Questions & Answers:

  1. As a teacher or prospective teacher, what might you do instructionally to ensure that students activate appropriate background knowledge for reading the materials required in your content area?

Dole et al as cited by Alvermann and Phelps (2005) has pointed out that cognitive or psycholinguistic view of the reading process assumes an active role reader who constructs meaning through the integration of existing and new knowledge and the flexible use of strategies to foster, monitor, regulate and maintain comprehension. By such line of thinking, a teacher therefore on teaching reading must ensure that it is a proactive activity  in the context of dynamic learning process considering the individual as a vehicle of action, able to synthesize the elements of reading— the unity of past and present knowledge. The activation aspect of the past and present knowledge is critical, and how to do it is simply a matter of reorienting the student towards knowing what he has already known, implying that he recalls the concepts, does association, applies characteristics, enables features— so that prior knowledge is well founded and meaningful: from theory to practice is really what counts.

But how to do so? First, relate through instruction the specific experience that relates with the context of the selection. Pointing out a definite applicative scenario to which students will center their focus of understanding will help settle interpretation in one perspective, thus doing away misinterpretations. Theoretically, this is in line with the perspective of the bottom-up model of the reading process that attention must be catered to one idea at a time (Laberge & Samuels, 1976 as cited in Alvermann and Phelps, 2005). Moreover, the meaning of the text as it can be interpreted should be defined within certain parameters, avoiding overlapping of applications. Students in this way will be guided as to what they should know about, to what they should relate, to what they should interpret, and to what they should understand. On the other hand, the teacher is assured that instructionally he defines the learning process as absolute as he may have desired it, knowing that understanding is given within the specific elements being attributed.

Second, relate through instruction the applicative conceptual extension the experience has— again, bound to the limits of a set of understanding that is being defined. After, integration of knowledge takes place but with the assurance that prior knowledge is activated, defined, referenced, integrated, related, and understood in the context of appropriate meaningful application.

  1. Why is bilingual education such a controversial topic in the United States?

Merriam Webster Online (2007-2008) defines Bilingual education in an English-language school system in which students with little fluency in English are taught in both their native language and English. And what makes it controversial in the United States? There might be defined programs on how it is being implemented but the implications and ramifications have resounding concerns.

Jell Kerper Mora (1998) at San Diego State University has cited pertinent aspects of Bilingual education in the light of Proposition 227. First, she argued that responsibility of educating language-minority students falls into the hands of mainstream teachers and away from the teachers who have expertise and training in second-language acquisition, literacy and biliteracy and cultural factors in learning and academic achievement.  In that line, bilingual education jeopardizes quality instruction as implementation may not fall at the hands of the real experts but to regular classroom teachers, who might not have training to do it efficiently. Therefore, it may work by just favoring the native speakers of the language while leaving most non-native with no superficial instruction of the language: as contextualization of their thoughts and ideas may not be well emphasized as to the exact concepts being meant.

Second, Mora stressed out that Bilingual education may not produced English language literacy and proficiency skills. Consequently, effectiveness may not be significant as she found out and I may quote:

“… that the programs have attracted a rather homogeneous group of middle-class          students and have not adapted well to greater cultural and linguistic diversity in         enrollments. Drop-out rates from immersion programs are high, with attrition rates  primary due to students’ academic or behavioral problems ranging from 43% to 68% (Cummins, 1995). Many children do not fare well in immersion programs, with children  of lower ability levels performing less well than students of higher ability. In the case of      227, the program is designed to only last one year–not the three to five years required  in the linguistic expert’s model of immersion. Nor is the native language of students   phased in for instruction. Nor is the program really voluntary, since SEI is the ‘default  mode.’ Parents can opt out only by applying for and being granted a ‘parental  exception waiver’ to have their child placed in another type of one-year program.”

Third, she cited out teacher’s dilemma: being required to implement a pedagogically unsound educational plan and if they fail parents can sue them for personal financial liability.

In view of Mora’s arguments, which may well define the controversy of bilingual education, one fact that underpins them is dialect differences, brought about by cultural diversity. The learning process may be well established but ultimately it will account all the pros and cons of the implementation, thereby making out inconclusive output, but may be scientifically based.

  1. What are the five forms of grouping students for instruction at the middle and high school levels? Briefly elaborate on each grouping form and discuss your professional opinion about each form.

The five forms of grouping are:

  1. Ability Grouping can be categorized into three: curriculum tracking which involves scheduling students’ courses so that they follow a particular sequence; ability group tracking which assigns students based on their past performance of the subject; and within-class grouping consisting of separating students into smaller instructional group once they have been assigned into a class.

Ability grouping takes into consideration the educational idea of group dynamics as it holds the importance of the learning process taking place efficiently on certain bases. It gives value to certain potentials whether structurally or mentally innate, and taking advantage to where the best learning scenario can be made.

  1. Cooperative Learning consists of students working together in small group to set goals and to learn from one another, with the incentive being a group reward for combined individual efforts.

Learning takes place because students share what they know and how they are going to do it. Accountability is shared by everyone, and everyone learns what one will learn as one will share. It is student-centered in the sense that learning is the student himself sharing and understanding himself and others in small group.

  1. Cross-Age Tutoring occurs in dyads and is characterized by the transfer of very specific information and usually involves some form of basic skills practice, and focuses on rewarding the individual.

Learning is done by one tutoring the other. Guidelines as suggested by research: the tutor’s age level may vary, same-sex is preferable, have to work with their partners, post-tutoring must be ongoing, and affective objectives are necessary. In practice, the transfer of knowledge might be significant based on research insights. However, the teacher has to play a definitive role in the facilitation of knowledge as tutoring can only be effective is the tutor himself knows the whats and hows of the knowledge.

  1. Discussion Groups is a classroom communication strategy in which students share their ideas to the small or large group to evoke enrichment and understanding of their ideas.

The learning that takes place in this type of setting will allow the students to test their ideas with others and at the same time respecting others’ ideas. This opportunity to share and respect cultivates civility in the minds of students, thereby preparing them for professionalism.

  1. Reading and Writing Workshop is a form of grouping which immersed the students to classroom literacy activities through daily read alouds, independent reading and writing time, group sharing, journaling, conferencing, portfolios, and mini-lessons.

This group approach enhances the literacy aptitude of the student in ways that it exposes him to the basics of readings and writing, taking consideration of selected reading relative to experiences which the student may relate— the learning process takes place significantly in the light of meaningful interaction with the reading and writing experiences.

By Cromwell Artiaga, Ed.D.