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Essay: Letter in Support of my Pedagogy

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Pedagogical Practice Letter

Dear Ms. xxx

I am writing to you to explain and justify my pedagogy and to ask if I may continue to carry my methods out in the 2015-2016 school year I teach my students through native language and would like to provide you with support and justification for why teaching through native language is a successful method. My pedagogy is based the Developmental Interdependence Hypothesis which argues that exposure to first language in a classroom setting facilitates second language acquisition. I apply this hypothesis in my classroom through of addressing my student’s affective factors and their cognitive development through the use of Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development t (ZPD).

First I would like to start off by giving a brief background of my students and the content I teach and my goals. I am a first grade teacher, I teach all subjects through an interdisciplinary curriculum, meaning I teach all content areas such as math, social studies, science and English Language Arts (ELA). I work with English Language Learners (ELLS); their native language is Spanish. My objectives are to build my students academic language and increase comprehension skills across all content areas as well as building language skills in both Spanish and English.

My students excelled in math, however they struggled with reading and writing in English, my evidence for this is based on their reading levels measured by the Fountas and Pinell scale (Fountas & Pinnell, 2009). . Using this scale I was able to identify that about half of my twenty-four students were below an E reading level, which is the minimal reading level requirement for first grade. Some of my students can speak English, but many of them are unable to write and comprehend materials written in English.

As I mentioned my pedagogical practice is teaching my students all content areas through native language instruction in a dual language 50/50 model classroom, which means 50 percent English 50 percent Spanish instruction. My practice aims at providing a rigorous instruction tailored through differentiation, which is extensive variety of teaching techniques and lesson adaptations that educators use to educate a diverse group of students, with diverse learning needs, in the same course, classroom, or environment, to meet the needs of my ELL students (Differentiation, n.d, para. 1.).

The goal I aim to achieve through teaching through native language is to first develop their native reading and writing so that this may aid me in their English instruction later on during the school year. In order to being to develop their native language I practice active engagement social interaction methods in my native and English lessons to enhance my pedagogy. These methods include turn and talk, which is when students share and talk with their classmates, think pair share which is when students are asked to think about a question I ask and then speak with a partner, and I also have them work in groups or with a partner and present their work. All of these practices are done in Spanish, until they have developed their Spanish enough to begin English instruction.

My pedagogy is supported through first addressing the affective factors that impact Second Language Acquisition. According to Brown (2007), there are affective factors that play a role in language acquisition; these factors are self-esteem, attribution theory, willingness to communicate, inhibition, risk-taking, empathy and extroversion. An important part of language acquisition is understanding how learners feel and respond to language (Brown, 2007). I aim at addressing any of the affective factors that apply to my students. One factor my students often face is anxiety; anxiety can cause feelings of apprehension, tension, nervousness and worry (Brown, 2007). Research has suggested that anxiety can be experienced at different levels (Brown, 2007). One level of anxiety is trait anxiety; this is the deepest or global level (Brown, 2007). Trait anxiety is a more permanent type of anxiety; this applies to people who generally experience anxiety about many things. Another level of anxiety is state anxiety, which is a more situational level of anxiety. Recent research has come to focus on anxiety and the impact it has on Second Language Acquisition and it has become to be known as language anxiety (Brown, 2007).  Language anxiety focuses on anxiety as a situational nature of anxiety, which falls under the state anxiety level.

Anxiety is often viewed as a negative factor, but for me anxiety has been an affective factor that has been facilitative and has helped promote Second Language Acquisition. This is because I aim at turning debilitative anxiety into facilitative anxiety teaching through their first language. My students come from Spanish monolingual environments, introducing them to English too quickly I have noticed causes anxiety because they are still not fluent in English, and are still developing their Spanish. Using Spanish as the first language of instruction allows me to create a facilitative anxiety, which means helpful anxiety that has beneficial effects (Brown,2009). This kind of anxiety is closely related to competitiveness and allows the student to work harder rather than feel debilitated and give up. It becomes facilitative anxiety through allowing the students to speak about all the content areas through turn and talk, think pair and share and presenting their projects in their native language eliminates the debilitating anxiety associated with forcing them to use English too soon. They begin to develop a sense of confidence and this is something later I can gradually transfer into English when they begin acquiring it. Students also gain a competitive nature associated with facilitative anxiety that makes them want to participate and engage in classroom discussion.

Secondly my practice aligns with my students cognitive development that relates to their language development by using social interactions such as turn and talk, think pair share and project presentations. According to Vgotsky cognitive development, which includes language development, occurs as result of social interactions (Lightbrown & Spada, 2006). Vgostsky’s zone of proximal development (ZPD) argues that learning is achieved through students interacting with an interlocutor or a person who takes place in conversation or dialogue (Lightbrown & Spada, 2006). This is a situation where the learner is capable of being able to perform at a higher level due to the support of the interlocutor (Lightbrown & Spada, 2006). This is why I allow for my students to engage in turn and talks and think pair and share to promote the zone of proximal development. These methods help my students engaged in academic social interactions in their native language and later I transfer this language development to English. They become engaged and excited about learning and share their knowledge through talking to their peers.

Teaching through their native language has helped me facilitate my lessons and promote academic writing, reading and conversation among my students. This is because native language can help facilitate in second language acquisition. I practice exposing my students to their native language because according to the Developmental Interdependence Hypothesis language skills and L1 classroom exposure a child has can aid in the development of their L2 (Cummins, 1979). This hypothesis was influenced by was the theory of Universal Grammar that argues there are parts of language that are innate and shared by all humans (Vrooman,2009). According to the Developmental Interdependent Hypotheses we should be teaching for transfer across all languages but not for artificial English (Fu, 2009), this is why I teach through my students native language this allows me to transfer their writing and reading skills over to English.

My pedagogy has proven to be successful through moving my children from below grade level reading and writing to grade level by mid January. Presently all my students read and write both languages, and this is a result of me using their native language and transferring the decoding skills, academic talk, purposeful reading skills and vocabulary use over to their second language. My students who struggled with reading and writing in English can now purposely read and write English text, which is something they were unable to do in the beginning of the year.

References

  • Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic Interdependence and the Educational. Review of Educational Research, 49(2), 222-251.
  • Differentiation Definition. (2013, May 15). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://edglossary.org/differentiation/
  • Fountas, I., & Pinnell, G. (2009). The Fountas and Pinnell leveled book list K-8 (2010-2012 ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Fu, D. (2009). My Decade’s Work with ELLs. In Writing Between Languages (pp. 1-10). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Lightbown, P., & Spada, N. M. (2006). Explaining second language learning. In How languages are learned (pp. 29–52). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Vrooman, M. (2001). The linguistic interdependence hypothesis and the language development of Yucatec Maya -Spanish bilingual children. Retrieved from University of Massachusetts – Amherst scholarworks Website http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI9988850/

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