Volume VII - 2002-03

Adapting ESL to Foreign Language Instruction
     by Diane Lapp, Julie Jacobson, James Flood and Douglas Fisher

               Diane Lapp, Professor of Reading and Language in the Department of Teacher Education at San Diego State University, has taught in elementary and middle schools. She has coauthored and edited many articles, columns, texts, handbooks and children 's materials on reading and language arts issues. These include the following two which were co-developed with James Flood : Teaching Reading to Every Child a reading methods textbook in its fourth edition; and The Handbook of Research in Teaching the English Language Arts, second edition soon to be released. Dr. Lapp is the coeditor of California 's major literacy journal, The California Reader .

          Julie Jacobson is a second language teacher in the San Diego Unified School District and an adjunct professor at San Diego State University.

          James Flood who is a Professor of Reading and Language Development at San Diego State University has taught in preschool, elementary and secondary schools and has been a language arts supervisor and vice principal. He has also been a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Lisbon in Portugal and the President of the National Reading Conference. Dr. Flood is a coeditor of The California Reader and a member of the board of directors of the International Reading Association.

          Douglas Fisher, Ph. D. is an Associate Professor in the College of Education, Department of Teacher Education at San Diego State University where he teaches classes in English language development and literacy. His background includes adolescent literacy and instructional strategies for diverse student needs.

EDITOR 'S NOTE : This article presents an overview of research and methodology in ESL for the benefit of teachers in foreign languages. I believe that it will also be helpful to all language teachers—including English as a native language—who would like to compare their teaching techniques with those of others in the field. If we can consider all language teaching as sharing many common goals and techniques, I believe that we will be able to learn from and identify with each other. Such is a positive affirmation this Journal is glad to honor. (See Biographical sketches at the end of this article. )

     During a recent visit to an elementary school, we overheard a conversation between two teachers. As they walked down the
hall, one of them commented that she could not say anything meaningful to people she met during her vacation to Paris despite her three years of high school French. The other teacher responded, with a bit of a laugh, that her four years of Spanish left her feeling the same way —she could “understand first graders, but not much more complicated vocabulary than that. ”These teachers noted that they regretted not being fluent speakers of the language they had studied. According to Branaman, Rhodes, and Rennie (1998), well-articulated K-12 foreign language programs, aimed at producing students who have high levels of proficiency are fairly uncommon. Conversely, however, English language learners in our schools are doing quite well as they attempt to be masters of two languages.

     This discrepancy led us to think about the differences in research and practice between English as a second language and foreign language instruction. We were intrigued at the idea of reviewing the more effective techniques of teaching English as a second language and then imagining how this knowledge might be applied to teaching a foreign language to speakers of English. The remainder of this article focuses on using the knowledge-base in ESL to design foreign language instruction for students at all grade levels. While foreign language instruction traditionally begins in the middle or high school grades, some children are fortunate enough to begin studying a second language during their elementary school years. The strategies we are suggesting are ones we have used with children throughout the grades.

Reviewing ESL Techniques

     According to studies involving English language learners, activities that incorporate and integrate listening, reading, writing and speaking contribute to the acquisition and development of a second language. This occurs more effectively when the sound system and the vocabulary of the target language are explicitly related to the background knowledge of the learner.

      Many researchers have found that reading involves the comprehension of written language that is presented in meaningful contexts (McGowan, 1987; Smallwood, 1991). Jacobson (1999)believes that familiar contexts such as literature, rhymes or poems can be used as a source to enhance literacy development in second/foreign language classrooms. More specifically, we believe that students become proficient in learning a second language when their instruction is well grounded in principles such as the following:

Language develops over time through many and varied interactions (Flood & Lapp, 1998; Jacobson, 1999; Lapp, Fisher & Flood, 1999).
Reading is a language-based process. Proficient readers read quickly and automatically (VanDuzer, 1999).
Rapid word recognition enables skillful readers to concentrate on whole phrases and sentences (Adams, 1990)
Fluent reading is a process of comprehending through letter and word recognition, and of maintaining a flow that allows the reader to make connections and develop inferences about the messages (Yucesan, Durgunoglu, & Oney, 1999).
Competent readers use background knowledge and context to understand the concepts conveyed in printed information.

Familiarity With Text

      Christen and Murphy (1991)contend that for learning to occur, new information must be integrated with what the learner already knows. Genesee (2000)confirms the importance of prior knowledge as a means of supporting new learning. environments. Instruction that involves repitition of an activity while it is being learned is strongly supported by research. We believe that these findings further support the use of child-ren 's literature in learning a second language since children 's literature is a positive and familiar context through which reading, writing, listening and speaking skills of a second language can be developed (Small-wood, 1992). The examples we provide in this paper illustrate how familiar children 's literature, including poems, and rhymes as well as narratives, can be used with beginning and intermediate grade students in a classroom where English speakers are learning Spanish as a second language. We have selected Spanish as our target language because Spanish is the most commonly studied second language in the United States, followed by French (Rhodes &Branaman, 1999). The strategies suggested in this paper focus on familiar texts and illustrate explicit direct instruction that has been designed to promote comprehensible input and scaffolding while facilitating students' independent use of the second language. More specifically, the four areas we address promote analytical and critical thinking skills as students construct their new language. These four areas include 1)developing an oral language base for reading and focusing on the connection between speech and print, 2)constructing conversations, 3)expanding vocabulary, and 4)comprehending written text.

     Through oral language experiences, students first categorize words by sound distinctions and then by semantic distinctions. Experimenting with poetry enables students to explore linguistic and conceptual aspects of written text without concentrating on the mechanics of language (Gasparro, 1994). Dramatization of poetry offers students an opportunity to focus on the verbal aspects of language such as intonation, rhythm, stress, and idiomatic expressions, while interpreting a theme. Various forms of exposure support one 's development of a language.

Read Alouds: Stories

     Everyday in classrooms throughout the United States adults can be found reading a book to an individual or a group of students (Trelease 1995). This is often referred to "Read Aloud" or "Read Along". During an interactive read aloud, teachers can encourage students to converse in a variety of ways about the text: “Since all text is language, all texts have numerous possibilities for highlighting different aspects of language ” (Powell &Hornsby, 1998, p. 84). A Read Aloud of a familiar text that is read in the second language provides students with an opportunity to transfer what they already know about literacy in their first language to literacy in their second language (Lapp &Flood, 1994). The familiar format makes students comfortable enough to extend and develop the language and concepts as they listen to stories about interesting characters who they have met before. It also involves them in stimulating events with outcomes they can predict.

      Heath (1982, 1983)suggested that interactive read alouds of familiar text provide students the format to gain meaning while engaging in conversations about the text. Read alouds of predictable texts allow students to quickly join in on the reading because of their familiarity with a language phrase or concept. Natural language flow enables students to predict what the author is saying as well as the tone that is being used (Rhodes, 1981). The sound features of the second language can be learned as students listen to and read along with the teacher. Familiar texts that are presented as a read aloud in a second language can also be used to support the development of early reading as teachers introduce relationships between sounds, letters and spelling patterns appearing in the story. Attending to rhymes also provides students with opportunities to isolate, hear, produce, practice, and predict specific sounds.

     Instruction can begin with a discussion of students ' familiarity with rhymes in their own language, such as pan/fan, and sun/run. The teacher then provides examples of rhyming words in the target language, such as mar (ocean)and par (pair)or oyó (heard, third person singular)and vio (saw, third person singular). Students can contribute to the development of a word wall by identifying rhyming words from a list or by scanning a text and categorizing words by similar sounds. The sample word wall in Table 1 is derived from the classic tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears .

Rimes shared by words in the Spanish language from Ricitos De Oro y Los Tres Osos (Goldilocks and the Three Bears)

TABLE 1: Sample Word Wall


de (from)
grande (large)
hambre (hunger)
caliente (hot)
bosque (forest)

la (the)
casa (house)
puerto (door)
sopa (soup)
toda (all)
cama (bed)
dia (day)
fria (cold)
dura (hard)
blanda (soft)
silla (chair)
una (a)
era (was)
mucha (a lot)
causa (cause)

oso (bear)
como (as)
pero (but)
oro (gold)
tanto (much)
plato (plate)
luego (then)
tuvo (had)
seuzo (sleepy)
dijo (said)
mucho (a lot)
quiso (wanted)
(final syllable)
se par \ (stood up)
prob \ (tasted)
se qued \ (stayed)
se acost \ (lay down)
se sent \ (sat down)
rompi \ (it broke)
decidi \ (decided)
vio (saw)
tom \ (took)
se despert \(woke up)
cruz \ (crossed)

Read Alouds: Familiar Poems

      Listening to poetry can be used to enhance the language proficiency of all second/foreign language learners, including students whose literacy and proficiency skills are at beginning levels of development (Peyton &Rigg, 2000). The rhyming and repetition of words and sentence structures provide models of language and facilitate the acquisition of morphological as well as syntactical structures. Additionally, poems often address universal themes and offer insights into the lives, values, and cultural practices of diverse communities.

     Teachers can include published poems or develop their own poems about a theme or a story. Poems lend themselves to read alouds. Mills (1992) suggests that students can describe what they notice about sounds, and they can attempt to spell the rhyming words they identify, which will help them as they experiment with spelling (Freppon &Dahl, 1991). Students might share their lists of words and poems with a partner, taking note of sound and letter correspondences, spelling patterns, and word meanings. Teachers can also engage students in a conversation about the theme as well as specific details presented in the poem. As
students attend to the various aspects of poetry, they can begin to think about a poem that they would like to write. Material read in English first will give Spanish language learners greater lexical background knowledge which they can use to transfer to the material they are reading in Spanish (see Table 2). The poems can be used for whole class choral reading as well as for guided reading.

TABLE 2: Poems Related to Theme of Peter Rabbit

Our Welcome Guest

English Version

A rabbit visited our garden, our garden.
A rabbit visited our garden
On a summer afternoon rather late
I watched as he wiggled
And squiggled,
As he twisted
And twirled
Whirling under the white picket gate
Then he munched
And he lunched
And he crunched
'til he was through
And in a flash he was gone
But he 'd soon be back
This I knew

Spanish Translation

Un conejo visitó nuestro jardín, jardín
Un conejo visito nuestro jardín
al atardecer ese día del verano
Miraba como se escurría
y movía
y torcía
y como el conejito se retorcía
Girandose bajo de la cerca blanca
Luego rura
y comia
y curjía
Y cuando terminó
En un instante se deapareció
Pero pronto regresaría
En cuanto a esto yo sabía

     Words that share common sounds can be selected from the text. The teacher can introduce the sounds students will encounter in the words, and can also present high frequency words with the same sounds. For example, if the sound (or combination of sounds) that will appear in the words is 'ito, ' the teacher can model the pronunciation in isolation and present words with which students are already familiar that share the sound such as chiquito (very small), poquito (a very little amount), and zapatito (a small shoe). Additionally, the teacher can explain that the suffix 'ito ' often carries a semantic meaning of “diminutive ”. The teacher can then present the phonemic word match to students. Students can practice pronouncing words and sounding out new letter patterns, while discussing commonalties as well as differences among the words presented in the matrix. A sample phonemic matching activity might look like the information in Table 3.

Constructing Conversations

      Oral language provides a foundation for the development of other language skills. Through conversation, children learn to organize concepts and focus their ideas (Lyle, 1993). An integrated approach creates a format within which a language base can be constructed. The connection between oral skills and literacy has been demonstrated in many studies where students ' abilities to understand stories and to communicate novel information are correlated with print-related skills such as the ability to name letters and to write (Dicksinson &Snow, 1987). Furthermore, communicative activities provide students with opportunities for practicing phonemic elements and linguistic knowledge (e. g. grammar, syntax), as well as vocabulary (Florez, 1999).

      As a postreading activity, developing skits provides students with a format for practicing the language they are learning. The content can be designed to encourage students to use critical thinking skills as well as to analyze values, point of view, and motivation as they reflect on themes, main ideas, problems, conflicts, and resolutions encountered in the text. The teacher can develop a distinct conversation guide for each group in the class by using concepts presented by an author as the premise for dialogue. The guide might include:

A description of the situation, including a plausible dilemma, the setting, and characters involved,
An objective, describing a specific goal to be completed by one of the characters, and
An open ended conclusion where students can provide their own resolution to the issues involved
in the situation and objective.

     After each presentation, classmates can describe their interpretations of the dilemma and resolution depicted by each group. The example in Table 4 demonstrates possible scenarios for group skits based on themes related to the story “Peter Rabbit. ” Themes include: relationships with neighbors, being lost, and working a garden.

TABLE 4: Group Conversation Scenarios for “Peter Rabbit ”


Sample 3 —Part Conversation Guide

Group #1
Situation: Your neighbors are upset because your pet (you decide type)continues to enter his yard.
Objective: You want to solve the problem and remain on good terms with your neighbors.
Conclusion: Group members develop conversation.

Group #2
Situation: You are trying to determine prices of various vegetables, but several employees in the market are not sure about prices.
Objective: You want to buy the items to make a salad, but don 't want to spend more than $10. 00.
Conclusion: Group members develop conversations.

Group #3
Situation: A little girl is lost after attending a birthday party. She cannot find her way home.
Objective: You try to help her remember the location, nearby landmarks, and the features of her house.
Conclusion: Group members develop conversations.

Group #4
Situation: You are in a local home improvement store speaking to one of the employees.
Objective: You want to plant a garden and you want information about the tools, seeds, and materials you will need.
Conclusion: Group members develop conversations.

Expanding Vocabulary

     Word knowledge contributes significantly to students ' ability to converse and write for varied purposes. Researchers have documented a strong correlation between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension (Baker, 1995; Nagy, 1988; Nelson-Heber, 1986) and have found that vocabulary knowledge can be acquired through reading and discussions about certain contexts (Nagy, 1985).

      However, direct instruction has been demonstrated to be a more effective approach for the acquisition of a particular vocabulary (McKeown &Beck, 1988). The development of vocabulary knowledge, according to Allen (1992), occurs through a process of direct associations. For example, Hood (1996)explained that locating synonyms, antonyms, derivatives or associated words can contribute to the development of word knowledge. Additionally, studies regarding cognitive development validate the practice of approaching second language instruction from simple to complex and complex to simple contexts where sounds of a word, visual representations, and meaning, are included within the learning experience (Genessee, 2000).

     Using pictorial images to produce language provides students with
opportunities to monitor the language they are generating (Pirolli & Recker, 1994). Second language learners develop one or more images with each word designating a concrete object, concept, or abstract idea as attempts are made to connect information with previously stored words and structures. Finally, researchers have demonstrated the advantage of producing personally relevant language to analyze and recall information (Gorrell, 1988; Mason, 1995; Staton, 1987).

Categorizing Concepts

     Heterogeneously grouped students can record the meanings of words selected by the teacher from a text by using a dictionary. After analyzing the definitions, students can then engage in dialogue about the definitions as they categorize and classify word sorts. The example in Table 5 depicts semantically categorized word groups selected from the story of Peter Rabbit.

Poetry Writing

     Students can create their own poems using words and categories from phonemic and vocabulary practice activities. Students may employ their own creative style. A format students may find easy to use is the Diamond or Diamante presented by Iris Tiedt (Lipson, 1998). Because this style requires expansion of an idea or topic, it may be helpful to give several examples and discuss the idea of expanding vocabulary that is based on specific concepts. There are seven lines within the Diamante poem. Table 6 is a description and an example using “Gardens ” as the topic.

TABLE 6: Diamante Poem using “Gardens ”

El Diamante
Line #1 – Select a topic (noun)
Line #2 –Add two describing words (adjectives)
Line #3 –Add three action words (infinitives or progressive forms)
Line #4 – Develop a four--word phrase capturing your personal feeling about the topic
Line #5 –Add three action words (infinitives or progressive forms)
Line #6 –Add two describing words (adjectives)
Line #7 – End using a synonym for the first word (noun, adjective)
My Garden

Color, Bountiful
Flowering, Growing, Flourishing
An increasing, lovely vision
Changing, Expanding, Providing
Beautiful, Nourishment
Mi Jardin

Pintorescos, Abundantes
Floreciendo, Creciendo, Desarrollando
Una visi \n de belleza
Cambiando, Extendiendo, Proveyendo
Homoso, Nutritivo
Arco is

Visual Cues and Linguistic Output

     The following activities are based on research supporting the cognitive benefits of visual imagery on vocabulary development (Holt, 1995; Quatroche, 1999; Smith, 1987). The activities incorporate strategies that encourage learners to use both visual cues as well as self-generated language to enhance second language development. Students can produce pictorial representations of words and sentences in the target language. When students have at least three pictures in each category, they can share their illustrations and sentences within small groups. Table 7 contains an example of a pictorial representation of constructed sentences.

Let 's Draw A Story

     “Let 's Draw A Story ” is an activity that will provide students with opportunities to develop concepts related to the story and to build a vocabulary that is related to the material they will read. This activity begins as a student selects a word from a teacher prepared vocabulary list or from a theme discussed before reading. The student draws the word or concept on mural paper in front of the class. As the student is drawing, classmates develop a sentence describing the action or visual image created. Students may request vocabulary, syntactical or orthographic clarifications from the student doing the drawing, the teacher, or from one another throughout the process. In addition, the teacher can use this opportunity to emphasize new sounds, spellings, and word meanings. The next student volunteer draws a picture with a logical connection to the previous illustration. The process continues until a mural is created and students have generated individual sequenced descriptions. The pictorial story in Table 8 (on next page)derives from the word conejo (rabbit).

Comprehending Written Text

     A reader 's knowledge of word meanings greatly affects his comprehension (Nagy, Anderson, & Herman, 1987) and a more extensive vocabulary actually promotes comprehension (McKeown, Beck, Omnason, &Pople, 1985). The interrelation between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension has been demonstrated in many studies throughout the twentieth century; the deeper the relationship the greater the comprehension.

      While there is consistent evidence that vocabulary can be directly taught (Beck, McKeown, &Omanson, 1987), it has also been reported that most vocabulary words are learned incidentally as a function of encounters in oral and written contexts (Sternberg, 1987). This explains the phenomenon that students who read extensively also possess the greatest vocabularies (Cunningham &Stanovich, 2001). Reading and knowledge of all sorts of information are mutually interdependent —the more one reads, the greater his knowledge store; the greater the knowledge store, the greater the comprehension.

     Although the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and comprehension is clear, it is also the case that an unknown word can skew comprehension considerably. A single unknown word, which cannot be derived from context, can derail comprehension totally. Comprehension of a text depends very heavily on one 's knowledge of the vocabulary and of the concept, represented by the vocabulary.

      Concepts and vocabulary needed to aid text comprehension can be developed through prereading and during reading activities. Prereading activities introduce students to a story 's theme and can provide opportunities for students to associate common experiences with main ideas. Prereading activities, according to Barnett (1988), include discussing author or text type, brainstorming, skimming and scanning.

TABLE 8: Pictorial Story of the Rabbit

Había un conejo que salía en busca huevos a de comida. (Once there was a rabbit who was searching for food. )friend. )
Este conejo vivía dentro de un bosque muy bonito. (This rabbit lived in a very beautiful forest. )
Un día su amigo, que vivía en una casa muy
elegante, salió para llevar su amigo.
(One day his friend, who lived in a very elegant house, went out to take eggs to his
Pero de repente, empezó una tormenta. (But suddenly a storm began. )
Después de la tormenta,
sin embargo, el sol reapareció.
(After the storm, however, the sun reappeared. )
Los animalitos pudieror salir de nuevo.
(The little animals were able to
come out again. )
Ese día, su amigo le dio al conejito su regalito y todos se divirtieron juntos.
(That day, his friend gave his little gift to the little rabbit and they all had fun together. )

Prereading Guide

     Activities like those in Table 9 can foster thoughts and discussions among students regarding the concepts and events they will encounter in the text. The following guide can be used in a whole class format where students share answers to questions according to their personal experiences and opinions. The teacher can verbally provide assistance as students write their answers and model written language on a transparency by augmenting speech with visual cues.

Picture Walks

     Visual literacy, according to Manifold (1997), is the ability to comprehend meaning in images. Surveying pictures in narrative texts contributes to the reader 's understanding of complexity and sequence of events, and provides teachers opportunities to introduce vocabulary that will be encountered in the story. Discussions also provide students with opportunities to practice critical viewing skills as they explore, analyze, compare, contrast, and reflect on concepts represented by pictorial representations. Visual monitoring and strategies that include scanning titles, subtitles, paragraph length, and vocabulary before reading can contribute to comprehension of text (Block, 1999).

Questioning the Author

     The “Questioning The Author ” approach, , conducted throughout the reading process, can help students experience and use language through meaningful, communicative exchanges. Through a question/answer format, learners build understanding and construct meaning as they read, react, and respond to text. As a tool to promote higher order thinking skills, the teacher encourages thoughtful analysis through discussions that are focused on core ideas, underlying concepts, and evaluation of text. According to Beck, Mckeown, Hamilton, and Kucan (1997), queries are specific questions a teacher designs in order to engage students in conversation directly related to an author 's presentation of material as well as to their own interpretations. The chart in Table 10 provides examples of four types of text analysis: comprehension, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. These provide students with opportunities to develop and express personal interpretations. The related questions can promote meaningful inquiry and critical review of text.

Reciprocal Teaching

     Through active participation in literacy tasks, students practice gaining independence in the target language. According to Cummins (1986), a student 's role as a co-teacher provides the following benefits:

Meaningful language use by students
Use of higher level cognitive skills
Authentic dialogue between speakers in the target language
Integration of language within all content areas
Enhanced intrinsic motivation

     Students are practicing the target language in a meaningful, purposeful context when they are reading a text with a partner and
questioning each other. The procedures in Table 11 on the next page provide a model for engagement in a reciprocal teaching strategy.


     Through a recognition of the interrelated benefits of reading, writing, listening and speaking skills, students are provided with an effective, foundation for creating a balanced approach to the teaching of a second language (Rubin, 2000). Furthermore, instructional practices that offer opportunities for students to express themselves can provide meaningful contexts through which
students can comprehend, acquire, and convey concepts that enhance second language acquisition.

The two teachers we met at the beginning of this paper may have become more fluent users of their second language if they had been members of a literacy community that engaged in the interrelated language events we have presented. Much has been learned about how to teach English as a second language and with a little imagination it can be applied to teach a second
language to native speakers of English. “You 've got to be able to make those daring leaps or you 're nowhere, ” said Muskrat (The Mouse and His Child; Russell Hoban, 1967).


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