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"Although the acquisition of second-language skills is important for young learners … second language acquisition is not the most important task they face. Their academic achievement and social integration are far more important. Second-language learning, therefore, needs to be recast as a means to greater ends."
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Jean Handscombe, “Putting It All Together” In Fred Genesee, ed., Educating Second Language Children: The Whole Child, the Whole Curriculum, the Whole Community.Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Education in Ontario: A Melting Pot

From 1991-2000, the Canada has received 2.2 million immigrants, 61% of who used a non-official language as a primary way of communication at home. In (Statistics Canada, 2008)2008, almost 176 000 people became Canadian citizens and one out of every six Canadian residents today were born outside of the country (Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2010). Today, there are two million students in Ontario external image multiculturalkids.jpg public schools (Cummins, 2003). All over the province, there are growing numbers of students who use a different language at home and must learn English at the same time as acquiring literacy skills and fulfilling other curriculum requirements (Ontario Education, 2007, p. 7)

Definitions of Different Kinds of English Language Learners

English language learners (ELL) are defined as students in Canada's public English language school boards whose mother tongues are not English or a variety of English that differs from our own to the extent that additional assistance is required (Ontario Education, 2007, p. 8).

Canadian ELL learners can be children from Aboriginal communities, immigrant, or cultural communities keen on maintaining cultural and linguistic traditions. They may have attended English school (p. 8-9).
Newcomers to Canada are students who will have arrived at different times in the school year before grade 12 (p. 9).
Voluntary newcomers are usually educated and from priviledged backgrounds with families that are seeking better opportunities. Some of these students will even have ESL education backgrounds.
Refugee children move because of war or crisis in the homeland. They have suffered traumatic experiences, may be separated from family members and may not always have the best academic background.
International or visa students are usually in secondary school and want to attend a post-secondary institution in Canada. Some of these students will have had an ESL background. They frequently live with host families and are under pressure to succeed from their family back home (p. 9-10).

Contemporary ESL Learning in Ontario

external image global_education.jpgSchool boards and staff will assess the proficiency of ESL students through interviews, and literacy and numeracy tests once they start school (Ontario Education, 2007, p. 19). Information on their families, previous schooling, immigration history, health, hobbies, interest, special needs, and school documents will be gathered, through the Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) process (p.19-20).
-The school board will provide additional academic support if the testing shows that the student has had limited schooling. This may entail an intensive program to acquire these skills (p. 18).

-The results of English proficiency does not influence grade placement (p. 20). In elementary schools, ESL learners are placed with age appropriate groups. In secondary schools, students may be placed in a variety of classes of different grades and levels, depending on prior education and strengths (p. 20). High school students must be in a grade-level classroom for at least part of each day (p. 21).

-Many ELL attend ESL classes for a certain part of the day and learn other subjects in mainstream classrooms (p. 22). ESL students gradually become more integrated into mainstream classrooms as they become more proficient (p. 20). Integration is even more possible with teachers that hold a minimum of ESL part 1 qualifications offered through AQ courses, or with the assistance of an ESL teacher assistant (p. 22) .

- Extra ELD (English literacy development) programs are available for those whose mother tongues greatly differ from English or those who have limited literacy skills in any language (p. 21).

The Theoretical Framework Behind Cultural Literacy for ELL in ELA

"Literacy connects individuals and communities, and is an essential tool for personal growth and active participation in a cohesive, democratic society.”

Reach Every Student – Energizing Ontario Education. Ontario Ministry of Education, 2008, p. 2
Because of cultural misunderstandings, EFL students will misinterpret information when reading new texts (Carell, P. 1987, p. 462). According to Carell, cultural information allows these students to excel academically. The researcher uses the example of incorporating readings on American customs and weddings when teaching ESL learners. This lesson gave the students a chance to compare such traditions with their own cultures, what Carell calls "cultural contrastive analysis" (Carell, P. 1987, p. 462). . Many theorists, such as Vygotsky, believe in teaching the target culture, because the association with the previous knowledge will ease and engage the learner (Levy, M. Stockwell, G, 2008, p.116). I propose that target-culture learning is equally effective for ESL learners. The context is still meaningful, since many of these learners are striving to integrate themselves socially. Furthermore, literature can help students shape their opinions and diminish prejudices, while learning to relate to one another (Adeynju, T., K., 1978, p. 134). In the opinion of numerous language educators, literature is too difficult for these students (Gajdusek, L., 1988, p. 228-229). However, it proves beneficial, because it creates communicative, content-based language instruction (Gajdusek, L., 1988, p. 228-229) using all four skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking.) Books intended for ESL learners will often miss aspects of the target culture such as oral and written history, literature, music, drama, dance, visual arts, and celebration (Celk, S., Turkan, S., 2007, p. 20). Literature evokes the interpretation of symbols and values (Celk, S., Turkan, S., 2007, p. 23). It provides cultural context in thought-provoking narratives (Celk, S., Turkan, S., 2007, p. 20).

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Contrasting the Reading of Native and Non-Native Speakers of English

Reading is an active, two-way process where new information is matched with existing knowledge and developed language competences (Gajdusek, 1988, p. 229). This knowledge is organized into systems called schemata. Readers are able to interpret and understand incoming language signals and match them with previously-attained schemata. The meaning of language is produced and the schemata are activated when new information is being learned. This allows us to predict and interpret new information (Gajdusek, 1988, p. 229). ESL students will often seek more assistance in establishing schemata, since literature is less explicitly contextualized then other texts. Their linguistic and cultural barriers may result in misinterpretation(Gajdusek, 1988, p. 231) .

ESL and Literature Teaching Strategies:

-Incorporate a variety of materials enabling the students to learn authentic discourse and attain academic literacy simultaneously.external image teacher.gif

-Studies have proved that a student's mother tongue is useful in the acquisition of a second language (Ernst-Slavit, G., Moore, M., Malooney, C., 2002, p. 117) Previous linguistic schemata aids the learning of new linguistic structures. Use of the native language should be allowed and the sharing of past cultural experiences welcome (Ernst-Slavit et. al 2002, p. 118).

-Errors in second language production indicate learning (Ernst-Slavit et. al 2002, p. 118). An environment where students are not afraid to make mistakes is crucial. Teachers should only correct students occasionally and in a sensitive manner. These are to be frequent errors that impede communication (Ernst-Slavit et. al 2002, p. 118).

-According to Piaget, during language second language acquisition, students go through "the silent period" (Ernst-Slavit et. al 2002, p. 121). Therefore, at times, ESL learners will be absorbing large amounts of information and communicating less. The ESL student must be able to trust that the teacher will encourage participation without causing them stress by singling them out (Ernst-Slavit et. al 2002, p. 121).

- Provide an environment that promotes interaction and learning through other modules of reading and writing (Ernst-Slavit et. al 2002, p. 118).

-According to the Ontario curriculum, ESL students are to be granted extra time and given alternative forms of assessment when needed. This can be through oral interviews, learning logs, and portfolios (Ontario Education, 2007, p. 28).

-The educator should communicate with gestures and actions (Ernst-Slavit et. al 2002, p. 119). Manipulatives, visuals, pictures, (Ernst-Slavit et. al 2002, p. 120), venn diagrams, graphic organizers, and semantic webs are helpful, as well as audiotaped recordings of assigned readings (Ernst-Slavit et. al 2002, p. 124).

-Teachers should show excerpts from different versions of films based on the work being studied (Ernst-Slavit et. al 2002, p. 121).

-During oral communication, ask open-ended questions that students cannot simply answer by saying "yes" or "no" (Ernst-Slavit et. al 2002, p. 124).

-Begin lessons with pre-reading activities that have background information and vocabulary (Gajdusek, 1988, p. 233).

-Break down an important piece of literature into short passages (Ernst-Slavit et. al 2002, p. 120).

Recommended Canadian Literature for Intermediate/Senior ELA Classes with ELL

Novels:Medecine River-Thomas King, Spud Sweetgrass-Brian Doyle, Lost in the Barrens, Discovery of my America-Farley Mowat, Anne of Green Gables-L.M. Montgomery, Sunshine Sketches of Towns-Stephen Leacock, the Dear Canada Series-Scholastic Canada Ltd., When Falcons Fly-David Square, The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories-Roch Carrier, Klondike-Pierre Burton
Poems:In Flander's Fields-John Mc Crae, Ballads of a Cheechako-Robert Service, Pauline Johnson, George Bowering, Newfoundland Verse-E.J. Pratt.Short Stories: Roughing it in the Bush-Susana Moodie, Lobo, the King of Currumpaw-ErnestThompson
For more ideas, consult:
CBC Literary Awards: [[http://www.cbc.ca/radio/literaryawards/ ]]
The Governor General's Literary Awards: http://www.canadacouncil.ca/prizes/ggla/ external image CBC_Logo_1992-Present.png

Pedagogical Aid Resources

Parkinson, B., Thomas, H. R.(2000).Teaching Literature in a Second Langauge. Edinburgh University Press
Parkinson, B., Thomas, H. R.(2000).Teaching Literature in a Second Langauge. Edinburgh University Press

Falvet, P. Kennedy, P. (1999) Learning Language Through Literature in Secondary Schools-A Resource Book for Teachers of English. Hong Kong University Press
Falvet, P. Kennedy, P. (1999) Learning Language Through Literature in Secondary Schools-A Resource Book for Teachers of English. Hong Kong University Press

Kramsch, C.J. (2008) Context and Culture in Language Teaching. Oxford University Press
Kramsch, C.J. (2008) Context and Culture in Language Teaching. Oxford University Press

Corbett, J. (2003) An Intercultural Approach to English Language Teaching.Multilingual Matters.
Corbett, J. (2003) An Intercultural Approach to English Language Teaching.Multilingual Matters.


Ontario Education. (2007). English Language Learners/ESL and ELD Programs and Services, Policies and Procedures for Ontario Elementary and Secondary Schools, Kindergarten to Grade 12. Queen's Printer of Ontario. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/esleldprograms/index.html on October 9th, 2010.

Ernst-Slavit, G., Moore, M., Malooney, C. (2002). Changing Lives: teaching English and Literature to ESL Students. Journal of Adoescent & Adult Literacies 46 (2). p. 116-128. Newark: International Reading Association.

Carell, P.(1987). Content and Formal Schemata in ESL Reading. Tesol Quarterly 21 (4). p. 461-481. New York: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.

Celik, S., Turkan, S. (2007). Integrating Culture into EFL Texts and Classrooms: Suggested Lesson Plans. Novitas-ROYAL-Research on Youth and Language 1 (1). p. 18-33. http://novitasroyal.org.

Adeyanju, T., K. (1978). Teaching Literature and Human Values in ESL: Objectives and Selection. ELT Journal 1978 XXXXII (2). p. 133-138. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gajdusek, L. (1988). Toward Wider Use of Literature in ESL: Why and How. Tesol Quarterly 22 (2). p. 227-257. New York: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.


Levy, M., Stockwell, G. (2008). CALL DImensions-Options and Issues in Computer-Assisted Language Learning. New York: Routledge