March 6, 2009
ELL student R attends a middle school where his placement is a separate class for students with developmental disabilities. ELL student R’s family speaks Spanish at home, and ELL student R’s initial language in the home setting was Spanish at the time of his birth.
ELL student R has been re-evaluated for special education services recently. Testing included an assessment by a Speech-Language Pathologist in both Spanish and English. The local school district’s English Language Leaner (ELL) Teacher also assessed ELL student R’s language. While there appear to be some discrepancies in the results of these recent assessments, it seems possible to generally conclude that –
ELL student R’s receptive language skills are stronger in Spanish than in English. This may be due to early childhood exposure to Spanish in the home and the continued exposure to Spanish in the home for the majority of any given day versus exposure to English in the school setting for 190 or so days for 7 to 8 hours per day per school year.
ELL student R’s expressive language skills are stronger in English. This may be due to instructional interventions in English that include the services of the Speech-Language Pathologist and a may be due to a general cultural exposure to spoken and written English in ELL student R’s school setting.
In a probe of ELL student R’s awareness of lexical symbols, this reporter observed ELL student R in his typical school setting, using a computer to complete a task that consisted of ELL student R copying his personal information from a cue card to a word processing program using a standard “QUERTY” keyboard. When an instructional assistant pointed to capital letters on the cue card, ELL student R typically responded by finding the appropriate keys on the keyboard. When the IA pointed to small letters on the cue card, ELL student R typically misnamed the small letters and could not find the letters on the keyboard which contained only capital letters. Thus, it is possible to conclude that ELL student R does not know the small letters of the English alphabet.
This observer also observed ELL student R in a small group setting while he was working with the Speech-Language Pathologist. ELL student R was given commands to engage in activities that required an understanding of time sequences and of relationships between objects in three dimensions. ELL student R responded accurately to the commands until he was asked, “Tell me something that you watch.” ELL student R did not respond, but seemed confused. The SLP then rephrased the question to say, “Tell me something that you look at.” ELL student R answered, “TV.” Thus one could conclude that ELL student R has some difficulties with English synonyms.
ELL student R’s cumulative file shows that an assessment was done for Autism services. While ELL student R was not found eligible for Autism services, the Autism Specialist made recommendations regarding ELL student R’s instructional needs. These included ELL student R’s need to see and hear words presented simultaneously, and his need to engage in Kinesthetic activities associated with language presentation.
Pedagogical Theory –
The Needs and Interests of the Student
ELL student R is entitled under Federal Statute, to have educational experiences in two specific settings (or perhaps, an appropriate blending of the two required settings). One such required setting is a Special Education setting where instructional consideration can be given to ELL student R’s needs as a person with a documented developmental disability (Down Syndrome). The second such setting is one where ELL student R receives instruction in the language of the dominant culture where ELL student R functions, while maintaining a learning environment that enhances ELL student R’s learning by being based in the culture which ELL student R experienced since birth (Hispanic).
ELL student R was observed to have instructional needs related to his disability that also relate to his cultural needs. Therefore, considering ELL student R’s receptive and expressive language needs and the accompanying delays that have been related to his disability and not to lack of instruction, lessons have been developed for the purpose of expanding ELL student R’s English language skills and for the purpose of addressing interventions to enhance ELL student R’s language-based learning environment that considers the nature of his developmental delays.
In a few years, ELL student R will be a student of transition age. Federal IDEA statute requires that ELL student R’s multi-disciplinary team address ELL student R’s future needs in the areas of community instruction, daily living skills, vocational skills and transition planning. Data show that ELL student R has had and continues to have difficulties in accessing and functioning in the greater community.
These difficulties include, but are not limited to –
A lack of understanding of common safety requirements of pedestrians;
Behavior-based acting out of aggressive impulses;
A lack of understanding of common numerical values;
A lack of understanding of common lexical features of English.
With these difficulties in mind, a meeting was held by this observer with ELL student R’s Special Education Teacher and with the school district’s ELL Teacher. This team reviewed ELL student R’s cumulative file and data related to the difficulties described in this report.
It was agreed that, beginning March 16, ELL student R’s bus will drop ELL student R at the ELL classroom during the first period of the day; that the ELL teacher will provide direct instruction to ELL student R in the ELL setting; and that the Special Education teacher will provide an instructional assistant known to ELL student R who will assist ELL student R in gaining access to instructional materials.
It was agreed that the basis for instruction would be lessons designed by this observer that would be fashioned in such a way as to consider ELL student R’s strengths in Spanish as a receptive language and also, ELL student R’s strengths in English as an expressive language.
Given the operant pedagogical theory that ELL student R’s receptive language strength may be Spanish, but not necessarily lexical-based afferent information, it would seem likely that ELL student R’s primary memory input register (to use the Frank Benson model of language processing) would be phono-literal and therefore auditory-based rather than lexical-based. No measurement has been made to determine if in fact, ELL student R either recognizes or can reproduce meaningful expressions in Spanish other than verbal expressions which he would have heard since birth.
Therefore, the team agreed that instruction should begin with an assessment of ELL student R’s skill levels in identifying common community-based words that will have a direct impact on ELL student R’s ability to function effectively in his community. A list of ten such “emergency vocabulary” words was agreed upon by the team.
The team also agreed upon an assessment protocol in which ELL student R will be presented with full sheets of paper on which will appear a single “emergency vocabulary” word in capital letters in English. ELL student R will be instructed to pick any of the words he can say and to build a stack of these recognized English words.
Next, ELL student R will be presented with full sheets of paper on which will appear a single “emergency vocabulary” word in capital letters in Spanish. ELL student R will be instructed to pick any of the words he can say and to build a stack of these recognized Spanish words.
If the operant theory proves to have validity, ELL student R will likely know more written words in English than in Spanish.
Next, ELL student R will be presented full sheets of paper on which will appear a single “emergency vocabulary” word from the same original lists, in capital letters in English along with a paired associate graphic image, illustrating the meaning of the word. ELL student R will be instructed to pick any of the words/ paired associates he recognizes and to build a stack of these recognized English words/ paired associates.
Finally, ELL student R will be presented full sheets of paper on which will appear a single “emergency vocabulary” word from the original lists, in capital letters in Spanish along with the same paired associate graphic image previously associated with an English word, illustrating the meaning of the word. ELL student R will be instructed to pick any of the words/ paired associates he recognizes and to build a stack of these recognized Spanish words/ paired associates.
Keeping in mind that the purpose of instruction is to expand ELL student R’s level of understanding of English words, which is the language of the dominant culture in which ELL student R is being prepared to function, and given the likelihood that ELL student R will draw upon his phono-literal input register as a source for matching perceived items with recollected items, and if the operant theory proves valid, ELL student R will learn more effectively if the presentation of instructional materials is done in conjunction with lexical stimuli in English and with auditory stimuli in Spanish.
Given the data that ELL student R also tends to learn more effectively when instruction includes related Kinesthetic activities, the team agreed that a third (if you will) Rosetta Stone effect might be created if the stimuli were presented in conjunction with signs based on American Sign Language.
The team agreed that ASL would have two effects on ELL student R’s acquisition of the “emergency vocabulary” words. First, simultaneous signing of the stimuli would create a third graphic register which would be “meaning neutral” where either English written words or the Spanish spoken words are concerned. The kinesthetic sign will relate in meaning to either and to both the English and the Spanish words.
The second effect is more related to ELL student R’s Special Education accommodations. As a person identified with Mental Retardation, ELL student R requires additional processing time for placing any afferent stimuli into a meaningful context. By requiring that ELL student R use a physical gesture simultaneously with a related word written in capital letters, and/ or with a spoken word in Spanish, persons eliciting a response from ELL student R will become aware that they are communicating with a person who needs time to draw upon multiple memory resources, each of which could be used as a basis for cuing and prompting ELL student R about his “emergency vocabulary” words. Such cuing and prompting might be better generalized throughout various settings and circumstances that ELL student R encounters daily in school and at home.
Once it has been determined which of the ”emergency vocabulary” words ELL student R recognizes in English, instructional interventions should be directed at –
Maintaining ELL student R’s present level of performance;
Enhancing the environment in which ELL student R receives instruction;
Increasing ELL student R’s level of recognition of English sight words that will contribute to ELL student R’s being better capable of accessing and functioning in the greater community;
Maintaining ELL student R’s increasing level of comprehension of English vocabulary words.
First, each instructional session should begin with a review of the vocabulary words ELL student R already recognizes. The stimuli should be presented in a manner that requires the least level of support and moves to utilize all of the prompts and cues discussed this report, and typically in the order prescribed in the Pre-teaching Probe section of this report.
Following review of present levels of perfromance, the staff doing the presentation of stimuli, should present the unrecognized vocabulary words from the list in at least one of the three presentation formats – written English, spoken Spanish and signed ASL, to determine which format is most effective for ELL student R’s recalling each individual word from memory in spoken English.
The ELL teacher will provide ELL student R with a digital dictionary where ELL student R can enter English words using a keyboard and use the voice output feature of the digital dictionary to produce the spoken word in Spanish.
The staff doing the presentation will collect data to inform the Special Education Teacher and the ELL instructor about the effectiveness of the instructional methodology so that methodology can be adjusted and improved by these teachers.
Once ELL student R has effectively acquired recognition of all ten of the “emergency vocabulary words” to the extent that, given appropriate processing time, ELL student R can speak the words when the presentation of stimuli with the least level of support (English words printed in capital letters), Instruction can proceed to include various additional lists of functional sight words of a similar nature that will increase ELL student R’s access and functioning in the greater community.
James M. Kemp, Special Education Teacher