English language learners developing reading comprehension skills through Think-alouds

Date of Completion

January 2001


Language, Linguistics|Education, Secondary|Education, Reading




American schools in the 21st century are faced with many new and unresolved challenges. The teaching of an increasing number of Hispanic English Language Learners (ELLs) is but one of the many unsettled issues which plague school districts nationwide (Chamot & O'Malley, 2000; Cummins, 2000a). The pervasive representation of this group as poor readers is particularly unacceptable since Hispanics: (1) represent the largest and fastest growing group (Laine & Sutton, 2000); (2) continue to suffer a devastatingly high dropout rate of 30% as, compared to 8.6% for whites and 12.1% for blacks (Krashen, 1998); (3) are more likely to come from economic disadvantaged families (Lockwood & Secada, 1999); and, (4) belong to one of the least likely groups to receive enhanced reading programs (Saunders, 2001). ^ The purpose of this research was to conduct a detailed qualitative study of the use of Think-alouds (TAs) by Hispanic high school ELLs to enhance their reading comprehension skills within a social studies classroom. A social constructivist perspective in the examination of TAs served to provide an in-depth description of how they are used to facilitate reading comprehension (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2000; O'Brien, 1998). The approach of this study is grounded in theories concerning high school education, first and second language acquisition, reading, and social constructivism. ^ The participants of the study were ninth grade ELL Hispanic high schoolers. Data was collected through key informant interviews, observations, focus groups, video and audio taping and document analysis. The transcriptions of uses of TAs were coded to highlight emergent patterns of reading comprehension and development during the application of the TA technique. ^ The findings of this study point to the following conclusions: (a) TAs allow students to become active participants in the role of monitoring their reading comprehension skills, (b) TAs lower ELLs affective filter for the acquisition of a second language, (c) TAs give ELLs a purpose for reading by making learning more relevant, (d) TAs help students become risk takers, and (e) TAs bring ELLs in contact with the commonalities of English and Spanish strengthening their bilingualism. ^