Over the last few years, various suggestions have been made to address the ever-changing language needs of modern-day education and employment (Barone & Hong, 2008). Among the most recent issues have been the perennial debates on the many different programs aimed at improving the processes of learning and reading in English (Kottler &Kottler, 2001). Indeed, the focus on languages has raised recurrent debates mainly because language acquisition is a significant developmental task for children (Reyes & Vallone, 2008).
In the end, various researchers have recommended that some course of action ought to be taken to equip learners with the language skills required in the face of the changing socio-economic needs of the global society (Ravenscroft, 2007). However, regardless of the potential advantages of the many plans to improve English learning and reading processes, some models have been criticized because they do not always lead to the desired results.
In spite of the unending discussions, the increasing number of English language learners in learning institutions has necessitated that various strategies are developed to respond to the rising challenges (Reyes & Vallone, 2008). Similarly, there are many technology-based strategies employed in English learning and reading that have generated intended outcomes amidst various setbacks (Kohn, 2009). This research paper is a literature investigation into classroom strategies and problems seen in English language learning and reading processes. The paper focuses on some of the most recurrent and emergent problems of English-centered learning and the use of technology to support reading. Viewed together, the paper evaluates the emerging problems just as it provides objective reflections based on what is learned.
Comprehensive Literacy Classroom: Reading Works of Literature as a Strategy in English Learning and Reading
One of the aspects upon which a comprehensive literacy classroom is based is the reading of literature materials. Literacy reading is seen as a strategy that enhances inclusivity in English language learning and reading processes (Barone & Hong, 2008). Reading works of literature has been a prevalent practice in many different parts of the world (Ellery, 2005). However, its importance in language skills development in the classroom seems not to have been emphasized enough by past educational stakeholders (Sumara, 2002).
To this end, various educational psychologists suggest that works of literature are ‘‘revelations’’ as far as learning and reading in English are concerned. The study of literary works enables learners to nurture new ideas and moral standpoints in relation to language-acquisition processes (Sumara, 2002).
Works of literature improve students’ linguistic skills. While the reading of literary works has been a preserve of a few people even in the most complex communities, the realization that it improves students’ English vocabularies has increased the number of active readers across the world (Ellery, 2005). Due to the ‘‘new’’ words frequently employed by various authors, most students’ linguistic competencies get better whenever they read literary works in the classroom.
Furthermore, a historical work of literature exposes students to the linguistic and philosophical suggestions that were popular in a particular society in a specific time period (Sumara, 2002). For example, many works by Thomas Paine on anti-English democratic ideals that Americans longed for two centuries ago have shaped many learners’ intellectual worldviews on democracy and languages (Ellery, 2005).
In addition, reading interesting works of literature creates a craving to access more books and an increased appreciation of the English language. Whenever students read an ‘‘intriguing’’ literary work, they develop an interest in looking for more reading materials that would improve their language proficiency (Barone & Hong, 2008). Today, an Internet-addicted teenager is more likely to ‘‘hop’’ from one e-book website to the other. While this ‘‘multi-screening’’ may be a prevalent crisis, it is a suitable way of reading diverse texts and accessing various works of literature at the same time (Henke, 2001). In any case, many new works of literature are encouraging young readers to delve into more published facts (Barone & Hong, 2008).
In reading, a Text-Related approach to learning languages is emphasized. In this strategy, there are questions used to gauge the evaluative opinions that students develop by analyzing a specific text (Barone & Hong, 2008). In most cases, language instructors ask questions to an entire class of students. In turn, the students are allowed to discuss among themselves. The inherent issues for the students are the main arguments brought up by an author, the kind of information provided by the author to convince readers to understand their points of view, and the proof that a writer has not ‘‘influenced’’ some pieces of information (Ellery, 2005).
In the long run, a work of literature on any social issue may control how students respond to the demands of their learning environments (Sumara, 2002). For instance, a novel that exposes the effects of drug abuse in schools may influence a student to avoid the urge to abuse illegal substances as his language skills improve. More important is that some works of literature encourage ‘‘confidential’’ reading. For many people, it is difficult to read relationship guidebooks in public (Reyes & Vallone, 2008). However, learners who are driven by views expressed in a new book become comfortable reading such materials on their own. This aspect improves the ‘‘love’’ for printed literature and language proficiency (Henke, 2001).
Just as important, too, is that a comprehensive language literacy framework requires the application of leading questions. Such questions are formulated to sustain the interests of greenhorn readers and English language learners. Often, this measure employs some degree of guided reading, yet the instructor ought to ask students questions instead of allowing them to wait for the teacher’s own interpretation of the text (Reyes & Vallone, 2008).
In summary, the growing importance of works of literature in learning and appreciation of the English language cannot be overturned. The scope of learning, which is heightened by the need for advanced intellectual reasoning, has made literary works necessary. At any rate, literary works, including poems, novels and short stories, help students in developing insights into their contexts and interpretations of societal issues.
Additive versus Subtractive Program Models and the Use of Standardized Tests
There is a growing acceptance and debate on Additive versus Subtractive models (Ellery, 2005). According to Kottler and Kottler (2001), the distinguishing feature between the two has been viewed as an important aspect in language learning mainly because of the emphasis reflected by the well-accepted constructivist theory. In summary, constructivist theory advocates for respect for culture and students’ backgrounds in language acquisition efforts.
In this regard, an additive bilingual model focuses on the maintenance and development of the first language while the second language is learned. On the other hand, subtractive bilingual models strive to replace the first language with the second. The latter is more culturally responsive (Ellery, 2005). In perspective, one of the most noted subtractive bilingual models is the use of standardized tests in English language learning processes.
In a recent article, Kohl (2009) agrees that the use of standardized tests in schools has had some indispensable advantages in subtractive bilingual model learning. While standardized language tests are limited in terms of their ability to measure language-acquisition achievements, they have been instrumental in making accurate decisions on whether a child is ready for English learning or not. What remains debatable is its responsiveness to the global socio-economic needs that emphasize assessment-based learning in languages (Ravenscroft, 2007).
However, Moll (2004) suggests that even at that, the use of standardized tests has enabled teachers to make follow-ups in gauging student performance in language groups, and resolving when it is necessary to arrange for exceptional English lessons. In this regard, even a ‘‘doubting Thomas’’ would admit that standardized testing promotes the realization of better academic performances in languages (Kohn, 2009).
The Use of Technology for English Language Learners and Readers
Demographic changes in many classrooms across many countries such as the United States have necessitated a re-think of language-teaching programs (Kohn, 2009). Matters have been complicated by technological developments that have led to the implementation of technology in the area of language instructions and learning (Ravenscroft, 2007). In a way, there are widespread claims that computer and Internet technologies are becoming instrumental in English language learning (Kottler &Kottler, 2001).
However, the problem that has emerged is how technology should be integrated in language teaching and learning processes (Ellery, 2005). Whereas the Internet is one of the key technological innovations that have led to the many socio-economic changes seen in the education sector, concerns about its misuse have been raised in many development-based initiatives (Carr, 2013).
On the other hand, the extent to which Internet and computer-mediated technological strategies influence English learning and reading is evident in many ways (Kohn, 2009). Since the adoption of network-based language teaching and learning programs, many studies have been carried out to examine the effectiveness of computer-mediated communication (CMC). Because the discovery of the Internet was pegged on the necessity to transmit information, learning and reading in English remain one of its most important beneficiaries (Arsham, 2002). In a recent book, Carr (2013) observes that the process of looking for useful vocabulary and other information has become quicker. Progressively, it is becoming less necessary for learners to visit libraries to look for published information for their language course assignments (Carr, 2013).
On the other hand, computer-assisted language learning has some loopholes. Although the problems have been categorized as technical complexities, logistic limitations and cognitive demands, the most talked-about influence of the Internet has to do with its negative role in classroom social interaction (Arsham, 2002). While the use of the Internet has revolutionized how people form relationships and communicate with each other, it is destroying the meaningfulness of human interaction necessary for learning and teaching English (Carr, 2013). The value that face-to-face interaction signifies is not always realized when the processes of reading and learning English are centered on technology such as the Internet.
In other words, while the Internet and computer-assisted learning have expanded people’s connections, the meaningfulness and ‘‘human’’ quality of such learning are lost in English learning processes (Arsham, 2002). Today, an Internet-addicted teenager is more likely to ‘‘hop’’ from one e-book website to the other. While this ‘‘multi-screening’’ may be a prevalent crisis, it is a suitable way of reading diverse texts and accessing various works of art at the same time (Henke, 2001). In any case, many new works of literature are encouraging young readers to delve into more published facts (Arsham, 2002).
More recently, the use of student laptop computers instead of a language textbook is nearly being adopted in full by some schools. There are many advantages and disadvantages of using laptop computers for language learners and teachers (Kohn, 2009). In many cases, however, the continued use of these gadgets reduces the scope of assessing a learner’s language successes. When viewed critically, however, personal laptop computers enable learners to access up-to-date reading materials with ease (Ravenscroft, 2007).
The challenge that continues to be pointed out in many types of research is their insufficient bearing on the present world economy that requires evaluation-centered education (Kohn, 2009). In spite of this inadequacy, laptop computers help educational instructors in making immediate responses whenever learners are challenged by assigned English tasks. This advantage allows teachers to determine how a student performs in languages within a limited time period (Kohn, 2009). In fact, in comparison to the use of textbooks, most critics of the strategy concur that the use of a laptop computer enhances responsiveness in language learning processes (Ravenscroft, 2007).
Despite the benefits of laptop computers, a number of policymakers in the education sector do not welcome the suggestion of substituting textbooks with these devices (Kohn, 2009). Accordingly, the implementation of the strategy would have unintended outcomes because of its insufficiently thought-out guidelines for dealing with language needs. In a way, the critical issue resides in the extent to which the suggestions made do not promote an educational culture that enhances the creation of responsive ideas among learners (Ravenscroft, 2007). In addition, the measure does not address the competence of learners and instructors to employ established language guidelines (Kohn, 2009).
Seemingly, then, the limits of a laptop computer to short-term academic ‘‘traditions’’ remain among the most critical issues that have not been addressed. According to Kohn (2009), the gadgets do not seem adequate to establish the kind of learning resources relevant to most learners and teachers in schools. The argument relates to the all-too-often mentioned notion that to substitute textbooks with laptop computers is to reduce a student’s ability to be creative (Ravenscroft, 2007). In fact, most modern-day technology-based gadgets such as computers encourage learning that leads to poor long-term intellectual cultures and underdeveloped language skills. In any case, learners who use such devices in nearly every part of their academic discourses may be distracted throughout course group lectures.
Reflections on the Lessons Learned from the Review
Many issues can be concluded as points of reflection from this review. One, comprehensive literacy classroom language learning strategy revolves around reading. To this end, the growing importance of works of literature in learning and appreciation of English is unlikely to reduce. The scope of learning, including additive and subtractive bilingual models, has made literary works necessary. In any case, literary works help students in developing insights into their contexts and the interpretations of social issues. Two, the use of computer-mediated technology and the Internet remain significant aspects in language acquisition processes. While technology compromises the meaningfulness of human interaction in language acquisition, its relevance cannot be ignored.
Three, the suggestion to substitute textbooks with laptop computers in learning institutions has generated somewhat conflicting arguments. Noticeably, the recommendation does not address the widespread deteriorating quality of English language proficiencies among students. While laptop computers may be relevant in promoting easier ways to access academic resources for English language learning processes, their use limits creative-centered education.
They do not encourage the employment of the required integrative measures in teaching and reading languages. Four, even though standardized testing, as an educational measure, continues to stir controversies, it is not necessarily a one-stop formula for improving educational standards. As things stand, it is only a workable intervention framework for determining academic achievements, but not logical learning of languages.
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Ellery, V. (2005). Creating strategic readers: Techniques for developing competency in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. London: Reading Association
Henke, H. (2001). Electronic books and publishing. New York: Springer.
Kohn, A. (2009). Technology and its victims in schools. Journal of Education, 23 (2), 453-465.
Kottler, E., & Kottler, J. (2001). Children with limited English: Teaching Strategies for the regular classroom. New York: Corwin Press.
Ravenscroft, A. (2007). Promoting thinking and conceptual change with digital dialogue games. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23 (2), 453-465.
Reyes, S., & Vallone, T. (2008). Constructivist strategies for teaching English language learners. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Sumara, D. (2002). Why reading literature in school still matters Imagination, Interpretation and Insight. Los Angeles: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.