Teacher Education

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The intent of this study is to explore the effects of a critical model of literacy instruction on the reading comprehension of mainstreamed English learners who have been identified at-risk by their local educational agency. It investigates how Transactional Literature Circles (TLC) affect the development of strategic literacy skills in thirteen intermediate grade classrooms. The link between the student, his/her peers, the teacher, the curriculum, and the family is considered as each play an important role in the construction of the learning community, which extends beyond the boundaries of the school.

When the school bell rings, thousands of elementary school teachers will face a sea of diversity in their mainstream classrooms. Their students will represent an array of languages, cultures and ethnicities that are different from their own. Nearly one in 12 students will need extra help learning English (Connell, 2004). Many of these English learner (EL) students will come from low socioeconomic and linguistically isolated households, where no one over the age of 14 speaks English very well (U.S. Bureau o f the Census, 2003). The range of reading ability in these classrooms will be 5.4 years (Mathes, Fuchs, & Fuchs, 1997), thus increasing the range o f academic diversity.

The majority o f these mainstream teachers will feel overwhelmed. In a U.S. national survey of classroom teachers, 80% of respondents reported that they were not prepared to teach students from diverse language and cultural backgrounds (National Center for Education Statistics, 1999). In the absence of special programs designed to meet their language and literacy needs, these general education teachers will receive little or no training in effective instructional practices that will allow their English learners to become active, contributing members o f their classrooms (Carrasquillo & Rodriguez, 2002). Instead, they will follow the typical educational prescription, which involves increased review, drill and practice, and lower level questions (Echevarria, 1995). Enormous amounts of time will be spent preparing students for high-stakes tests (Olson, 2001), even though a narrow focus on preparing students for specific tests does not translate into real learning (Klein, Hamilton, McCaffrey, & Stecher, 2000; Linn, 2000).

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