Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 370, Chapter 3: Meeting the Literacy Needs of the Diverse Learners

English Language Learners (ELL) Developmental Language Levels


Response Protocol

“Designed to help teachers better their understanding of students’ language development and broaden their repertoire for meeting the needs of this special population” (Vacca, Vacca & Gove, 2012, p. 72). Some examples are shown below:


Contributions Approach – Teachers include culturally specific celebrations and holidays such as Martin Luther King Day and Columbus Day.

Additive Approach – A thematic approach, where a teacher might incorporate multicultural issues into the curriculum for a unit but they don’t always.

Transformative Approach – Teachers try to help students to learn diverse ethnic and cultural perspectives by giving them opportunities to read about concepts and events, make judgement about them, think critically, and come up with their own ideas and opinions.

Decision-Making and Social-Action Approach – Let’s students do activities and projects related to the cultural issues they have read about.

Instructional Beliefs About Academic and Cognitive Diversity

Academic and cognitive diversity are grounded in definitions, categories, and labels. These result is legislation stepping in and creating new guidelines and policies. This is where the term exceptional children came from. The exceptional child refers to a students who is either above or below the norm. This means these students need adapted material to meet their needs. These exceptionalities include:

  • learning disabilities
  • emotional and behavioral disorders
  • mental retardation
  • intellectual gifts and talents

The Public Law 94-142, or the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which was passed in 1975 has several principles that are still in effect today. These include:

  • Nondiscriminatory identification and evaluation
  • Free, appropriate public education
  • Least restrictive environment
  • Parent and student participation and shared decision making.

The law was then redesigned and the IDEA 2004 was added. This allowed for procedures to identifying students with specific learning disabilities:

  • The states must not require that the criteria for determining a specific learning disability include a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement.
  • The states may use alternative research-based methods to determine whether a student has a specific learning disability.
  • The states must allow the use of a child’s response to scientifically research-based intervention when identifying specific learning disabilities.
  • With respect to language arts, the criteria include failure of the child to adequately achieve in any one of the following areas: oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, fluency, or reading comprehension when provided with appropriate instruction based on state standards.

Instructional Principles for Academic and Cognitive Diversity

The essential components of an effective literacy program include instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency. Some useful guidelines include:

  • Students need to be engaged with authentic texts
  • Students with diverse abilities need to see reading as purposeful
  • Students who differ in their reading abilities need experiences with literacy tasks that are highly engaging that are focused on their interests as learners
  • Students who struggle need teachers who can guide them towards success
  • Teachers of students with a variety of abilities need to be focused
  • Effective teachers involve parents

Inclusion is when children with special needs are included in the regular education classroom and will receive help from the classroom teacher and a special education teacher. This gives them the opportunity to learn from their peers as well as developing social skills and making friends.

Literacy coaches provide long-term professional development for teachers that result in improved reading achievement. Characteristics of literacy coaches include:

  • Strong understanding of the reading process
  • Excellence in teaching reading
  • Exemplary communication skills with peers
  • Skill in literacy assessment and instructional practices

Differentiated Instruction help different learners who have different needs. The teacher proactively plan various ways to teach and express learning based on his/her knowledge of his/her students and their needs. Differentiated instruction can be done in whole class, small group, and individual instruction. Differentiation can look like using different reading topics, different reading levels, or different student interests.

Vacca, J. L., Vacca, R. T., & Gove, M. K. (2012). Reading and learning to read (8th ed.). New York: Longman.

Classroom Application

I think it is important that we know the different laws that are developed to help the students with exceptionalities. It’s also important to know how to use inclusion, literacy coaches, and differentiated instruction. These are things that will be implemented in the classroom no matter where you work because all students are different.

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