Sunday, 18 November 2012

EAL & Reading Conference notes 1

This weekend I attended NALDIC's EAL and reading conference in the University of Reading. As an EAL practitioner, I found the workshops very useful. The strategies that were introduced, were very easy to implement in lots of lessons. Some were practically resource free.

The first workshop I attended was run by Yvonne Foley and it was called 'Critical literacies: language, meaning and power. We started with a discussion about Janks' quote (2010) which said:" Diversity without access to powerful forms of language ghettoises students."  

Many teachers believe that if EAL students are exposed to the language and vocabulary more than once, they would automatically learn it, so they don't see the need of pre-teaching vocabulary explicitly. However, this is the wrong approach. Dimensions of literacy have different layers as well as the cognitive ability, to communicate meanings, social and cultural context need to be explored. They all impact each other. Grabe& Stoller (2001) explain that the linguistic and processing differences such as; differences in writing system, sounds, grammar, vocab, discourse as well as translation add to the processing burden.There are also individual/ experiential and sociocultural/ institutional differences. For example, some socially constructed norms are; woman doctor, male nurse or female astronaut. Not being able to think that a doctor can be a woman, gives away the socially constructed norm.
To start with, we did some pre-reading activities. We answered the questions in pairs to explore and activate our prior knowledge about the text we were going to read. The questions were related  to 'domestic workers'. Then, we discussed about a photo of a domestic worker in our groups. The work sheet had a diamond shape in the middle and there were places to write the names of group members. This gave everybody an equal chance to contribute to the task, also gave opportunity to the group members to help each other to complete the task. By the time we read the actual text, we were familiar with the prior vocab. To explore the language further, we had to find answers to some questions, and we listed the verbs or verb phrases which the writer connected to the characters in the text. We grouped the verbs into active and passive. Finally to activate the higher order thinking skills, we had to redesign speech bubbles attached to the previous picture of the domestic worker, to make sure that she was stronger and she was able to take control of her own life.

Cathy Wallace (2009) who was my teacher in the previous years, explained that in reading there are field (who is the text about),  tenor (who is the text written for) and mode (how is the text organized?). EAL students need to be exposed to all these aspects in order to understand the texts. These questions would help them to do so. Whose views are represented in the text?, Whose world view is represented? The Western world? The developing world? Does the writer have a feminist perspective? Are there gaps and silences in this text? How reliable is the evidence given in this text? How does this text match your understanding and experience and other knowledge and understanding of the topic?
Grant and May (2007) tell us that the schools are 'cross-cultural meeting sites'. Wallace (2003) also clearly stated that classroom practices need to enable EAL pupils to demonstrate their ability to link their personal histories with school texts are crucial.

Critical Literacy approach enables multiple identities to be enacted during literacy practices. Multidimensional Critical Literacy practices provide multiple entry points for EAL pupils as they engage with classroom texts. As Kucer and Silva (2012) said "cognitive, linguistic and other sign systems, sociocultural dimensions are drawn upon as pupils engage with texts.