Natilly McCartney continues to explore the scaffolding strategies that EAL children used with older and monolingual pupils in her collaborative reading task study. In this second post, she offers further insights and explores how teachers can develop young learners’ scaffolding and reading comprehension.
This article follows a previous article, in which I introduced the research project I carried out as part of my Master’s degree in research in second language education. In my study, I explored the scaffolding strategies that children with English as an Additional Language (EAL), and monolingual children with English as a first language, use in a collaborative reading task. I paired an EAL pupil with either an older EAL pupil, or an older monolingual pupil, and I recorded the children as they read together. Underlying my research was the belief that literacy should not only be viewed as a set of skills, but also as a social practice, meaning that the role of a reader’s lived experience plays an important role in comprehension.
The issue with comprehension
I previously discussed how the EAL pupils in my study demonstrated a heightened awareness to the form of language, compared to their monolingual peers. In this article, I want to discuss the finding that the EAL children in my sample displayed lower levels of comprehension.
If learners of English have had limited exposure to English language and culture, then their comprehension is likely to lag behind their ability to decode because comprehension requires a reader to draw on their lived experiences. To overcome this difficulty, teachers can ask questions in class to help learners better understand the main idea of a text. For example, you can ask questions about the subject of a sentence and its action, and ask about additional details such as objects, colour, movement, and the ‘five w’s’, including when and where. With young learners, you may want to begin with asking questions for each sentence in a story, and then gradually build up to asking about paragraphs, pages and eventually whole texts. If children are struggling to answer questions, then you can model answers.
Reading profiles and activities for the classroom
An interesting finding in my study was that the EAL pupils provided more positive reinforcement than the monolingual children. Offering positive reinforcement is qualitatively different to the other strategies I identified because it requires children to not only monitor their partner’s errors, but also to identify words which are read correctly. This suggests that ‘criticality’ is a factor which influences children’s performance in a collaborative reading task.