Effective literacy strategies in the transitional classroom

Material Information

Effective literacy strategies in the transitional classroom
Uribe, Maria
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
xix, 248 leaves : ; 28 cm

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Doctorate ( Doctor of Philosophy)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
School of Education and Human Development, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Educational Leadership and Innovation
Committee Chair:
Nathenson-Mejia, Sally
Committee Co-Chair:
French, Nancy
Committee Members:
Townsend, Stephanie
Basile, Carole
Vigil, Tony


Subjects / Keywords:
English language -- Study and teaching (Elementary) -- Spanish speakers -- Case studies ( lcsh )
Second grade (Education) -- Case studies -- Colorado ( lcsh )
Literacy -- Study and teaching (Elementary) -- Case studies -- Colorado ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 242-248).
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
Maria Uribe.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
57654292 ( OCLC )
LD1190.E3 2004d U74 ( lcc )

Full Text
Maria Uribe
B.A., University INCCA of Colombia, 1987
M.A., University of Colorado 1997
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation

2004 by Maria Uribe
All rights reserved

This Thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Maria Uribe
has been approved

Uribe, Maria (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Effective Literacy Strategies in the Transitional Classroom
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Sally Nathenson-Mejia
This nine month single case study research examined the
strategies used by a second grade teacher to transition the students
from Spanish into English. This case was selected because it provided
an example of excellent student outcomes due to a unique manner of
developing the second language. The purpose of the study was to
examine the strategies the teacher used to facilitate the success of
Spanish speaking children in English literacy. The study included the
teachers instructional techniques in literacy as well as the context
and timing she used to transition students from Spanish literacy into
The researcher played an active, rather than a passive role in
the classroom, advising and coaching the teacher. The research
methodology included video-taping, interviews of the teacher, the
paraeducator, and the students, observations, field notes, and
teachers and students academic documentation. The research took

place in an urban school with 620 students including approximately
330 students whose native language was other than English and 84%
of the students received free or reduced lunch. The ethnic component
was 84% Hispanic, 5.5% Asian, 2.7% African American, 1% Native
American, and 6.6% Caucasian.
The results of the study indicated the value of native language
instruction, constant language development throughout the literacy
instruction, the importance of phasing out Spanish instruction over
time while the students acquire English, the importance of the
teachers background knowledge in the Spanish language, the
activation of primary language background since is the essential
nature of language development, and last, but not least the
adaptations of the balanced literacy components to instruct students
who transition from Spanish into English.
The study offered implications for four areas of practice. First is
the importance of having a systematic program throughout the school
for English language learners. The second implication is the
importance of teaching students literacy in their primary language
despite the early transition into English. The third implication is the
importance for students of receiving academic vocabulary in both

English and Spanish, Finally the importance of making the necessary
modifications to balanced literacy components for the students who
transition from Spanish into English.
This abstract accurately represent the content of the candidates
thesis. I recommend its publication.

This dissertation is dedicated to my husband Mauricio, to the most
wonderful presents that God has given me, my children Liliana,
Francisco, Angela, and finally to my granddaughter Anmarie

Many people influence our lives in one-way or another. They
help us to achieve our goals and to realize our aspirations. For the
past four years I was lucky enough to be around people who gave me
their wisdom and assistance to make it possible to complete a very
demanding and challenging journey.
First of all I want to thank God for placing me in this world
surrounded by people that believed in me and worked with me
constantly to have the honor of completing the highest degree in my
educational journey. Also, I want to thank Him for giving me the skills
and the health necessary to be able to fulfill my dreams.
Second I would like to thank the marvelous people who have
been the illumination of my career. Without them it would have been
impossible to accomplish all my dreams.
Thank you, Dr. Sally Nathenson-Mejia. Sally, you were not only
my advisor but my friend. Sally, you went beyond your duties as an
advisor. You always believed in me and always gave me hope. You

gave me the motivation I needed in those times I was ready to quit.
You were like the eagle with her babies. She lets them fly but when
they are about to fall to the sea she rescues them. You rescued me
many times from the bottom of the sea. Sally, Muchas gracias desde
el fondo de mi corazon. ;Gracias!
Thank you, Dr. Nancy French. Nancy, you always pushed me to
do my best. You were very supportive throughout this difficult time.
You never gave up on me, your interest in the topic of my dissertation
and most importantly your interest in my accomplishments were
demonstrated all the time. I am deeply grateful for all your hard work
and dedication. jGracias!
Thank you, Dr. Stephanie Townsend. Stevie, you have the most
wonderful quality that a person can have. You always have the right
words at the right time. Without those words of wisdom I dont think I
would have been able to start and complete the program. You
motivated me, you gave me hope and you were always by my side
when I needed it. jGracias!
Thank you, Dr. Carole Basile. Carole, not too many people in
my life have expressed faith in my talents like you. You have been
very special to me. Since I met you, the confidence you had in me has

been unbelievable. You spent time on me that sometimes I really
believe I did not deserve. Thank you so much for all your help, your
hard work, and your words of motivation. ;Gracias!
Thank you, Dr. Tony Vigil. Tony, your interest for my work was
demonstrated throughout the time I have worked with you. You have
always had faith in my work and admiration for my teaching. You
always believed I could do it. Thank you for taking the time to help me
and be a part of my committee. jGracias!
Thank you, to Tania Godinez. Tania, you let me be a part of
your wonderful classroom. Your willingness to help me with anything
you could was amazing. My journey into your classroom was a
wonderful learning experience. I hope your dedication and your
professionalism will help other teachers and students to accomplish
what they want and what they need. ;Gracias!
Thank you, to my friend Marlene Becker. Marlene you listened
to me every time I was a disillusioned and I was about to give up. You
are the friend that everybody dreams of. ;Gracias!
Thank you to Laurie Grosselfinger. Laurie, you were very
supportive and flexible with my work time and helped me accomplish

what I needed to accomplish throughout this challenging journey. You
were not only my boss but also my friend, jGracias!
Thank you, to my colleagues at school to who helped me in many
different ways.
Thank you to Dr. Linda Bruce. Linda your help in the crucial
moment of my journey was a blessing. You gave up your own time to
improve my writing skills, iGracias!
Thank you, to my colleagues and friends from the doctoral lab
Christina Bernal throughout this time you helped me with your ideas
and support. Helen Berg, you gave me words of motivation as well as
your friendship. Diane Caroll, you demonstrated interest in my topic
and helped me improve my skills in writing. Elena Sandoval-Lucero
you supported me any time I needed it and showed interest in my
topic. Ritu Chopra, you helped me with wonderful ideas and your
knowledge, Jami Finn you gave me great feedback. jGracias!
Thank you, to the children and their parents who were a part of
my study for their support and willingness to participate.
Furthermore, to all the second language learners who have inspired
me to continue learning. jGracias!

Finally, I want to thank the most important people in my life,
my children and my husband. Liliana, you tell me all the time how
proud you are of me, Francisco, you love the idea of having a mom
who has accomplished the highest degree in education, Angela, you
gave up your time with mom to let me fulfill my dreams, and
Mauricio, you are the love of my life that even though it was very
difficult for you to see me working all the time and stealing your
time you gave me the motivation and the support I needed. I believe
you also deserve to receive a Degree of Patience. Thank you,
Anmarie, you were bom in the middle of my course work and I hope
this journey inspires you to dream your dreams and achieve your
goals, jGracias!

1. INTRODUCTION..............................................1
Need for the Study.....................................4
Conceptual Framework...................................6
Purpose of the Study...................................9
Operational Definitions................................9
Research Question.....................................12
Overview of Methodology...............................12
Specific Plan for Language Usage and Curriculum.15
Structure of the Dissertation.........................21
2. LITERATURE REVIEW........................................23
Language Development..................................23
Relation of Thought to Word......................24
Second Language Development...........................28
Teacher Expectations..................................31

Literacy Strategies.....................................34
Activating Prior Knowledge..............................42
Transferability from LI to L2...........................45
The Role of the Paraeducator in the ELL Classroom.......46
3. METHODOLOGY................................................51
Rationale of the Case Study Methods.....................51
Why a Unique Case.......................................52
School Context..........................................53
School Resources...................................53
School Population..................................56
Instructional Student Advisory (ISA) Committee.....58
English Language Acquisition Program....................58
English Language Development Pull Out Program.....59
Native Language Instruction Program................61
Grouping of Students....................................64
The Classroom Teacher...................................66

Researchers Role
Data Collection........................................72
Students Assessment Scores.......................78
FROM SPANISH INTO ENGLISH.................................81
Introduction to the Case...............................81
Data Collection........................................82
The Classroom Teacher..................................85
Read Alouds.......................................88
Shared Reading....................................89
Guided Reading....................................90

The Literacy Coach......................................101
The Paraeducator........................................103
Literacy Strategies.....................................112
Literacy Block.....................................112
Transferability from Spanish into English
and Student Indicators..................................117
Transferring the Balanced Literacy Components
into English............................................120
Guided Reading.....................................120
Read Aloud.........................................123
Shared Reading.....................................126
Writers Workshop..................................135
5. DATA COLLECTION ANALYSIS.................................. 139
Conceptual Framework....................................140
School Context and Timing..........................140

Teacher Timing and Classroom Context Variables....144
Literacy Strategies...............................147
Activating Prior Knowledge from Native Language...152
Language Acquisition....................................155
Language Development .............................155
Second Language Acquisition.......................157
Factors Affecting Language Acquisition............157
Limitations of the Study................................158
Implications for Practice...............................160
Implications for Research...............................162
6. CONCLUSION.................................................164
School Characteristics..................................165
Teacher Characteristics.................................166
Student Characteristics.................................167
A. PARENT PERMISSION FORM........................ 171

C. TEACHER'S CONSENT................... 174
D. PARAEDUCATORS CONSENT.............. 176
E. PARENTS CONSENT LETTER...............178
F. STUDENT CONSENT..................... 180
G. NODE LISTING.........................182
H. WRITING RUBRIC.......................184
I. WRITING SAMPLES......................185
J. PERSONAL NARRATIVE.................. 191
K. INFORMATIVE..........................192
L. POEMS................................193
M. FAIRY TALE...........................195
O. READ ALOUD LESSON....................200
P. SHARED READING LESSON................203
R. TEACHER INTERVIEW....................209
S. STUDENT INTERVIEW....................241

1.1 Conceptual Framework.....................................7
4.1 Sample of a Page of the Assessment Book...............132

2.1 Distinction Between Thought and Speech................26
3.1 Language Proficiency of Classroom Teachers............54
3.2 Language Proficiency of Staff other than Classroom
3.3 Number of ELL Students According to the LAS Test......57
3.4 English Language Acquisition Program..................63
3.5a Mrs. Godinez Students Reading Scores 2000 2001
Second Grade..............................................68
3.5b Mrs. Godinez Students Reading Scores 2001 -2002
Second Grade..............................................69
3.6 Data Collection Methods...............................74
4.1 Students Responses About the Schedule.................93
4.2 Students Reading Scores Throughout the School Year... 110
4.3a District Mandated Schedule..........................116
4.3b Mrs Godinez Modification of the Schedule............116
5.1 Teacher Expectations.................................146
5.2 Students Responses About Literacy Strategies........150

Teachers are constantly challenging students to acquire literacy
skills. Moreover, in most states, classroom instruction is guided by
the state standards and all students are expected to pass end-of-
grade tests in order to be promoted (Echevarria & Graves, 2003). For
students who are non-English speakers, the acquisition of English
becomes imperative if they are to succeed. Students who receive
instruction in their native language during the early years of schooling
in the United States eventually transition into mainstream English.
This transition can occur anywhere from the early elementary grades
to middle school or later, depending on the schools program,
students advancement in the program, and individual student
characteristics and achievement (Saunders, O'Brien & Lennon, 1998).
The timing and context for this transition is critical to students
self-esteem, cultural-esteem, and their ability to walk in two worlds
between their school and their family. Timing and context also have
been shown to impact the transfer of academic skills by young

For example, Cummins (1999) has shown that children perform
better in their second language when they master basic reading and
thinking skills in their first language. In addition, based on the data
analysis of students test scores during a six-year period, Collier and
Thomas (1989) concluded that students take from 4 to 10 years to
acquire enough academic English to perform at a proficient level.
Unfortunately, the amount of time that is needed for students to
acquire language does not correspond with the reality of time they are
given in schools (Echevarria, Vogt & Short, 2000). Therefore, teachers
need to instruct children in ways that will enable them to perform and
succeed with their English-speaking peers as soon as possible.
For students who come from non-English linguistic
backgrounds, instruction should be built around the strengths of
their language context, rather than discarding it as a sign of deficit.
(National Research Council, 2000). Educational context is viewed as
the physical, social, and cultural environment in which learning takes
place (Sinclaire, 1994). Moreover, the classroom is more them a
physical space; it includes spaces where caring for children is
nurtured. The opportunities and possibilities that students have to
explore their interests and practice their emerging skills will allow

teachers to discover their uniqueness. Sinclaire adds that teachers
must not over-romanticize children; instead they need to look at them
as members of and the future of our society. Examining how time and
context impacts the learning of second language learners was the
foundation for this study.
The study took place in a second grade classroom with students
who were receiving formal literacy instruction in English for the first
time. The study presents a unique case in which the school and
grouping of the students are different from other elementary schools
within the district. In addition, the classroom teacher was chosen
because of her unique and excellent instruction, recognized by the
principal, staff members of the school and outside visitors, but, most
importantly because of the high levels of achievement of the Spanish-
speaking students in reading and writing in English. Furthermore, the
progress the students made was more accelerated than even the
average English language learner in the district. The researchers
interest was to discover the particular elements of the literacy
environment of this classroom which created a safe, exceptional and
successful place for students to develop and acquire English.

Need for the Study
Several aspects of our current educational challenge indicate
the need for this study. Schools are facing more non-English speaking
students in the classrooms every year (Echavarria, et. al, 2000).
Researchers have stated that language development in the first
language occurs the same way as in the second language (Au, 1993;
Collier, 1985; Crawford, 1995; Cummins, 1997; Escamilla, 1993;
Krashen, 1999). People have been interested in second language
acquisition since antiquity, but in recent times much of the research
emphasis has, in fact, been placed on language teaching (Larsen -
Freeman, 2000, p. 115). Hence the role of the teacher is to learn the
best techniques to instruct linguistically diverse students.
The bilingual/mainstream faculty must find ways to infuse the
teacher preparation and staff development curricula with elements of
bilingual, multicultural, and English as a Second Language (ESL)
training (Collier, 2000). Although research shows the necessity to
educate teachers in addressing the needs of students learning English
as a second language, the reality is that teachers are receiving the
training slowly and the students with diverse backgrounds are rapidly
enrolling in the classrooms. Little or no accommodation is made for

English-language learners, placing them at a deficit when they are
expected to achieve high academic standards in English (Echevarria &
Graves, 2003). In addition, Spanish-speaking students who receive
native literacy instruction are transitioning into classrooms with
teachers who are not trained in second language acquisition, basic
knowledge of the Spanish language nor basic elements to deliver the
instruction (Echevarria & Graves).
The existing research has focused on the timing and duration of
transition (e.g., Ramirez, 1992). Far less attention has been devoted to
empirical studies of effective transition instruction and curriculum
(Gersten, 1996). Although, the literature on literacy has broad
examples of how to implement literacy for ESL students in the
classroom, few studies have investigated the practices for students
who have received Spanish instruction and need to make the
transition into English. Studies have predominantly focused on the
importance of incorporating the students culture. Furthermore they
have found that students who transition into English have an abrupt
transition from one language to another and as a result, instead of
performing at the level they were at in their native language, the
students fall behind academically (Ramirez, 1992). Therefore the

purpose of the study is to investigate the context and the timing
students need to transition from Spanish into English successfully.
Conceptual Framework
Based on the available research found about students who need
to learn English as a second language, the conceptual framework of
the study illustrates the transition process and variables that
educators need to provide when they are attempting to assist second
language learners in acquiring English and literacy skills in both
languages. The school environment, practices, and philosophy impact
the practices of teachers. Context and timing are dependent on
schools and individual classroom teachers. Language acquisition
includes initial language development, second language acquisition,
and the transfer of language skills. The pivotal piece of the model is
the implementation by the classroom teacher, his/her expectations,
use of literacy strategies, and the activation of the students prior
knowledge (Au, 1993; Torres Guzman, 2002) (Figure 1.1).

Figure 1.1 Conceptual Framework
Teacher/Para-educator expectations
Literacy strategies *
Activation of prior knowledge to ^
transfer language. I to language 2,

The ultimate outcome if conditions are right is the transfer of
knowledge and skills to the students second language acquisition.
Research has shown that students transfer knowledge if teachers
instruct in a way that facilitates children's transferring then-
knowledge through applying and demonstrating it. Adequate time to
acquire knowledge is vital during instruction. If students have the
opportunity to explore, analyze, and draw conclusions from the
learning experience, the concept will be transferred in similar
experiences (National Research Council, 2001).
The National Research Council also states that children have
different learning capacities that teachers need to recognize and
accommodate in order to help students demonstrate and transfer
their knowledge, not only in a short but also over a long period of
time. Since children learn and experience in many different ways,
context in the classroom is a vital element.
Summing up the critical components of the study: School
Environment, Teacher Timing and Classroom Variables, and
Language Acquisition were the features investigated in this study.

Purpose of the Study
Educators must consider the timing and context of instruction
and curriculum needed to acquire a second language and the choices
teachers make about expectations and literacy strategies in order to
transition students into English literacy instruction. Therefore, the
purpose of this study was to examine the literacy strategies used in a
transitional classroom and the conditions of the classroom
environment. The investigation focused on ihe timing and context
used to establish and sustain instructional practices that will benefit
the students transition into English when they had previously
received Spanish literacy instruction.
Operational Definitions
It is important to define some of the key terms and concepts in
this study:
1. English Language Learners (ELL): The students who learn
English as a second language. Even though the literature uses
this term for students with variety of language backgrounds,
this paper refers to students whose native language was

Spanish because they were the population on which the study
2. Transition: Studies talk about transition as the change in
instruction for ELL students from Spanish instruction to
mainstream English instruction. It is important to note that
transition has two stages, one from receiving informal English
instruction to formal English instruction. The other one is from
formal English to mainstream instruction (Miramontes, Nadeau
& Commins, 1997). The study used the word transition as the
first transition stage.
3. LI: Refers to native language, in this case Spanish.
4. L2: Refers to the second language, in this case English.
5. Transferability: The ability to acquire a concept in a specific
context and be able to generalize to situations from different
6. Expectations: The ability to create an image of achievement and
to instruct students in ways that facilitate and communicate
learning for all children.
7. ELD: English Language Development

8. ECE: Early Childhood Education 4 year olds
9. SECI: Supported English Content Instruction, students learn
content through activities that engage their learning through
hands on, active comprehension activities.
10. ISA: Instructional Services Advisory. The committee to place
and evaluate children to provide the required instruction
demanded by the district in which the study took place.
11. LAS: Language Acquisition Scale A test with a scale from 1 to
5 used to indicate range of English proficiency. LAS 1 are the
students who speak no English to random words. The score on
the test needs to be less than 54%. LAS 2 are students who
know basic phrases and score 55% to 64%. LAS 3 are students
who communicate and understand English but still make
grammar mistakes and their academic language needs more
development. Their score is 65% to 74% on the test. LAS 4 and
5 are students whose oral and academic English is similar to a
native speaker at the same age. The score for LAS 4 is 75% to
84% and the LAS 5 is 85% to 100% on the test.
12. Literacy Foundations: Basic literacy skills in the students
native language.

13. QRI: Qualitative Reading Inventory- It is an individually
administered informal reading inventory designed to provide
diagnostic information about (1) conditions under which
students can identify words and comprehend text successfully,
and (2) conditions that appear to result in unsuccessful word
identification, decoding, and/or comprehension (Lauren &
Caldwell, 1995, p. 1).
Research Question
The research question for this study was: What specific literacy
instruction supports and provides successful transfer of native
language skills to a second language instructional environment?
Overview of Methodology
The research took place in Huston Elementary, a school with
unique characteristics. Huston Elementaiy had 23 classroom
teachers trained to teach English language learners. The teachers
shared a common objective of creating a program with specific
standards for when the transition to English reading occurred for

Spanish speakers. Beginning seven years ago, the school implemented
a program based on a model provided in the book Restructuring
Schools for Linguistic Diversity" (1997) by Ofelia B. Miramontes, Adel
Nadeau, and Nancy L. Commins, to impart literacy instruction
according to the students language proficiency.
Huston Elementary had one classroom for four-year olds (ECE),
two kindergarten classrooms, each with am/pm sessions, four
classrooms of each grade level from first to fifth. Each grade level had
English Language Learners (ELL). Students received literacy according
to language proficiency. Students who obtained Spanish literacy
instruction received English Language Development (ELD) during the
literacy block. The number of ELL students at Huston Elementary was
approximately 60% of the population.
Content instruction was usually introduced in their native
language, and then was extended in Supported English Content
Instruction (SECI), with Spanish reinforcement by each individual
teacher as the students needed it. Spanish speaking
paraprofessionals, who were in the classroom daily for three hours,
were used for literacy purposes. The students were active participants
in their own language development, as well. Pull out English

Language Development (ELD) was provided for speakers of other
languages and those Spanish-speaking children who did not receive
native language instruction. ECE and kindergarten were divided into
sections according to language. Two native Spanish-speaking teachers
instructed Spanish-speaking children. One English speaking teacher
instructed the English speaking children and children with other
In First grade children were divided into four groups for the
literacy block. Two Spanish-speaking teachers provided literacy
instruction to Spanish speaking students. The other two teachers
instructed English speaking children and the students who spoke
another language. The students regrouped for content areas. This
content instruction was provided through a sheltered instruction
model (Short, et al, 2000).
From second to fifth grade, teachers grouped children according
to language proficiency as well. In order to properly meet the language
needs, the teachers collected information about the children's
proficiency in English and Spanish. This data was collected through
several benchmarks, including running records of reading in both
languages, teacher observations of students interests and abilities in

English, portfolios of student work, and standardized test scores. The
students were placed according to language proficiency and academic
ability for the literacy block. This literacy block was in English except
for the new arrivals. ELD was provided through activities in literacy.
The goal was for the students to show a high level of oral
English proficiency in both academic and social areas and strong
literacy in the primary language. Primary and intermediate teachers
worked together to meet the district guidelines in order to create a
process for transitioning students effectively into English.
Specific Plan for Language Usage and Curriculum
ECE: Half-time native Spanish speaking paraeducator;
a.m. class was made up of all Spanish speaking
90% Spanish Spanish oral language development, literacy
foundation, regular developmentally appropriate
ECE curriculum
10% English English oral language development that
coordinated with the ECE curriculum

Kindergarten: 2 classes made up of all Spanish speaking students
80% Spanish Spanish oral language development, literacy foundation, and reading readiness developmentally appropriate from the kindergarten curriculum
20% English English oral language development that coordinated with kindergarten curriculum
Grade One: Spanish speakers together in the morning, for literacy instruction that was integrated with content areas along with ELD. After lunch students were integrated with English speakers for concept extension and reinforcement
60% Spanish Spanish literacy development, including both reading and writing, concept development in areas of math, science, social studies
40% English English oral language development, literacy foundations, including informal English reading activities and contributing to group writing activities, reinforcement and extension of concepts

already developed in primary language.
Grade Two:
50% Spanish
Grade Three:
20% Spanish
Spanish-speaking students were together in the
morning for literacy instruction. Students' literacy
instruction was integrated with content instruction
to support development of new concepts in native
language. Students who were ready to start the
first transition into English received literacy in
English (gradually move from Spanish to English).
Literacy foundations increased the focus on formal
reading and writing activities in English, concept
extension and reinforcement of concepts previously
introduced in Spanish, and oral language
Literacy foundations increased the focus on formal
reading and writing activities in English, concept
extension and reinforcement of concepts previously
introduced in Spanish and oral language
development in literacy. Students were together for
formal English literacy which expands and

reinforces concepts through ELD.
Grades Four
and Five:
Las 1:
50% Spanish
Las 2:
10% Spanish
Las 3:
Two fourth grade teachers and two fifth grade
teachers grouped students according to English
language proficiency, Language Acquisition Scale
(LAS) scores, and reading and writing assessments.
Teachers integrated English speakers in the
morning for SECI. Concept extension and
reinforcement of concepts were introduced in
In the afternoon LAS 1 students (whose scores
were less than 53% on the LAS test) received
literacy foundations in Spanish with increasing
focus on formal reading and writing activities in
English and oral language development.
LAS 2 students (whose scores were between 54% to
63% on the LAS test) received formal English
reading in English.
LAS 3 students (whose scores were between 64%
and 73% on the LAS test) received formal English

literacy which expands and reinforces concepts by
including ELD during literacy block.
Las 4: LAS 4 and English speaking children, formal
English reading, develop, expand and reinforce
new concepts, continued oral language as needed.
As part of the language usage and curriculum plan concept
extension and reinforcement of concepts were introduced in Spanish,
during the Supported English Language Instruction, SECI time.
In the afternoon LAS 1 students (whose scores were less than
53% on the LAS test) received literacy foundations in Spanish with an
increased focus on formal reading and writing activities in English
oral language development (50% Spanish). LAS 2 students (whose
scores were between 50% and 60% on the LAS test) received formal
English reading in English (10% support in Spanish). LAS 3 students
(whose scores were between 64% and 73% on the LAS test) received
formal English literacy which expanded and reinforced concepts by
including ELD during literacy block. LAS 4 and English speaking
children received formal English reading, developed, expanded and
reinforced new concepts, and continued oral language as needed.

The study focused on second grade teacher, Mrs. Godinez. She
was an exemplary teacher who for the past two years had been
assigned to make the first transition of students from Spanish into
English. Mrs. Godinez was chosen because of her strengths in literacy
instruction, classroom environment, classroom management, and
interest for the students. Additionally, the students outcomes and
practices demonstrated in her classroom in the previous two years
were found to be exceptional. Mrs Godinez was a second grade
teacher. She had a group of Spanish-speaking students who were
transitioning into English. The research focused on the literacy
strategies that she used to facilitate the transition. The investigation
measured childrens outcomes with reading assessments that the
district utilized and a writing rubric based on the new ELA program
Based on the uniqueness of the circumstances, such as the
grouping that took place at Huston Elementary, the instruction that
took place in Mrs. Godinezs classroom, and the successful results her
second grade students have had for the past two years, the
methodology for the investigation was a single case study.

A single case study deals with a full variety of evidences, such
as, documents, artifacts, interviews, and observations (Yin, 1989). In
this case the researcher used videotapes for the classroom activities,
interviews of the teacher, the students and the paraeducator. The
researcher also collected information by taking field notes, collecting
reading scores, writing samples, and teacher lesson plans.
Structure of the Dissertation
1. Chapter 1 describes the purpose of the study and the conceptual
framework. It also gives a brief overview of the methodology.
2. Chapter 2 includes the research on language development, literacy
instruction based on the balanced literacy approach, and
3. Chapter 3 describes the methodology and literature of a single case
study, sampling, measurement, data collection, and data analysis.
4. Chapter 4 presents the results in a narrative manner given that
this is a single case study. The results give the specific outcomes of
the investigation.

5. Chapter 5 summarizes and interprets the findings, draws
conclusions, points out similarities and differences between the
findings from this study and previous research, and describes the
implications of the research for practice and future research. This
chapter also includes a statement about the limitations of the
This study looked at: What specific literacy instruction supports
and provides successful transfer of native language skills to a second
language instructional environment? This involved the investigation of
Mrs. Godinez and focused on the timing and context as it related to
second language acquisition and transfer. The significance of the
study was to add to the literature regarding the transition of second
language learners to English. Through Mrs. Godinezs story, the
researcher hoped to illustrate the critical nature of timing and context
for students transitioning to a second language environment.

This chapter presents an overview of the literature on second
language acquisition. Hence, this chapter begins with a discussion of
language development as an initial premise for the conceptual
framework. This review continues with a description of school
contextual factors that influence second language acquisition, such as
environment, practices, and philosophy as well as classroom timing
and context, including the educators expectations for the student,
use of literacy strategies, and the use of the students prior
knowledge. Finally, the researcher examines the implications of
paraeducators in the classroom as their presence impacts classroom
context, which is one of the essential components of the study.
Language Development
The literature for this section will cover (a) two basic theories for
native language development, (b) second language development, and
(c) Transferability from LI to L2

Relation of Thought to Word
Vygotsky (2001) stated that thought and language are not
connected by a primary bond. A connection originates, changes, and
grows in the course of the evolution of thinking and speech. It is also
wrong to believe that thought and speech are unrelated processes;
they are parallel or intersect in certain points. The verbal thought is a
unit. The relation of thought to word is a process, a continual
movement back and forth from thought to word and from word to
thought. Thought is not simply expressed in words; it comes into
existence through them. Every thought tends to connect something
with something else, to establish a relationship between things. Every
thought moves, grows and develops, fulfills function, and solves a
Thought and word do not follow the same development. The
structure of speech does not simply mirror the structure of thought;
that is why words, initially, do not represent the entire thought.
The distinction between the vocalized and the semantic aspects
of language development is that they move in opposite directions.
While the individual thinks as a whole, the vocalized vocabulary
comes out as a single word. As language develops the speech becomes

more sophisticated until language and thought are at the same level
of growth. Only when this development is completed does the child
become fully able to formulate his own complete thought orally and
understand completely the speech of others. Until then, his usage of
words is what demonstrates that the child is becoming orally
proficient (Table 2.1).

Table 2.1
Distinction Between Thought and Speech
Developmental Progression Thought Speech Example
First A whole idea One word Milk
Second A meaningful Two or three More milk
sentence words
Third Begins to master Simple Mama give
separate units sentences me milk
Fourth Form and divide the Complicated I want more
undifferentiated sentences milk. Can
thought into units you give me
Added on to this complex development, communication in
writing relies on the formal meanings of words and requires a much
greater number of words than oral speech that conveys the same idea.
Dewey (1997) stated that the understanding of language is
necessary for thinking and is demonstrated by the ability of creating a

thought. Therefore, it is important to hold in mind the intimate
connection of meanings and language which both work for specific
meaning and for the organization of meanings. Furthermore, since
intellectual life depends on possession of a store of meanings, the goal
of education should be to develop language that provides the tools for
the academic understanding. The successful accomplishment of
meaning requires the enlargement of the childs vocabulary, offering
terms more precise and accurate, and a formation of the habit of
continuous conversations.
To enlarge vocabulary it is vital to give the child contact with
things, experiences, persons and also vivid meanings of the words
from the context in which they are heard or read. The fact that the
passive vocabulary is usually larger than the active requires the
students to learn, understand, and use their vocabulary. One example
is when students retell a story. Usually they understand most of the
words in the story but when they are asked to retell it, they use their
own words because their active vocabulary has not rehearsed the new
words several times. When limited vocabulary is due to limited
experiences, the teachers function is to expand experiences and

In conclusion the child develops language and thought in
intimate relationship with the conditions of meaning and speech.
Second Language Development
The Bilingual Education Act of 1968 marked a new period for
students whose native language is not English. Researchers, both for
and against bilingual education, have spent time studying the benefits
of using native language instruction for students who are learning
English as their second language (Crawford, 1995). Opponents of
bilingual programs such as Porter (1990) and Rossell & Baker (1996)
have argued that children do not need native language instruction to
acquire English. Porter (1990) argued that having been an immigrant
herself, she did not need native language instruction in order to
perform well in school.
On the contrary, she was immersed in the mainstream classroom and
struggled (p. 2) for two years to be able to perform as well as the
English speakers. Porter added that she felt very successful when she
realized that she could speak English and was able to communicate
with her peers. She also argues that bilingual education segregates

the students and does not let them develop English language
adequately to compete for professional jobs. Porter also stated that
children cannot make the magical transition from Spanish to English
because, when they learn in their native language, teachers are not
teaching the students English.
On the other hand, teachers have provided native language
instruction to students to avoid that very struggle and give the
students the opportunity to perform better in English (Ramirez, 1991).
Research shows that the time children spend in the first language is a
contribution to their ethnic pride and an investment in their eventual
success at school and as speakers of English (Crawford, 1995, Collier,
1995, Cummins, 1987, Krashen. 1997). There is no cognitive cost in
developing bilingualism; on the contrary, bilingualism very possibly
enhances childrens thinking skills (Crawford, 1995).
Furthermore, a child with a strong foundation in a native
language will perform better in English over the long term (Crawford,
1995). In bilingual programs the second language develops both
socially and academically. The social language develops as peer
interaction and academic language develops through participation in
academic activities and direct instruction (Crawford, 1995). Cummins

states that the child who has mastered the basic reading and thinking
skills in the first language will perform well on entering a second
language environment (Cummins, 1999). It is most effective to develop
academic work through students first language, while teaching the
second language during other periods of the school day through
meaningful academic content which builds on concepts learned in the
students first language (Collier, 1995).
School timing and context play an important role in students
language of instruction. In most schools students are moving away
from native instruction rapidly and are accountable for the state
standardized tests (Echavarria, Vogt & Short, 2000). Consequently,
many teachers who favor bilingualism have begun to look for
practices that not only help the students acquire their academic
English, but at the same time continue to develop their native
language (Peregoy & Boyle, 2001). Due to the ELL accountability to
the standardized tests, schools are taking a step forward to
restructure the literacy instruction. An example is one of the schools
mentioned by Miramontes, Nadeau & Commins (1997). The school
personnel met to better serve their student population and the
parents. They worked with the specific goal of utilizing their resources

to maximize instruction in order to develop English acquisition while
continuing to use the native instruction.
Teacher Expectations
Teacher expectations and culture are related phenomena that
influence the environment, instruction and outcomes in a bilingual
classroom (Nieto, 1996, p. 46). Nieto contends that when students do
not speak English it creates the impression those students are not
able to handle the curriculum expected by schools. In addition, the
perceived value of the students native language plays a significant
role in teacher expectations. Children from different backgrounds
have different programs in schools and are educated in many different
ways (Miramontes, et. al 1997). Therefore, it is important to recognize
that home background and language can no longer be accepted as the
sole or primary excuse for the school failure of large numbers of
students (Nieto, 1996). In the ideal world, and especially in the U.S,
schools will always promote equal access and equal education for all
students. The reality is that schools have different systems and

approaches that may or may not benefit the students with a different
background and a different language (Nieto, 1996).
The notion of the self-fulfilling prophecy (Merton, 1948;
Tauber, 1997), means that students perform in ways which match
teacher expectations and students become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Elementary students tend to live up to what their teachers expect of
them. The students performance is based on messages teachers send
consciously and unconsciously, messages that reflect their
expectations of students (Nieto, 1996). Teacher expectations for
student achievement have to be taken seriously.
Rosenthal and Jacob (1968) provided the first study focused on
teacher expectations. The study caused controversies but it provided
a starting point for focusing not only on a students family but also on
the teachers expectations. However, teacher expectations are not the
only factor for student achievement. Teachers behaviors and attitudes
are also important to consider in terms of student achievement (Nieto,
Teacher expectations may also be low because they consider the
children to have rough lives and they become the students caretakers
in what Dr. Rudy Chavez (lecture, University of Colorado at Boulder,

1996) calls the pobrecito syndrome."These teachers are also
dangerous and sometimes worse than the group of teachers who are
Insensitive or racist (Nieto, 1996). Nieto also points out that society,
school culture, and policy decisions have implications and contribute
to student achievement. The main reason for this is that poorly
performing students are facing a great amount of pressure from state
standards and what they need is greater attachment to the school and
motivation to want to learn. Pressure by itself in this situation
actually demotivates poorly performing students (Fullan, 1999).
Teachers need to have high expectations for children and
sometimes need to forget the students background and home
environments. Teachers can no longer blame student achievement on
social and language factors, instead they need to work from what
students bring to school and move always forward.
Finally, teacher expectations are strongly connected to teacher
interactions with students learning and instruction. One main
function is to create a classroom community in which the social and
academic interaction build on each other and the community becomes
the representation of positive teacher expectations (Perez & Torres-
Gusman, 2002).

Literacy Strategies
Teaching and learning literacy is no less than a social
phenomenon. The standards and behaviors associated with learning
how to read and write are negotiated through social interactions in
the classroom among adults and children, and among children and
their homes or other community members with whom they are
involved (Perez & Torres-Gusman, 2002).
When ELL students come to the classroom from diverse
backgrounds, teachers need to be aware of the new environment in
which children are participating, especially their participation in the
schools literacy activities. Children are, in essence, being socialized
into the literacy practices of a different culture, the culture of the
school (Au, 1993).
Creating a community of thinkers is the essence of a literacy
program (Perez & Torres-Gusman, 2002). Building genuine
relationships, establishing mutual trust, and creating high
functioning literacy environments develop a community where
teachers will see children spontaneously engaging in thoughtful
conversation about books and ideas, asking questions that matter to

them, exploring their solutions, and responding independently to a
variety of text (Miller, 2002).
In a learning community where students cultural identity is
especially influenced by the factors of ethnicity, class, and language,
the teachers' role is to act as cultural mediator by helping students to
feel comfortable with their own identities within the school context
(Au, 1993). Literacy is not just a matter of skill or cognitive strategies;
it is also a matter of will or feelings and emotions. For example
emotions are involved when children respond to literature, publish
their stories, or share what they learn from their books (Paris &
Winograd, 1988).
Furthermore, when ELL students perceive reading and writing
tasks and materials as reaffirming their cultural identity, they are
likely to become more deeply involved and to construct their own
personal meanings (Trueba, 1988). On the other hand, when students
feel that school literacy tasks and materials deny or devalue then-
cultural identity, they are likely to show indifference or resistance (Au,
The ideal literacy instruction for ELL students targets language
that provides opportunities to create new meanings, and promotes the

forging of understandings and interpersonal relationships through
talk (Peregoy & Boyle, 2001). The specific comprehension strategies
teachers should teach, and when they should teach them, must
depend on the need and interests of the students (Taberski, 2000 &
Calkins, 2001; Keene & Zimmermann, 1997). The idea is not to
impose strategies on students but to present them with various
alternatives and help them discover what works best for them (Au,
When students own goals are limited by their previous
experiences, part of the teacher's job is to introduce new literacy
experiences that lead students to move toward their goals and to
formulate new goals.
To promote literacy, teachers need to expand, not limit,
students roles. Literacy instruction in the classroom should reflect
the communicative functions of language and create the kinds of
social contexts and conditions in which literacy can and will flourish
(Perez & Torres-Gusman, 2002). Listening to and expanding on
students ideas can lead to productive new patterns of instruction. On
the other hand, organizing classroom literacy learning without input
from the students and without giving attention to students assessed

needs and strengths tends to perpetuate old less productive patterns
(Peregoy & Boyle, 2001).
One more aspect to be considered in literacy instruction is the
power of students writing to develop their literacy skills. Students
should be allowed to choose the topics they want to write about and
the forms or genres in which their ideas can most effectively be
presented (Au, 1993; Escamilla, 1993; Calkins, 1994). Writing allows
students to test out both their developing command of academic
English and, more importantly, their developing understanding of
their own identities and the world around them (Krashen, 2003).
Writing narratives and analyses that express their growing sense of
self, their identity, allows students to map out where they have come
from and where they are going (Cummins, 1999). In addition, looking
closely at students writing provides the teachers a window to see
their writing process, their development over time, their strengths,
and finally what they need in order to move forward (Nathenson-
Mejia, 1992).
At the same time ELL students need to learn about the
conventional forms and functions of English. In order to learn
academic English, students must be directed and instructed in these

new forms and functions. The new forms and functions may or may
not be a part of their repertoire due to their language discourse
(Kaplan, 1970). The differences of language discourse may interfere
with mainstream writing. Perhaps children are asked to write specific
English patterns that might not necessarily have the same pattern in
their native language. It is important to understand the differences as
well as to teach them (Perez & Torres-Gusman, 2002).
To summarize, the importance of providing ample opportunities and
encouragement for students to read and write voluminously cannot be overstated
(Cummins, 1999). Cummins suggests that academic language is found only in books.
The English that children need to perform according to the standards by which they
are being challenged is not found on the playground, on the street, or on the
television. If ELL students are not reading and writing a great deal, and doing so in a
variety of genres, they are not getting access to and practice with the language that
they need for success. Consequently, reading and academic writing create the path
through which students will find their personal and academic success.

Au, (1993) describes some characteristics of the classroom that
delivers instruction for English language learners and how that
classroom constructs the environment necessary for successful
instruction. The first characteristic is that the teacher needs to
emphasize the classroom culture and environment that is conducive
to teaching literacy strategies. The second is, to teach the students to
get in the habit of evaluating their own performance whenever they
finish working together. Under teachers' guidance, the students think
about how they might improve the way their group is working
together. Gradually, the teacher gives the students more and more
responsibility for monitoring their own work. The third is how
teachers emphasize cooperation. The students discuss specific
behaviors that promote respect and cooperation, such as listening to
one another and taking turns. Students are encouraged to help each
other. The fourth is that teachers need to praise positive behaviors,
orally and in writing, so that students are aware of what they are
doing well. Praise may serve different functions with different groups
of students such as to believe in themselves and feel proud. Last is
that the teachers make sure that students have a clear understanding

of the task. They need to give specific instructions and provide
repeated demonstrations of what students are supposed to do. They
need to monitor the understanding of each student.
Although, the above characteristics of the classroom seemed to
be important for students, schools districts are mandating the
methodology for the instruction and structure in the classroom.
Recent attempts to improve reading in schools have included having
schools implement the balanced literacy approach (Escamilla, 1999).
Escamilla states that the number of schools implementing this
particular approach is expanding rapidly. Furthermore, the balanced
literacy approach to literacy instruction has been of particular interest
for school leaders in economically disadvantaged areas. The interest
has been demonstrated by schools with high numbers of ELL
students because it combines in a thoughtful way synthetic, analytic,
and socio-psychological orientations to literacy instruction. Escamilla
adds that the number of schools implementing this approach to
literacy instruction varies according to the school district and that it
is growing rapidly, especially in the California Department of
Education, Dallas Department of School District, and the Denver
Public Schools. In the balanced literacy approach the teacher creates

a community learning environment in which the students are
participants in their own learning (Taberski, 2000; Calkins, 1994).
The components of the program are reading aloud, shared reading,
guided reading, independent reading, and writers workshop (Fountas
& Pinell, 1996).
The program is typically designed to cover all of the students
attitudes, understanding, and behaviors necessary to succeed in
literacy. When children are learning to read and write, they are active
agents, initiating and assuming responsibilities for their learning
(Taberski, 2000). The balanced approach involves childrens active
participation in the selection of books that reflect students interests,
experiences, and feelings. The students develop problem solving skills,
and are able to relate the text to themselves and their environment.
The elements of the balanced approach involve many of the
basic requirements for a well-implemented literacy program for ELL
students. Given that, it is important to ask: How does the teacher
implement the balanced literacy approach for students who are
transitioning into English? How does the teacher enrich English
language development? How does the teacher implement a program
for students who are literate in their first language and need to

maintain that status instead of falling behind (Ramirez, 1991)?
Current published research does not answer these questions about
transitioning students. Studies have focused on experimental
approaches by the researchers (Carlo, 2000; Ramirez, 1991;
Saunders, O'Brien, & Lennon, 1998) however, studies using the
balanced literacy approach with second language learners need to be
At first glance, the balanced literacy approach seems to have all
the characteristics necessary to provide ELL students with
remarkable instruction. However, the accommodations and
differentiations are being developed by individual teachers without
research based support for their success. Since the classroom context
in some cases is mandated by school districts it would be necessary to
find out how this context helps the ELL students develop and acquire
their second language.
Activating Prior Knowledge
Activating prior knowledge is a key component for students
learning. Studies refer to this topic in literacy as one of the most

important strategies for students to use in understanding what they
read and write (Escamilla, 1993; Echevarria, et al, 2000: Echevarria &
Graves, 2003, Keen & Zimmerman, 1994). However, only a few
documents discuss the differences in activating prior knowledge
between ELL students and native English speakers. English lessons
typically focus only on how to decode the text and spend little time
helping students learn how to comprehend the text (Escamilla, 1993).
ELL students are usually reading books that require understanding
the mainstream culture of the school and the community, and
consequently, they often find it difficult to understand the text due to
their different backgrounds. Fillmore states (1999) that readers must
apply their linguistic knowledge to the interpretation of the texts when
they read. So, too, they must make use of their knowledge of the
world and their prior experiences in reading. No text contains every
bit of information needed to understand it fully. Fillmore adds that
writers generally assume a level of prior language knowledge, and
cultural and real-world experience when they write. If they believe
that the intended readers are unlikely to be familiar with certain
words or concepts, they will define or discuss them. Otherwise, they
simply presuppose that the readers will be able to apply their

knowledge of language and of how it works to the reading and
interpretation of the real text, and that they will draw on their
knowledge of the world and on their experiences to fill in the gaps in
the text. The problem is that the prior experiences of ELL students
may or may not allow for understanding the text.
Activating prior knowledge and building new background
knowledge for ELL students is a crucial component in literacy. In
order for students to make significant progress in learning the new
world and comprehending the text, teachers need to (a) stimulate
students to use the target language, (b) promote students talk, and (c)
be aware of students prior knowledge and understanding of the
language (Cummins, 1999). Teachers need to build the new concept
or build the schema since it is a significant aspect of literacy in any
language (Escamilla, 1993).
As a final note it is evident that the specificities for activating
prior knowledge in Spanish literacy to teach English literacy are
hardly ever found in the professional literature. The steps and the
prior knowledge required in LI to move into L2 need to be

Transferability from LI to L2
In view of the fact that second language develops on a good
foundation of the first language and the students transfer what they
learn in the first language (Carlo, 2000), it is important to touch on
the basic theories about transferability. Research has shown that
students transfer knowledge if teachers instruct in a way that
facilitates children transferring their knowledge as well as applying
and demonstrating it. Adequate time to acquire knowledge is vital
during instruction. If students have the opportunity to explore,
analyze, and draw conclusions from the learning experience, they will
be able to apply the concepts in similar experiences (National
Research Council, 2001).
The National Research Council (2001) also states that children
have different learning capacities that teachers need to accommodate
in order to help students demonstrate and transfer their knowledge,
not only in a short, but over a long period of time. Since children learn
and experience in many different ways, the context (classroom
environment, teacher and childrens interactions) is a vital element.
The context is needed to give the students the representation of their
culture and motivation to learn. Also, transfer will occur more

effectively if students have the opportunity to become more aware of
themselves within the learning process. Developing context can
contribute to this awareness.
Last, but not least, Dewey (1939) stated that humans learn and
their brains develop according to experiences in which they are
exposed. The brain develops according to the primary language of the
individual. Classroom experiences need to build on primary language
knowledge and scaffold transfer of this knowledge to the students
second language.
The Role of the Paraeducator in the ELL Classroom
Little research has been done about the paraeducators role in
the ELL classrooms. Yet, paraeducators are school employees who
typically work under the supervision of a teacher or other professional
personnel (Genzuk & Baca, 1998). They have instructional
responsibilities or provide another type of direct service to students
and become the major component of a classroom with ELL students.
(Miramontes, 1990).

Miramontes points out three major areas in which
paraeducators play a role in the ELL classroom: the instructional, the
ethnic and the linguistic, and the school community liaison.
Paraeducators play an instructional role when they become the
ideal help for the teacher because they tend to be familiar with the
children's cultural experiences and help students to understand new
concepts. Rueda & DeNeve (1999) contribute to the literature by
stating that the paraeducators knowledge of the local community
might be used to enhance classroom activities through developing
work, placement, understanding and incorporating community
traditions into school activities, networking with parents, and
facilitating access to community activities and events.
The second area that Miramontes describes is when
paraeducators contribute in the ELL classroom by having the same
ethnic and linguistic background as the students because they
provide a positive role model. At the same time, knowing the students
native language enhances the paraeducators contribution to
students learning. Paraeducators are usually native speakers of
languages other than English, they have personal insights into the

experience of learning English as a second language (Genzuk,
Lavandenz & Krashen, 1994).
Rueda & DeNeve (1999) state that sometimes the paraeducators
use subtle strategies such as physical proximity to students or a hand
on the shoulder at a strategic moment. Other times they are less
subtle, such as the use of locally meaningful terms or ideas that
generate engagement and positive response for students.
The third area that Miramontes mentioned is the school
community liaison, because paraeducators serve as an important
connection with parents and teachers. The role of the native language
is very important to the connection between the school and the
parents (Genzuk & Baca, 1998).
Rueda & DeNeve (1999) add that paraeducators who come from
the same communities as their students or share similar cultural
backgrounds and experiences will have unique ways of supporting
their students learning processes. The practices they use often seem
to provide comfort zones for the students who are learning and being
motivated in the classroom.
Paraeducators are able to create strong connections with
parents who believe that they provide hands-on assistance in the

new concepts in a comprehensible manner will facilitate the transition
to the second language (Krashen, 1999). However, the literature does
not address the specifics of the literacy instruction in Spanish that
make a good foundation for English acquisition, nor the literacy
strategies and developmental stages which will facilitate the
transition. This investigation attempted to establish those specific
instructional practices that contribute to previous research about
students who transition from Spanish into English.

This chapter covers the overview and rationale of the study, the
school site and the population, the researchers role, and the methods
of data collection.
Rationale of the Case Study Methods
Case studies are vivid, illuminating and concrete, especially if
they are unique (Huberman & Miles, 1994). Their capacity for
generating images is particularly strong (Eisner, 1991). The fact that
in a single case study the researcher uses multiple sources of
information in data collection provides the detailed in-depth picture of
the study (Creswell, 1998; Eisner, 1991; Yin, 2003). Yin states that a
unique circumstance may offer a strong reason for the researcher to
consider investigating a single case study. In addition Yin considers it
necessary to have five types of information: documentation, archival
records, interviews, direct observation, and physical artifact.
Therefore, this research used the five types of data collection that Yin

suggested. The study presents a unique case in which the school and
grouping of the students are different from the elementaiy schools
within the district. In addition, the classroom teacher was chosen
because of her unique and excellent instruction, recognized by the
principal, staff members of the school and outside visitors, but, most
importantly because of the high levels of achievement of the students
in reading and writing in English. Furthermore, the progress the
students made was more accelerated than even the average English
language learner in the district. The researchers interest was to
discover the particular elements of the literacy environment of this
classroom which created a safe, exceptional and successful place for
students to develop and acquire English.
Why a Unique Case
The investigation was unique in four main areas: (1) The school
context, (2) the language acquisition programs, (3) the grouping of
students, and last and the most important, the classroom teacher.

School Context
The study took place at Huston Elementaiy School1. The school
was located in an inner city area. It drew students from middle to
lower income homes, including housing projects, and a few high-rise
apartments, along with other smaller apartment buildings. Huston
Elementary School was immediately surrounded by houses, but it was
close to a park, and not far from shopping areas, and many small
Asian and Hispanic run stores and restaurants.
Each of the members of the school played a role in the
childrens education. The school staff was involved continuously in
staff development for literacy and mathematics. Those subjects always
addressed the accommodations for the ELL students.
School Resources
The school personnel at Huston Elementary included bilingual
Spanish-speaking staff as well as English-speaking staff. The staff
members were native Spanish-speaking bilingual, native English-
speaking bilingual, and native English Speaking monolingual (Table
3.1 and Table 3.2)).
1 To maintain confidentiality, pseudonyms were used for all participants and places
in the study.

Table 3.1
Language Proficiency of Classroom Teachers
ECE K 1 2 3 4 5
Native Spanish- Speaker-Bilingual 1 1 1 2 0 0 0
Native English-Speaker- Bilingual 1 1 2 2 1
Native English-Speaker Non-bilingual 1 2 1 2 2 3

Table 3.2
Language Proficiency of Staff other than Classroom Teachers
Native Spanish Speaker 1 Site Coordinator/ Literacy Coach
Bilingual 10 Paraprofessionals
Native English Speaker .25 Challenge
Bilingual 2 Reading Recovery 1 Computer 2 Paraprofessionals
Native English Speaker 1 Music
Non-bilingual 2 Physical Education 1 Library Media Center 2 Literacy Coaches 2.5 Special education teachers 2 Paraprofessionals 1 Principal 1 Assistant Principal

School Population
The population of the school at the time the study took place
was approximately 620 students. Approximately 84% of the students
received free or reduced lunch. The attendance and stability rates
were: 93.5% attendance, 2.2% suspensions, and 56.7% stability.
Approximately 47.9% were Spanish-speaking students and 55% were
English language learners. Six languages other than English were
spoken by students: Spanish, Vietnamese, Khmer, Cambodian,
Arabic, and Chinese. The school offered Early Childhood Education
(ECE), and kindergarten through fifth grade.
English language learners were classified according to a Home
Language Questionnaire form, and a Parent Permission Form. Using
both forms the students were classified as English Language Learners
and assessed with the LAS2 (oral language proficiency test which
evaluates the students proficiency in English). The school had
approximately 330 students classified as English Language Learners
(ELL) (Table 3.3).
2 LAS: Language Acquisition Scale test, see chapter 1: Operational Definitions p. 11

Table 3.3
Number of ELL Students According to the LAS Test
LAS Categories Number of Students
LAS 1 (Test score between 0% to 54%) 160
LAS 2 (Test score between 55% to 64%) 61
LAS 3 (Test score between 65% to 74%) 89
LAS 4 (Test score between 75% to 84%) 7
LAS 5 (Test score between 85% to 5
Students academic achievement was measured by a variety of
instruments. Some of the assessments at school were determined by
the school district. Students were required to take the Iowa Test of
Basic Skills, Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA), in Spanish
the Evaluacion del Desarrollo de la Lectura (EDL), and the state test
of students achievement (CSAP). In addition the school used portfolios
to monitor the students progress. Even though the district required
all the schools to report to parents their childs progress in English

every nine weeks, Huston Elementary was one of the few elementaiy
schools that actually reported the students progress in English in
their report card.
Instructional Student Advisory (ISA) Committee
The ISA team assessed, placed, and made sure that every
second language learner at Huston Elementary had the opportunity to
receive the language of instruction chosen by the parents. This team
also communicated the requirements and information from the
district to the teachers, parents and students. The team was
composed of two teachers and the principal.
English Language Acquisition Program
There were two kinds of programs for students who were
learning English as a second language. The first one was the English
Language Development Program (ELD) pull out program. The second
program provided native language instruction to Spanish-speaking
children. Parents had three options to choose from: Option 1 was
Spanish and English instruction, option 2 was the ELD pull out,

option 3 was the mainstream classroom (Appendix A). The parents of
the students whose language was other than English or Spanish
could choose between EDL pull out and the mainstream classroom.
The Spanish-speaking parents could choose native language
instruction with English Language Development, the EDL pull out
program or the mainstream classroom. The ISA team placed the
students in the classroom according to parents choice.
English Language Development Pull Out Program
This program served approximately 60 students from
kindergarten through 5th grade. The ELD teacher provided one to two
hours of services per day depending on need, in small group settings,
out of the classroom. The languages of the students in the program
included Vietnamese, Khmer, Spanish, and Chinese. The classes
incorporated the components of balanced literacy and followed the
district requirements. The focus was on reading, writing, listening and
speaking. The activities included the use of higher order questioning
techniques to help develop thinking skills, vocabulary, and oral
language development.

With a child centered philosophy advocated, the ELD teacher
promoted a sense of self with the students. This began with the child's
culture and built on the child's experiences. The teacher helped to
make school a non-threatening environment for the students and
their parents by building a bridge and maintaining positive relations
between the parents and the school.
The ELD teacher was also responsible for record keeping at the
school. She collected the Home Language Questionnaires (HLQ) in
which parents filled out the language proficiency in English of both
the child and the parent. The ELD teacher also administered the
Language Assessment Scale (LAS) which was the test with a scale
from 1 to 5 used to indicate range of English proficiency to students.
The teacher also served as a resource to other teachers, providing
information and insight regarding ELD techniques.
The ELD program had a Vietnamese tutor. The tutor was a
resource to teachers and parents and provided academic tutoring to
the Vietnamese students in their native language due to the number
of Vietnamese children.

Native Language Instruction Program
The Native Language Instruction program consisted of three
components: Spanish literacy instruction, English Language
Development (ELD), and Supported English Content Instruction
The Spanish literacy was for students who had been in the
Unites States less than three years due to the state and district
requirements to transition students into English after the third year of
residency. Within the native language instruction program, the ELD
was done during the literacy block for 45 minutes. The Supported
English Content Instruction (SECI) was done in Mathematics, Science
and Social Studies.
Supported English Content Instruction (SECI) was an important
component of the program. The instruction was an extension of what
was taught during both the ELD time and the literacy instruction in
the students native language. In order to provide the content areas
(Mathematics, Science and Social Studies) in English, teachers
planned and instructed the curriculum at the same time of the year.
As a result, the integration of literacy with content was essential to be
able to provide Spanish-speaking children background knowledge and

vocabulary necessaiy to understand the content in their second
Both programs goal was to provide English Language
Development (EDL) with support either in Spanish or in English
(Table 3.4).
See page 15 for the specific plan for language usage and curriculum.

Table 3.4
English Language Acquisition Program
English Language Development Native Language Instruction:
Pull Out: For Students with For Students with Option 1
Option 2
A teacher pulled out the The students received English
children to receive English language development within
language development the classroom instruction
Student did not receive literacy Students received literacy in
instruction in their native their native language (Spanish)
language with parent request
Teacher did not speak the The teacher spoke Spanish to
childs language provide and support instruction
Vietnamese students received Students received support from
support from a tutor the teacher or paraeducator

Grouping of Students
In light of monolingual Spanish-speaking students English
language acquisition, the teachers were assigned to instruct literacy
according to students native language. The students at Huston
Elementary were grouped after a thoughtful process involving the
students current teachers as well as their previous ones. The
grouping was determined by the LAS test. Also it was determined by
the reading scores (CSAP and/or on DRA, QRI and EDL), and writing
scores on CSAP and districts rubric. The reading and writing
assessments were done in both languages (Spanish and English).
The language of instruction was determined by reading, writing
and oral evaluations in Spanish and English, and the time in the
Unites States. These evaluations determined the placement for
students literacy instruction. Students rotated groups as necessary.
Continuous evaluations of student progress determined the rotation
to a different literacy group.
In First grade children were divided into four groups for the
literacy block. Two Spanish-speaking teachers instructed literacy to
Spanish speaking students. The other two teachers instructed English
speaking children and the students who spoke another language. The

students regrouped for content areas. This content instruction was
provided through a sheltered instruction model (Short, et al. 2000).
From second to fifth grade, teachers grouped children according
to language proficiency as well. In order to properly meet the language
needs, the teachers collected information about the children's
proficiency in English and Spanish. This data was collected through
several benchmarks, including running records of reading in both
languages, teacher observations of students interests and abilities in
English, portfolios of student work, The Qualitative Reading Inventory
(QRI), and CSAP, DRA, and ELD scores. The students were placed
according to language proficiency and academic ability for the literacy
The literacy block for second through fifth graders who had
been in the Unites States for less than one year was in Spanish. The
students who had been in the United States for two or three years
received literacy in both languages (English and Spanish). The
students who had been in the United States for more than three years
received literacy in English with the focus of developing the English
language throughout the balanced literacy components.

The goal was for the students to show a high level of oral
English proficiency in both academic and social areas and strong
literacy in the primary language. Primary and intermediate teachers
worked together to meet the district guidelines in order to create a
process for transitioning students effectively into English.
Even though the school staff was fully participating in the
students second language acquisition, the case study investigated
Mrs. Godinezs second grade classroom since she was the first teacher
who made the first transition for students. Her students received
informal English literacy instruction in first grade and started to
receive formal English literacy in second grade (Miramontes, et al,
The Classroom Teacher
The teacher chosen as the focus of this study works at Huston
Elementary and represents a unique case in the school. Mrs. Godinez
was chosen for the study due to her excellent skills as a teacher in
just three years of experience. The recognition from the principal, the
teachers in the school, and the successes of her students as readers

and writers in English for the first time initiated the investigation to
seek out the answers for the study: What specific literacy instruction
supports and provides successful transfer of native language skills to
a second language instructional environment?
At the time of the study Mrs. Godinez had been working in the
school for three years: even though her teacher experience was short
her successes had been tremendous. People from all over the school
district as well as the members from the Public Education Business
Coalition ( a professional development agency) visited her classroom
to videotape the instruction of English language development.
A review of the assessments conducted with students in Mrs.
Godinezs classroom from two previous academic years (2000-2001
and 2001-2002) demonstrated successful improvement in their
reading skills. Her students reading scores for the last two years prior
to the study escalated from a level 4 or 6, which corresponded to the
beginning of first grade on the Developmental Reading Assessment
(DRA), to levels 20 to 28 at the end of the school year which is the
level in which the average English speaking child finishes second
grade (Tables 3.5a & 3.5b). The typical scores in the school in second
grade went from level 16-18 to 26-28.

Table 3.5a
Mrs. Godinez Students Reading Scores 2000 2001 Second Grade
Beginning Second Third Fourth
fQuarter Quarter Quarter
DRA Scores With n % n % n % n %
Grade equivalence
A 4 (k) 5 25% 0 0% 0 0% 0 0%
6-18 (1) 15 75% 16 80% 9 45% 4 20%
20 28 (2) 0 0% 4 20% 11 55% 11 55%
30 34 (3) 0 0% 0 0% 0.. . 0% 5 25%

Table 3.5b
Mrs. Godinez Students Reading Scores 2001 -2002 Second Grade
Beginning Second Third Fourth
of the year Quarter Quarter Quarter
DRA Scores With n % n % n % n %
Grade equivalence
A 4 (k) 9 36% 0 0% 0 0% 0 0%
6-18 (1) 16 64% 20 80% 7 28% 7 28%
20 28 (2) 0 0% 5 20% 18 78% 14 56%
30 34 (3) 0 0% 0 0% 0 0% 4 16%
In addition the researcher had the opportunity to see the state
test (CSAP) results from 2002- 2003 third and fourth grade students
that Mrs. Godinez had in her second grade classroom in 2000-2001
and 2001 2002. Their CSAP scores were at the proficient level which
is above the average second language learner in the school and in the

Target Student Population 2001 -2002 The students who were
placed in Mrs. Godinezs classroom for the second grade in 2002 -
2003 received formal literacy instruction in Spanish and informal
literacy instruction in English during their first grade year. The
instruction in English involved activities such as singing simple
songs, oral language development of academic vocabulary during
science, social studies, and mathematics. The children were exposed
to English print, but there was no requirement for these children to
read or write in English (Uribe, pilot study 2002).
Target Student Population 2002 2003. This particular literacy
group, when in Mrs. Godinezs class was able to read and write in
Spanish at or above grade level according to the district tests. The
students achieved a level of oral language proficiency and vocabulary
development in English adequate to begin formal reading and writing.
Usually these students have scored 2 or 3 on the Language
Acquisition Scale (LAS) test. The high motivation for the students
towards English was demonstrated during the content areas. The
children took risks to write and to read in English. Some of their
siblings had been in Mrs. Godinezs classroom and the parents
requested for them to be placed in the same classroom as their

siblings. At the end of first grade, children could hold a conversation
in English about an academic concept and also they were able explain
concepts in mathematics. Due to these factors most of the students
met the requirements to transition from Spanish to English.
Researchers Role
The researcher was one of the Literacy Coaches at Huston
Elementary. She was responsible for staff development, coaching,
modeling lessons, and helping the teachers in the classrooms where
Spanish was taught. Consequently, the researcher was a participant
during the study due to the work responsibilities. Even though the
researcher was aware that being a literacy coach may have influenced
the results, the participant observation perspective offered
opportunities for the researcher to have a complete documentation of
the case (Creswell, 1998). During the study the researcher provided
suggestions to Mrs. Godinez as appropriate and necessary following
her lead. As an added dimension, an outside interviewer met with
Mrs. Godinez to determine her perception of the role of the researcher
during the study. The interview questions focused on the nature and
influence of the researcher on Mrs. Godinezs instruction (Appendix

B). The interview questioned Mrs. Godinez about the researchers
intervention and her influence on her instruction.
Mrs. Godinez signed a Committee for the Protection of Human
Subjects consent form (Appendix C) which confirmed that she was
aware of the researchers role and that she voluntarily agreed to
participate in the study. It also affirmed her understanding that at
any moment she wanted to discontinue the investigation she had the
right to do so without any consequence.
Due to the importance in a single case study of describing all
the participants, the children in Mrs. Godinezs literacy class, their
parents and the paraeducators also signed a consent forms (D, E, F).
All of them were informed of their right to discontinue their
participation in the study at any time.
Data Collection
Even though the language acquisition model was of vital
importance to the success of the teacher, the focus of data collection

efforts was on an individual teacher. This teacher showed much
higher student achievement than other teachers in the same context.
Thus prompting the research question: What specific literacy
instruction supports and provides successful transfer of native
language skills to a second language instructional environment?
The data were collected using (a) videotapes, (b) observations
documented with field notes, (c) interviews of the students, the
paraeducator, and the teacher; (d) scores from students in reading
and writing. In addition to the above data, the researcher collected
writing samples, the teachers lesson plans, the comments from the
visitors to Mrs. Godinezs classroom, the paraeducators journal, and
the teacher candidate observations. The additional data helped the
researcher describe with detail the single case study.
Each of the data methods collected information to capture data
on the initial language development, second language acquisition, the
transfer of language skills, the use of literacy strategies, the role of the
paraeducator, and the activation of the students prior knowledge
(Table 3.6)

Table 3.6
Data Collection Methods
Methods Areas Videotapes Interviews Classroom Observations Documentation
. Prior Knowledge X X X
. Transferability X X X
. Second Language X X X X
. Literacy Strategies X X X X
. Language X X X X
. Role of the X X X

The purpose of documenting the above elements in the study
was to provide an answer to the research question: What specific
literacy instruction supports and provides successful transfer of
native language skills to a second language instructional
The researcher video taped the literacy block throughout the
school year. The videotapes were done at random times.
Approximately ten hours of literacy instruction was videotaped.
Videotapes were used in order to capture the classroom environment,
but more importantly to capture one of the most important
components of teaching ELL students, which is the non-verbal
gestures teacher and students use to develop and acquire language
(Cummins, 1999).
The videotapes were analyzed by coding the different
components found for literacy, teacher expectation, activation of prior
knowledge, and language development. The videotapes were
transcribed by the researcher. After the transcription, the videotapes
were coded to categorize the information. The codes focused on the

components of the conceptual framework: school context, language
acquisition, timing and classroom context, and students outcomes.
Once the information was coded by hand, it was placed in the
qualitative software NVIVO. The software gave the opportunity to code
other categories of information that the researcher encountered in
addition to the ones the researcher anticipated (Appendix G).
The videotapes were alternated with observations. The
observations took place any time the researcher could stop by the
classroom. Due to the rich information provided by the videotapes,
the field notes observations provided supplemental perspective to the
investigation. A journal was kept to record what the children and the
paraeducator did. The notes were categorized by the three conceptual
factors seen as critical to student performance: literacy, teacher
expectations, and activating prior knowledge.

The researcher interviewed Mrs. Godinez4, the paraeducators,
and the children. Each of the interviews were interpreted and
analyzed. The interviews were tape-recorded for analysis. Interviews
were coded according to teacher expectations, literacy strategies, and
activation of prior knowledge. They were also coded by hand and later
on with the NVIVO software.
In addition, because of the close relationship between Mrs.
Godinez and the researcher an external person interviewed Mrs.
Godinez to investigate the researchers role in the study which will be
documented in chapter five.
All the interviews were done at the end of the school year. The
interviews focused on questions about the strategies, expectations
and context of the classroom observed and videotaped throughout the
school year. The rationale behind this procedure was to expand and
include additional information so as to triangulate the data collected
and obtain a stronger case.
4 Appendix R has the entire interview

, Students Assessment Scores
Student assessment scores in reading were recorded from the
beginning of the year to the end. The assessment was administered
every quarter of the school year. Progress the students made
throughout the year was examined. Students writing was evaluated
by a rubric created by the teacher with the students (see Appendix H).
The additional documentation-writing samples, lesson plans, visitors
comments, the paraeducators journal, and the intern observations-
helped to answer the question: What specific literacy instruction
supports and provides successful transfer of native language skills to
a second language instructional environment?
There were three main limitations of the study. The first one
was that the researcher could not videotape and collect data from the
beginning of the year due to the timing of human subjects approval.
Therefore the dynamics that occurred at the beginning of the year in
Mrs. Godinezs classroom were gleaned from the interviews with Mrs.
Godinez, the children, and also from the interaction of the researcher

as a literacy coach. The second limitation was the researchers role as
a literacy coach and the possible influence on the teachers
instruction. The third limitation involved the possibility of generalizing
the data. This limitation is a coherent part of a single case study, in
which, by definition the circumstances are not applicable (Yin, 2003).
The investigation used a variety of methods to help the
researcher describe in detail the results of the single case study. The
videotapes, observations, interviews of the students, the
paraeducator, and the teacher, the students' reading and writing
scores, the writing samples, the teachers lesson plans, the comments
from the visitors to Mrs. Godinezs classroom, the paraeducators
journal, and the intern observations, gave the researcher the
possibility to analyze and draw conclusions that could help teachers
with the same context and population to implement the strategies
used by Mrs. Godinez in her classroom.
All these methods gave a description of the transitional
classroom and the reasons that made this classroom a model for

teachers who are in charge of transitioning children from Spanish into
English. The data covered literacy strategies, teacher expectations,
and activating prior knowledge which provides the reader detailed
descriptions that would answer the question: what specific literacy
instruction supports and provides successful transfer of native
language skills to a second language instructional environment?

Introduction to the Case
This chapter presents the results of the investigation in a
narrative manner due to the fact that it is a single case study. The
results give the specifics of the context and the timing and the literacy
instruction utilized in the classroom that was transitioning the
students from Spanish into English. The chapter begins with a brief
description of the data collection utilized in the investigation.
Following the data collection methods the researcher describes the
school, and the classroom setting, the people involved in the
investigation: The classroom teacher, the paraeducator, the literacy
coach, and the students. Next there is a description of the literacy
instruction used by the classroom teacher along with the balanced
literacy components, the schedule, the language development, the
transferability from Spanish into English, and the indicators of the
students transition. This chapter ends with a summary of the results