Literacy motivation of middle school ELLs

iStock_000003798811XSmallBeginning English Language Learners (ELLs) value reading more than intermediate and advanced ELLs, says a small study on the literacy motivation of middle school students. ELL students also reported a strong interest in reading and writing activities outside of school in which they served as both learners and teachers.

“Students who perceive academic literacy tasks as difficult or lacking in value may well find value (and feel competent in) the reading and writing they do outside of school in a family or community setting,” the authors write.

This wide array of literacy activities within the family and the community included helping family members with academic literacy activities such as helping parents study for exams, tutoring a relative in English or another language and helping parents communicate with employers. Several students said they helped parents or guardians with translation, for example, in getting a passport or to communicate with teachers at school conferences.

Most students said they enjoyed read-alouds by the teacher in class. They found reading to be easiest in their English for Speakers of Languages (ESOL) classes and most difficult in classes such as social studies and science where a common text was used. Students also said that history and science were difficult because of vocabulary and unfamiliar topics.

Participants in the study were 27 boys and 23 girls enrolled in 3 ESOL classes in grades 6, 7, and 8. The students responded to a 20-question survey on literacy motivation. The survey was modified version of the Motivation to Read Profile (Gambrell et al., 1996) that was adapted for adolescents. Students’ answers were categorized into 2 separate scores: Self concept as a reader and value of reading. In addition, 8 students with intermediate and advanced skills in speaking English were interviewed by the researchers.

The survey was developed in part using expectancy value theory, which indicates that students who place a higher value on a particular type of learning (such as reading) and expect to be successful will likely have higher motivation and achievement than those who place a lower value on that type of learning and/or have a lower expectation of their own success.

“Literacy Motivation and School/Non-School Literacies Among Students Enrolled in a Middle-School ESOL Program,” by Elizabeth Sturtevant and Grace Kim, Literacy Research and Instruction, Volume 49, 2010, pps. 68-85.

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