1 HOW SCAFFOLDED WRITING AFFECTS ELEMENTARY ELS USE OF ACADEMIC FUNCTION WORDS by Julianna J. Scheumann A capstone submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English as a Second Language Hamline University St. Paul, Minnesota December 2013 Primary Advisor: Michelle Benagas Secondary Advisor: Ann Mabbott Peer Reviewer: Rebecca Sutton
2 Copyright by JULIANNA SCHEUMANN, 2013 All Rights Reserved ii
3 iii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am so grateful to my friends and family who have supported and encouraged me through this process. I would like to specifically acknowledge and thank Pete and Erica Lehner for their part that they played in the birth of my research question. I am so appreciative to Merissa Scheumann for her love of grammar and patience in editing my paper. Buckets of gratitude to the teachers at Hoover who allowed and encouraged me in my research. Finally, am so appreciative of my committee members, Michelle Benagas, Dr. Ann Mabbott, and Rebecca Sutton for their advice and encouragement along the way. Thank you all so much!
4 iv TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION 1 Elementary English Learners and Writing in the Academic Context 3 Role of the Researcher 9 Guiding Research Questions 10 Summary 10 CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW 12 Vocabulary Acquisition 13 Function words and content words 14 Writing in ESL 17 Science and Writing 19 Oral practice and writing 21 Sentence Frames 22 The Gap 24 CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY 26 Overview of Chapter 26 Research Paradigm 27 Pilot Study 29 Participants and Location 31
5 v Data Collection and Procedures 33 Data Analysis 40 Verification of Data 41 Ethics 42 CHAPTER FOUR: RESULTS 44 Student Writing 44 Field Notes 51 Student Surveys 56 Major Findings 60 Conclusion 64 CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSION 65 Limitations 65 Implications 66 Further Research 68 Conclusion 70 Appendix A 72 Appendix B 74 Appendix C 76 Appendix D 78 Appendix E 80 Appendix F 84
6 vi Appendix G 88 REFERENCES 92
7 vii LIST OF TABLES Table 1 46 Table 2 48 Table 3 50 Table 4 51 Table 5 53 Table 6 54 Table 7 57 Table 8 59
8 viii LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1 6 Figure 2 63
9 1 CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers work with English learners (ELs) to develop peer-like competency in the English-language domains of listening, speaking, reading and writing. As children learn English in the K-12 educational environment in the United States, they usually first build proficiencies in listening, speaking, and reading. The final challenge for most ELs is to develop proficiency and competency in writing. This is the greatest challenge for students because as they progress through the grade levels, they learn that accepted academic writing is different from casual speech and much more difficult to produce (Hinkel, 2004). When Minnesota joined the WIDA Consortium, which is an association of 33 states that have common English Language Development Standards, it also adopted the ACCESS assessment. As an ESL teacher, it was my task to administer this assessment. This assessment showed that my English learners struggled the most in the language domain of writing. Knowing grade-level expectations and ESL writing standards is critical for effective teaching and student achievement. This chapter examines the state standards for ESL writing, the need for ESL instruction in academic writing, and the challenges that ELs have learning how to write in academic contexts. As an elementary ESL teacher with eight years of experience teaching in international, urban, and suburban elementary schools, I have seen that many classroom teachers, when they have ELs in their class, focus on teaching the content vocabulary of the subject that they are teaching. They are often unaware or do not
10 2 focus instruction on the academic function words that communicate relationship, connection, and importance of content information. ELs enter the classroom with the overwhelming challenge of not knowing the content vocabulary of the subject, or the academic function words that communicate relationships, signal importance, or indicate connection (Zwiers, 2008). Elementary ESL teachers often feel overwhelmed by the amount of instruction that ELs need across the content areas in the language domains of listening, speaking, reading and writing. With this in mind, I feel there is a need for ESL teachers to integrate instruction so that students will learn academic language across language domains and content areas. Instruction of academic function words is especially critical as they are used across multiple subjects (Zwiers, 2004, 2008). It is my goal to study the effectiveness of scaffolds, specifically graphic organizers, sentence frames and academic conversations, for English learners to integrate academic function words into their science writing. Once students come to know and understand academic function words they will be able to think at a deeper level about new content that they encounter. They will also be able to better acquire more content words because they are familiar with the function words that signal relationship, connection, and importance of content (Beck et al, 2013). Additionally, knowing these function words will enable students to communicate more clearly, achieve their grade level standards, and score at higher proficiency levels on writing assessments (Zwiers, 2004, 2008).
11 3 Elementary English Learners and Writing in Academic Content. Newly adopted standards and assessments stress competent academic writing. The State of Minnesota adopted the Common Core Standards and re-wrote their Language Arts standards in 2010 with full implementation of the English Language Arts (ELA) standards required for the school year (MN Department of Education, 2012). The Common Core standards, which have been fully adopted in 45 states, seek to increase the rigor of education and college and career readiness for all students. The ELA standards have three writing benchmarks that are further developed at each subsequent grade level. Beginning in 3 rd grade, elementary students are required to develop their skills in writing opinion pieces on topics and texts with supporting information, writing informative and explanatory texts on a topic to communicate information clearly, and writing narratives and other creative texts using descriptive details (MN Department of Education, 2010). The Minnesota writing standard referring to the informative and explanatory writing is the type of text that is most difficult for ELs (Hinkel, 2004; Zwiers, 2008). Informative and explanatory writing covers various types of non-fiction functions such as cause and effect, problem/solution, compare/contrast, sequence, main idea and details, and description. Each of these functions requires a set of sentence structures that use various academic function words that are difficult for ELs to acquire and use if they are not explicitly taught (Zwiers, 2008). Starting in 3 rd grade and continuing with greater complexity, Minnesota s ELA standards further state
12 4 the need for students to be able to use linking words, phrases and clauses to connect ideas within and across categories (MN Department of Education, 2010). The skills needed for these types of writing are complex and English learners need specific instruction in writing with these structures and academic function words. In 2011 the state of Minnesota joined the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) consortium and adopted their WIDA English Language Development standards (WIDA Consortium, 2012). This adoption brought about the use of the WIDA assessment, ACCESS, for students who are ELs. The adoption of the new assessment was completed during the school year with the first administration of this assessment occurring in February of Prior to this, the state of Minnesota assessed ELs in grades K-12 using the MN-SOLOM, which assessed academic and social listening and speaking skills, and assessed reading and writing for students grades 3-12 using the Test of Emerging Academic English (TEAE). This assessment did not assess academic writing to the same degree that they new assessment does and did not reveal the need to focus instruction in this area. The new standards address the content domains of social and instructional language, the language of language arts, the language of science, the language of social studies, and the language of mathematics. The results of the ACCESS assessments identify how many questions the students answered correctly in each type of language for each of the language domains of listening, speaking, reading and writing (WIDA, 2012). These assessments and reports allow teachers to gain
13 5 insight into students understanding of their language in the content and language domains. An examination of the WIDA consortium standards reveals three aspects of language within each proficiency level. Instruction in writing for ELs needs to target each of these components in order for a higher level of writing proficiency and achievement to be obtained. The three categories identified are as follows: Linguistic Complexity the amount and quality of writing for a given situation. Vocabulary Usage the specificity of words or phrases for a given context Language Control the comprehensibility of the communication based on the amount and types of errors (WIDA, 2012). These three strands of the writing rubric of the WIDA Consortium support Minnesota s ELA standards because they require progression toward the gradelevel, written work of their English-proficient peers. Each of the strands gives focus to instruction and a continuum that teachers can use to focus instruction. For the purposes of the research in this paper, evaluation of the strand regarding linguistic complexity will be further examined and developed. According to the WIDA standards, ELs need to be able to write in academic contexts about academic content. The linguistic complexity strand specifically looks at the variety of sentences lengths using varied structures in well-organized sentences (WIDA, 2012).
14 6 The initial ACCESS assessment, which was given during February of 2012, revealed more information than the previous assessments. The data in the table below are the results of the ACCESS scores of the students who were used in this study. All but one of the students had been in school in the United States since kindergarten and were in 2 nd grade. The students lived in a second ring suburb of a large Midwestern city. The results in the following table are the average score of the students who are in grade level included in this study: Figure 1. Average ACCESS scores of target students 6 ACCESS Scores for Listening Speaking Reading Writing The students in this study had the following scores in 2012: listening 4.83; speaking ; reading 4.58; and writing Within WIDA, there are six levels of development. Level 1 (entering) is where students need lots of pictorial and graphic support. In level 2 (emerging) students know general language and can produce short phrases and sentences. In
15 7 level 3 (developing), students are able to write in paragraphs with some content specific words. Students who score at a level 4 (expanding) are able to use some specific and technical language and use a variety of sentence lengths with varying complexity. Students at a level 5 (bridging) are able to use specialized and technical language of a content area. They are able to use varied sentence lengths and complexity to produce expanded writing projects such as essays or reports. Finally, level 6 (reaching) symbolizes the equivalence to a native English speaker. Within the writing domain, four students in this study scored in the level 2 band; seven students scored in the level 3 band; and one student scored in the level 4 band. The significant difference in the students writing abilities from their scores in the other language domains caused me to reflect on my teaching practice. I questioned what I needed to do differently in my teaching practice so that the ELs who I teach will be able to develop their writing skills. There has been a lot of research conducted in regards to how best to develop ELs writing skills. Process writing (pre-writing, drafting, revision, editing, and publishing) has been shown to be effective with ELs as well as native speakers (Peregoy & Boyle, 2005; Kendall, &Khuon, 2006; Rudden & Nedeff, 1998). Strategies for teaching ELs writing include oral practice, and sentence frames (Peregoy & Boyle, 2005; Donnelly, &Roe, 2011). Fulwiler (2007) reported the success of integrating expository writing with science. She cited research that showed ELs who specifically benefitted from this intervention (Stokes St. John, and Fyfe, 2002). Other researchers have looked specifically at academic function words
16 8 which need to be taught in order for English learners to be able to write academic sentences (Beck, Kucan & McKeown, 2013; Zwiers, 2008). Although there has been a considerable amount of research completed, there has been little research that examines how upper-elementary students develop their academic writing skills, or linguistic complexity, in their written work. Process writing does not specifically teach students how to write more complex sentences because it does not address the meaning of academic function words or sentence structures. Much of the work that has been done in teaching students academic function words has occurred for middle school and high school students (Zwiers, 2004, 2008). In order to support upper-elementary students in developing their linguistic complexity in the area of science, I have chosen to examine how various scaffolded supports affect ELs use of academic function words in their writing. This study investigates the integrated, writing-focused ESL instruction of fourth-grade students in the academic content area of science, dealing specifically with academic cause-and-effect function words. Academic function words are the words in sentences that communicate complex thoughts, connect ideas, link concepts, and describe higher-order thinking skills such as If, then, because, as the result of, in order to, therefore and allow (Zwiers, 2008). It is my goal to study the effectiveness of scaffolds, specifically graphic organizers, sentence frames and academic conversations, for English learners to integrate academic function words into their science writing. Students will first take a pretest by writing about the causes of why people live where they live. After doing
17 9 further reading and receiving instruction on academic function words, with the supports of graphic organizers, sentence frames, and academic conversations, they will write about the causes and effects of water on earth, forms of water, and the water cycle. The writing samples will be analyzed for the number of academic function words that students use in their writing, and whether or not they use them correctly. At the end of the study, the students will complete a survey asking which scaffold was most effective in helping them to include academic function words in their writing. A copy of the academic function words taught is in Appendix A. Role of the Researcher I chose to focus on the content area of science for several reasons. The language of science is one of the content domains address by WIDA standards. Science is also an area that is tested on state assessments in 5 th grade. The strand of science that was taught in this study was coordinated with the science instruction in the 4 th grade science classroom so that the students would have the language necessary to help them reach the content objectives of the unit. Working as an ESL teacher in a suburban elementary school with 4 th grade intermediate and advanced ESL students, it is part of my role to be familiar with science content and ELA standards so that the ELD standards are anchored in state content standards (WIDA, 2012). To anchor my instruction in content and in language, my students will read books about water and write about different aspects of cause and effect with water. To support writing, I will provide books that support the science content area, and the acquisition of content words. I will
18 10 provide graphic organizers to help students identify causes and effects. I will teach students to use academic function words with sentence frames and provide opportunities for students to orally practice these words and discuss the content. After using these instructional scaffolds, the students will have an opportunity to write and summarize what they have learned about the particular topic. Guiding Questions My research question asks: How will scaffolded writing approaches influence elementary ELs use of academic function words while writing cause-and-effect paragraphs in science? To follow the guiding research question, the following, more specific questions are investigated: a) How will the use of graphic organizers, academic conversations, sentence frames and student writing conferences influence elementary Els ability to write? b) What will the quantity, variety and correct usage of academic function words be in their writing? Summary In this study, I examine how scaffolded instruction using graphic organizers, sentence frames, and guided academic conversations can affect EL s ability to use cause-and-effect academic function words in the content area of science. I researched this because writing is often the last acquired language skill and it is the skill that elementary ELs struggle with the most. Success in writing in English will
19 11 prepare ELs to achieve academic success alongside their native-speaking peers and allow them to exit ESL. In Chapter One I introduced my research by establishing the importance and need for the study. The context of the study was overviewed as well as the role, assumptions, and biases of the researcher. In Chapter Two, I will provide a review of the literature that is relevant to vocabulary acquisition and writing with ELs. I will specifically look at how students acquire academic content and function words, best practices in ESL writing, how oral practice affects writing, and finally how sentence frames affect writing. Chapter Three will describe the research design and methodology that guided this study. Chapter Four will present the results of the study. In Chapter Five, I will reflect on the results of this study. I will discuss the limitations, and implications of this study for further research and best practices of teaching academic writing to ELs.
20 12 CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW This chapter summarizes some of the literature that is relevant to my inquiry of the question that I researched: How will scaffolded writing approaches influence elementary ELs use of academic function words while writing cause-and-effect paragraphs in science? To follow the guiding research question, the following, more specific questions are investigated: a) How will the use of graphic organizers, academic conversations, sentence frames and student writing conferences influence elementary Els ability to write? b) What will the quantity, variety and correct usage of academic function words be in their writing? My research question requires a review of the literature regarding secondlanguage acquisition for elementary-aged students, how elementary ELs learn to write, and the role of function words in their writing and the effect on their ability to write in academic contexts. In order to explain these concepts, this chapter is divided into several sections. The first section is about vocabulary acquisition of elementary students, the difference between function and content words, and how students of another language background learn how to write in English. To further explain how students learn to write in their second language (L2), I will look at best practices for writing in ESL, specifically in the area of science. Finally, I will look at specific examples of writing supports that will be used in my research, I will
21 13 examine how oral practice and sentence frames can help elementary EL students acquire academic language and sentence structures. Vocabulary Acquisition As many researchers have studied how people learn language, one thing is certain, there are layers to vocabulary and acquisition. As students begin to learn English, teachers teach language skills in the four domains of English: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Research through the years has shown that first language acquisition and second language acquisition for elementary language learners occur first in basic interpersonal skills (BICS) before the development of literacy skills and their cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) (Cummins 1981; Cummins 1994). BICS are the social language that students need to interact with others on the playground, in the lunchroom or on the school bus. CALP covers vocabulary, syntax, and discourse features that are necessary for accessing gradelevel curriculum (Bailey & Hermitage, 2008). CALP also refers to academic language or academic English. These terms are used synonymously in this paper. Language learning occurs in incremental steps with supports. Vygotsky theorized that for every learner there is a zone of proximal development, which is when a student learns best with guidance (Vygotsky & Kole, 1978). This guidance can take the form of a teacher, graphic organizers, sentence frames and oral practice. Stephen Krashen (1982) proposed a similar theory that is specific to language acquisition. According to his input hypothesis, the language being taught and targeted must be understandable, or comprehensible but just beyond what
22 14 students can do independently. Grammatical structures and vocabulary being taught should be beyond the students level of second language development. He suggests that these items can be made comprehensible through pictures, context, and general background knowledge (Krashen, 1982). A parallel concept to the input hypothesis is the output hypothesis developed by Merrill Swain. She observed that input alone was insufficient to develop language fluency and proficiency. In her research, Swain found that when teachers pushed their FSL (French as a Second Language) students to produce output that did not simply get the message across but did so in a grammatically correct and sociolinguistically appropriate way, the students more quickly became proficient in the target language (Swain, 1993). Function Words and Content Words In English, it can be argued that the vast majority of words fall within the area of CALP, or academic English. Within that large domain, it is often difficult to determine which words are most important to teach or who, the ESL teacher or classroom teacher, is responsible to teach them. Beck, McKeown, and Kucan s (2013) Three Tier Model places vocabulary into three categories that can be useful for this determination. Tier 1 words contain basic or common words that are a part of one s basic interpersonal communication (BICS). Tier 2 words are words that are used across the curriculum and often have multiple meanings in different contexts. Tier 3 words are content specific words limited to a specific field and are not a part of every day use. Most of the Tier 1 words are taught by an ESL teacher during the
23 15 first or second year of learning English. Tier 3 words are easy to identify and need to be taught to all students within content classes, but Tier 2 words are important and challenging words which are critical for students to know so that they are able to understand varied texts and produce written responses to information that they learn (Sibold, 2011; Beck, McKeown & Kucan, 2013). ESL teachers and content teachers should team together to teach the large number of words and structures the encompass Tier 2 words. Zwiers (2008) attempts to guide teachers in helping students bridge the gap between social and academic language. He defines academic language as the set of words, grammar, organizational strategies used to describe complex ideas, higherorder thinking processes, and abstract concepts (p. 20). He further deepens the definition of academic language as not just individual vocabulary words that students comprehend, but as words and language that allows students to think more deeply and communicate critical thinking. He warns against the dangers of over-focusing on content specific vocabulary words. He refers to these content specific words as bricks. While building a wall or building understanding, bricks are important. However, he argues that if bricks are simply stacked upon each other, they will eventually fall because there is not mortar to stick them together (Dutro, S., & Moran, C., 2003). Zwiers (2008) compares mortar words to Beck, McKeown, and Kucan s (2002) Tier Two words, such as maintain, require, establish, link, results, and in order to, which build connections and link ideas essential for understanding.
24 16 Mortar words are needed to communicate complex thoughts. They are used to create coherent and logical sentences, connect thoughts and phrases and describe higher order thinking skills. These words are often used for the texts, tasks, and tests of school. These often-untaught words are the words that hold complex ideas together. The further difficulty of these words is that they are often abstract making them difficult to explain to language learners and students with limited vocabularies. Furthermore, they often require more complex grammatical structures that increase the complexity of understanding and using them in oral and written language (Zwiers, 2008; Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2013). In this paper, mortar words are referred to as academic function words. When working with students, they were referred to as writing words. It was explained to them that these words are also used in speaking, but we were going to focus on using these words in their written paragraphs. These academic function words and phrases are powerful tools in the life and education of an English learner. They allow students to develop higher-level thinking skills and make deeper connections with the content that they are learning (Zwiers, 2008). Understanding mortar words not only helps students to comprehend and understand texts across multiple disciplines, but they also allow students to become more proficient writers and master English syntax (Peregoy & Boyle, 2005; Zwiers, 2008; Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2013).
25 17 Writing in ESL There has been written about writing with ESL students. In their book, Kendall and Khuon (2006) recommend five principles for best practices in writing and eight lessons for teaching writing to ELs. Best practices that they support are as follows: using the students language and culture, using culturally relevant texts and materials, increasing comprehensible input through modeling and explicitly instruction of new vocabulary skills, modeling thinking skills as the teacher writes, and providing opportunities to work with a partner, small group or with a teacher. In addition, there are multiple strategies and considerations that teachers need to make while asking to ELs to do expository writing about content. These strategies can be taught throughout the year through various mini-lessons. Graphic organizers have been found to be beneficial for students to keep track of and organize information that they have read and learned (Zwiers, 2008; Peregoy & Boyle, 2005). Using graphic organizers when writing about content allows students to first focus on content and later turn their attention to writing and using more complex sentences (Zwiers, 2008). Students can use graphic organizers to organize their learning as they learn new concepts and content words. Students can later transform information from their graphic organizers into sentences as they summarize, analyze and synthesize what they have read (Zwiers, 2008; Peregoy & Boyle, 2005). English learners benefit from targeted instruction in small groups. The more structured and explicit the instruction, the greater the growth will be (Kamps, et al,
26 ). Lessons that are structured with clearly and explicitly stated outcomes result in students who achieve the stated outcomes, more so than other students who are in whole-class writing and balanced literacy classes (Kemps, et al, 2007). Small group lessons are often set up in the mainstream classroom similar to guided reading groups where students are able to share their writing or the teacher is able to teach a mini-writing lesson that is needed by the small group (Calkins, 1994) In a meta-analysis of 26 ESL literacy studies, Adesope, Lavin, Thompson, and Ungerleider (2011) found that collaborative reading, systematic phonics instruction, diary writing, and structured writing interventions were most effective to increase literacy across age groups and populations of ESL students. This meta-analysis shows that writing instruction, like reading instruction needs to be balanced and encompass a wide range of skills (Peregoy & Boyle, 2005; Kamps, et al, 2007). Teaching writing is not a single, isolated skill, but rather one aspect of students overall literacy development. All of these strategies come together in what is termed process writing. Process writing is a research-based writing strategy that has been shown to be effective with first-language learners and English language learners (Calkins, 1994). The five processes of process writing include pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Process writing first encourages quantity and later encourages student to go back to work on quality (Peregoy & Boyle, 2005). Process writing allows students to receive mini-lesson or small group lessons on topics and to focus on a manageable aspect of writing. Process writing is very flexible and allows for
27 19 many scaffolds and accommodations to be incorporated into daily lessons which individualize lessons for all students in the class (Peregoy & Boyle, 2005; Kendell & Khuon, 2006). Science and Writing While teaching expository writing, many teachers have noticed how students are able to write creatively, but struggle to effectively write analytically and use expository text structures that use academic function words (Fulwiler, 2007). When students write expository texts, their discourse is often similar to their oral discourse, which may be appropriate for creative texts, but is not appropriate for the academic tasks of explanatory or informational writing (Zwiers, 2008). This gap in writing has led researchers to look for strategies to teach a writing discourse that is appropriate for expository writing. Jaus (2002) proposes that teachers should start integrating science and writing as early as kindergarten by using science notebooks. Science notebooks are a place to keep a record of what is being learned in science. It can be as simple as labeling and recording definitions or as complicated as asking and answering questions, keeping class notes, identifying variables, recording hypothesis and procedures. From these notes and information, students can develop their academic discourse skills by summarizing, analyzing, or evaluating what they have learned in science (Fulwiler, 2007). Literacy development for ELs is critical for content instruction such as science. Without the integration and explicit instruction in academic function words
28 20 and content vocabulary, content achievement cannot be obtained (Lee et. al 2008). Language functions such as hypothesizing, predicting, observing, explaining must occur as students are reading, experimenting and observing science (Lee et al, 2008). Through active engagement, ELs develop their English grammar and vocabulary and familiarity with science-specific genres and registers of academic speaking and writing. Teaching formal registers also prepares students for the added challenges of high stakes testing and accountability which often follows grammar and vocabulary of academic English (Zwiers, 2008; Lee, et al., 2008, Fulwiler, 2007). Students who have received explicit and direct instruction on how to write in science have showed significant gain in their academic achievement. In a study completed by Lee et al. (2008) in a large urban district in the southeastern United States, teachers received additional staff development on how to make scientific reasoning explicit and how to integrate science and writing instruction. Some of the strategies that the teachers used included using sentence frames to support the understanding and use of academic function words, and adjusting the language input to more closely match the level of the students in the class. Students actively used their science notebooks by recording questions, observations, and scientific reflection. The results after the first year of implementation resulted in significant increase in science and literacy achievement, with no difference in achievement gains for students in ESL and those not. Finally, students who participated in this also achieved higher scores on the state mathematics test (Lee et al. 2008). In a
29 21 similar study completed in the Seattle Public Schools, where the teachers gave similar instruction and used similar accommodations, the students also made significant gains in their science and writing scores because of integration of writing and science and use of science notebooks (Stokes, et al, 2002). Oral Practice and Writing Discussions of a content subject give students opportunities to make meaning of new vocabulary and terms that they have just encountered. Allowing students to participate in discussions during and after reading with the added scaffolds of a teacher asking questions, adding information and prompting students also produces significant word learning. (Whitehurst et al, 1994, 1999; Blachowicz & Fisher, 2011). This additional scaffolding and practice is especially essential to some students, such as ELs, who are less likely to learn new vocabulary easily (Blachowicz & Fisher, 2011). Oral practice gives students an opportunity to organize their thoughts and practice their language in a safe place. Oral production provides students opportunities to reinforce vocabulary and sentence structures that they have learned before they are expected to produce written words (Peregoy & Boyle, 2005). Oral practice is also essential because of the influence that oral production and speech has on written production, especially at younger ages when students are less able to differentiate the differences between oral and written registers (Chow, 1986).
30 22 Verbal interaction among classmates regarding written academic text has many benefits. It not only increases comprehension of the text, but also improves written responses. In a year-long study completed by Patthey-Chavez & Clare, 1996) the researchers found that when English learners talked about what they had read, it had a significant impact on their writing. The students improved in their fluency, syntactic complexity and lexical variety. Conversations in this classroom were structured with sentence frames which supported more complex sentences with academic function words. (Patthey-Chavez & Clare, 1996). The oral practice of talking about an academic task using academic function words gives the teacher an opportunity to see if students have the language and knowledge to begin writing (Zwiers, 2008). If students are not able to speak in academic terms they will most likely not be able to write using these terms. As students become able to use academic language in their speaking, they learn how to write in an academic style (Gibbons, 2002). Oral production and practice needs to be a part of every ESL program at every level with all age groups (Williams, Stathis, & Gotsch, 2008). Sentence Frames Sentence frames are a strategy that students can use to practice using content words or academic function words and phrases. As suggested in its name, sentence frames provide a structure or framework for students to produce language, which is beyond their ability to independently produce. Usually sentence frames include some blank lines along with some key words that will helps students
31 23 compose a particular type of sentence. For example, the following sentence frame can helps students express a cause/effect relationship: If, then. This sentence frame can be completed as follows: If water is heated, then it will evaporate. Sentence frames can be tailored to help students practice specific vocabulary, sentence structures, from simple to complex, or academic function words that communicate connection and higher order thinking skills. Using sentence frames is not a strategy exclusive to ELs. Calkins (1994) suggests using mentor texts for teaching writing by pulling out exemplar sentences and using them as sentence frames to help students become comfortable with writing. The new sentence structures can improve students sentence variety and writing fluency. In research completed by Ranker (2009), she found that sentence frames allowed students to write more independently without the assistance of a teacher and increased the quantity of writing. Research completed by Peyton, Staton, Richardson, and Wolfram (1990), found that when students wrote and spoke about subjects that were more familiar to them, they were able to produce more than when they wrote and spoke about an unfamiliar academic subject. If students are able to talk about things that they are interested in and matter to them using the desired sentence frames, this practice makes application to an unknown content area easier and more likely to occur. Peregoy and Boyle (2005) suggest using sentence frames for intermediate EL writers. They recommend using example sentences from another student s writing
32 24 or from classroom reading materials. These sentence frames can be used to help students to build confidence in their ability to write more complex sentences and use academic function words. Using sentence frames when combined with oral practice can help students to develop oral proficiency which will then lead to greater independent writing proficiency and variety (Stathis & Gotsch, 2011; Ranker, 2009). Teaching academic function words and phrases with sentence frames not only results in increased productive skills, but also increased receptive skills. (Donnelly & Roe, 2011; Kinsella, 2005). Gap in the Research Teachers and researchers have explored many issues that come up in the topic of elementary ESL writing instruction, and science expository writing instruction. Given the new standards and rigor that ELs are accountable to with the new WIDA standards and assessments, there is a renewed need to reexamine types of writing instruction that are most effective for ELs. A significant amount of research has been devoted to elementary EL writing. However, there is a gap in the research that has been devoted to instruction of academic function words in science for elementary EL students. With specific and targeted instruction of these words, it may be possible for elementary ELs to achieve greater writing success not only in science but also in other content areas. In the next chapter, I will describe the methodology that I used to answer these questions, the environment in which this study was conducted, and the
33 25 participants of the study. The fourth chapter describes the data that was collected and the fifth chapter shares the results of the research.
34 26 CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY This chapter is written to describe the method and framework that was used the explore the effectiveness of scaffolded approaches used to teach elementary ELs academic writing skills describing cause and effect in the science content area. The following question will guide the research: How will scaffolded writing approaches influence elementary ELs use of academic function words while writing cause-andeffect paragraphs in science? To follow the guiding research question, the following, more specific questions are investigated: a) How will the use of graphic organizers, academic conversations, sentence frames and student writing conferences influence elementary ELs ability to write? b) What will the quantity, variety and correct usage of academic function words be in their writing? To explore the effectiveness of scaffolded instruction in the academic writing describing causes and effects in the science content area, data was collected from the written work of ELs in 4 th grade ESL instructional groups. Data was collected over the first six weeks of school from student writing samples. Overview of Chapter This chapter describes the methods that were used to conduct this research. I first explain the mixed methods research paradigm used to conduct the research. Then, I detail the pilot study that was completed during the spring of the school year. Under Participants and Location, I describe the demographic
35 27 information related to the research participants and the location of research. Data Collection and Procedures explains the writing assignments as they were presented to the participants with links to content and language objectives, the steps of instruction that allowed students to reach their goals, and the materials that were collected from the students. In Data Analysis, I describe how I analyzed the student writing samples and assessed the research question. Finally, I discuss the verification and reliability of the data and the ethical policy that were used to conduct the research. Research Paradigm This study is a case study because it gives descriptions of specific learners and their learning setting. Case studies allow for contextualization and deeper understanding of the students involved and allow the researcher to compare and contrast differences and similarities between the learners in the group (Makey & Gass; 2005). The goal of this study is to study how direct and scaffolded instruction of academic function words will affect the academic writing of ELs, specifically the quantity, variety and correct use of academic function words in their written summaries of causes and effects in science. The study examined the quantity, variety, and correct usage of academic function words ELs used in a pretest and three subsequent writing assignments. The data was then analyzed for the effect of the scaffolded supports for academic language structures and academic function words. The pre-and post-assessments made this quantitative study, specifically a quasi-experimental study (Mackey & Gass, 2005). Another part of the research
36 28 question seeks to understand which of the scaffolded supports are most useful for students. This aspect of the study will be discovered through an open and closed survey given to the students after the last writing assignment. The three small groups of students used in this study are treated as an intact class. An intact class is a group of students who are made up of all the students in a class (Mackey & Gass, 2005). The students are assigned to their class before the beginning of the school year based upon their ACCESS, MCA, and MAP scores, and classroom performance from the previous year. In a public school setting, time constraints and scheduling prevent randomization of individuals. The use of intact classes in this study will be of benefit because it will enhance validity of the research question asked (Mackey & Gass, 2005). The second part of the research will center on which of the scaffolded methods were beneficial to students. The students completed the survey at the end of the last assignment. The survey contained both open and closed ended questions. The questions were designed to determine which scaffolds the students perceived to be beneficial, and which one was most beneficial with their explanation of how it helped them the most. It was important to see which of the scaffolds was most beneficial and also to have an open response explaining why a particular scaffold was most effective for each student (Mackey & Gass, 2005). A copy of the survey is in Appendix D. A final strand, which completes triangulation of this mixed methods study, are the field notes made from the observations of the researcher. Teacher
37 29 observations allowed for minor instructional changes to occur so that students were able to have additional practice or progress at a faster rate. Over time, observations allow the researcher to gain a deeper and more multilayered understanding of the participants and their context (Mackey & Gass, 2005, p 176). I chose to take notes on acquisition of academic function words through oral practice, how often the students looked back to use their sentence frames, the effectiveness of student writing conferences. Pilot Study I completed a pilot study for this research proposal during the spring of 2013 with fourth grade students from the school year. During this pilot study I sought to determine whether or not my proposed scaffolds would affect the frequency, variety and correct usage of academic function words. After reading and learning vocabulary in the content area of landforms, the students self-selected two landforms that they wanted to research and then wrote a paragraph comparing and contrasting the two landforms. I then gave direct instruction on the academic function words which I termed Writing Words. I selected my words from Vogt and Echevarria s (2008) work in the book, 99 Ideas and Activities for teaching English Learners with the SIOP Model. We first practiced using these words in sentences as we discussed objects that were familiar to us. We then filled out a graphic organizer about the two landforms, and then practiced orally comparing and contrasting two landforms. Finally, I gave the students the task of filling out a graphic organizer about their two landforms, and
38 30 then they wrote a paragraph with their new writing words. The students had the sentence frames with the academic function words available to them during the writing of their final assignment and I observed several students referring back to the sentence frames to remember how to use the writing words. After they completed their writing, I tallied the number of academic function words that they had used in both of their paragraphs. I found that most of the students had used some writing words in their first paragraph which was the result of previous teaching of some of these writing words earlier in the year. In their second paragraphs, all of the students did use new writing words which demonstrated to me that the use of these scaffolds was effective. The results of the study were very positive; all students showed improvement, but an analysis of their writing showed a clear need to also identify sentences that had been written correctly. Some of the students used the writing words in the wrong place or made gross errors in their writing which made the sentence incomprehensible. Their errors showed me that if students had similar struggles, some re-teaching on the construction of these sentence frames may need to be done throughout the study. As a result, I added correct usage to something that I would be looking for in their use of academic function words. At the end of the pilot study and identifying the writing words used in the pre- and post writing assessments, a peer also looked at the students writing and identified the frequency, variety and correct usage of academic function words in their writing. The peer who completed evaluation of the student writing samples
39 31 for the pilot study is a current ESL teacher who has worked extensively with her students on sentence frames and academic function words. After reviewing the targeted academic function words that were used in instruction, she also analyzed and identified the number of academic function words used, variety of a words used, and number of words used correctly. For the analysis of the pilot study, we did an analysis of 100% of the writing data. After coding the information for quantity, variety, and correct usage, the peer and I came together to compare our findings. For questions regarding quantity, variety, and correct usage, we came up with the same data. This gave us an inter-rater reliability of 100% which is excellent. Even though I achieved a high inter-rater reliability during the pilot study, I decided that I would also look for inter-rater reliability during this study because it is best practice. Participants and Location Students who participated in this research study are a part of a large, suburban elementary school in a second ring suburb of a large Midwest city. The community in which they reside is a working-class city that has seen a constant increase of English Learners. The population of the school has 50% of its students on free and reduced lunch; 30% of the students are students of color; and 20% of the students qualify for ESL support and instruction. In 2011, this school became a Title One school, based upon its population of low-income students, which means that all students are able to receive support from Title One teachers. Title One
40 32 teachers give specific and targeted instruction to struggling students in reading and math. During the school year there were 11 ESL students in 4 th grade. Of these students, one did not participate in the study because he is in the deaf and hard of hearing center based program at the school and received ESL services during a different time. Of the remaining ten students, all but three were born in the United States and have been in school in the United States since kindergarten. Of these students, the first language (L1) of three students is Spanish, one Vietnamese speaker, one Oromo Speaker, one Arabic speaker, one Urdu speaker, one Hmong speaker, one Yoruba speaker, and one Nuer speaker. Students are all identified in this study using self-chosen pseudonyms. All of the students in this study took the ACCESS of ELLs assessment in the spring of The students results placed them in Level 2 and Level 4 and Level 5 for their Composite Proficiency Level (CPL). The CPL is a literacy weighted score of the students listening, speaking, reading and writing scores. Of the ten students who participated in the study, three had a CPL of 5, six had a CPL of 4 and one had a CPL of 2. Of all the language domains, the lowest domain for all of the students was writing. This was consistent with the ACCESS results of the previous year. At my teaching location, all students in 4 th grade have their day segmented for the first time in their educational life. Instead of being in the same classroom with the same teacher throughout their day, the students rotate to three classrooms throughout the day. One teacher teaches math, another teaches science and social