A Naturalistic inquiry investigating the experiences of four English language learners during the ninety-minute literacy block
This qualitative study investigated the experiences of four first-grade, English language learners (ELLs) during the ninety-minute literacy block. The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of how these first-grade ELLs constructed meaning during literacy instruction within the mainstream classroom; whether there were particular literacy instructional practices that were better suited for these young ELLs; and what the level of ELL participation was during different literacy components within the ninety-minute literacy block, as measured by student interactions. Each child's individual experiences were captured through ethnographic data collection methods, focusing on the ELLs' patterns of interaction and home environment. A detailed description of the first-grade classroom and the case studies of four ELLs show that (a) the home environment affected each child's experiences within the classroom, (b) literacy centers supplied peer negotiating opportunities through comprehensible input from peers, (c) the whole-group setting was dominated by a few outgoing children, and (d) the small, guided group setting met the diverse and changing needs of all four ELLs. The findings indicate that each child's experiences were unique. The data also demonstrated a link between the culture of the home and each child's interactions and experiences within the classroom. Finally, the guided group setting met the needs of all four ELLs by individualizing instruction to meet each child's current needs. Teaching implications suggest the need for educators to use a balanced approach to literacy, become aware of the unique culture each child brings to the classroom, and use small, guided group instruction to meet the changing needs of all students. Research implications reveal the need to explore the guided group setting, further examine ELLs' and their siblings' responses to different literacy instructional settings, and conduct longitudinal studies that investigate young ELLs' literacy experiences over several consecutive years.