Researcher Endorses Phonemic Awareness Model
Report on Lynda Franco's NJTESOL/NJBE Workshop
Lynda Franco is a researcher at the Center for Applied
Linguistics and teaches applied linguistics, cross-cultural
understanding and curriculum materials and development at
the University of Southern Florida. She spoke at the recent
NJTESOL/NJBE Summer Institute, at Fairleigh Dickinson University,
in Teaneck, New Jersey. The following is a firsthand report on
Lynda Franco's workshop, "What's Different About Teaching Reading
to English Language Learners?"
Lynda Franco started her workshop by stating that there
is a significant language gap between native English-speaking kindergartners
and their English Language Learner (ELL) classmates, particularly
in pre-reading knowledge of vocabulary, and that this gap
increases grade by grade. She stressed her belief,
based on the research, that the key differences between
ELLs and native English speakers are in the area of pre-reading
phonology. "All children are born with the ability to produce
the sounds throughout the world," she explained. "Parents
encourage or discourage certain sounds, and at puberty
this ability is plasticized due to physical changes."
Children still have the ability to learn new sounds,
according to Lynda Franco, and it is crucial that they hear
the sounds before trying to read them. She outlined three
kinds of contrasts between an ELL's native language and
English which their pre-reading instruction ought to focus
on: English sounds which don't exist in the learner's first
language; sounds which don't occur in the same positions
in one language as in the other; and previously unencountered
combinations of sounds.
In promoting a pre-reading emphasis on phonology, Lynda Franco
was not, she warned, suggesting a return to the phonics methodology
used in U.S. grade schools nearly 40 years ago. The problem with
phonics, she explained, is that students are asked to look
at symbols and attach sounds to them. Before this higher skill
can be addressed, she said, ELLs need extensive instruction in
phonemics, learning about the sounds of English without reference
to any symbols. Phonemic awareness is at the core of Lynda
Franco's model for teaching reading to ELLs.
It is a powerful model and one endorsed by the U.S. Department
of Education. Just how pervasive the phonemic awareness model
is was illustrated by Professor Franco's description of a recent
editing project in which she helped McGraw-Hill's Science Research
Associates (SRA) revise their materials to at least "do lip service,"
in her words, to the new model.
Lynda Franco was also responsible for the development of a
phonemic awareness reading curriculum, "Language First!:
A Multisensory Program for English Language Development,"
based on LeapFrog SchoolHouse's "LeapPad" talking books
for grades P-2.
The curricula promoted by Lynda Franco are based on
"research that there are factors that determine reading
success," she explained. She provided a language acquisition
chart to outline a process of reading instruction leading to
phonemic awareness, concepts of print and letter-sound
correspondences, in that order. Lynda Franco's chart showed
four stages: preproduction; early production; speech
emergence; and intermediate fluency.
Stage One: Preproduction (2 weeks to 2 months/0-500 receptive vocabulary)
At the preproduction stage, according to Lynda Franco,
the students produce no speech, responding instead
by pantomiming, gesturing or drawing, except for saying
"yes," "no," and the names of other students. Teachers
use Total Physical Response (TPR) commands and
"manipulatives" and props, showing or writing key words
only after oral presentations. At this stage, Lynda Franco
suggests topic-based ESL instruction along with first-language
instruction for core curriculum.
Stage Two: Early Production (2 to 4 months/up to 1,000 receptive-active vocabulary)
In the early production stage, Lynda Franco believes students
should only produce words in isolation, while still
showing comprehension physically. Teachers at this stage,
according to her report, continue to expand receptive
language using TPR, encourage attempts to respond,
use concrete objects and start to use print to support
oral presentations to the class. At this stage, she suggests
topic and literature-based ESL plus first-language instruction
for the core curriculum.
Stage Three: Speech Emergence (1 to 2 years/up to 3,000 receptive-active vocabulary)
At stage three, according to Lynda Franco's chart,
teachers expand receptive language through comprehensible
input, engage students in more productive use of language
through re-telling, summarizing and reporting and begins
to incorporate more writing activities. Students produce
complete sentences, make basic grammar errors and
function on a social level despite using a limited vocabulary.
At stage three, Lynda Franco suggests content and literature-based
ESL, along with sheltered and/or first-language instruction
for the core curriculum.
Stage Four: Intermediate Fluency (3 to 5 years/beyond 3,000 receptive-active vocabulary)
At the intermediate fluency stage, teachers introduce
figurative language, ask "why" questions and engage
students in higher-order thinking (H.O.T.) skills. Students
produce whole stories, make complex grammar errors and
function somewhat on an academic level, using an expanded
vocabulary. At stage four, Lynda Franco suggests sheltered
instruction in the core curriculum, plus first-language literacy
Lynda Franco finished her workshop by providing
a checklist to help determine when English Language
Learners are ready for reading in English. According
to her report, ELLs are ready when they hear and
discriminate among English sounds, know rhyming
elements, know the alphabet, have learned the sound/symbol
correspondence, possess an adequate listening/speaking
vocabulary for the reading material, recognize common
language symbols and understand simple directions/commands.
She stressed that students must be able to hear each English
sound before the teacher tries to build a sound-symbol correspondence.
Similarly, she said that rhyming elements can only be practiced
after the teacher is certain the elements are heard accurately.
An adequate listening/speaking vocabulary, according to
Professor Franco, means an 80 to 90 percent correlation between
aural vocabulary and the words in the selected reading text.
The common language symbols ELLs need to recognize before
beginning to read, according to Lynda Franco, are: singular/plural,
present/past/future, word derivatives, prefixes, suffixes and base words.
Teachers should confirm that students can understand concrete
as well as abstract directions and commands prior to beginning
instruction in reading skills, according to Lynda Franco.
Lynda Franco gave participants at the NJTESOL/NJBE
Summer Institute some useful guidelines for integrating new
research on phonemic awareness with an enlightened approach
to ESL instruction, particularly in the area of reading skills. The
ESL reading model she described seems to stand in contradistinction
to popular whole language approaches which encourage earlier
use of sustained silent reading in the language learning process.
Several participants at her New Jersey workshop expressed
concerns with a model which seems to emphasize encoding/decoding
skills at the expense of other aspects in the reading process.
Reported by Robb Scott
2002 ESL MiniConference Online