Challenges and successes with low

“I’ve never read a book before!”:
Instruction challenges in intermediate
and advanced-level IEP classes
Mark Smith, Ph.D.
Carolina Correa, Ph.D.
University of Delaware
English Language Institute
What do you see here?
Reading strategies of “low literate” adults
versus fully literate adults
“Low literate” adults; functional literacy Fully literate adults; expected schoolskills (Perfetti & Marron (1998)
based literacy
Develop cognitive strategies for recognizing,
reading sight words
Use automatic phonological and lexical
Focus significantly on nonalphabetic cues when
reading (graphs, pictures, tables, bolded text,
May need to be taught to effectively use
nonalphabetic cues (e.g., textbook literacy
Use of invented spellings and sight word
Use of lexical access approach and word
analysis skills (decoding; use of phonology
morphology, syntax, and semantics to
understand meaning of text)
Use a “key word” strategy for reading
-- Recognize and locate particular sight words
(e.g., unit vocabulary, certain words discussed
in class)
Look for connecting words, phrases and text
organization to help them understand the flow
of a text
Reliance on oral communication
Reliance on printed word
Special challenge with Saudi students
 L1 reading curriculum in Saudi elementary schools
Emphasizes word identification
Near exclusive use of basal readers
Emphasis on isolated vocabulary acquisition
Focus on whole word recognition over phonemic awareness or
structural awareness of words
 Little to no focus on context-rich themes
 Little teacher-developed curricular materials
 Emphasis on memorization, recitation of text
 Little to no out-of-class independent reading
(Al-Jarf, 2007)
 Many Saudi students in IEP may be “low-literate adults” upon
entry in their L1
 Practice of context-rich reading is new
 Moves beyond memorization or isolated recognition of text
 Academic reading performance is severely affected
Issue of concern for our IEP
 Saudi students, some students from other cultural
backgrounds advance to high-intermediate and advanced
courses without showing evidence of school-expected
literacy skills
 Inferencing skills are limited (reading is not approached
transactionally, but is seen as “word hunting”). Meaning is not
in the text, it is the transaction between the reader and the
Sight word recognition strategy of
 Speaking exams, advanced level, college-preparatory IEP course
 Invented or guessed words; added words from expected conversational use
 Ethics  ethnic
 Statistician  statistics
 “All EAP V students need to become excellent presenters”: “All EAP “vee”
students need to give, became, become, become, represent, exprain, PREsent,
preSENT, expressenent” (mixture of excellent + presenter)
 “All EAP V students need to become excellent presenters. This is why they
present in class many times”  “this is why they present in class too much.”
 “How would you like it if your teacher presented one to you [one refers to a
present]”  “present on to you”.
 “I need to rewrite my EAP V essay.”  “I need to do rewrite my EAP V essay.”
 Indication: Many Saudi students are trying to “remember” words by sight,
rather than by automaticity of sound-print connection
Reliance on non-alphabetic cues
combined with sight word recognition
Reliance on non-alphabetic information
 Understanding an argumentative text
Saudi students
recognized the position
of an author only when
the teacher was able to
visually show that a
“pro” column was
longer, more wordy
than the “con” column.
Positive view of television
Negative view of television
WatchingTV: great opportunity
for critical media analysis
TV may affect IQ
TV does not impact reading skills
TV may impact reading skills
TV can be an outlet for
TV may encourage social isolation
communication between children,
parents, teachers
TV does not need to be watched
alone (critical media courses in
Dependence on key word strategy
 Discussion of a model response paper in an advanced, college-
bound ESL class
 Instructor: What is my position on the issue?
 Student: I can’t find the word “position” in your text.You don’t have
a position!
 Instructor: But I just told you that I was in agreement with the
 Student: But I don’t see the word “position” there!
 Instructor: What are my reasons for agreeing with the author?
 Student: Do you agree with the author?! I don’t see your reasons.
 Instructor: I just discussed my reasons with you.
 Student: But you didn’t use the word “reasons” or you didn’t use
“why” or “because” in any of the sentences you wrote. How do I
know where to find your reasons?
Consequences of this approaches
 Limited inferencing
 Avoidance of reading
 Sentences missing essential connecting words
 Example: “Author persuading TV negative.
 Reading fluency issues
 Vocabulary issues
How do these students advance to
high-intermediate/advanced courses?
 Overreliance of multiple choice reading tests at intermediate
 guess expected answers based upon key word recognition
 reading becomes a word matching game
 may rely on discussions in class to interpret text meaning
 Insufficient inferencing practice
 Students should be given more opportunities to analyze and
inference text through written assessments and oral discussions
Proposed solutions
Greater opportunities for in-class
extensive reading
30-40 minutes of class time for reading Oxford
Bookworms books
Readings selfselected based
on student
interests; use
of extensive
resources at
our IEP
“This is the first time I’ve ever read a whole,
entire book!”
Book fair: Reading Power, We’ve Got It!
Amazon book reviews
Book reviews on Amazon
I am an ELI student in level four in reading and writing. Actually this book was
my first book I have read in English. I choose this book because I like to know
some information about Space and how our universe began. So, I was
interesting to read this book. After reading the first page I thought that it will
talk about our history in Space for example, our first step to the moon and
give me the date of everything, that's why I felt a little bit disappointed at first
because I don't like history. However, after I read the next few pages I just got
excited to read the rest of it. Actually, some of the things that I really liked in
this book is how Uranus and its moons are moving, also the reason of why
Titan, the biggest moon of Saturn's moons, goes around Saturn with the
opposite way of the others. Actually I really liked this book, but I don't
recommend it for all people because some of them may feel it is boring.
However, if you are the same as me you will get excited when reading about
Space. then I really recommend it for you.
Vocabulary journals
Use of structured reading guides
Reading guide: We all need a hero
Please answer the following questions about the reading in at least one
complete sentence.
What does the title “We all need a hero” mean? Please rewrite it in
your own words.
According to the author, what is a hero like? In other words, how
does the author describe a hero?
In the writer’s opinion, why are superheroes inspirational?
In the author’s view, why are superhero stories written?
What does the author when he/she says that “all us are gifted in
some way”? Why is that important to the author?
The author argues that superheroes are “moral examples.” Explain
how superheroes can be moral examples to people in your own words.
What is the message the author shares in his/her conclusion?
Please write it in your own words.
Picture mapping
 Students are given sets of randomly ordered
 Students are asked to place them on a poster
board in a particular order and to show
relationship between them
 Students need to explain thinking to other groups
 Picture mapping encourages inferencing,
understanding of text organization, and text-toself connections
Reading emerges from students’
 From class readers, students vote for preferred
 Student-centered discussions of readings;
students take responsibility to create visual
representation of understanding of text
 Promote extensive reading from students’ choice,
guided analysis of reading
 Allow students’ interests to play a part in
selection of texts
 Develop integrated skills assessments
 Rely less on multiple choice assessments

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