Language Acquisition Theories

Topics: Linguistics, Meaning of life, Language acquisition Pages: 7 (1201 words) Published: October 6, 2014


Language Acquisition Theories
Grand Canyon University
ESL-533N
February 22, 2014

Language Acquisition Theories
The article “Bridging two worlds: Reading comprehension, figurative language instruction, and the English-language learner” (Palmer, et al) tells the story about Alejandro Alvarez, and ELL student who lived in the United States during his early childhood years, returned to his home country of El Salvador and soon after, his family decided to relocate to Florida. Alejandro had a difficult time in school due to his English proficiency level, the main academic difficulties identified by the article were the fact that Alejandro was unable to understand figurative language when used by his teacher and peers, and when he encountered it during reading assignments.

Alejandro’s reading teacher collected data from observations and formal assessments in order to determine if figurative language was affecting his progress in school and discovered that her suspicions were correct. The teacher initiated an intervention in which she explicitly taught Alejandro about figurative language. The explicit teaching strategies implemented included the teacher modeling the thinking process in order to interpret the figurative language being used, providing many opportunities for him to practice, asking questions so that he could learn what type of questions he should ask himself, and then gradually releasing him to do this more independently.

According to the article, the teacher implemented a three-step problem solving process provided by the book Reading by Doing: An Introduction to Effective Reading (Simmons & Palmer, 1994). The steps were: 1. Find the figurative language, 2. Try its literal meaning, 3. Find its intended meaning. A fourth step was added in order to increase understanding since Alejandro was an ELL student – find the significance of the expression related to Alejandro’s life. Another important part to this intervention was to allow Alejandro to draw illustrations about the literal meaning of the word, the intended meaning and the life application. These visual representations allowed him to increase his comprehension. Once Alejandro started to understand some of the phrases used on a daily basis, he grew more interested in learning about them and took it upon himself to have a notebook in which he recorded the phrases he heard and attempted to figure out their meanings; along with this notebook, Alejandro also started to write about the difficulties he faced when expressing himself in English, and talking to his reading teacher about them, which allowed him to feel more comfortable around his reading teacher. The article provides an overview of some strategies to be used for figurative language instruction they include: explicit instruction, connections to the real world, dialogue in context, modeling and independent practice, visualization, and use of the native language. Each of these strategies is summarized below. Explicit Instruction

Explicit instruction is the direct teaching of what figurative language is, what it looks like, and what it means. Many ELL students are not aware that figurative language exists; therefore, when they come across it they simply ignore it and continue their reading. The following three step process is recommended by Simmons and Palmer (1994) as a way to find meaning for figurative language: 1. Identify the figurative language in written text, 2. Determine if literal meaning in the text makes sense, 3. Find the intended meaning of the figurative language expression. (p. 377). This is done in practice by breaking down the information into more understandable steps and allowing students to understand each piece of the puzzle in order to comprehend the entire model. Connections to the Real World

This was the fourth step added to Alejandro’s teaching for figurative language. Students are more likely to remember something to which they have a...

References: Palmer, B. C., Shackelford, V. S., Miller, S. C., & Leclere, J. T. (2006). Bridging two worlds: Reading comprehension, figurative language instruction, and the English-language learner. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50(4), 258-267.
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