Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Should Adapted Texts Be Used With ELLs? Tricky Question:)

With the arrival of the COMMON CORE Standards for ELA around the corner, English teachers are looking for ways to make highly complex reading materials more accessible for ELLs.  When this topic arises, adapted texts come to mind as a quick fix for the problem.   Do such books truly benefit ELLs in English classes?  It depends:)

ADAPTED BOOKS FOR ELLS  explores this question in detail.  There are pros and cons to the use of such modified books.  On the positive side, such books (see GRAPHIC NOVELS) provide a general picture of theme, fairly good descriptions of the characters, clear layout of setting and time, etc.  This offers students a glimpse of the contents.  However, the rich figurative language of the original text is absent.  What remains is a skeleton in essence.  Students are robbed of the rich features of novels by being provided these substitutes to read.

Here are some other benefits to their use in some classes.  Often times, ELLs arrive throughout the school year.  This often times leads to students arriving in the middle of teaching a novel.  Adapted novels along with the original ones give students a chance to catch up.  Students can use the adapted novel to fill in that vital background knowledge of the text which all the other students have.  

However, outside of the above example, using adapted texts does little to develop English language skills for ELLs.  Vocabulary is very basic.  Sentence structure is overly simplistic for the most part.  Figurative language is essentially absent.  If an ELL is to become proficient in English, that student needs a teacher using the original text in a supportive learning environment.  Teachers need to make content accessible through employing instructional strategies geared to ELLs such as activating prior knowledge, pre-reading, peer support, cooperative learning, cornell notes, reading logs,  graphic organizers, etc. (search within this blog for a wide variety of instructional support tools).

Include some in your classroom library as a lifeline for struggling ELLs, but have students resort to those at home, during lunch, after school--not in class.  In class, your job is to get students as excited about reading the book as you are in teaching it:)


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