief that the function of schooling was to
provide their children with the linguistic and cultural tools needed for participation in a rapidly changing society. However, in line with Fass’ (1989) findings,
multilingual families in different parts of the country did not always react to
reforms in the way progressives envisioned. Rather, they tended to resist compulsory education when it meant participating in a system that provided them
with an inferior education.
The Midwest
Ronald Cohen and Raymond Mohl (1979) analyzed the experiences of immigrants in the industrial city of Gary, Indiana. They write that immigrant families,
comprising a high percentage of the city’s population as early as 1910, went along
with compulsory education, but this trend was only prevalent in the primary
grades. As evidence, Cohen and Mohl cite higher rates of school attendance
for immigrant children in Gary’s primary schools when compared with rates of
attendance of “native-born white students” (1979, p. 100). These authors explain
that immigrant families saw schools as places where young children could learn
a requisite amount of English and cultural understanding to assist their families, as well as have access to social services such as medical screenings (e.g., eye
exams and hearing tests). However, counter to what progressives at the time
envisioned, public schools were not efficient cultural melting pots where passive immigrant families willingly and cleanly exchanged their home language for
English and their culture for American middle-class norms. For example, in addition to participating in American school life, immigrant children participated in
community-based organizations that offered after-school programs and Saturday
schools where their language and culture were maintained. Moreover, culturally
conservative immigrants established their own parochial schools, creating another
226
Historic, Economic, and Political Context
firewall against what some immigrants saw as the potentially destructive forces of
Americanization (Cohen, 2002; Cohen & Mohl, 1979; Fass, 1989).
At the secondary level, attendance patterns for older immigrants indicated a
distinct reversal from attendance in elementary schools. Cohen and Mohl (1979)
provide evidence that after eighth grade immigrants attended school erratically
and tended to drop out in higher numbers than their non-immigrant counterparts. Cohen and Mohl suggest that many immigrant students of secondary school
age felt they could best serve their families by going to work in factories with
their fathers or becoming domestic workers like their mothers. As a result, many
immigrant families were able to pool together enough money to make home
ownership possible, a key to becoming middle class. In other words, Cohen and
Mohl’s argument is that economic and social mobility became a reality for many
immigrants not because they stayed in school, but because they dropped out and
went to work.
Cohen and Mohl (1979) explain a second reason why immigrant students
left high school early. This flight from secondary schools centered on the twotiered, segregated nature of schools in the city. The better schools in Gary were
located on the more affluent North Side. These schools served mostly affluent
White students born in the United States and recent immigrants from northern
European countries. The second-tier schools were located on the city’s poorer
South Side and were attended by Blacks and recent immigrants from eastern and
southern European countries. The North Side schools had a greater number of
academic programs and better facilities. In comparison, students attending South
Side schools received less instruction in reading, math, science, history, geography, and languages, and more instruction in cooking, sewing, and bookkeeping for girls, and woodworking, plumbing, painting, printing, and metalwork
for boys. Given the lack of academic programs in South Side schools, many
immigrant students’ perception was that schoolwork was not altogether different
from future domestic or factory work except in one critical way—it was unpaid.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that secondary schools lacked holding power
over Gary’s immigrant working-age students.
The West
Analyses of the educational experiences of immigrant groups in other regions
show a similar pattern. For example, Judith Raftery’s (1992) study of immigrants’
participation in Los Angeles public schools parallels the experiences of immigrants
in Gary during the same time period. Like Cohen and Mohl, Raftery provides
evidence that immigrant communities utilized public school programs for their
younger children, including kindergarten classes, free lunch programs, and basic
medical services. In addition, Raftery documents how newcomer communities
took steps to configure school services to fit their educational needs by petitioning school boards for playground facilities, supervised after-school programs,
Historic, Economic, and Political Context
227
native language instruction, and spaces in which to celebrate cultural events
(1992, p. 198). In most cases, prior to the xenophobic period surrounding World
Wars I and II, school boards granted petitioners their requests. These requests,
however, were seldom directed at improving the education of immigrants in
Los Angeles’ secondary schools. Like their Gary counterparts, when immigrant
children in Los Angeles became teenagers they opted to go to work and make
a wage rather than attend segregated schools that offered remedial courses and
unpaid vocational work. However, given the differences between the two cities,
home ownership for immigrants in Los Angeles was less prevalent than in Gary,
due in part to the unspoken rule of Whites not selling property to non-Whites.
The Southwest
Guadalupe San Miguel (1987) explores the schooling experiences of students
of Mexican and Native American descent in Texas between 1910 and 1940.
Central to understanding these students’ experiences is an appreciation of the
implications of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which was signed in 1848. This
treaty ended the Mexican-American War and resulted in Mexico surrendering
claims to Texas and territories north of the Rio Grande that would later become
Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming (del
Castillo, 1992). As a result, the schooling experiences of students described in
San Miguel’s study are different from those of other immigrant learners because
these students had not, in fact, immigrated at all. John Ogbu, an educational
anthropologist, distinguishes between these types of students and those described
in the previous sections. “Voluntary” immigrants, such as those in Cohen and
Mohl’s (1979) and Raftery’s (1992) studies, are those who “more or less willingly moved to the United States because they expect better opportunities (better jobs, more political or religious freedom) than they had in their homelands
or places of origin” (Ogbu & Simons, 1998, p. 164). In contrast, “involuntary
nonimmigrant[s],” such as the students described in San Miguel’s (1987) study,
are those whose minority status arises as a result of being “conquered, colonized,
or enslaved” (Ogbu & Simons, 1998, p. 165).
The experiences of involuntary nonimmigrant students chronicled in San
Miguel’s book signal a fundamentally different set of ideologies defining the
mission of public education for White Texans versus Mexican Americans and
Native Americans at the time. For example, San Miguel describes two powerful
intersecting forces—the growing agricultural economy of Texas, which relied on
unskilled labor, and the burgeoning eugenics movement. The eugenics movement began at the turn of the 20th century and advanced educational policies
and practices based on the belief that certain races are genetically superior to
others and that these differences could be identified through the new science of
intelligence testing (e.g., Fass, 1989; Leonard, 2016; Winfield, 2012). Equipped
with these new tools, educators in Texas during the Progressive Era argued that
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Mexican Americans were culturally and intellectually inferior to Whites, and that
Mexican Americans with Native American ancestry were the least suited to academic work. These beliefs provided educators with a pseudo-scientific rationale
for providing students of Mexican heritage with a remedial curriculum and limited employment options. For example, San Miguel provides evidence that powerful cotton and vegetable growers put pressure on school officials to selectively
enforce school attendance laws when it came to Mexican American students. San
Miguel also describes principles of racial segregation operating in schools serving
Mexican American and Native American students; a lack of proper equipment
such as desks, chairs, and chalkboards in these schools; poorly trained teaching
staff who were not much older than the students themselves; and the distinctively
non-academic curriculum directed at these students. Understandably, this system
invited resistance and did little to fulfill the goals of the Progressive Era (Fass,
1989; Leonard, 2016; San Miguel, 1987).
The Northeast
Paula Fass (1989) comes to similar conclusions regarding New York City schools
during the Progressive Era, but puts a sharper point on the issue of institutional
racism than many other educational historians. For example, she provides an
analysis of how the democratic and humanistic goals of progressive education
took on decisively non-progressive meanings when coupled with faith in the
science of intelligence testing and organizational management, which made the
testing of large numbers of students in New York City possible. Guided by
the logic of administrative progressivism, the form and function of public education in New York City at the time centered on efficiently assessing the aptitude
of individual students and creating differentiated curricula matched to categories
of assumed potential. Reformers thought the new science of standardized intelligence testing would allow for the creation of differentiated educational tracks
that could attend to varied student needs in a streamlined fashion within large,
professionally managed schools. In this way, the perception of scientific objectivity
disguised strong cultural biases and racist ideologies and Dewey’s democratic ideal
of individualized instruction mutated into class- and race-based remediation. Fass
(1989) captures this mutation when she writes:
John Dewey had most idealistically represented this new direction [of progressive education] by passionately rejecting the view that education was the
acquisition of the accumulated wisdom of the past and by urging instead that
the unfolding of the child’s (and society’s) potential should be the mission
of the schools. By shifting the charge to the schools from the traditional one
of instilling an agreed upon body of knowledge to an active development of
understanding pegged to individual talent in a changing society, Dewey and
progressive pedagogy sharpened the challenges facing the schools. Given the
Historic, Economic, and Political Context
229
schools’ design, their dependence on structured grades, central administration, their emphasis on order, and cost efficiency, progressive educational
theories propelled the schools to seek ways to define children, not individually, but according to the range of their educability. (p. 51)
The Schooling of Immigrants in the 21st Century
As discussed in Chapter Seven, many analysts of American education argue that
the nature of schooling has changed very little over the last century despite the
shift from an industrial, national, and factory-based economy to a computermediated, globalized, and knowledge-based one (e.g., New London Group,
1996). For example, leading educational policy analysts such as Linda DarlingHammond (1995, 2006, 2015) argue that historically rooted institutional practices such as those described by Fass (1989) and others continue to systematically
and structurally create different learning opportunities for ELLs, Latinx students,
and African Americans. In words that echo descriptions of schooling practices of
the past, Darling-Hammond documents the disastrous consequences of inequitable funding formulas and inequitable access to educational resources that students experience in schools today. She describes how these practices result in
ELLs and students of color being tracked in classes taught by unqualified, inexperienced teachers or being concentrated in rundown schools where quality curricular materials and basic equipment are scarce. Moreover, she and others have
documented how new testing regimes associated with the standardization and
accountability movement, counter to their intent, have forced many students out
of schools in alarming numbers (e.g., Darling-Hammond, 2006).
Support for Darling-Hammond’s conclusions comes from qualitative studies
of the day-to-day schooling experiences of students. These studies shed light on
statistics regarding the failure of schools to meet the academic needs of ELLs,
especially those who have attended U.S. schools for many years. These studies
show how elementary and secondary schools, even those attempting to address
persistent educational inequities, often: (1) maintain deficit views of the academic
potential of immigrants, ELLs, and students of color; (2) provide inadequate
instructional supports for students’ disciplinary literacy development; (3) track
and assess students in ways that limit, rather than develop students’ academic
literacy practices; and (4) provide little in the way of professional development for
teachers (e.g., Gebhard, 2000; Harklau, 1994a, 1994b, 1994c; Olsen, 1997).
School Reform in a Silicon Valley Elementary School
Before becoming a teacher educator at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst,
I conducted research in California elementary schools. This research examined how
students, teachers, families, and school administrators attempted to respond to dramatic economic shifts shaping school reforms in the 1990s and how these reforms
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influenced ELLs’ academic trajectories and teachers’ abilities to act as change agents
(Gebhard 2000, 2004). Using ethnographic methods, I analyzed how institutional
policies and classroom literacy practices intersected in an elementary school serving Latinx ELLs at the height of the economic boom taking place in California’s
Silicon Valley at the time. This school, “Web Elementary,” received considerable funding from a state policy initiative and a high-profile software company to
implement school restructuring plans reflective of organizational changes taking
place in “high-tech,” “high-performance” workplaces (Gebhard, 2004, p. 245).
These reforms were characterized by a belief that work in the business world, and
therefore in schools, should not be organized to look like factory work reflective
of the “old work order” (Gee, Hull, & Lankshear, 1996, p. 24). Rather, advocates
of school restructuring argued that students should participate in interdisciplinary instruction to accomplish purposeful academic projects in collaborative groups.
Moreover, schools, like businesses, should flatten hierarchical structures to enable
administrators to work more collaboratively with teachers and families to solve
local problems more effectively and efficiently.
As a result, Web Elementary classrooms became more technologically well
equipped and less institutional in character. For example, students had access to
computers and the Internet at a time when that was very unusual. In addition,
students worked on projects while listening to classical music in a room that was
decorated with soft lighting, muted throw pillows, and family pictures in attractive frames. However, in regard to literacy instruction, new reforms placed ELLs
and their families in jeopardy in new ways. For example, becoming and remaining a student at Web Elementary meant achieving high scores on standardized
tests given in English. It was possible for immigrant families to negotiate the right
for their children to remain at Web despite low scores if parents were able to fit
a rather narrow definition of what it meant to be a “responsible” parent at the
school. This definition necessitated that immigrant parents not only be fluent in
English, but also adopt culturally specific roles such as “parents as partners” and
“parents as volunteers.”
The degree to which the parents of immigrant children understood the roles
they were expected to play and/or the degree to which assuming these roles
was a possibility varied, and had profound consequences for their children. For
example, one student’s mother worked as an unpaid bilingual aide for a full
year and was thus able to secure her daughter’s future at the school. Another
mother was able to keep her son in good standing because she played a key
role at a school fundraising event. However, the parents of a third student,
“Alma,” had less flexible work schedules and were less proficient in English.
Both of these factors contributed to the teachers’ perceptions that Alma’s family was less able to support her, and she would be better off attending a less
academically rigorous school in the district. Teachers made this recommendation despite the fact that Alma’s abilities to complete assigned tasks were almost
identical to her ELL peers. A linguistic analysis of Alma’s textual practices over
two years showed how ELLs, despite interacting in a well-equipped classroom,
Historic, Economic, and Political Context
231
still participated in literacy practices that were remedial and akin to “literacy
piecework” (Gebhard, 2004, p. 246). These practices, like assembly work in a
factory, overwhelmingly constructed language as a system of parts (e.g., sounds,
words, sentences, paragraphs) and language learning as the silent assembly of
these parts (e.g., taking spelling tests, completing grammar worksheets, copying
texts accurately). As a result, over the course of the investigation, Alma’s ability
to produce academic texts changed very little, thus making it unlikely that she
would remain enrolled at this school or be able to position herself favorably in
the rapid redistribution of wealth and power taking place in California’s Silicon
Valley in the 1990s.
Tracking in Secondary Schools
At the secondary level, Harklau (1994a, 1994b, 1994c) reports a similar trend in
her analysis of how tracking structures influenced the trajectories of four ELL high
school students in California. She found that low-track classes were poor second
language learning environments because students in these classes were exposed to
truncated, inauthentic reading material, had little practice in composing extended
texts, and had few opportunities to participate orally in small group learning activities. As a result, Harklau describes the texts students produced as ungrammatical,
awkward, and lacking content despite their investment in their school work.
Similarly, Olsen (1997) describes institutional practices that produced inequities at a California high school. However, she also examines how issues of
race were implicated in students’ processes of language learning. Based on a
two-year study, she describes how “Madison High School” celebrated diversity on the surface, but continued to produce a stratified hierarchy based on
English proficiency and race in ways that echo Celine’s experiences described
in Chapter Two. Olsen writes that the task of learning English at this high
school was “accompanied by another major task—becoming racialized into
a highly structured social order, where one’s position is determined by skin
color” and where, as a result, one has “very unequal access to resources, opportunities, and education” (1997, p. 11). She illustrates these findings by analyzing the schooling experiences of “Sandra,” a recent immigrant from Brazil
who felt pressure to define herself as White, Black, or Latinx even when these
categories ran counter to her understanding of herself as a Brazilian speaker of
Portuguese. However, over time, pressure to fit in led Sandra to place herself
on the racialized social map that structured nearly all interactions at Madison
High. The peer group she aligned herself with was a group of Latina students
she described as “cholas . . . the tough girls” (Olsen, 1997, p. 108).
As Olsen makes clear, Sandra’s attitude toward her education was not a matter
of succumbing to the adolescent whims of her peers. Rather, institutional practices
cultivated and reinforced peer group beliefs about the value of a public school
education. For example, Olsen describes two marginalizing aspects of the Madison school district: a Newcomer Center for ELLs located down the street from
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Madison High, and the tracking practices of Madison High itself, which grouped
students according to their perceived academic abilities. Olsen describes the Newcomer Center as a centralized intake, assessment, and instructional facility for
ELLs in the district. Approximately 25% of the district’s ELLs, including a great
number from Madison High, were bussed to the Newcomer Center from their
regularly assigned high school for part of each school day to attend ESL and homelanguage classes. However, Olsen reports that this marginal space was characterized
by overcrowded classes that lacked academic rigor and were taught by inexperienced, often unqualified teachers who described their assignments as “low-status”
and “overwhelming” (1997, pp. 167–168). As a result, Olsen argues that Madison
High ELLs were provided an education with serious gaps, which echoes descriptions of ESL instruction in other elementary and secondary settings (e.g., Gebhard,
2004; Harklau, 1994a, 1994b, 1994c). Even worse, the portion of the school day
these students spent at Madison High did little to fill in these gaps because tracking
practices disproportionately assigned Latinx and Black students to low-level classes
and White and Asian students to honors and college preparatory classes, further
reinforcing the construction of racialized identities and the creation of race-based
conditions of academic advantage and disadvantage (see also Olsen, 1997).
These studies, as well as others, provide insight into how schooling can paradoxically result in students’ academic illiteracy, as opposed to supporting their development of disciplinary literacies (e.g., Hartman & Tarone, 1999; Lankshear &
Lawler, 1987). One factor in this ironic student outcome is a mismatch in different teachers’ theories of language and literacy. For example, Hartman and Tarone
(1999) provide evidence that ESL specialists and English language arts teachers
working in the same urban Minnesota high school had very different conceptions
of what the act of teaching and learning to write entails. Their data, similar to
the data I collected in a Silicon Valley elementary school, show that ESL teachers
who worked with beginning ELLs tended to think of writing in more mechanical terms and as a tool to support students in copying isolated words, taking spelling tests, and completing isolated grammar drills. In contrast, English language
arts teachers tended to describe writing as a cognitive process by which students
discover and hone their thoughts as they compose. This perspective regarding the
potential power of writing to support deeper learning across content areas is more
commensurate with current research on second language literacy development
(e.g., Hyland, 2004; Leki, Cumming, & Silva, 2010). However, Hartman and
Tarone (1999) report that mainstream English language arts teachers brought a
very different interpretive lens to their work with ELLs. These teachers regarded
the texts produced by even advanced ELLs as deficient and attributed these deficiencies to students’ cultural backgrounds and cognitive abilities. None of the
teachers considered the fact that students’ performance may be indicative of their
own need for better professional development so they could learn how to scaffold
more robust forms of disciplinary literacy instruction (e.g., Walqui, 2006; Walqui
and van Lier, 2010).
Historic, Economic, and Political Context
233
In the face of persistent educational inequities that echo and reproduce the
failures of Progressive Era school reforms, many policy analysts are calling for a
rethinking of school structures and instructional practices that harken back to times
long past and result in unmet promises regarding social mobility and democracy
through education (e.g., Miramontes, Nadeau, & Commins, 2011). For example, Linda Darling-Hammond has been arguing for over 25 years that if school
reforms are to avoid the failures of the Progressive Era, different approaches to
reform are required. She maintains that Dewey’s progressivism gave way to inequitable, standardizing practices because top-down policies tightened controls on
teaching and learning through de-professionalizing curricular and testing mandates. In contrast, she advocates that reforms should focus resources on “developing the capacity of schools and teachers to be responsible for student learning
and responsive to [diverse and changing] student and community needs, interests,
and concerns” (Darling-Hammond, 1993, p. 754). Noting that “students are not
standardized and teaching is not routine,” Darling-Hammond argues that reforms
that are likely to transform schools into more equitable “thinking institutions”
are those that support teachers in designing powerful curriculum, instruction,
assessments, and other means of reflecting on student learning in professional
rather than bureaucratic ways (p. 757). Chapters Four, Five, and Nine provide
examples of how teachers, teacher educators, and literacy researchers have collaborated in these ways using SFL tools and the expanded teaching and learning
cycle (see Figure 4.2).
Summary
This chapter opened with the voice of an experienced teacher who wanted to
know why the education of ELLs had become such an intense topic of debate in
recent history. She raised this question because she believed immigrants of the past
were able to make their way into the middle class without special programs or
approaches to teaching and learning. To offer one answer to this teacher’s seemingly simple, but actually highly complex question, this chapter provided a brief
review of the history of Progressive Era reforms, their consequences, and the legacy
they have left on modern education for immigrant and other multilingual students.
Specifically, this chapter described how administrative and social progressives
during the 20th century ushered in the development of large public school systems designed to provide all students, rich and poor, with access to a public
education that would enable them to reach their individual potential in society to
build a strong democracy and economy. These reforms included kindergartens,
project-based approaches to teaching and learning, wood shops and industrial arts
programs, home economics classes, meal programs, after-school clubs, and various kinds of social services. However, the implementation of these Progressive
Era reforms was also guided by a strong belief in individual differences, faith in
the new science of intelligence testing, and a commitment to efficiency.
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Historic, Economic, and Political Context
The historical record shows that these two faces of the Progressive Era produced schools that tracked students and offered a highly inequitable curriculum to
immigrants and students of color. As a consequence, immigrants tended to drop
out of school early so they could find work in the steady supply of jobs available
in the growing industrial economy. Educational historians maintain that many
immigrants, especially White Europeans, were thus able to achieve social mobility, not because they complied with compulsory education, but because they
resisted it. In addition, racist ideologies coupled with Progressive Era reforms
further marginalized and limited the economic and political advancement of voluntary immigrant and involuntary nonimmigrant students of color. In these contexts, compulsory attendance laws were sporadically enforced and school boards
did little to expand educational and employment opportunities for these students,
particularly Mexican Americans and Native Americans.
Last, this chapter briefly reviewed several studies of the schooling experiences
of immigrants attending schools in the 21st century. These studies illustrate that
school reforms, despite sweeping demographic and economic shifts taking place
at the turn of this century, continue to be guided by the contradictory reforms
of the Progressive Era. As documented in this chapter and others, these one-time
“innovations” to schooling include a persistent commitment to tracking and testing and the ideology of individual difference. These commitments have further
advanced cultural deficit theories regarding the academic potential of immigrants
and students of color. Collectively, these forces continue to constrain students’
development of disciplinary literacies and their ability to position and reposition
themselves in a rapidly changing social, economic, and political world.
In sum, what many current and past school reformers lack is a well-articulated
understanding of what language is, how language practices shape the development of subject matter knowledge, and how approaches to teaching literacy are
implicated in undemocratic learning outcomes. In response, this book calls for
greater attention to be paid to social semiotic theories of language, learning, and
social change in teacher education programs to support educators in designing,
implementing, and critically reflecting on the literacy development of all students, especially those from historically marginalized communities. Examples of
how teachers have engaged in this work are illustrated in Chapters Four and Five
and will be explored in greater detail in Chapter Nine.
Praxis
Collecting and Analyzing Data on the Historic, Economic, and
Political Context of a School Community
Using Figure 8.1 and this chapter as a guide, collect information regarding the
historic, economic, social, and political context of a school where you work,
are completing a practicum, or are conducting a research project related to the
Historic, Economic, and Political Context
235
disciplinary literacy development of multilingual students. This information is
typically available on reliable school, district, city, and state websites. Depending
on the scope of your project and group members’ goals, you might also explore
published scholarship regarding the history of immigration in this community.
Task Directions and Topics for Discussion
1.
2.
3.
Select a member of your group to conduct and present a brief one- to twopage report on the history of the community where your group is collecting
data (e.g., when this area was settled and by whom, changes in demographics
over time, significant events in the community’s history). Feel free to create
a timeline with a list of bullets to facilitate your presentation.
Select a member of your group to conduct and present a brief one- to twopage economic profile of this community now (e.g., the population; leading
employers; average income; median price of a home; graduation rates disaggregated by race, class, and gender; college attendance rates disaggregated by
race, class, and gender; and other data that might influence students’ attempts
to graduate from high school and transition from school to work or school
to college in this community). In addition, review “help wanted” ads in this
community to support your profile. Feel free to present this information in
a table or as a list of bullets.
Select a member of your group who is able to conduct a brief informal
interview with someone who has lived and worked in this community for
a long time. The questions guiding this interview should address changes in
the economic, social, and political life of this community. For example, you
might consider preparing questions about key topics such as:
•
•
•
4.
The role of immigrants in shaping this community historically
Reforms that are reflective of the commitments of administrative and
social progressives as discussed in this chapter
The implications of high school dropout rates in the past and currently
for individuals, their families, and the community.
Based on this interview, prepare and present a brief one- to two-page
report in the form of a table or list of bullets.
Review the curricular unit your group has been planning using the expanded
teaching and learning cycle (TLC) shown in Figure 4.2. Based on insights
gained from reading this chapter and conducting fieldwork related to the
implications of school reforms in this community, reflect on and make modifications to your unit. Some topics you might consider related to each stage
of the expanded TLC include:
•
Stage One: The degree to which your stated content and literacy goals
reflect high expectations and are linguistically and culturally responsive
(e.g., address specified content standards and develop age appropriate
236
Historic, Economic, and Political Context
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
literacy practices). If you are not sure, consider including additional
texts, even short ones, to augment mandatory readings and assignments
(e.g., statistical data regarding school, community, and state demographics; primary source documents regarding the history of immigrants in
this community; analysis of local environmental issues; literature produced by local authors).
Stage Two: The degree to which you have identified the specific content
and literacy objectives that will guide the implementation and assessment of this unit. The assessment tool(s) you create should target the
content and literacy objectives very concretely (e.g., rubrics to assess
student writing based on the instruction provided).
Stage Three: The degree to which you have supported students in
“building the field” by engaging in hands-on activities, using video and
graphic representations of key concepts, allowing ample time for discussion in the students’ home language and English prior to assigning challenging reading and writing assignments.
Stage Four: The degree to which you have designed scaffolding tasks and
curricular materials to enable the whole class to jointly deconstruct a challenging text (e.g., provided students with a preview of key topics and a
graphic organizer to highlight key genre stages and register features).
Stage Five: The degree to which you have designed scaffolding tasks
and curricular materials to support the whole class in jointly constructing an effective text. These tasks and materials highlight ways of using
language and images to: (1) recount, narrate, describe, explain, or argue
in a specific discipline (e.g., developing genre knowledge); (2) construct
key concepts (e.g., developing field resources); (3) present ideas with
authority (e.g. developing tenor resources); and (4) expand on ideas
while staying on topic (e.g., developing mode resources).
Stage Six: The degree to which you have planned to provide opportunities for students to comprehend and produce disciplinary texts with less
scaffolding using targeted disciplinary literacy practices so they are able
to apply new ways of reading and writing to new disciplinary tasks more
independently and expertly over time.
Stage Seven: The degree to which you have planned opportunities for all
students to present their work to a wider audience as a way of providing
students with an authentic purpose and audience for their work and a
mechanism for building community.
Stage Eight: The degree to which you have created tools for assessing
students’ final project as specified in Stage Two and scaffolded in Stages
Three through Seven.
Stage Nine: The degree to which you have practiced collecting and analyzing samples of student work to reflect on the degree to which stated
content and literacy objectives were met or not and the degree to which
Historic, Economic, and Political Context
•
237
all students are making gains regardless of race, class, gender, language,
and country of origin.
Stage Ten: The degree to which you have attempted to share findings
from your analysis of student work with your students, their families,
other teachers, and administrators to build a professional community
and a sense of shared responsibility for more powerful student learning.
Note
1 For analyses of race in the Progressive Era, see Leonard (2016) and Oliver (2014). Leonard analyzes the influence of Darwinism, racial science, and eugenics on the Progressive
Era, documenting how reforms excluded and further marginalized African Americans
and did little to challenge the legacy of Jim Crow laws. Oliver discusses the influence of
W.E.B. Du Bois during this same period.
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9
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
SFL in Action
Meg Gebhard, Kathryn Accurso, and Grace Harris
There is no way that [SFL pedagogy] is going to work with my students. They just
can’t read and write anything beyond a basic sentence. They fall asleep in class and
don’t really care about their education. Sometimes I really don’t know why they
bother coming to school.
– “Lauren Smith,” secondary ESL teacher, Milltown High
While certainly not the norm, some teachers make highly disparaging comments
about their students without fully appreciating the complexity of students’ lives
in and out of school. Equally discouraging is that numerous research studies have
documented that when teachers have low expectations, little respect, and not
much empathy, they contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy (e.g., Nieto & Bode,
2018). Students who are especially vulnerable to these negative attitudes are those
designated as “students with limited or interrupted formal education” (SLIFE).
These students often come from war zones and have lived in refugee camps
prior to seeking asylum in the United States. Others are undocumented students fleeing intolerable poverty, oppression, and forms of violence. In the past
decade, many of these students have been undocumented immigrants from Central America who have survived traumatic experiences crossing the border and
entering the United States. Other students designated as SLIFE are United States
citizens who have experienced interrupted education because of homelessness.
While there are no official numbers regarding how many students are classified as
SLIFE, many schools are developing programs to meet the needs of adolescents
who fit this description (e.g., De Capua & Marshall, 2015).
One such program for ELLs was directed by Grace Harris, the third author of
this chapter. Between 2015 and 2017, Grace collaborated with me and Kathryn
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Accurso, another SFL researcher and the second author of this chapter.1 The
purpose of our work was to support the disciplinary literacy practices of SLIFE
students at “Milltown High School,” a large urban high school in a former industrial city in New England. When our collaboration began, Milltown High served
approximately 1400 students, with a graduation rate of only 57%. Nearly 90%
were students of color and 63% were designated as economically disadvantaged.
Of these students 38% reported that English was not their first language and 23%
were officially designated as ELLs. In addition, based on consistently low state
test scores, Milltown High was designated a “Level Four” school, meaning it was
deemed “low achieving” and “not improving.”
As a result of this designation, Grace was under intense pressure to improve test
scores, but had few resources at her disposal to make this happen. For example, as
discussed in Chapter Six, voters in Massachusetts eliminated support for bilingual
education in 2002.2 In addition, Grace struggled to find curricular materials that
were age and language appropriate because many of her students had not attended
school consistently past elementary school. Therefore, many were not academically prepared in their first languages and were just beginning to use English for
everyday purposes. Nonetheless, Grace’s students were required to take the highstakes exams in English language arts, math, and science after only one year of
English instruction. Not surprisingly, most of Grace’s students were on track to
fail, drop out of high school, and drop into a weak local economy that provided
few opportunities for workers without a high school diploma.
In an attempt to stop this from happening, our collaboration focused on
implementing the expanded teaching and learning cycle (TLC) shown in Figure 9.2. We hoped to support students in passing high-stakes exams and earning
a high school diploma, but we also wanted to provide them with a curriculum that drew on their linguistic and cultural resources and prepared them for
opportunities available in Milltown. Based on our collaboration, we designed
an action research project designed to explore the following questions:
•
•
How did Grace implement the expanded TLC over two academic years to
support her students in drawing on multilingual and multimodal resources in
learning to read, write, and discuss disciplinary texts?
How did Grace’s students’ literacy practices change over time as they participated in curricular units informed by the expanded TLC?
To answer these questions, we begin by reviewing the central theoretical
concepts presented in this book. These core concepts are represented in Figure 9.1, which graphically illustrates how we approached analyzing language and
other meaning-making systems in the embedded context of Grace’s class at Milltown High at a time when U.S. immigration policies were shifting dramatically
as result of the election of Donald Trump. Second, we document how we used
this conceptual framework to design five curricular units guided by the expanded
Putting It All Together 241
TLC illustrated in Figure 9.2. These units were designed to support recent immigrants in drawing on an expansive range of multilingual/multimodal resources in
learning to read, write, and analyze specific genres in the disciplines of English
language arts, science, math, and social studies.
In the process of collecting and analyzing student work during this action
research project (see Stages Nine and Ten in Figure 9.2), we conducted a case
study of a Guatemalan student named “Valencia.” This case study illustrates that
Valencia was able to produce longer texts made up of multiple, well-written
paragraphs to achieve specific purposes (e.g., recounting, describing, reporting,
explaining, and arguing). In addition, her writing showed a gradual increase in
her capacity to produce texts about her personal experiences and disciplinary topics using more complex and varied clause structures, packed noun groups, and
an expanded range of processes (verbs), participants (nouns and noun groups),
and circumstances (word and phrases that construct time, place, and manner, see
Table 9.2). Moreover, she was able to pass state exams in English language arts
and math despite working long hours and contending with sweeping changes
in U.S. immigration policies. We certainly do not make the claim that Grace’s
use of the expanded TLC caused these gains, given the wide variety of language
learning experiences Valencia had over time at school, at home, and at work.
However, we do maintain that two aspects of the expanded TLC were relevant
to Valencia’s evolving academic literacy practices in Grace’s class: (1) the availability of an expansive range of multilingual and multimodal resources for completing challenging academic tasks, and (2) the availability of model texts written
in English to guide her reading and writing practices. We conclude this chapter
with a discussion of the implications of this case study for teachers and researchers
of ELLs’ disciplinary literacy development, as well as a praxis section. This section
invites readers to use the expanded TLC to conduct action research projects of
their own around the literacy practices of a language learner in the context where
they work, are completing their licensure requirements, or are participating in a
collaborative research group.
Text/Context Dynamics in U.S. Public Schools:
A Review of Key Concepts
As illustrated in Figure 9.1, a social semiotic perspective of disciplinary literacy
informed our collaboration in Grace’s class. As explained in Chapters Three,
Four, and Five, this model of text-in-context dynamics draws on: (1) Halliday and
Hasan’s understanding of language as a socially constructed meaning-making
system; (2) Vygotsky’s understanding of development as a sociocultural process;
and (3) a Freirean understanding of critical reflection as it relates to literacy practices in schools. This model begins with an encompassing definition of text as any
oral, written, multimodal, or multilingual representation of meaning (Halliday &
Hasan, 1989, p. 5). Texts can include talk, gestures, print, images, graphics,
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FIGURE 9.1
Text/context dynamics in schools (focus on genre and register)
equations, charts, and the like. In addition, texts are sensitive to the embedded
historic, economic, and political contexts in which they are produced and interpreted. This sensitivity is reflected in how all texts perform three functions simultaneously: they construct ideas or experiences through the ideational function;
they enact social roles, identities, and power dynamics through the interpersonal
function; and they manage the flow of information and attitudes through the textual function. As Halliday (1993) describes, texts accomplish this work through
the specific field, tenor, and mode choices a language user makes when communicating about a specific topic, to an intended audience, and through oral, written,
graphic, or computer-mediated means.
In explaining text/context dynamics, Halliday and Hasan (1989) maintain that
as children physically and cognitively mature into adults, the nature of the topics
they communicate about, the people with whom they interact, and the modes
through which they negotiate meaning expand dramatically. This expansion creates more choice within children’s functional meaning-making systems as they
become adults who have developed their home language(s), varieties of languages
used in the multiple communities to which they belong, registers associated with
different disciplines in school, and the literacy practices associated with the work
they do (Halliday, 1993; Halliday & Hasan, 1989).
Building on Halliday and Hasan’s theory, Jim Martin argues that a central
way children expand the meaning-making resources available to them is through
Putting It All Together 243
the genres people are apprenticed to in and out of school. He maintains that as
children mature and the meaning-making resources available to them expand,
they are socialized into culture-specific ways of telling stories, describing experiences, explaining their thinking, and making arguments that reflect and construct
the cultural contexts in which they participate (Martin & Rose, 2008). One of
these cultural contexts is the public school system. As students develop disciplinary knowledge in language arts, social studies, mathematics, and the sciences,
they are apprenticed to discipline-specific genres that use language and multimodal resources such as equations, graphs, diagrams, and images in identifiable
and teachable ways (Rose & Martin, 2012). However, as discussed in Chapters
Six, Seven, and Eight, public schools in the United States have historically not
provided immigrants, students of color, and the poor with equitable access and
sustained support for learning how to read, write, and critically analyze disciplinary texts (e.g., Tyack & Cuban, 1995). As a result, a disproportionate number
of these students drop out of school every year and forego the benefits of a high
school diploma (e.g., Darling-Hammond, 2006).
As discussed in Chapter Eight, during the early 1900s, when immigrant students left school early, many did so deliberately so they could go to work in the
nation’s growing industrial economy. Many were also able to pool their family
resources to buy homes, participate in culturally and linguistically sustaining
civic organizations, and gain a foothold in America’s middle class without a high
school diploma. This type of social mobility was more available to White male
immigrants from European countries who were less subjected to discrimination
related to race, religion, and gender (e.g., Fass, 1989). Later, during the civil
rights movement, U.S. courts declared discrimination based on race, religion,
gender, and other learner differences, such as language, unconstitutional. As
discussed in Chapter Six, the Supreme Court ruled that “same does not imply
equal” in the 1974 landmark case Lau versus Nichols (de Jong, 2013, p. 104).
As a result, schools today are required by law to provide all students with access
and support for learning regardless of their home language, country of origin, or
immigration status.
Despite progress made during the 1960s and 1970s, research shows that schools
continue to struggle to deliver on the promise of providing all students with an equitable education as mandated by federal law (e.g., Nieto & Bode, 2018). In addition,
as discussed in previous chapters, factory jobs have slowly disappeared in the 21st century and there is a greater need for knowledge workers who can meet the demands
of a rapidly changing and increasingly globalized and technology-driven economy.
As in the past, these economic forces have placed new demands on students, their
families, teachers, and teacher education programs (e.g., New London Group, 1996).
In response, as discussed in Chapters Six and Seven, liberal and conservative
policy makers have passed a series of game-changing reforms such as No Child
Left Behind legislation (NCLB), the Common Core State Standards (CCSS),
the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and the use of standards-based
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assessment systems developed by states and private companies to hold students,
teachers, and schools accountable for meeting 21st century learning goals (e.g.,
McDermott, 2011). These goals center on teachers and students developing not
only deeper content knowledge and associated literacy practices, but also learning
to communicate effectively orally and in writing, working more collaboratively
and creatively on complex rather than routine tasks, and using new technologies
to solve problems in innovative ways.
While few would argue with the value of these 21st century learning goals,
parents, teachers, and educational researchers have identified a number of problems with the standardization and accountability movement. As discussed in
previous chapters, these problems compromise the ability of teachers to prepare
students for participation in an increasingly globalized, multilingual, and technologically driven world. Critiques of current reforms have centered on the
following issues:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Disagreements regarding who should have authority over local schools (e.g.,
parents, school boards, states, the federal government, or private companies);
A narrowing of the curriculum and the loss of institutional support for art,
music, language instruction, recess, sports, and after-school programs;
A loss of instructional time to make time for testing and test preparation,
especially in high poverty schools;
Higher dropout rates for ELLs, students of color, and the poor;
Teachers feeling overwhelmed, unprepared, and unsupported;
A lack of a commitment to bilingual education, and in some states, the passage of English-only mandates, despite the growing need for a multilingual/
multicultural workforce; and
Government dollars spent on scripted curriculum packages and assessment
systems produced by private companies rather than investments in teacher
professional development and school infrastructure, especially in urban and
rural schools.
The Expanded Teaching and Learning Cycle (TLC)
To respond to these problems, especially as they influence the education of students designated as ELLs, members of the ACCELA Alliance adapted the TLC.
To review, the TLC couples Halliday’s theory of SFL with Vygotsky’s concept of
the zone of proximal development (ZPD). Vygotsky defines this zone as the distance
between what a learner is able to do unassisted and what they are capable of accomplishing with guidance from more expert peers, teachers, family members, and
other adults in their community (Vygotsky, 1978). This level of social, linguistic,
and cultural guidance enables the building of students’ “scientific” as opposed to
everyday ways of talking, reading, and writing about subject matter knowledge in
their home language and additional languages (Vygotsky, 1986, p. 148).
Putting It All Together 245
The concept of scaffolding is central to designing classroom instruction within
students’ highly diverse ZPDs (Gibbons, 2003; Walqui, & van Lier, 2010). As
discussed in Chapters Three, Four, and Five, scaffolding disciplinary knowledge
and literacy practices for all learners is enormously challenging in the changing
context of public schooling. It requires well-prepared and supported teachers to
plan curriculum, instruction, and assessments that are linguistically and culturally
responsive and standards-based. Research demonstrates that teachers can do this by
carefully modeling and critically discussing how language and other semiotic systems construct meaning in the genres students are routinely required to read, write,
and discuss in their content area (e.g., different types of recounts, narratives, descriptions, reports, explanations, and arguments, e.g., de Oliveira & Iddings, 2014).
As illustrated by the teacher education initiatives presented in Chapters Four
and Five, teachers can carefully guide students in noticing and naming how language, images, equations, and graphs construct disciplinary content (field), reflect
the voice of an author (tenor), and manage the flow of information in extended
discourse (mode). In addition, teachers can collect and analyze student work and
reflect on student learning using SFL tools to determine the degree to which their
goals for instruction have been met. Teachers can then use insights from their
analyses to plan future instruction. Using these action research methods, teachers
can collaborate to support all students’ disciplinary literacy development and their
own professional development as they work for positive change in schools (e.g.,
Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1993; de Silva Joyce & Feez, 2016).
As illustrated in Figure 9.2, ACCELA’s expanded TLC guides teachers in
engaging in this challenging work through a ten-staged process of planning curriculum and assessments, implementing instruction, reflecting on student learning, and disseminating insights from their work to other educators. This version
of the TLC builds on the groundbreaking work of other SFL scholars and teacher
educators (e.g., Derewianka & Jones, 2016; Rose & Martin, 2012; Schleppegrell,
2004), social justice educators (e.g., Freire, 1993; Nieto & Bode, 2018), and curriculum design experts (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).
Text/Context Dynamics in Milltown, Massachusetts
To understand our approach to using the expanded TLC in Grace’s class, it is
important to understand how the context of Milltown influenced the textual
practices of Grace’s students. Grace’s class was comprised of approximately
20 students from Guatemala, Mexico, Iraq, Vietnam, Rwanda, and Jamaica. These
students spoke varieties of Spanish, Mam (a Mayan language), Arabic, Vietnamese, Kinyarwanda, and Jamaican Creole. All students were considered WIDA
level 1 or having beginning levels of English proficiency (Table 6.2). While some
were literate in their first languages, all had interrupted formal education in their
home countries, especially those who were refugees from the Middle East or
undocumented immigrants from Central America.
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FIGURE 9.2
The expanded teaching and learning cycle (TLC)
The range of languages spoken in Grace’s class is indicative of a dramatic
shift in Milltown’s demographics over the last 50 years. For example, up until
the mid-1900s, immigrant families came mostly from French-speaking Canada,
England, Ireland, Italy, and Poland. These White European immigrants found
factory jobs working for Milltown’s leading employer, the “National Milltown
Armory,” which provided firearms to the expanding military up until 1969 when
it was decommissioned. Following national trends, in the 1970s and 1980s other
factories in the region also began to close. White middle-class families moved
to the suburbs and new families, mostly from Puerto Rico arrived. Over time,
families from other parts of world began making Milltown their home, including people from the Caribbean, Central America, Africa, the Middle East, and
Asia. In addition, as steady factory work has disappeared, the remaining jobs in
Milltown tend to be found in the healthcare industry. Most of these jobs require
post-secondary education, an ability to use digital technologies, and an ability to
Putting It All Together 247
communicate effectively orally and in writing, particularly in Spanish and English
given changes in the city’s demographics.
In 2015, in light of the context in which Grace’s students lived and would
most likely attempt to find work, we began an action research project that
focused on four main goals: (1) to make better use of students’ linguistic and
cultural resources in designing standards-based curriculum; (2) to set high expectations for students and even higher expectations for ourselves in regard to scaffolding disciplinary literacy practices to assist students in developing their interests
and graduating from high school; (3) to reflect on changes in students’ literacy
practices over time; and (4) to share insights from our work with others to support our continued professional development and contribute to the professional
development of others.
Teaching and Researching ELLs’ Disciplinary Literacy
Development at Milltown High
Over two academic years (2015–2016 and 2016–2017), we collaborated using
the expanded TLC to design, implement, and collect data from five curricular
units: two aligned with standards in English language arts, one with standards
in science, one with standards in math, and one with standards in social studies. Each unit lasted approximately four weeks and was designed to apprentice
students to reading, writing, and discussing a target disciplinary topic using
discipline-specific literacy practices. The following sections provide a discussion
of how we approached each stage of the expanded TLC. Using qualitative case
study methods, we document how we planned instruction during Stages One
and Two; implemented scaffolding practices during Stages Three through Eight;
and critically reflected on changes in one student’s literacy practices to share findings from this action research project during Stages Nine and Ten as illustrated
in Figure 9.2.3
Planning: Stages One and Two of the Expanded TLC
Reflective of Stages One and Two, we collaboratively planned how Grace
implemented and assessed linguistically and culturally responsive disciplinary literacy instruction in her class. The genres we targeted, the content we focused
on, and the materials we designed reflect certain decisions we made during these
stages. First, given that students needed to pass state exams in English language
arts, math, and science by being able to read and write a wide variety of genres,
we did not have the luxury of focusing on just one or two genres incrementally over time, which would have been preferable (Brisk, 2014). Rather, we
aimed to build students’ capacity to read, write, and analyze increasingly dense
texts across different disciplines and genres over time. This need led us to focus
on helping students gradually make sense of more complex and varied clause
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structures, long and packed noun groups, and different types of processes, participants, and circumstances.
In line with evidence from SFL scholarship (e.g., Christie & Derewianka, 2008),
we attempted to achieve this goal by first planning units that supported students in
analyzing how personal experiences are constructed in English. We then progressed
toward exploring how more abstract and technical meanings are constructed
through dense, more complex clause structures, more technical word choices, and
discipline-specific uses of graphics (e.g., timelines, pie charts, bar graphs, graphic
representations of molecules). Second, we wanted to support students in using multilingual resources as much as possible in making sense of their experiences and in
producing disciplinary knowledge despite the passage of an English-only mandate
in the state at the time. Central to this goal was planning curriculum and instruction that encouraged students to draw on their home languages in analyzing how
English makes meaning in challenging texts, particularly during text deconstruction
and construction phases (Harman & Khote, 2018).4 Third, we wanted students to
develop a keener awareness of how graphics are used in disciplinary texts to support
them in being able to read and produce multimodal texts in different disciplines,
especially math and science (Unsworth, 2001). And last, in designing these units
and lesson plans we were careful to identify the specific state standards we were
addressing given the high levels of surveillance at Milltown High because of students’ low test scores (e.g., announced and unannounced classroom observations
conducted by building and state administrators).
The result of our planning sessions was a curriculum packet for each of the
five units that reflected these decisions. We shared these packets with students,
families, administrators, other ESL teachers in Milltown, and UMass pre-service
teachers who were completing pre-practicum requirements in Grace’s class. Each
packet included the following materials:
•
•
•
A coversheet that stated the purpose of the unit, the type of text students were
going to produce and for whom, a weekly schedule of activities required for
completing the unit, and a list of standards the unit addressed. Drawing on
the multilingual repertoires of faculty at Milltown and pre-service teachers at
UMass, coversheets were translated into Spanish and Arabic whenever possible, given that most students spoke one of these two languages.
Model texts that were carefully selected to support the development of targeted content knowledge and disciplinary literacy practices. Given that students were new to reading and writing in English, we opted to produce
many of these texts ourselves to ensure they supported the objectives of the
unit and were appropriate for students’ levels of English proficiency.
An overview of the target genre, its structure, and some typical register choices authors
make when constructing this genre. We created these one-page overviews based
on our analysis of the genre and register features of the model texts we provided, which reflected our content and language objectives (see Chapter Four
Putting It All Together 249
and Five praxis sections). Importantly, these overviews did not list every register feature found in the model texts we prepared, but only those features that
were essential to the goals of instruction for that unit (Wiggins & McTighe,
2005). Thus, in addition to being handy reference guides for students, these
overviews anchored our instruction and assessment practices. For example,
Figure 9.3 shows an overview of the genre of math reports from a unit that
FIGURE 9.3
One page overview of the genre of math reports (sample from student
curriculum packet)
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focused on analyzing survey data using descriptive statistics, the fourth unit
we planned, which was taught in the second year of the study. In reviewing
this example, it is important to note that after participating in several units,
students came to rely on these overviews, which constituted a genre in themselves. In addition, like all genres introduced in Grace’s class, students were
not expected to read these overviews independently given their beginning
levels of English proficiency. Rather, Grace guided students in making sense
of these overviews with the help of multilingual paraprofessionals and UMass
pre-service teachers.
FIGURE 9.4
Rubric for peer, self, and teacher assessment of student math reports
(sample from student curriculum packet)
Putting It All Together 251
•
•
A rubric that specified how students’ final projects would be assessed in
regard to each unit’s content and disciplinary literacy objectives (see
Figure 9.4, which shows the rubric from the math unit). We designed
these rubrics to align with the model texts, and therefore with the genre
and register features explicitly outlined in the one-page overviews. Each
rubric included only those genre and register features that we planned to
explicitly scaffold during Stages Three through Five. Students were introduced to the rubric early in each unit and used it to support peer feedback
and self-assessment before Grace used it to assign grades. In this way, we
designed the rubric to be yet another scaffolding tool that drew students’
attention to the key genre stages and register features upon which their
work would be evaluated. Further, by presenting rubrics early in each unit
and coming back to them often, we attempted to make our methods of
assessment very predictable, which can influence students’ motivation for
participating in assessment activities (Spaulding, 1995). Finally, as a way of
cultivating academic investments and student identities (Norton, 1995) we
gave students credit for the ways they invested in their work by doing such
things as putting their name and the date on their work, following written
directions, giving feedback, and using feedback to improve the quality
of their work. Last, it is important to note that Grace used other forms
of assessment including quizzes, unit exams, midterms, and final exams
in ways that complemented the rubrics we collaboratively designed to
assess students’ writing.
Activities to build background knowledge. Each packet contained a list of handson activities designed to develop students’ background knowledge before
we assigned challenging reading and writing tasks during Stage Three. For
example, for the math unit, students were first introduced to the concept
of a survey and took online surveys in groups before deciding on a topic to
explore using this method of data collection. During the autobiography unit,
students viewed and discussed photographs of Grace growing up prior to
being guided in reading her model autobiography. During the poetry unit,
students watched performances of spoken word poems that mixed Spanish,
English, and Arabic. During the science unit, students worked in groups
using a variety of languages to describe the color, texture, smell, and taste
of substances such as coffee, sugar, salt, and water before building models
of molecules present in these substances with clay and toothpicks. They
also took a field trip to the Chemistry department at UMass where they
manipulated giant interactive molecular models to notice different aspects of
chemical structures in 3D.5 And last, during the social studies unit, students
watched and discussed a video about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a large
mass of floating debris in the Pacific Ocean, before being guided in reading
explanations regarding the causes of the garbage patch and approaches to
cleaning it up.
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•
•
•
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Annotated model texts, reading guides, and graphic organizers to scaffold reading
and writing. These materials (literally) highlighted the key genre stages and
register choices students were expected to notice and discuss in learning
new content knowledge and literacy practices. For example, Table 9.1
shows a model text from our math unit alongside an annotated version of
the same model text. The annotated model was used throughout the unit
to highlight key genre and register choices the authors of the model text
made in constructing statistical reports of survey data. Importantly, we
used the same annotated model texts, reading guides, and graphic organizers to scaffold both reading and writing. This repetition was intentional
and an important aspect of the design of each unit for a number of reasons.
First, the use of the same classroom routines, procedures, and handouts
supported students in knowing what to expect and what was expected
of them. Establishing predictable school-based literacy routines was an
important feature of the curriculum given that Grace’s students had interrupted educations. In addition, the use of the same graphic organizers to
scaffold reading and writing practices created opportunities for students to
re-read and re-analyze how model texts were constructed as they produced
texts of their own.
Information regarding independent construction. Each packet contained information regarding how students, working in collaborative multilingual groups,
were required to support one another in drafting, revising, and editing their
final texts, including using the rubric to give peer feedback and self-assess
their own work.
Information regarding final presentations of students’ work to a wider audience
of their peers, teachers and staff at Milltown High, and guests from UMass.
These events were an important part of the curriculum we designed as
they celebrated students’ accomplishments, created a sense of community
within and beyond the classroom, and provided an authentic audience for
students’ work.
It is important to note that in planning units that covered a broad range of content
topics and genres, we sometimes collaborated with teachers who were content
area experts. For example, given that no member of our research team had any
experience teaching mathematics, to plan the math unit, we consulted an experienced secondary math teacher named Stephanie Purington. Stephanie’s content
knowledge and her intuitive sense of what a good analytical report of survey data
might look like combined with our knowledge of SFL to support the design of
curricular goals and materials.
To describe how our Stage One and Two planning came alive, we next provide examples of how we translated theoretical concepts into specific teaching
and learning practices over the course of implementing the five units.
TABLE 9.1 Model Text and Annotated Model Text (samples from student curriculum
packet)
Model text – math report poster
Annotated model text
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Teaching and Learning: Stages Three Through Eight
of the Expanded TLC
Autobiography
The first unit focused on English language arts standards and the genre of autobiography. The packet targeted and scaffolded the following genre features: a
cover page with a title, name, and date; a dedication page (optional); a paragraph
regarding past events in students’ lives; a paragraph describing students’ present
identities as ninth graders at Milltown High; and a paragraph regarding who they
hoped to become in the future.
Students were introduced to these genre stages during lessons where we modeled reading by deconstructing sample autobiographies produced by Grace, Meg,
and several pre-service teachers (Stage Four). In addition, during these guided
reading lessons, Grace drew students’ attention to specific register features that
were outlined in the unit curriculum packet. These features including the use
of “doing” and “being” verbs or processes to convey what a person did in the
past, who they are now, and who they want to be in the future (see Table 5.2
for a review of process types). Grace also drew students’ attention to the use of
circumstances of time, manner, and place to guide them in noticing how writers
add details to their sentences to make clear “who did what to whom under what
circumstances” using clear sentences made up of one complete clause (Thompson, 2014, p. 32; see Table 5.1 for a review of clause types).
As students transitioned to writing during the joint construction stage
(Stage Five), Grace guided them in brainstorming the language they needed to
develop to complete this unit. Using their home languages, English, bilingual
dictionaries, and technology tools (e.g., Google Translate) students created lists
of nouns or participants to support them in learning new language to describe
themselves and other important people, places, and things in their lives. Second,
students brainstormed a list of “doing” verbs to convey what they did in the past,
what they do every day as in the present, and what they hope to do in the future.
Grace also taught students the various forms of two common “relational” verbs,
to be and to have, given the importance of these verbs in constructing information
in everyday and disciplinary texts. Third, students brainstormed lists of circumstances of time, manner, and place to support them in adding details to their
sentences and managing the flow of information through the use of prepositional
phrases such as in 2000, in 2010, now, next year, in five years.
With reference to multimodality, students also produced illustrated timelines
of events to support them in conceptualizing and noticing how past, present,
and future events are constructed grammatically in English (see Table 3.1 for a
review of some English tenses). The ability to notice and use a wider range of
English tenses was a department goal for the academic year. Therefore, in this
unit, we targeted the simple past, simple present, and simple future tenses. Given
Putting It All Together 255
the variation in students’ English proficiency, for some, this was review and for
others, this was very new. Regardless of their backgrounds, all students were able
to construct detailed timelines independently during Stage Six of the expanded
TLC. However, students had varying degree of success in producing coherent
written paragraphs, opting instead to produce lists of sentences.
Poetry
The second unit focused on English language arts standards and the genre of
lyric poetry to express and describe emotions. This unit was designed around
model poems written by other SLIFE students in Milltown. These poems were
produced in the context of a previous action research project conducted by Mary
Wright and Drew Habana Hafner, two former ACCELA participants. The curriculum packet we provided Grace’s students included selected poems from Mary’s
class, as well as Spanish and Arabic translations of these poems produced by
multilingual UMass students.6 These multilingual examples of student writing
served as model texts, including the following poem written by an eighth grade
SLIFE student who had missed much of middle school because of transience
and homelessness:
Lost
by “Javier”
The planet is quiet
Part of my life is gone
And that is not good
I feel like a stashed stone in a suitcase
Perdido
por Javier
El planeta está en silencio
Parte de mi vida se ha ido
Y eso no es bueno
Me siento como una piedra escondida en una maleta
‫ﺿﺎﺋﻊ‬
‫ﻣﻦ ﺇﻋﺪﺍﺩ ﺧﺎﻓﻴﻴﺮ‬
‫ﺍﻟﻜﻮﻛﺐ ﻫﺎﺩﻱء‬
‫ﺟﺰء ﻣﻦ ﺣﻴﺎﺗﻲ ﻣﻀﻰ‬
‫ﻭﻫﺬﺍ ﻻ ﻳُﻔﺮِﺡ‬
‫ﺃﺷﻌﺮ ﻭﻛﺄﻧﱢﻲ ﺣﺼﺎﺓ ﻣﺨﻔﻴﺔ ﻓﻲ ﺣﻘﻴﺒﺔ‬
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The genre stages we highlighted to support students in reading, writing, and
discussing these poems included: a title with the name of the author, a description
of an emotion using literal and figurative language such as similes or metaphors,
and a reflection or reaction to this emotion. In regard to register features, we
again drew students’ attention to different types of verbs, including “saying” verbs
that also convey feelings (e.g., screamed, moaned, laughed ). We also guided students
in noticing how poets repeat words and sounds to support textual flow and to
consider using this literary device in their writing (e.g., “I feel like a stashed stone
in a suitcase”). Last, we guided students in paying close attention to images and
how the selection of an image can support or distract from what authors want to
convey through their poetry. As a way of further scaffolding students’ development of these target literacy practices, we returned to specific genre stages (e.g.,
a title with the name of the author, a stanza that describes an emotion, a stanza
that reacts to this emotion) and register features (e.g., the use of varied types of
processes, participants, and circumstances; use of similes, metaphors, and figurative language) during Stage Six, independent construction. During Stage Seven,
when students presented their poems to the class, we encouraged audience members to ask questions about the images each student chose and how these contributed to the meaning being conveyed. During Stage Eight, we used a rubric
specific to this unit to evaluate students’ final poems.
Scientific descriptions
To guide students in developing the ability to read and produce a greater variety
of genres, the third unit focused on scientific descriptions. Building on the genre
knowledge students had developed thus far, we discussed how scientific language is
very different from narrative or poetic language in four specific ways. First, unlike
language that describes personal experiences, feelings, and beliefs, scientific descriptions are typically designed to convey factual and generalizable information. To do
this, scientific descriptions use technical language to construct abstract classification
systems and long noun groups that pack information into clauses. Second, scientific
texts tends to construct a more detached and authoritative voice that aims to construct scientific objectivity by using more declarative statements and limited use of
emotional, evaluative, and judgmental language relative to texts that make up the
language arts and social studies curriculum (see Table 5.8 for a review of appraisal
resources). Third, scientific texts rely heavily on “being” and “having” processes to
define a phenomenon and classify it based on a description of its features. And last,
scientific descriptions tend to use specific cohesive devises to support the construction of different kinds of classification systems and cause/effect relationships that differ from the way circumstances are used in other genres such as personal narratives
(see Table 4.2 for a review of different genres and their register features).
To support Grace’s students in beginning to notice these linguistic differences
and hopefully become more prepared for general science classes, we required them
Putting It All Together 257
to create and present an illustrated poster that had two paragraphs: a description
of the chemical structure of a common molecule, and a description of a common
compound in which this molecule is found. Given the newness of this content
and the demands of the language used to construct it, we merged Stages Five and
Six so students could jointly constructing their posters in small groups with guidance from Grace, the class paraprofessional, and UMass pre-service teachers. In
addition, we encouraged them to draw on as many multilingual and multimodal
resources as possible (e.g., clay models, a UMass fieldtrip, the chemical formula of
the molecule, online resources in their home languages and English). Regarding
combining stages, it is important to note that we also faced a practical problem
related to time. If time had not been an issue, we would likely have continued
this unit to include a separate independent construction stage where students
were supported to produce scientific texts even more independently.
Multimodal math reports
The fourth unit focused on math standards related to surveys and descriptive
statistics. In choosing these standards, we intended to apprentice students to reading and writing not just factual texts, but more analytical ones. Thus, this unit
focused on guiding students in preparing and presenting a poster that displayed
the results from surveys they designed, conducted, and analyzed with their peers
(e.g., see Figure 9.3 and Table 9.1).
To build students’ field of knowledge during Stage Three, before reading
and analyzing model posters, we asked students to take a variety of short surveys
we created using Google Forms. Despite our attempts to utilize technology, we
ultimately printed these surveys and tabulated responses by hand on the blackboard because of the lack of working computers at Milltown High. We invited
students to react to the results, and students began speculating about expected and
unexpected trends. While we did not specifically target the language of speculation in this unit, we did nonetheless talk about these features of language in class
(e.g., “thinking” verbs such as wonder, modal verbs and adverbs such as might and
maybe, see Table 5.7 for a review of modal resources). In making decisions about
which language features to scaffold and assess and which to weave in as we went
along, we were guided by a desire not to overwhelm students with too much
language instruction that might compromise the overall objectives of the unit.
Balancing how much language to attend to was a tension that ran through the
design and implementation of all the units. In making decisions, we were guided
by work conducted by Australian SFL scholars based on long-term research projects they have conducted in schools with teachers and students (e.g., Christie &
Derewianka, 2008).
In regard to the remaining stages of the TLC, following established classroom
routines, we presented model posters that illustrated how language constructed
the content of the unit and we highlighted genre and register features of these
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models. Genre stages we highlighted included a general statement about the
survey topic, a recount of the methods used to conduct the survey, a description of the results using mathematical concepts and graphic representations (e.g.
pie charts, bar graphs), and an interpretation of the results. Building on earlier
units, the register features we scaffolded included noticing and using a variety of
noun groups or participants (see Table 5.3 for a review of participant types). For
example, we continued to work on developing students’ ability to make sense
of long, abstract noun groups, but we also introduced the idea of deciding when
to use nouns and pronouns that construct human versus non-human actors. For
example, in academic discourse, students need to critically read and produce
texts that sometimes downplay human actors and sometimes shine a light on
them with phrases such as the data suggests versus we think. In the phrase we think,
human agency is clear, but the language ruins the whole purpose of the scientific method, which is to use scientific tools to make observations and come to
data-driven conclusions, not rely on personal opinions. At the same time, we did
not want to teach students to banish all personal pronouns from their writing in
ways that led to the overuse of clunky passive constructions. Therefore, one of
our goals in designing this unit was to support students in noticing the difference
between “human” and “non-human participants” in what they read and to make
strategic decisions in their writing.7
Arguing for Action on a Social Issue
The last unit focused on social studies standards around conducting research to
inform an audience and persuade them to action. This unit was designed by
Grace and Jennie Schuetz, a colleague of Grace’s who taught many of the same
students during the second year of the study when they were in grade 10. Grace
and Jennie created this unit with no input from Meg or Kathryn, demonstrating
that Grace was able to apprentice another teacher with no background in SFL to
this pedagogical approach.
For this unit, students were required to self-select a social problem, analyze the
causes and effects of this problem, and argue for a plausible solution. They were
required to present their arguments orally to their peers and invited guests using
PowerPoint slides to support their presentations. As a model text, Jennie used a
PowerPoint presentation she had created on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
She printed these slides and during the text deconstruction stage she drew students’ attention to specific genre stages. These included separate slides that stated
the title of the presentation, the social issue and its significance, an explanation
of its causes and effects, a plan of action for addressing the problem, and a list of
credible references.
The register features students were required to notice in reading this model
and in producing slides of their own included many of the same features of disciplinary discourse they had been introduced to during previous units. These
Putting It All Together 259
included noticing how authors pack information into long noun groups, construct causal relationships, use specific cohesive devices to manage the flow of
information, and use tenor resources in specific configurations to be both authoritative and persuasive. Though she was new to SFL, Jennie attempted to include
these linguistic features in her model text, guide students in noticing and using
them in their own writing, and assessed the presence of these linguistic features
in students’ final projects during Stage Eight.
Critical Reflection and Dissemination of a Case Study:
Stages Nine and Ten of the Expanded TLC
As part of critical reflection, we conducted a case study of a student named
“Valencia.” We selected her as a focus student because of the challenges she
faced out of school. Namely, Valencia had to work long hours to pay for living expenses and legal fees to straighten out her immigration status. As a result,
Valencia often came to school visibly exhausted and occasionally fell asleep in
class, a problem that provoked some teachers at Milltown High to make the same
kind of negative comments that opened this chapter. Given the degree to which
we believe many teachers misread immigrant students’ weariness as apathy for
their education, we decided to focus our analysis on Valencia’s schooling experiences and literacy development.
To accomplish this goal, during Stage Nine, we engaged in many of the same
data collection activities described in the praxis sections of each chapter in this
book. We conducted classroom observations and wrote field notes; transcribed
audio and video data of classroom interactions; collected samples of Valencia’s
writing; interviewed her formally and informally, and collected test score data.
Based on our analysis of these multiple data sources, in what follows, we provide
a brief case study of Valencia’s schooling experiences and a discussion of linguistic
changes in samples of her writing over the course of her participation in the five
curricular units we designed, thus accomplishing the goals of Stage Ten, dissemination of findings from our action research project.
Valencia’s Navigation of Immigration Policies, Work, and School
In producing this case study we learned that Valencia, the youngest of nine children, was born in Guatemala. When she was 16, she left home without her parents and entered the United States. The details regarding how Valencia traveled
over 3,000 miles from Guatemala to Milltown are sketchy, but it appears she
was detained at the border as an undocumented “abandoned minor,” although
Valencia tends to think of herself as a young adult. Following Obama administration policies, authorities registered her as eligible to apply for “special immigrant
juvenile status” through the family court system and provided her with transportation to Milltown. Once in Milltown, Valencia joined her sister working as a
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day laborer in the agricultural economy just outside Milltown. Valencia reported
working six days a week harvesting potatoes, often for over ten hours a day and
for less than minimum wage. While her goal was to contribute to household
expenses, and perhaps send money home to her parents, she quickly found most
of her money going to an immigration lawyer to help her obtain legal status and
eventually become a U.S. citizen. When asked how much these legal fees were
costing, Valencia replied, “Um, four thousand . . . Cómo se dice cuatro mil quinientos? [How do you say 4,500?]”
Though it took nearly three years, Valencia was approved for “lawfully present status” in 2018. Her new status made her eligible for better health care
benefits, a work permit, the protection of minimum wage laws, and in-state
college tuition. Given that she wants to attend Milltown Community College
and eventually become a nurse, this change in status has made planning for postsecondary schooling possible if she could pass state exams, graduate from high
school, and save for tuition. To this end, as her English proficiency improved,
she was able to get a job as a prep cook and then waiting tables, jobs that
paid better than potato harvesting, were less backbreaking, and provided winter
employment after school. However, Valencia’s path to lawful immigration status and more gainful employment took a toll on her schoolwork. The demands
of working late hours to earn money left Valencia overtired when she came to
school. In addition, following the election of Donald Trump and changes to
federal immigration policies, Valencia and other students in Grace’s class became
much more fearful that they or members of their family could be deported
when they went to work, especially after a high-profile raid in a nearby city
in September 2017.
Valencia and another Guatemalan student named “Ramon” talked about the
anxieties associated with managing their immigration status, working, and getting their schoolwork done. In a joint interview, Ramon, a particularly mature
and astute young man, was very conscious of the ironies of immigrating, working hard to learn English, trying to get an education to have a better life, and
then falling asleep in school. With resignation, he remarked that it was too late
for him because of his undocumented status, but it would be better in the future
when he had a family because his children could attend school with fewer worries and uncertainties. Valencia added that she tried hard to stay awake in class,
but sometimes gave in to fatigue, especially when she did not understand what
teachers were saying or what they expected her to do. When asked to say more
about what kind of teaching practices helped her stay engaged, Valencia initiated
a comparison between being assigned “projects” in other classes compared to
Grace’s:
1. Valencia:
No me gusta [name of class] porque allí hacemos muchos proyectos
y siempre lo hacemos independientes, y a posición no lo entiendo (laughs).
Y por eso no me gusta. [I don’t like that other class because there we
Putting It All Together 261
do a lot of projects, and we always do them independently, and
from the start I don’t understand it. And because of that I don’t
like it.]
2. Meg:
Ohhh. So there are projects, but you have to do them independently?
3. Valencia: (nods yes)
4. Meg:
Okay. And how is that different from Ms. Harris’ class?
5. Valencia: It was very different because Ms. Harris, when she say we have to
do a project, she – she make a project and then she show us how to
do it and how to write on this yourself.
....
6. Meg:
Could you tell us why it’s helpful? Like, if I have a new teacher
here, or any teacher, who’s like, “They don’t need that (pointing
to a curriculum packet). That’s not necessary.” Why does that help?
7. Valencia: It’s very helpful because, because . . . Ayuda demasiado porque nosotros
vemos como ellos hacen sus proyectos. Y no es como copiar verdad? Pero
nosotros tenemos una idea como hacerlo. Por eso, ya digo que sí. Nos ayuda
demasiado. [It helps so much because we see how they do their projects. And it’s not copying, right? But we have an idea of how to do
it. Because of that, I’ve said that, yes, it helps us so much.]
In this interview, Valencia provides educators with her perspective on the
importance of not simply assigning students challenging “projects” they have to
complete “independently,” but of “making a project” or a model of what students are expected to do and then “show[ing]” them “how to do it.” In clear and
straight forward everyday language, her words capture the essence of the TLC’s
approach to scaffolding new disciplinary literacy practices by providing students
with models and jointly deconstructing and constructing texts with students to
make linguistic know-how, and therefore disciplinary know-how, readily available to newcomers.
Changes in Valencia’s Literacy Practices
A close SFL analysis of the final projects Valencia produced in Grace’s class give
credence to her advice to teachers regarding robust forms of scaffolding. Specifically, Valencia’s literacy practices in Grace’s class reveals three main findings.
First, she relied heavily on the annotated model texts in producing extended texts
of her own. Second, during Stages Three to Eight of the expanded TLC, Valencia also relied on an expansive range of multilingual and multimodal resources
in overlapping and productive ways to complete challenging written projects in
English. These resources included gestures, graphics, curricular materials, highlighters, computer tools, her home languages, and English. And third, a review
of her final projects shows that she was able to produce longer, more coherent
content-based texts to achieve a variety of purposes using a variety of multimodal
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resources (e.g., timelines, images, pie charts, bar graphs, PowerPoint slides). In
addition, she developed an ability to write more developed and coherent paragraphs that showed a gradual increase in her capacity to produce texts about
her personal experiences and disciplinary topics using more complex and varied
clause structures, packed noun groups, and an expanded range of processes, participants, and circumstances. Moreover, central to our interest in conducting a
case study of Valencia’s literacy practices, she was able to make these gains despite
working long hours and contending with sweeping changes in immigration policies, which is a testimony to her commitment to her education.
To illustrate these findings, Table 9.2 provides excerpts from each of the five
writing samples we collected over two years. The purpose of this table is to
display changes in Valencia’s ability to produce longer, more coherent, contentbased texts using first an everyday, then a more poetic, and eventually a more
academic register. In presenting these findings, we begin with an SFL analysis of
the autobiographical text she produced in the first English language arts unit of
our collaboration and then compare it with excerpts from texts she produced in
the context of later units.
TABLE 9.2 Samples of an ELL Student’s Texts Across Disciplinary Genres
Unit Focus
LANGUAGE
ARTS
Topic:
Myself in the
past, present,
and future
Genre:
Autobiography
Valencia’s Texts
Typed Excerpt
Past
I was born in Guatemala.
I lived in my community with my
Family. I played with my sister
and brother. I love my family.
I stared school in 2006
I played soccer with my friends My
friends is very intelligent.
LANGUAGE
ARTS
When I’m Studying
By Valencia B.
Topic:
Expressing
experience
and emotion
Genre:
Lyric poetry
When I came to school
I sit in my chair
I open my book and I start to study
I’m happy when I understand my
heart
Is cheerful I feel unique and gleeful
But when I do not understand my
face is sad
My heart is broken
I want to cry I want to sleep and
that is not good
Unit Focus
SCIENCE
Topic:
Chemistry/
molecular
structure
Genre:
Description
MATH
Topic:
Surveys/
descriptive
statistics
Genre:
Analytical
report
Valencia’s Texts
Typed Excerpt
What is Salt?
The salt is in the form of small and
transparent, colorless crystals . . .
Salt is also called sodium
chloride. Sodium chloride is
an ionic compound having the
chemical formula NACL and is
commonly called salt.
We surveyed 27 students in ESOL
about their favorite cars. We
asked the following questions:
What is you favorite types of
cars? We counted the total for
each category and calculated
the percent of each. If you
look at the graph the tallest one
represents the most. They are
toyota at 33% ferrari at 26% and
Honda at 10%. Lamborghini,
cherverolets, and volkswagon
are the least popular.
The data doesn’t support our
hypothesis because we predicted
people like Lamborghini. We
were surprised because we
thought Lamborghini is nice
but maybe it’s because Toyota is
easy to fix.
SOCIAL
STUDIES
Topic:
Causes, effects,
and solutions
to issues
affecting our
community
Genre:
Argument
Businesses companies clear wetlands
because they want to put more
buildings in the place where
wetlands are and the residential
companies they put houses in the
places where wetlands are.
The amount of pollution in
wetlands is growing because
farmers plant vegetable and they
use chemicals.
This chemicals can affect the health
and reproduction of species posing
a serious threat to biological life
that’s why wetlands die.
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At the time Valencia wrote her autobiography in 2016, she was just beginning
to produce full sentences in English as opposed to using single words, gestures, and
intonation to communicate in school. Drawing on the strong forms of scaffolding
provided in this first packet, the final text she presented to the class showed she
was able to produce a booklet that included three sections: one about her past,
one about her present, and one about the future. In addition, her text included
images and an illustrated timeline. As the excerpt in Table 9.2 shows, Valencia
was able to use English word order to construct simple, but clear sentence patterns
such as “I played soccer with my friends” and “I lived in my community with my
family.” These sentences construct everyday meanings through a predictable sentence pattern using common processes, one-word participants, and circumstances
of manner and place. This work is impressive because it contains features that
demonstrate Valencia’s movement toward a WIDA level 2 (see Chapter Six). For
example, her writing displays an understanding of how to produce subject-verbobject sentences using the simple past tense of regular and irregular verbs with
consistency (was, lived, played, started). However, an analysis of her text also shows
she had only an emerging understanding of paragraphing in that she produced a
list of seven more-or-less related sentences about her past.
Over time and with instructional support, Valencia was able to produce longer
texts made up of multiple, well-written paragraphs to achieve specific purposes
(describing, recounting, reporting, explaining, and arguing). For example, a register analysis of her science, math, and social studies texts reveals that she was
able to construct abstract content knowledge in these different disciplines using
technical terms and more complex and varied clause structures. This ability is
clearly demonstrated in the language Valencia and her group members used in
interpreting the results from their survey of students’ car preferences. As illustrated in Table 9.2, they wrote “The data doesn’t support our hypothesis because
we predicted people like Lamborghini. We were surprised because we thought
Lamborghini is nice but maybe it’s because Toyota is easy to fix.” In constructing this well-developed short paragraph, Valencia and her partner “let the data
talk” as opposed to giving their personal opinions. Drawing on supports provided
by the expanded TLC, they were able to produce a multi-clause sentence in the
negative using the causal cohesive devise because (e.g., “The data doesn’t support
our hypothesis because we predicted people like Lamborghini.”). Compared to
Valencia’s early autobiography writing, this demonstrates that Valencia and her
partner, with scaffolding, developed an ability to use a broader range of cohesive
devices (because), and not just report on their personal experiences, but speculate about the behavior of others (but maybe). This level of syntactic complexity
and cohesion, combined with the use of discipline-specific vocabulary such as
data, hypothesis, and predict, supported Valencia and her partner in constructing an
authoritative disciplinary voice.
In addition, over time and with instructional supports, Valencia developed
an ability to pack noun groups with more abstract information as illustrated
Putting It All Together 265
in the following sample sentences taken from her science, math, and social
studies projects:
Science: The salt is in the form of small and transparent, colorless crystals
Math: We counted the total for each category and calculated the percent
of each.
Social studies: The amount of pollution in wetlands is growing because
farmers plant vegetable and they use chemicals.
In producing written language with these linguistic features, it could be argued
that Valencia was simply copying academic language patterns, but perhaps not
fully understanding it or developing it. Therefore, one question we posed to ourselves in analyzing student writing samples and planning future instruction was
whether or not students were relying too much on the models we provided.
However, in Valencia’s case, to quote her, she was not simply “copying” the
models provided. Rather, we argue that she was noticing how language works to
make meaning in particular kinds of disciplinary texts during Stages Three through
Five of the expanded TLC and then repurposing targeted linguistic features for her
own purposes during Stage Six. Other evidence supports our conclusion that her
academic language proficiency was developing, including her scores on state and
national exams. For example, over the course of our collaboration Valencia was
able to pass, though just barely, the state exam in English language arts and math,
but not science. Her WIDA scores also increased from 1.0 (low emerging) to a 3.3
(developing, see Table 6.2 for specific linguistic descriptors).
We are not claiming that our use of the expanded TLC caused Valencia to
pass high-stakes exam and improve her WIDA scores. After all, during this time,
she also had a wide variety of other literacy experiences in and outside of school.
For example, at home, in her community, and at work we are sure she read,
wrote, and talked about a wide range of texts that also collectively supported her
overall literacy development during the two years of this study (e.g., participating
in social media, interacting with bosses and customers, interacting with the immigration court system). However, based on a side-by-side analysis of the materials
provided in our curriculum packets, Valencia’s use of these materials in classroom
interactions, and samples of her writing, we maintain that two aspects of expanded
TLC were highly relevant to her evolving academic literacy practices in Grace’s
class: (1) the availability of an expansive range of multilingual and multimodal
resources for completing challenging academic tasks, and (2) the availability of
model texts written in English to guide her reading and writing practices.
Implications for Classroom Practice and Research
Our analysis of Valencia’s literacy development over two years signals a host of
implications for classroom practice and research. However, in light of the rapidly
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changing and hard times in which many ELLs and their teachers attempt to learn
and work, we make four points. First, we encourage educators to rethink some
of the unproductive binaries that typically constrain the opportunities schools
provide ELLs. These binaries include conceptualizing and teaching school-based
literacy practices as separate domains of meaning-making practice such as speaking versus listening, reading versus writing, “social” versus “academic,” “L1”
versus “L2,” and “language” versus “content.” In contrast, drawing on an analysis of Valencia’s literacy practices and research in the area of multilingual education, we encourage teachers, researchers, and policy makers to think of language
and literacy development as a highly integrated social and cognitive process in
which students draw on a wide range of contextually embedded multilingual
and multimodal resources (e.g., Canagarajah, 2013; García & Wei, 2014; Wei,
2017). Second, we encourage educators to build on students’ multilingual and
multimodal resources by providing them with much wider inroads into using
disciplinary literacy practices for fuller participation in school, their communities, and the changing landscape of social, economic, and political life (e.g.,
Gebhard, 2004). Third, teachers can build these inroads linguistically by providing students with multiple model texts, deconstructing the linguistic features
of these texts with a knowledge of how language and other meaning-making
systems such as graphs, charts, diagrams, and the like work to make disciplinary
meanings (e.g., Dyson, 1993; Gebhard, Chen, & Britton, 2014). And last, teachers can engage in these highly professional practices through collaboration with
one another, various professional networks, and universities that can collectively provide multilingual resources, disciplinary knowledge, and support for
action research projects, even in the context of school reforms that persistently
valorize improved test scores and English monolingualism (see Chapter One).
Summary
This chapter opened with the voice of a teacher who misread her immigrant
students’ fatigue as a sign that they were not invested in their education. To
explore this misinterpretation and better understand how the complexity of students’ lives in and out of school influences their literacy practices in school (i.e.,
text/context dynamics), we presented a case study of a student named Valencia.
This case study illustrates the concepts presented in this book and documents
not only Valencia’s strong commitment to learning, but also her persistence in
navigating the complexities of her immigration status, school, and work responsibilities. Using the action research methods outlined in the expanded TLC
as a form of professional development for all who participated in this project,
we documented how Valencia read, analyzed, and wrote a variety of genres
over two years as she developed disciplinary knowledge and associated literacies. In addition, a close analysis of samples of her writing shows a gradual
increase in her ability to produce longer, more coherent, discipline-specific texts
Putting It All Together 267
using both a personal and more academic voice. Based on a qualitative review of
curricular materials, classroom interactions, writing samples, and interviews, we
maintain that two aspects of the expanded TLC were highly relevant to Valencia’s success in Grace’s class: the use of deconstructed model texts and the availability of multilingual and multimodal resources.
Praxis
Putting It All Together
The purpose of this final praxis section is to support collaborative research groups
in producing and presenting a well-developed case study of a multilingual learner
by analyzing data they have collected during praxis tasks from previous chapters.
Your group’s case study might focus on analyzing changes in a student’s literacy
practices as a result of instruction, the influence of a particular school reform on
student learning, or another topic related to changes (or a lack of change) in students’ literacy practices. Group members can use this case study to meet degree
or licensure requirements and to participate in different professional development
communities (e.g., presentations within a teacher-research group, to colleagues at
school as part of a professional development workshop, at a conference).
Task Directions and Topics for Discussion
1.
Review data collection and curriculum planning activities to date. Each previous chapter was designed to focus on a specific aspect of these related
activities:
a. Chapter One: Identifying the interests and resources of group members,
including disciplinary and multilingual expertise.
b. Chapter Two: Creating a data collection plan to support the development of a case study, including an understanding of the context, samples
of curricular materials, and samples of student writing.
c. Chapter Three: Collecting a transcript of classroom interactions and analyzing the ability of classroom interactions to support literacy development, especially for ELLs.
d. Chapter Four: Planning linguistically and culturally responsive curriculum using the expanded TLC.
e. Chapter Five: Completing a genre and register analysis of a disciplinary
reading you plan to assign as a way of further supporting curriculum
development and your understanding of SFL (e.g., genre stages; specific
field, tenor, and mode resources; graphic elements).
f. Chapter Six: Continuing fieldwork regarding the experiences of a focus
ELL in different classroom contexts.
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g. Chapter Seven: Analyzing the positive and negative aspects of school
reform by interviewing teachers.
h. Chapter Eight: Developing a historic, demographic, and economic portrait of the context where you are collecting data and making connections
to the curricular unit you are developing using the expanded TLC.
2.
3.
4.
Analyze your focus student’s emerging genre and register knowledge using
SFL tools, similar to the methods we used to analyze Valencia’s writing
samples in this chapter (see also the SFL analysis of emails in Chapter Four).
Begin noting the presence and absence of particular genre stages and document your focus student’s use of field, tenor, and mode resources. Use
Tables 4.1 and 4.2 as a guide.
Select excerpts from your focus student’s writing samples and note changes,
if any, in their ability to produce more complex and varied clause structures,
packed noun groups, and an expanded range of processes, participants, and
circumstances in constructing disciplinary knowledge (see Chapter Five).
Begin drafting a qualitative case study of the literacy practices of your group’s
focus multilingual learner. Consider using the following genre stages, which
are conventional for constructing case studies. However, keep in mind that
there is a good deal of variation in the genre and register features of this
genre depending on its purpose and audience.
a. Statement of the issue, topic, or problem being explored. This section establishes
the purpose, rationale, and guiding questions for your case study.
b. A brief description of the conceptual framework guiding the collection and
analysis of student writing samples (e.g., sociocultural theory, social
semiotics, scaffolding, genre, register). This section provides your audience with enough background on the concepts that guided your data
collection and analysis to understand your analysis. Define key concepts
you use in later parts of the study (e.g., what genre stages are if these
show up in your data displays). The level of detail, as well as the register
you use, will depend on your purpose and audience (e.g., peers in a
teacher education program who have taken the same courses versus colleagues who have never heard of SFL and the TLC).
c. A portrait of the context. This section supports readers in understanding
where you collected data and key aspects of the context in which your
focus student was participating in literacy practices. See Chapter Two for
a discussion of the context in which a student named Celine attempted
to learn to write academically while maintaining a sense of herself as a
student of color. See also how we described the context of Milltown in
this chapter.
d. A portrait of your focus student. See Chapter Two’s description of Celine
and our portrait of Valencia in this chapter. Note that your portrait may
have more or less detail than these examples depending on whether or
Putting It All Together 269
not you have secured signed consent to interview students and collect a
wide variety of data.
e. A description of your data collection and analysis procedures. Depending on
your audience, this section may be more or less technical. In general,
this section outlines what you collected and how you analyzed what you
collected (e.g., conducted a genre and register analysis of student writing
samples, looked for patterns).
f. Statement of your findings. This section answers the questions guiding your
study in a clear way. Review the guiding questions and findings presented in this chapter, as well as in other case studies you may have read.
Notice how published authors present their work as you write this and
other sections of your case study.
g. Data displays and discussion. This section presents examples of student work
that illustrate the findings of your study. For example, in this chapter, we
used Table 9.2. Other chapters, especially Chapter Five, provided different
kinds of data displays to illustrate different kinds of findings. For example,
Figure 5.2 shows changes in a series of drafts one student produced to persuade her principal to reinstate recess, while Figure 5.4 and the subsequent
transcript show other students’ reactions to a letter from the government.
Once you decide on and create your data display, you need to help your
readers understand what it shows and how it answers the questions of
your study. As you interpret your data, be sure to entertain other ways of
interpreting these data and the limits of the kinds of claims you can make
based on your research methods. For example, see this chapter’s discussion
of the limitations of our study.
h. Implications. Based on your analysis, explore the “so what” question in
regard to what your analysis means for concrete actions you will take
as a classroom teacher, teacher educator, and/or literacy researcher.
For teachers, these concrete actions should be very connected to how
you plan, implement, and critically reflect on student learning as you
work toward specific equity goals. For teacher educators, these concrete
actions should relate to how you can better prepare teachers for the
demands of classroom life, especially as they relate to supporting ELLs
and other students who struggle with disciplinary literacies. And last,
researchers can develop new insights into the nature of language, learning, and social change in context of school reforms.
Notes
1 The study presented in this chapter was funded by a University of Massachusetts Public
Service Grant during the 2015–2016 academic year. In addition to the authors of this
chapter, UMass graduate students who contributed to this study included Jaime Carens,
Brendon MacKeen, Marcie Moore, Reda Othman, Brahim Oulbeid, Marvin Quinones,
and Luke Useted.
270
Putting It All Together
2 Though the English-only mandate was overturned in Massachusetts in November
2017, individual schools retained the right to provide English-only instruction.
3 Qualitative research is different from quantitative research in a number of ways, one
of which is that it tends to ask more exploratory questions rather than test a specific
hypothesis.
4 Ofelia García and other scholars describe the act of exploiting the meaning-making
potential of one’s multilingualism as “translanguaging” (e.g., Canagarajah, 2012; García &
Wei, 2014).
5 This aspect of the science unit was support by Dr. Craig Martin, a chemistry professor
at UMass and the developer of the Molecular Playground. See http://molecularplay
ground.org/
6 I would like to thank Marvin Quinones and Reda Othman for their support in translating this poem.
7 Critical literacy scholars such as Hilary Janks (2010) and Mariana Achugar (2009) argue
that students need to notice when agency is obscured for political and ideological
reasons. For example in passive constructions, such as Estimates suggest six million Jews
were killed during World War II, the grammar does not make explicit who did the killing. If a text, as a whole, tends to hide human actors, students can be taught to notice
and discuss the implications of this feature of disciplinary discourse, especially in social
studies texts.
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INDEX
Page numbers in italics denote figures, those in bold denote tables.
academic language, 94, 171, 174, 175, 180,
207, 212, 265
ACCELA (Access to Critical Content and
Language Acquisition) Alliance 96–98,
112; and teaching and learning cycle
(TLC) 98–111, 244–245
ACCESS for ELLs exam 175, 180, 183
accountability 111; see also standardization
and accountability movement
Accurso, K. 97, 239–240
Achugar, M. 93, 94, 270n7
action research 78; see also ACCELA
(Access to Critical Content and
Language Acquisition) Alliance;
“Milltown High School”
action verbs see doing verbs
Ada, A.F., My Name is Maria 104
additive relationships 60
adequate yearly progress (AYP) 195
administrative progressives 223, 224, 233
adverbs: modal 135, 136; see also
circumstances
affective filter 52
after-school programs 225, 226, 233
Aguirre-Muñoz, Z. 93
Alim, H.S. 3, 51
Alternative Right 8
anti-bilingual education ideologies
198–201, 213
appraisal resources 131, 136, 137, 138, 139,
141
arguments 88, 91, 173, 203
assessment/testing 4, 108–109, 111,
201–202, 229, 244; Fountas and Pinnell
Benchmark Assessment System 110;
high-stakes 4, 196–197, 198, 200,
201–202; reading 110–111; rubrics
101–102, 103, 251; Smarter Balanced
Assessment Consortium (SBAC) 201;
of teachers see teacher evaluation; WIDA
Consortium 164, 175–176, 180,
183–184, 185, 186, 201
attendance/attendance laws 226, 228,
234
attitude line 63–64
attitudes 58, 64, 65, 131, 136, 144
Atwell, N. 7, 53, 107
Au, W. 196, 208
audience for students’ work 107–108
August, D. 47
Austin, T. 97
autobiographies 254–255
Baca, G. 4, 200
Bailey, A. 174, 176, 179
Bamford, K.W. 198
banking model of education 93
Barratt, L. 179
274
Index
Batalova, J. 4
Beach, R.W. 205
behavioral perspective 12, 46, 47–48,
65, 66, 67; drill and practice approach
12, 47 65; of grammar in classroom
discourse practices 47–48
being verbs (relational processes) 62, 125,
254
Bell, J. 102
Berg, M.A. 93, 174
Bhabha, H.K. 98
Bialystok, E. 198
Biklen, S.K. 18, 39
bilingual education 13, 33, 169–170,
244; see also anti-bilingual education
ideologies
Bilingual Education Act (1968) 195
bilingualism, benefits of 198–199
Black Lives Matter 8
Blommaert, J. 28–29
Bode, P. 87, 98, 162, 239, 243, 245
Bogdan, R.C. 18, 39
Borg, S. 44
Boston College 95–96
Brisk, M.E. 45, 93, 95–96, 99, 112, 170,
173, 247
Britton, L. 101, 103–104, 108–111,
119–120, 129, 145, 266
building the field 87, 101–104
Bunch, G.C. 201, 212
California History Project (CHP) 94
Calkins, L. 202
Callahan, R.M. 30, 199
Canagarajah, S. 270n4
Capps, R. 4, 166
Carpenter, B.D. 93
Carroll, L., “Jabberwocky” 51
Carroll, P. 174
case study research 39–41; “Celine” 15,
24–39, 46, 199; “Milltown High School”
240, 247–265; “Valencia” 259–265,
266–267
Castellón, M. 4, 165, 166
cause 130
cause and effect relationships 60
Cazden, C. 46, 48, 64
CCSS see Common Core State Standards
“Celine” case study 15, 24–39, 46, 199
Center for Applied Linguistics 175, 180
certainty, constructing degrees of
134–136
Chaudron, C. 47
Chen, I. 99, 100, 104, 109, 110, 111, 119,
129, 266
Chomsky, N. 46, 48–55, 66, 67
Christie, F. 32, 45, 46, 64, 68, 122, 124, 129,
248
Chung, R. 212
circumstances 122, 130, 130, 136, 138,
254
civil rights 168–170, 195
Civil Rights Act (1964) 168
class 162, 172, 209
class equity 68
class-based identity 29
classroom discourse practices 46;
behavioral perspective of grammar in
47–48; psycholinguistic perspective of
grammar in 52–53; SFL perspective of
grammar in 61–65
clause and clause complexity 122, 123,
154, 247–248
Clewell, B.C. 167
Cochran-Smith, M. 2, 17, 111
code mixing and switching 30, 57, 105
Coffin, C. 143, 145
cognitive benefits of bilingualism 198
Cohen, R.D. 223, 224, 225–226, 227
cohesive devices 60–61, 108, 141, 145,
259
college and career readiness 203
Collier,V.P. 169, 198
Colombi, M.C. 173
colorblind perspective 162
commands 131, 132
commodification 196, 213
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) 1,
4, 56, 101, 164, 167, 174, 175, 186, 195,
201–209, 243; cost of implementation
208; demographics and implementation
of 207; reactions to 204–209; teacher/
administrator professional capacity
and implementation of 207; teaching
materials alignment with 207–208
common schools 223
comprehensible input 172
computer-mediated teaching 204, 205
congruence 122
constructivist approaches 203, 208, 217n4
content knowledge/instruction 200
context: context of culture 83, 92, 112;
context of situation 83, 92, 112, 122; see
also text/context dynamics
Cook, G. 179
Correa, D. 97
Index
Cosentino de Cohen, C. 167
Council of Chief State School Officers
(CCSSO) 201, 202–203
creativity 1, 3
critical language awareness, 45, 54, 61, 62,
94, 105, 146, 173
critical reflection 109–111, 241, 259
Cuban, L. 13, 221, 243
Cullican, S. 92
cultural aspects of language teaching/
learning 199
cultural context, texts and 9–10
cultural deficit theories 227–228, 229, 234
culturally sustaining curriculum 3
cultural identity 51
Darling-Hammond, L. 3, 163, 168, 186,
196–197, 209–210, 211, 229, 233, 243
data walls 197, 198
Davis, K. 184
De Capua, A. 239
de Jong, E.J. 12, 13, 26, 169, 186, 243
de Oliveira, L.C. 45, 93, 94, 205, 206
de Silva Joyce, H. 45, 46, 245
declarative mood 131
deconstruction of texts 85, 86, 104–105
decontextualization, disciplinary texts 30,
32
deficit theories 227–228, 229, 234
Delpit, L. 54, 67
democracy 223
demographic change 1, 4, 165–168, 223
demographic differences, and
implementation of Common Core State
Standards 207
Department of Justice 168, 186
Derewianka, B.M. 15, 16, 32, 58, 59, 60,
62, 78, 85, 89, 104, 122, 124, 125, 128,
129, 130, 131, 132, 135, 136, 141, 143,
173, 245, 248
Dewey, J. 217n4, 223, 228, 233
dialogue 105
difference-blind perspective 162
discipline-specific language: and
decontextualized meanings 30, 32; and
everyday language, differences between
11–12, 30, 31, 32, 173
discourse 73n1
display questions 64
doing verbs (processes) 62, 125, 127–128,
254
Doran,Y.J. 58
drafting 54
275
drill and practice perspective 12, 47,
65, 93
Droga, L. 59, 60, 62, 125, 128, 130, 131,
135, 143
dropout rates 226, 234, 244
Duckor, B. 213
Dyson, A.H. 33, 34, 39, 107
Echevarria, J. 171
economic/social benefits of bilingualism
198–199
editing 54
Education Teacher Performance
Assessment (edTPA) 210, 211–213
Eger, W. 101
Eggins, S. 30, 31, 83, 142, 143
Elbow, P. 45, 53, 54
Ellis, R. 105–107
ELLs (English language learners):
commonalities among 166–167;
definition of 18–19, 165; diversity
among 166; low expectations for
172–173; low level of institutional
support for 167–168; non-immigrant
166; student population numbers 4,
165–166
emails 79–82, 84, 85–86
emotional aspects of language teaching/
learning 199
emotions 105, 128, 131, 136, 137, 138
English language arts 48, 94, 204, 205, 232,
254–256
English-only mandates 1–2, 4, 56, 169,
195, 198–201, 213, 244
equity: gap 196; gender 68; racial 68
Ernst-Slavit, G. 174
ESL program types 13, 170–173; push-in
and pull-out ESL 13, 170; sheltered
English immersion (SEI) 13, 170–173
ethics, research 18
eugenics movement 227–228
evaluation of teachers see teacher
evaluation
evaluations of things, see appraisal resources
everyday language/meaning-making, and
discipline-specific language, differences
between 11–12, 30, 31, 32, 173
existential verbs (processes) 125
explanations 88, 90, 108, 173, 203
factory approach to schooling 3, 224–225
Fairclough, N. 2, 32, 66
Fang, Z. 30, 31, 45, 93
276
Index
Fass, P. 16, 222, 223, 224, 225, 227,
228–229, 243
Federal Equal Educational Opportunities
Act (1974) 168
feedback 36–37
feelings 58, 63, 64, 124, 128, 136, 145,
256
Feez, S. 45, 46, 245
Ferris, D.R. 36, 68, 150
field 58, 61, 65, 77, 78, 79, 80, 83, 84, 86,
87, 104, 112, 122–130, 133–134, 173,
242, 245
field of knowledge 103–104
Fitzgerald, B. 127
Flores, N. 45, 68, 199
Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark
Assessment System 110
Frederick, R. 185
Freire, P. 5, 17, 93, 97, 98, 241, 245
funding 195, 196, 200, 201, 229
funds of knowledge 98, 100, 107
future continuous 49
future perfect 50
future perfect continuous 50
future (simple) 49
Gándara, P. 4, 30, 167, 199, 200
García, O. 9, 26, 33, 270n4
Gary, Indiana, educational experiences of
immigrants 225–226
Gebhard, M. 2, 3, 29, 36, 37, 39, 45, 55, 61,
62, 64, 68, 93, 97, 99, 100, 101, 104, 108,
109, 111, 119, 129, 141, 145, 146, 149,
163, 167, 198, 229, 230, 232, 266
Gee, J. 73n1, 230
gender 162, 172; equity 68; identity 29
generalizable participants 129
Genishi, C. 39
genre 9–10, 57, 78, 82–83, 92–93, 94, 95,
101, 173, 178, 243, 251
genre stages 83, 84, 85, 89–91, 102, 251,
256, 258
genre theory 88–92, 95–96, 100, 112
gestures 29, 30
Gibbons, P. 15, 92, 141, 200, 245
Giroux, H.A. 82
given and new information, weaving
together of 141, 142–145
globalization 1, 4, 28
Godley, A.J. 45
Gottlieb, M. 174
Graham, H. 101, 145–150
grammar 12, 37–38, 39, 44–75; behavioral
perspective 46, 47–48, 65, 66, 67;
psycholinguistic perspective 46, 48–53,
66, 67; social semiotic perspective 46,
55–65, 66, 67–68; universal 52
grammatical mood 131–132, 133–134,
139
graphic organizers 252
Green, L.J. 48
Guthrie, J.T. 198
Gutiérrez, K. 34, 98, 172, 195
Hakuta, K. 33, 200–201
Halliday, M.A.K. 2, 5, 10, 24, 38, 45, 46,
55–65, 66, 67, 83, 124, 127, 132, 136,
150, 164, 186, 241, 242
Harklau, L. 163, 229, 231, 232
Harman, R. 45, 68, 93, 248
Harris, G. 239–240
Hartman, B. 232
Hasan, R. 2, 17–18, 38, 66, 83, 241, 242
Heath, S.B. 34
Herold, B. 208
Hiebert, E.H. 206
high-stakes assessment/testing 4, 196–197,
198, 200, 201–202, 213
hip-hop culture 51
history/historical texts 94, 127, 142, 145,
205
Huang, J. 93, 174, 176, 179
Humphrey, S. 59, 60, 62, 92, 125, 128, 131,
135, 143
Hyland, K. 54, 232
Iddings, J. 45, 205, 206
ideational function of language 10, 11, 14,
24, 36, 39, 56, 58, 61, 122, 242
ideational themes 144, 145
identity 29, 32, 132, 199; cultural 51; social
58, 131, 242
imagination 1, 3
immigrants 222–223; 20th century
schooling 225–229, 233–234;
21st century schooling 229–233, 234;
voluntary 227, 234; involuntary, 227,
234
imperative mood 131
individual differences, ideology of 223,
233, 234
industrial/factory approach to schooling 3,
224–225
informational texts 203
Index
Initiation-Response-Evaluation (IRE)
interactions 47–48, 64
institutional structures 13
intelligence testing 228, 233
interpersonal function of language 10, 11,
14, 24, 36, 39, 56, 58–59, 61, 242
interpersonal themes 144, 145
interrogative mood 131
involuntary immigrants 227, 234
Janks, H. 127, 270n7
Johnson, S.M. 210
Jones, P. 15, 16, 58, 78, 85, 89, 104, 131,
136, 141, 173, 245
judgments 136, 137, 138, 145
Kaestle, C. 222–223
Karp, S. 209
Khote, N. 248
kindergartens 225, 226, 233
Kirst, M. 206
Kleyn, T. 212
knowledge: construction of 18; funds of
98, 100, 107
knowledge workers 243
Kornhaber, M.L. 209
Kramsch, C. 32, 46, 199
Krashen, S. 37, 45, 52, 54, 66, 172
Kress, G. 9
Ladson-Billings, G. 98
language 29, 162; language acquisition
device 52; academic language 94, 171,
174, 175, 180, 207, 212, 265; behavioral
perspective on 12, 46, 47–48, 65, 66,
67; everyday and discipline-specific,
differences between 11–12, 30, 31, 32;
form-focused conception of 24–25;
ideational function of 10, 11, 14, 24, 36,
39, 56, 58, 61, 122, 242; interpersonal
function of 10, 11, 14, 24, 36, 39, 56,
58–59, 61, 242; mixing and switching
30, 32; psycholinguistic perspective
12, 46, 48–55, 66, 67; social semiotic
perspective 46, 55–65, 66, 67–68;
technologies and production of 51;
textual function of 10, 11, 14, 24, 36, 39,
56, 59–60, 61, 242
language acquisition device 52
Language and Meaning Project 94
language proficiency, WIDA 176–177, 178,
183–184
277
Lankshear, C. 232
Lantolf, J.P. 88
Lau Remedies 169, 186
Lau v. Nichols (1974) 168–169, 243
Lawler, M. 232
learning, contextual nature of 38
Lee, O. 201, 205
Leki, I. 232
Leonard, T.C. 224, 227, 228
lexical chains 160n2
Lightbown, P.M. 12, 47, 48, 54
Lopez, F. 169, 198
Lortie, D. 184
Los Angeles, educational experiences of
immigrants 226–227
Lucas, T. 4, 162, 168, 195, 198
Luke, A. 68
Lytle, S.L. 2, 17, 111
McDermott, K.A. 14, 195, 196, 244
McEneaney, E. 169, 198
Macken-Horarik, M. 62
McLaughlin, M. 4, 167, 196, 205, 206–207,
208
Macnaught, L. 92
McTighe, J. 100, 249
Mahboob, A. 179
maintenance bilingual programs 169
Mann, H. 223
manner 130, 254
marketization 196, 213
Marshall, H.W. 239
Martin, J.R. 9, 37, 45, 55, 58, 59, 62, 83, 85,
88–92, 112, 136, 242–243, 245
material verbs see doing verbs
mathematics 204, 205, 249–250, 257–258
Matthiessen, C.M.I.M. 10, 60, 127
meaning-making 10–12, 45, 46; conflicts
28, 29; everyday and discipline-specific,
differences between 11–12, 30, 31, 32
Menken, K. 4, 34, 183–184, 199, 200
mental verbs see sensing verbs
metalanguage 61–65, 94, 124
Meuwissen, K. 212, 213
“Milltown High School” 240, 247–265;
text/context dynamics 245–247
Miramontes, O.B. 233
Mizokawa, D.T. 198
modal adverbs 135, 136
modal nouns 135, 136
modal verbs 59, 59, 134, 135, 136
modality 131, 134, 135, 136, 139
278
Index
mode 59–60, 61, 77, 78, 79, 83, 84, 86, 87,
104, 112, 141–150, 173, 242, 245
model texts 101–102, 248, 252, 253
Mohl, R.A. 223, 225–226
Moll, L. 98
Molle, D. 180, 181, 182, 183
Molnar, M. 208
mood 131–132, 133–134, 139
Moore, J. 61–65, 68, 94, 124
Morgan, W. 62
multiculturalism 167, 169, 186, 200, 204
multilingual students 26
multilingual texts 9, 10, 14, 31, 58, 178,
241, 248, 266
multimodality 9, 14, 31, 32, 45, 56, 58,
178, 204, 241, 243, 248, 254, 257–258,
266
multilingualism, benefits of 198–199
narratives 88, 89, 101–102, 105–106, 173,
203
National Board for Professional Teaching,
certification 210, 211
National Center for Education Statistics
(NCES) 4
National Governors Association 201
Native Americans 227–228
natural approach to second language
acquisition 52
NCLB see No Child Left Behind
neoliberalism 208, 217n5
Never Again 8
New London Group 2, 45, 167, 229
New York City, Progressive Era schools
228–229
Next Generation Science Standards
(NGSS) 56, 101, 164, 175, 204, 205,
243
Nieto, S. 87, 96–97, 98, 162, 239, 243,
245
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) 1, 4, 56, 163,
165, 167, 168, 174, 186, 195–198, 200,
202, 213, 243
nominalization 31, 141, 142
Norton, B. 251
nouns: modal 135, 136; see also
participants
Oakes, J. 2
observations 88
O’Day, J. 166
Ogbu, J. 227
O’Hallaron, C.L. 61, 94
Olsen, B. 198, 229, 231–232
opt-out movement 202
Ortmeier-Hooper, C. 163
Ossa Parra, M. 95, 173
Palincsar, A.S. 62, 94
Paris, D. 3
participants (nouns) 122, 127–129, 136,
138, 254, 258; generalizable 129; human
versus non-human 258; tracking
119–120, 141
Partnership for Assessment of Readiness
for College and Careers (PARCC) 201
past continuous 49
past perfect 49
past perfect continuous 50
past (simple) 49
Pearson (company) 213
Pearson, P.D. 206
Pecheone, R. 212
Performance Assessment for California
Teachers (PACT) 210, 211–212, 213
permeable curriculum 107
persuasive letters 138–141
Phyak, P. 184
Piaget, J. 217n4
Piedra, A.R. 101–102, 104–105
Pinker, S. 51
Pioneer Institute and American Principles
Project 208
place 130, 144, 254
planning 100–101
play 3
PODER (Prueba Óptima del Desarrollo
del Español Realizado) exam 175
poetry 255–256
Popkewitz, T.S. 185
possibility, constructing degrees of
134–136
poverty 209, 224
power dynamics 58, 131, 132, 242
Pratt, M.L. 28
praxis 17–19, 97, 98
present continuous 49
present perfect 49
present perfect continuous 50
present (simple) 49
Price, T. 212, 213
privatization 196, 213, 214
process approach to writing 107, 153–55
processes 122, 124–127, 136, 138, 254
professional development 4, 94, 95–96,
168, 196; inadequate 172, 173, 209, 229;
Index
and WIDA Consortium 164, 181, 182,
183, 185; see also ACCELA (Access
to Critical Content and Language
Acquisition) Alliance
Progressive Era 221, 222–229, 233–234
progressives 196; administrative 223, 224,
233; social 224, 225, 233
project-based approaches 223, 233,
260–261
psycholinguistic perspective 12, 46,
48–55, 66, 67; of grammar in classroom
discourse practices 52–53; and teaching
writing 53–55
push-in and pull-out ESL 13, 170
questions 131, 132
race 162, 172, 209
racial equity 68
racial identity 29
Raftery, J. 226–227
Rampton, B. 29
Ramsey, A. 166
reading 205; assessment 110–111;
modeling 104–105
Rebarber, T. 208
recounts 88, 89
reflection literacy 17–18
registers 83, 84, 85, 89–91, 95, 104, 112,
178, 251, 258–259; see also field; mode;
tenor
relational verbs 62, 254; see also being
verbs
research ethics 18
Rethinking the Teaching of English
Language Learners (RETELL) initiative
168
Reveles, C. 181
revising 54
rheme see theme/rheme patterns
Roeper, T. 48
Rosa, J. 45, 68
Rose, D. 9, 45, 55, 83, 85, 88, 89, 92, 243,
245
rubrics, assessment 101–102, 103, 251
Russell Elementary School, Boston
95–96
San Miguel, G. 227–228
saying verbs (verbal processes) 62, 63, 124,
125, 127
scaffolding 6, 87, 88, 151, 178, 245, 252
Schissel, J. 199
279
Schleppegrell, M.J. 15, 30, 31, 45, 59, 60,
61–65, 68, 93–95, 112, 124, 125, 128,
130, 131, 135, 136, 143, 245
school reforms 1–2, 4, 8, 13–14, 56,
213–214, 243–244; Progressive Era 221,
222–229, 233–234; Silicon Valley
229–231, see also commodification;
Common Core State Standards;
English-only mandates; high-stakes
assessment; marketization; Next
Generation Science Standards (NGSS);
No Child Left Behind; privatization
science/scientific texts 94, 122, 138,
204–205, 256–257, 258; tracking themes
in 145–150; see also Next Generation
Science Standards (NGSS)
Seger, W. 101, 108, 138–141
segregation 226, 228
semiotic mobility 28, 29
sensing verbs (mental processes) 62–63,
125, 127
sequencing relationships 60
Sexton, D. 198
Shanahan, T. 47
sheltered English immersion (SEI) 13,
170–173
Sheltered Instruction Observation
Protocol (SIOP) model 171–172
Silicon Valley, school reform 229–231
Silverstein, S., The Giving Tree 126–127
Simons, H.D. 227
Skinner, B.F. 46, 47–48, 66
Slade, D. 30
Slama, R.B. 4
Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium
(SBAC) 201
social mobility 56, 167, 221, 226, 233, 243
social progressives 224, 225, 233
social roles/identities 58, 131, 242
social semiotic perspective 46, 55–65, 66,
67–68, 241
social studies 258–259
social/economic benefits of bilingualism
198–199
Sommer, D. 105
Spada, N. 12, 47, 48, 54
Spaulding, C. 6, 87, 251
Spring, J. 196, 201, 202, 208, 209, 213,
223
standardization and accountability
movement 3, 8, 14, 96, 185, 186,
194–198, 213–214, 229, 244; and
teacher evaluation 209–213
280
Index
standards: WIDA Consortium 56, 101, 164,
175–176, 179–180, 182–183, 185, 186;
see also Common Core State Standards;
Next Generation Science Standards
(NGSS)
standards-based classroom practices 100
Stanford University 211, 213
statements 131, 132
Steinem, G. 10
students with limited or interrupted
formal education (SLIFE) 239
systemic functional linguistics (SFL) 2, 5,
37–38, 45–46, 55–65, 67–68, 77–78,
244, 245; ACCELA Alliance 96–111,
112; and California History Project
(CHP) 94; in Language and Meaning
Project 94; perspective of grammar
in classroom practices 61–65; Russell
Elementary School, Boston 95–96;
translation of theory into classroom
practice 85–86; see also genre; register
Tarone, E. 232
Taylor, M., The Gold Cadillac 7
teacher evaluation 214; Education Teacher
Performance Assessment (edTPA) 210,
211–213; National Board certification
210, 211; Performance Assessment
for California Teachers (PACT) 210,
211–212, 213; standardization and
accountability in 209–213; value-added
measures (VAMs) 209–210
teacher professional development see
professional development
Teachers of English to Speakers of Other
Languages (TESOL) 170
teaching and learning cycle (TLC) 78–79,
85–86, 95–96, 112, 126, 240, 241,
247; ACCELA’s approach to 98–111,
244–245; in K-12 schools 86–88; and
Martin’s genre theory 88–92
technology 204; and language production
51
tenor 58–59, 59, 61, 65, 77, 78, 79–80, 80,
83, 84, 86, 87, 104, 112, 124, 131–141,
173, 242, 245, 259
tenses 48, 49–50, 254
testing see assessment/testing
Texas, schooling experiences of Mexicans
and Native Americans 227–228
text/context dynamics 9–10, 30–32,
37–38, 56–61, 78, 79–82, 83, 241–247;
“Milltown High School” 245–247
texts 241–242; cultural context of 9–10;
deconstruction of 85, 86, 104–105;
independent construction of 85, 108;
joint construction of 85, 86, 105–107;
multimodality of 9; see also multilingual
texts; multimodality
textual function of language 10, 11, 14, 24,
36, 39, 56, 59–60, 61, 242
textual themes 144, 145
theme/rheme patterns 142, 143–144,
145–150
third space 98
Thomas, W.P. 169, 198
Thompson, G. 122, 254
Thorne, S.L. 88
time 48, 49–50, 50, 60, 108, 130, 144, 145,
254
timelines 254–255
Times Up 8
tracking participants 119–120, 141
tracking practices 67, 229, 231–233, 234
tracking themes 145–150
transitional bilingual programs 13, 169
transitivity patterns 122, 123, 124
translanguage and translanguaging 106,
270n4
translingual students 26
Turkan, S. 163, 166, 167
Tyack, D. 3, 13, 16, 221, 223, 224, 225, 243
Uccelli, P. 180
universal grammar 52
Unsworth, L. 58, 248
Valdés, G. 4, 165, 166, 173
“Valencia” case study 241, 259–265,
266–267
value-added measures (VAMs) 209–210
van Leeuwen, T. 9
van Lier, L. 88, 232, 245
verbal verbs see saying verbs
verbs: modal 59, 59, 134, 135, 136; see also
being verbs; doing verbs; existential
verbs; processes; saying verbs; sensing
verbs
vocabulary knowledge 180
voluntary immigrants 227, 234
Vygotsky, L. 6, 66, 87, 150–151, 164, 178,
186, 217n4, 241, 244
Walqui, A. 88, 200, 232, 245
Walsh, S. 64
Wei, L. 9, 26, 33, 266, 270n4
Index
Westerlund, R. 182–183
White, P.R.R. 58, 59, 62, 136
why questions 64
WIDA Consortium 164, 174–185;
assessments 164, 175–176, 180, 183–184,
185, 186, 201; language proficiency
levels 176–177, 178, 183–184;
professional development opportunities
164, 181, 182, 183, 185; resources 183;
responses to 179–185; standards 56, 101,
164, 175–176, 179–180, 182–183, 185,
186
Wiggins, G.P. 100, 249
Wilkerson, J. 212
Willett, J. 93, 97
281
Winfield, A.G. 227
Wood, D. 6
Wright, W.E. 171, 195
writing 205, 232; modeling, through
joint text construction 105–107;
psycholinguistic approaches to teaching
53–55
Young, L. 127
Youngs, P. 211
zig-zag pattern 142, 143
zone of proximal development (ZPD) 6,
87, 151, 164, 178, 186, 244, 245
Zong, J. 4
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