Location

Scarbrough 2

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Relevance

Science texts are rich in content and vocabulary, increasing the linguistic demands for students with learning differences (i.e., English language learners, students with cognitive and speech-language impairments). Available resources, such as classroom science texts are written above students’ reading levels to challenge students and increase academic language and reading (Mastropieri, Scruggs, Graetz, Norland, Gardizi, and McDuffie (2005). However, for students with learning differences (SLDs), reading science texts can be challenging. Adapting science texts readability and language (e.g., syntax, morphology, semantics) may help all students, particularly SLDs, access science content, and thus support science learning and academic achievement.

Brief Program Description

Students with learning differences, including English language learners, experience difficulties with reading classroom textbooks. This presentation, intended for educators and parents, will discuss and provide practice in the identification of readability levels of science texts discuss the importance of integration of visual stimuli in science texts, and explain culturally-relevant approaches to science curricula.

Summary

Available resources, such as classroom textbooks have been developed to challenge and increase students’ readability levels and academic language. Science texts are dense with vocabulary and academic language. Thus, students with learning differences (SLDs), such as English language learners and students diagnosed with learning disabilities, cognitive impairments, or speech/language impairments often struggle with reading science texts (Roberts, Takahashi, Hye-Jin, & Stodden, 2012). Adapting science texts to lower lexile levels and to modify language may help decrease linguistic demands and allow SLDs to access science curricula. Increased accessibility to science texts, can potentially aid SLDs with conceptual understanding, increased participation in science and increased academic achievement. This presentation will a) discuss the readability and language demands of academic texts, and behaviors that may signal that an SLD is not comprehending texts, b) engage participants in adapting excerpts from science texts to lower lexile levels using Fry’s Readability Formula, and c) provide an overview of Latino/a ELLs and present linguistic and culturally-relevant curricular strategies to increase Latino/a ELL’s participation in science.

Evidence

Students diagnosed with learning disabilities, cognitive impairments, or speech/language impairments often have difficulties with language and literacy skills that impedes access to science curricula (Cawley, Hayden, Cade, & Baker-Krocyznski, 2002; Conti-Ramsden, Durkin, Simkin, & Knox, 2009). Additionally, students with developmental language disorders often have difficulty with reading and writing, learning and understanding content material, and demonstrating acquired knowledge on assessments and in the classroom (Bashir & Scavuzzo, 1992). Their English language-learning counterparts, on the other hand, may have trouble with transference of skills in their first language (L1) to the English language. This transference of skills may affect comprehension of scientific vocabulary and concepts (Lara-Alecio, Tong, Irby, Guerrero, Huerta, & Fan, 2012; Suriel, 2013). In addition, English language learners (ELLs) may be diagnosed with learning disabilities resulting in a compounded effect of effectively learning from and comprehending science curricular materials. One of the proposed reasons for the lack of accessibility for SLDs is the mismatch between science curricula and the needs of students (Cawley, Hayden, Cade, & Baker-Kroczynski, 2002). Science text may not be student friendly (Armbruster & Anderson, 1988). For example, Mastropieri, Scruggs, Graetz, Norland, Gardizi, and McDuffie (2005) discovered a science curriculum used to teach 10th grade students was written on a 12th grade reading level. The gap in curricular accessibility for SLDs may be due to teachers’ lack of knowledge in how to address their linguistic needs (Tanner & Allen, 2005; Conti-Ramsden, Durkin, Simkin, & Knox, 2009) and culture (Suriel & Atwater, 2012). Students with learning differences often underperform on national, statewide and classroom assessments (Bashir & Scavuzzo, 1992 Lenski, Ehlers-Zavala, Daniel, and Xiaoqin, 2006; National Center for Educational Statistics, 2009, 2011). When provided with literacy-integrated science intervention, ELLs outperformed their non-English language learning peers (Lara-Alecio, Tong, Irby, Guerrero, Huerta, & Fan, 2012). One of best practices identified to improve performance in science include differentiated instruction; instruction specifically designed to meet the needs of SLDs (Bashir & Scavuzzo, 1992; Oliveira, Wilcox, Angelis, Applebee, Amodeo, & Snyder, 2013). Inclusion of reading strategies help students to understand the complex text of secondary texts and teaching reading strategies help to unpack the complex language of science texts (Fang & Wei, 2010). References Armbruster, B. B., & Anderson, T. H. (1988). On selecting "considerate" content area textbooks. Remedial and Special Education, 9, 47-52. Bashir, A. S., & Scavuzzo, A. (1992). Children with language disorders: Natural history and academic success. Journal Of Learning Disabilities, 25(1). Cawley, J., Hayden, S., Cade, E., & Baker-Krocyznski, S. (2002). Including students with disabilities into the general education science classroom. Exceptional Children, 68(4), 423-435. Conti-Ramsden, G., Durkin, K., Simkin, Z., & Knox, E. (2009). Specific language impairment and school outcomes. I: Identifying and explaining variability at the end of compulsory education. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 44(1), 15-25. Fang, Z., & Wei, Y. (2010). Improving middle school students' science literacy through reading infusion. The Journal of Educational Research, 103, 262-273. Lara-Alecio, R., Tong, F., Irby, B. J., Guerrero, C., Huerta, M., & Fan, Y. (2012). The effect of an instructional intervention on middle school English learners' science and English reading achievement. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(8), 987-1011. Lenski, S., Ehlers-Zavala, F., Daniel, M. C., & Xiaoqin, S. (2006). Assessing English-language learners in mainstream classrooms. Reading Teacher, 60(1), 24-34. doi:10.1598/RT.60.1.3 Mastropieri, M. A., Scruggs, T. E., Graetz, J., Norland, J., Gardizi, W., & McDuffie, K. (2005). Case studies in co-teaching in the content areas: Successes, failures, and challenges. Intervention In School & Clinic, 40(5), 260-270. National Center for Educational Statistics. (2011). The Nation’s report card: Science 2009 (NCES 2011–451). Washington, DC: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Oliveira, A. W., Wilcox, K. C., Angelis, A., Applebee, A. N., Amodeo, V., & Snyder, M. A. (2013). Best practices in middle-school science. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 24, 297-322. Roberts, K. D., Takahashi, K., Hye-Jin, P., & Stodden, R. A. (2012). Supporting Struggling Readers in Secondary School Science Classes. Teaching Exceptional Children, 44(6), 40-48. Suriel, R. & Atwater, M. M. (2012). From the contribution to the action approach: White teachers’ experiences influencing the development of multicultural science curricula. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(10), 1271-1295. Suriel, R. (2013). The triangulation of the Science, English, and Spanish languages and cultures in the classroom: Challenges for science teachers of English language learners. In M. M. Atwater, M. Russell, & M. B. Butler (Eds.), Multicultural science education: Preparing teachers for equity and social justice. Tanner, K., & Allen, D. (2005). Approaches to biology teaching and learning: Understanding wrong answers-Teaching toward conceptual change. Cell Biology, 4, 112-117.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Regina Suriel is a Science Educator in the Middle, Secondary, Reading and Deaf Education Department at Valdosta State University. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Georgia. Dr. Suriel has published a number of works concerning science education, especially in regards to Latino science learners. Prior to her doctoral work, Dr. Suriel was a bilingual high school science teacher in the New York City public school system.

Crystal Randolph is an assistant professor in the department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Valdosta State University. She is the recipient of a doctoral degree from Louisiana State University. Dr. Randolph has 10 years of experience as a speech-language pathologist. Her interests include child language and literacy interventions and pedagogical effectiveness in higher education settings.

Keyword Descriptors

struggling readers, English language learners, classroom science texts, science texts readability, culturally-relevant curricular strategies

Presentation Year

2015

Start Date

3-2-2015 3:00 PM

End Date

3-2-2015 4:15 PM

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Mar 2nd, 3:00 PM Mar 2nd, 4:15 PM

Modifying Science Texts to Accommodate the Needs of Struggling Readers and English Language Learners

Scarbrough 2

Students with learning differences, including English language learners, experience difficulties with reading classroom textbooks. This presentation, intended for educators and parents, will discuss and provide practice in the identification of readability levels of science texts discuss the importance of integration of visual stimuli in science texts, and explain culturally-relevant approaches to science curricula.