All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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English Language Learners

The population of English language learners (ELLs) in U.S. public schools is growing quickly. This section includes information on effective ways to teach ELL (also called ESL) students , methods for encouraging learning, and ways to promote family involvement. Please also visit our sister website Colorín Colorado, which focuses exclusively on ELLs.

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A Cognitive Strategies Approach to Reading and Writing Instruction for English Language Learners in Secondary School

Copyright 2007 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Used with permission. Olson, C.B. and Land, R. (2007). A Cognitive Strategies Approach to Reading and Writing Instruction for English Language Learners in Secondary School. Research in the Teaching of English, 41(3),

Cognitive strategies, such as predicting, summarizing, and reflecting — strategies used by experienced readers and writers — are vital to the development of academic literacy, but these strategies are too rarely taught explicitly, especially to English Language Learners (ELLs). This study reports the results of a California Writing Project study in which 55 teachers implemented a cognitive-strategies approach to reading and writing instruction for their ELL secondary students over an eight-year period and includes a detailed description of a teacher's cognitive strategies "tool kit."

Double the Work: Challenges and Solutions to Acquiring Language and Academic Literacy for Adolescent English Language Learners

Short, D., & Fitzsimmons, S. (2007). Double the Work: Challenges and solutions to acquiring language and academic literacy for adolescent English language learners– A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Adolescent English Language Learners (ELLs), who must simultaneously learn English and age–appropriate subject material, perform double the work of their native language peers because they are held to the same grade-level standards for academic literacy. Moreover, the ELL population is comprised of a diverse range of learners who vary dramatically in their existing literacy levels, native languages, and cultural and educational backgrounds. This report is the effort of a panel of researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to address six main challenges to improving academic literacy among ELLs, as well as proposed solutions and policy implications.

Improving Literacy Outcomes for ELLs in High School: Considerations for States and Districts in Developing a Coherent Policy Framework

Torgesen, J. K., Houston, D. D., Rissman, L. M., Decker, S. M., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J. Francis, D. J, Rivera, M. O., Lesaux, N. (2007). Academic literacy instruction for adolescents: A guidance document from the Center on Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.

This overview from the National High School Center examines the roles of states and school districts in supporting English Language Learners. Among the key findings — ELL students who access accelerated and enriching academics rather than remediation, succeed at higher levels, and Latino ELL students are overrepresented in special education. To build the capacity of teachers to appropriately identify which ELL students would benefit from special education services and which would benefit from more inclusive strategies, states must be explicit about what is expected of professional development and teacher preparedness.

Listening to Latinas: Barriers to High School Graduation

National Women's Law Center and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. (2009). Listening to Latinas: barriers to high school graduation. Washington, DC: Author.

Latinas are dropping out of school in alarming numbers. Forty-one percent of Latina students do not graduate with their class in four years—if they graduate at all. Many Latina students face challenges related to poverty, immigration status, limited English proficiency, and damaging gender and ethnic stereotypes. And the high teen pregnancy rate for Latinas — the highest of any ethnic group — reflects and reinforces the barriers they face.

Measures of Change: The Demography and Literacy of Adolescent English Learners

Batalova, J., Fix M., and Murray, J. (2007). Measures of Change: The Demography and Literacy of Adolescent English Learners—A Report to Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.

This report from Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Migration Policy Institute answers the following questions: Who are immigrant students and students who do not speak English well? Where are they from? What is their family background (social, economic, linguistic, etc.)? How well do they do in school? Do their literacy levels prepare them to take part in higher education and a skilled workforce?

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