Quick Tip Tuesday: Independent reading with ELLs

December 16th, 2008

This week’s Quick Tip about working with English Language Learners comes from Emelie Parker and Tess Pardini, authors of “The Words Came Down!” English Language Learners Read, Write, and Talk Across the Curriculum, K-2 (2006). Throughout the book, Emelie and Tess discuss ways to use daily routines, visual cues, and physical action to build a classroom community where primary ELL students thrive. In Chapter 5 on reading workshop, for example, they provide this example of using a “bubble space” metaphor to introduce independent reading time:

After the whole-group read-aloud and mini-lesson, it is time to break up for independent reading. At this time, the students read from their own reading boxes. The boxes contain familiar books that they reread for practice. Each time they reread a book, their understanding deepens and their control of phrasing, fluency, and expression increases, so this is an essential element of our reading time. Their reading boxes also contain books that are at their instructional level, requiring them to do some reading work that is appropriate for them. We have introduced all these books during guided reading lessons. Even the students who are preemergent readers have their own reading work to do independently. If they do not have appropriate-leveled text to hold their attention, they will become bored, reluctant to engage with the text, and possibly resort to distracting behavior.

A favorite lesson for some primary teachers at Bailey’s [Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia] to introduce children to the expectations of independent reading is a reading response to a Big Book called Bubble Gum by Gail Jorgensen. The children in the book learn to blow a bubble bigger and bigger and bigger. The last page has a great illustration of a popped bubble all over the children. The class enjoys acting out an innovation on the text of Bubble Gun. Without speaking, they pretend to unwrap gum, stick it in their mouth, and blow and blow. As they blow, they spread their arm outs wider and wider. They carefully walk with their arms spread out to a place in the room where no one can pop their bubble. If a child steps into or sits too close to someone’s “bubble space” then the balloon pops. Loud words can also pop a bubble.

After the children can do this without fuss, the teacher explains that they will now take books inside their bubble to read alone. Later, after children learn to read independently in a bubble space, we show them how to let a friend come in and sit shoulder to shoulder in their bubble for buddy reading.

Entry Filed under: Differentiation & ELLs,Quick Tip Tuesday,Reading

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