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LINGUIST List 23.5176

Tue Dec 11 2012

Review: Applied Linguistics: Coelho (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>

Date: 11-Dec-2012
From: Kirstie Swanson <picklemania1gmail.com>
Subject: Language and Learning in Multilingual Classrooms: A Practical Approach
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-2882.html

AUTHOR: Elizabeth Coelho
TITLE: Language and Learning in Multilingual Classrooms
SUBTITLE: A Practical Approach
SERIES TITLE: Parents’ and Teachers’ Guides
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2012

Kirstie Swanson, Curriculum Developer for OpenEnglish.com, Heyworth, IL USA


This book’s primary purpose is to provide research-based practical support for
schools who are receiving immigrant students for the first time. It is
designed to help a build the support structures that immigrant students need
to succeed from the ground up. The book is written by a Canadian teacher who
has been asked to give advice to teachers in Spain about their new immigrant
population. She has taught in Toronto, dealing with immigrant students from
all over the world, for more than thirty years and brings this experience to
the topic. The book is a thorough review of the research on second language
learners (L2Ls) and the importance of the administrator, teacher, and
community support for their integration into their new country’s society.

Chapter 1
This chapter is focused on Canada’s immigration policy and gives the author’s
observed reasons for the immigrants they have. It is intended to help
administrators and teachers have empathy for the situations of the immigrants,
who often come through a highly stressful ordeal to get to their new country.
It is also aimed at helping educators see the benefits and skills that these
people bring with them. Readers are introduced to the cultural shock phases
that an immigrant family will likely go through: first impressions, where
there is a feeling of curiosity about their new country, and possibly relief;
culture shock, marked by reality, pessimism, and loneliness; renewed optimism,
making friends and seeing success in school; and integration, discovering a
new identity in their new home.

Chapter 2
The main audience for this chapter is administrators who are welcoming
immigrant students into their school, likely for the first time. It gives
practical advice on developing relationships with the parents of immigrant
children. The author provides advice, starting with the visual elements that
give the new family their first impression of the school through the
assessment of the child’s educational background and the orientation that the
family will need to start feeling connected to their new community. The author
gives helpful hints about issues that have been cultural miscommunications and
stumbling blocks in the past, such as the way different cultures view name
use. The value of a bilingual interpreter is emphasized at this step in order
to gather accurate information about the child’s past educational experience.
There are also helpful example questionnaires and assessment tools that would
be good starting points to help administrators and teachers get an accurate
picture of the student’s grasp of age-appropriate concepts and their
proficiency in their first language (L1). The chapter also points out ways to
start integrating the child into the school immediately by keeping them in the
main classroom for much of the day and providing student guides. There are
also suggestions on additional community support, such as orientation for
parents, parent networks, homework clubs, tutoring, and multi-lingual
resources. The author makes a point of reminding her readers that the child’s
L1 is very important for their second language (L2) development, and for the
child’s identity. Suggestions such as community book-making projects and
building a library’s collection of books in the community’s languages are
suggested to help the child continue learning in their L1.

Chapter 3
A whole school, or whole school district, approach to providing language
support for immigrant children is the central theme of this chapter. According
to research, L2 learners take five years to catch up with their peers. This is
due to the fact that they are learning academic English alongside
conversational English, and that their peers are also learning new language
skills at the same time that the L2 learner is trying to catch up (Cummins
2007). There are helpful clarifications in this chapter that point out the
difference between academic and everyday language. The chapter also combats
some of the current strategies that would recommend pulling the student out of
the regular classroom just to focus on language, or would underestimate the
need for language support because the child is young. Dual language classrooms
are purported to be the best option for L2 learners, but the author realizes
that this is not possible for many school systems. She insists that training
teachers to handle the L2 learners in their class, and having specialist
teachers for this purpose, is essential. Reviews are given of dual language
classrooms, intensive self-contained language classes, part-time classes,
tutorial support, and immersion. Second to dual language classrooms, and
content-based instruction is the considered the best way for the student to
learn their L2 (Genesee 1994).

Chapter 4
This chapter is about the assessment process and how to adjust assessment for
the L2L in the classroom. The main audience for this chapter is teachers,
because they will be the ones giving the student the content-based assessment
and need to be concerned about the validity of their test for the L2L. The
teacher should be focused on finding out what the student can do with the
information they’ve been taught, not what they can’t do because they are still
learning the language of instruction. The Common European Framework of
Reference (CEFR) (www.coe.int/T/DG4/Lingustic) is introduced in this chapter
as a tool for making assessment scaffolds for the L2Ls. Samples of how a
teacher might use the CEFR are provided. The author also takes time in this
chapter to combine research such as Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development,
the Cummins model of context labels (Cummins 2000), and the CEFR to produce a
chart of kinds of activities that will and will not work for helping an L2L
learn and be appropriately assessed. The chapter provides examples and charts
to clarify. The charts will help teachers analyze their activities and
assessments to determine how much scaffolding they are providing to students.
The chapter also provides other ways to assess a child’s knowledge of the
content without requiring the production of unique language.

Chapter 5
This chapter is written to assist administrators in evaluating the school’s
performance overall in helping the student reach the integration stage in
their cultural adjustment. Statistics and charts are provided to combat the
common belief that immigrant children will hinder the overall academic success
of a school. There is also a closer look at the demographics of the
adolescents with the highest high school dropout rate. The author criticizes
the programs that are designed to identify and help at-risk students. This
chapter champions the dual language classrooms through high school, and
insists on long-term language support for L2Ls in their L1 and L2. Evidence is
provided here that the teacher has a greater effect on the L2L’s achievement
then the student’s living circumstances (Center for Public Education). A ten
point plan, mainly focused on continual assessment and language support in the
classroom, is proposed for the schools to start addressing this need.

Chapter 6
Teachers are the target audience of this chapter. The information is presented
in order to help them be inclusive of all languages in the classroom. The
chapter starts by focusing on the teacher’s positive attitude toward the new
students as a model for the rest of the students in the classroom. It goes on
to introduce ways to give the students time and activities to help them get to
know one another, not focusing on one culture, but allowing the students to
represent all of their family cultures and backgrounds. Activity ideas are
presented and illustrated, and ways to integrate the school’s cultures into
the content material are proposed. Focus is given to language inclusive
activities in literature, social studies, mathematics, science, the arts, and
physical education classrooms.

Chapter 7
Using the school as a location to make linguistic diversity the norm is the
intent of this chapter. Research about the benefits that multilingualism
provides for the community, the school, the student, and the student’s family
is provided. Following this information, the author makes suggestions on how
to make the school multilingual, such as including immigrant parents in the
classrooms, providing language classes in the community languages, and making
signs, newsletters, and websites multilingual. The most important thing that
schools and classrooms can do is make language inclusion normal, not treating
it as strange or problematic. Classroom activities are suggested and
exemplified to facilitate this attitude.

Chapter 8
Teachers should strive to provide a classroom environment where the student
feels safe trying to use their L2 and where they can also feel that their use
of their L1 is valued. The beginning of this chapter provides research
regarding the different stages of language development (e.g. Krashen 1981).
Suggestions are given on how to teach to each student’s language level,
providing context support, and making the classroom safe for production
practice. Specific areas of oral language may need to be taught explicitly,
like syllable stress and rhythm. The chapter goes on to talk about the
benefits of authentic language input and negotiation strategies that L2Ls will
get by working in groups with their native language peers. Teachers are
provided guidelines on how to manage those groups and given group activity

Chapter 9
This chapter focuses on giving teachers ideas about how to support L2Ls in
their reading and writing acquisition. The chapter presents clear charts on
the differences between written and spoken language and encourages teachers to
become sensitive to these issues. Scaffolding techniques for supporting L2L
reading and writing are provided along with suggestions for different age and
proficiency groups. For example, young readers and beginners both need print
and picture rich environments. Ideas and activities to support this kind of
learning are provided for teachers. The author cautions teachers about reading
aloud activities and states that this activity shows more about the student’s
ability to produce speech then to read and comprehend. It should only be used
if the text is understood. Teachers are also provided with scaffolding
techniques for helping L2Ls learn different kinds of writing skills. The
scaffold for reading and writing is the same: the teacher shows the student
what they will do, the teacher shows how to do it, the teacher helps the
student do it, and then the student tries the activity on their own. Writing
activities are presented and exemplified to help teachers envision how to
concretely apply the scaffold in the classroom.

Chapter 10
The focus of this chapter is on vocabulary acquisition. Following the pattern
of previous chapters, the author presents research on why this is important
for all students, and especially L2Ls. This chapter proposes teaching word
families, rather than individual words, and claims that the difference between
the literacy abilities of a native English speaker and an L2L is vocabulary
knowledge (Blachowicz et al. 2005). Teachers must be aware of the fact that
L2Ls need to be learning new vocabulary at an accelerated rate to catch up
with their peers. A chart is provided for teachers to help them determine if a
word is high or low frequency in order to prioritize what the student needs to
learn for that lesson and what will help them in everyday life. Teachers are
encouraged to help their students read voluntarily, given activities to help
them teach new words explicitly, and to help the student notice vocabulary
words around them in their life inside and outside of the classroom.


This book is a practical and invigorating tool for teachers who are faced with
the challenge of integrating immigrant students into their classroom. It also
presents clearly the challenges that the school administration will face in
order to properly support this group of students. The integrated summary of
research on each chapter’s topic as well as the interview techniques,
assessment plans, and practical classroom activity suggestions are useful for
all teachers working with L2Ls in any mainstream classroom. In many ways, the
attitude shift this book calls for is needed. Teachers must be able to see
their immigrant students as an asset to their school, and to their country.
This book not only explicitly encourages administrators and teachers to
approach an immigrant family in a positive way, but it implicitly provides
them with examples and activities that help them alter focus on the L2L as a
positive challenge rather than a negative one.

Many of the suggestions in the book are idealized; however, the author
recognizes that the best is not always possible. It provides small steps that
can be taken to encourage language diversity from the level of classroom
interaction and content all the way through offering language classes to the
community in the immigrant’s languages and inclusive cultural involvement.


Blachowicz, Camille .L. Z., Peter J. Fisher, & Susan Watts-Taffe. 2005.
Integrated vocabulary instruction: meeting the needs of diverse learners in
grades K-5. Naperville, IL: Learning Point Associates.

Center for Public Education
nt-Research-review.html (3 November, 2012.)

Common European Framework of Reference. www.coe.int/T/DG4/Lingustic (3
November, 2012.)

Cummins, Jim. 2007. Promoting literacy in multilingual contexts.
http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/Cummins.pdf (3
November, 2012.)

Cummins, Jim. 2000. Language, power and pedagogy: bilingual children caught in
the crossfire. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Genesee, Fred. 1994. Integrating language and content: lessons from immersion
(Educational Practice Reports No. 11). National Center for Research on
Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learning. Washington, DC: Center for
Applied Linguistics.

Krashen, S. D. 1981. Principles and practice in second language acquisition.
English Language Teaching Series. London: Prentice-Hall International.


Kirstie Swanson (M.A. Payap University Linguistics Department) is a curriculum
developer for OpenEnglish.com. Her research interests are in developing
effective teaching strategies for English language teaching, assisting English
as a second language students in accomplishing their language learning goals,
and minority language preservation, documentation, and revitalization.
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