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Review of  The Handbook of TESOL in K-12

Reviewer: Laura Dubcovsky
Book Title: The Handbook of TESOL in K-12
Book Author: Luciana C de Oliveira
Publisher: Wiley
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 31.799

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De Oliveira’s introductory chapter, “Key Concepts and Issues in TESOL in K-12,” offers the layout of this collaborative handbook, divided into three sections that include thematic chapters, as well as general concerns that are threaded throughout the book. The first section addresses “Key Issues in Teaching ESOL Students in K‐12”. In Chapter 2, Hawkins defines “Plurilingual Learners and Schooling: A Sociocultural Perspective.” After reviewing factors that influence the nature and variety of English Learners (ELs), the author claims a socio-humanistic view that involves the integration of language, pedagogy, policy mandates and curriculum, Hawkins encourages TESOL teachers to treat minority language students with respect, assuming linguistically and culturally responsive positions and advocating for equal educational opportunities, participation and engagement.

Chapter 3, “Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Practices for K‐12 ESOL Learners” by Wilcox, Oliver, Gregory and Yu describes common and specific language features across school disciplines, The authors assert that TESOL educational programs should strengthen language preparation to help candidates design lesson plans with clearer language and content objectives, and plan efficient strategies for Els to improve content knowledge while developing the second language. In general, Wilcox and her colleagues recommend collaborations between language and content areas, as well as promoting discussions and using a variety of modalities in the classroom. They also give specific suggestions for each discipline, such as selecting readings carefully and offering heavily scaffolded writing in science, providing toolkits that enforce reasoning and higher order of thinking in mathematics, and working on differentiated instruction in social studies, even though students had not yet met the language demands.

In Chapter 4, “A Developmental and Contextual Perspective on Academic Language,” Brisk and Tian traces the construct’s long trajectory from classical distinctions between basic interpersonal communicative skills and cognitive academic language proficiency (Cummins, 1979) to current uses, functions and varieties of the language of schooling (Schleppegrell, 2004 ). While some approaches address academic language in content areas, such as science or mathematics, others focus on specific abilities, such as reading or writing. The authors also include strategies that aim at developing students’ academic language, encouraging intense scaffolding, use of students’ knowledge, and contextualized language to convey meaning. Moreover, Brisk and Tian adopt a flexible perspective on language, praising the incorporation of students’ home languages in the classroom, as well as translations and translanguaging practices. They contend that the use of multiple resources will enable Els to expand their daily and academic linguistic repertoires across the disciplines.

Chapter 5, “Language Rights and Policy in K‐12 TESOL” by Wright, reviews court cases and major legislation related to linguistic and academic needs of English learners. The author examines relevant measures that have paved the path to current accountability in education, such as No Child Left Behind Act (2002), Race to the Top (2009), Common Core (2014), Every Student Succeeds Act (2015), and the Seal of Biliteracy (ongoing). He highlights past findings that still impact current bilingual education status, as well as current dynamic strategies that draw from translanguaging, multiple resources, and the integration of content and academic language. Above all, Wright emphasizes the TESOL teacher’s advocacy of minority speaking students‘ rights, supported by the United Nations documents.

In Chapter 6 Kleyn and García describe, “Translanguaging as an Act of Transformation: Restructuring Teaching and Learning for Emergent Bilingual Students.” They counter traditional definitions of language, often reduced to isolated and formal features, with new socio-cultural perspectives of language. Within this new paradigm, translanguaging practices become a powerful tool to leverage children’s linguistic features, broaden their repertoires and enable them to perform according to social norms and registers. The classroom examples show not only a fluid continuum, but also how these practices help disentangle language from content. Therefore, Kleyn and García ponder whether translanguaging has the potential of being transformed into a fairer instrument to measure bilingual proficiency. In closing, the authors encourage TESOL educators to re-think continuously their mission and beliefs about Els’ language practices, deepening language knowledge to construct more stimulant learning experiences.

Chapter 7, “Incorporating Global Englishes in K‐12 Classrooms” by Selvi, attempts to capture the ubiquitous presence of English and the ways of teaching it in increasingly diverse societies. The author follows the “inner, outer and expanding circle” model (Kachru, 1985) to explain the roles of English as primary language, lingua franca, and medium of international communication, respectively. Selvi scrutinizes traditional notions of second language acquisition under the lenses of current multilingual and transnational contexts. He also recommends multiple opportunities and a vast stock of linguistic and cultural resources, so ELs practice, make sense of multiple discursive worlds, and raise metalinguistic awareness of English varieties. Above all, the author commends collaborations between the fields of applied linguistics and education to promote the sustainable teaching of global Englishes, respecting diverse populations’ needs and affordances.

Second Part “Pedagogical Issues and Practices in K-12 Education,” opens with a first subsection devoted to “Practices and Pedagogies for TESOL in K-12 Education.” In Chapter 8, Reynolds and O'Loughlin describe, “Many Ways to Build a Model. Content‐Based ESL Instruction Models and Approaches in K‐12,” such as the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach, Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English (SDAIE), and Language‐Based Approach to Content Instruction. They point out common objectives of integrating content and language, similar teaching methodologies and instructional strategies, as well as shared considerations about students’ background knowledge, extended discourses, and interaction.

Chapter 9, “Promoting Educational Equity in Assessment Practices” by Gottlieb and Ernst‐Slavit, addresses inequities, differential treatment, and biases toward ELs, highlighting fewer and unbalanced opportunities, unnecessary over testing, not always well understood “special accommodations,” and debatable grades generated by assessments, among undesirable consequences. Therefore, the authors encourage TESOL teachers, administrators and policymakers to ensure fair conditions for assessment, by designing multiple test types and using classroom‐based measures. Moreover, they claim using effective tools to interpret the results, and evaluate what ELs can do in the moment and over time. Based on principles of justice and advocacy, Gottlieb and Ernst-Slavit promote efficient practices that lead to mitigation of the ill-effects of high‐stakes testing, valuing students’ linguistic and cultural contributions positively.

In Chapter 10, Parris and Estrada overview, “Digital Age Teaching for English Learners,” including technological teaching practices, online resources and digital tools, which are especially useful for advancing literacy skills in the 21st century. Among benefits of teaching digitally, the authors enumerate student-centered platforms, versatile scaffolding activities that integrate academic language and content, combinations of different registers and modalities, and real and virtual collaborations. The authors explain how well-led technological instruction can facilitate engaging participation, accommodate students’ individual interests and proficiency levels and respect Els’ pace in the learning process. They also endorse professional training that can help teachers navigate the changing educational landscape, select appropriate resources among an overwhelming number of links and hyper texts, and integrate them in meaningful lesson activities. Above all, the digital era should favor identifying real‐world challenges, connecting learners across the globe, and raising language and cultural awareness.

Chapter 11, “Multimodal Literacies in Teaching and Learning English In and Outside of School” by Yi, Shin and Cimasko, overviews literacy practices that take place in formal and informal settings. The authors follow semiotics, sociocultural and translanguaging perspectives to analyze how digital stories, photo essays, graphic comics, and other multiple expressions help Els increase vocabulary, write elaborated responses and read critically, as well as connect with personal experiences, uncover their identities and take up responsibility .To counter the pressure of prescribed curricula that relegate multimodal practices to extra-curricular activities or after school programs, Yi and his colleagues propose to build well- threaded lesson plans, where multimodal resources are integrated into the core curriculum, facilitating ELs’ access to academic demands and technological literacies.

The second subsection “Teaching Skills and Content Areas” opens with Chapter 12, “Shifting from the Teaching of Oral Skills to the Development of Oracy,” by Walqui. She summarizes the main eras in the teaching of oral language, and focuses on integral methods, by which oral language intertwines with speaking, reading, and writing and non-linguistic abilities, as well as cognitive and social-emotional components. The current comprehensive perspective on orality facilitates not only ELs’ language development but also their empowerment as agents of the learning experience. David and Yvonne Freeman address “Effective Practices for Teaching Reading to Emergent Bilinguals in K‐12 Classes” in Chapter 13. They conclude that most reading methods for Els privilege meaning and critical comprehension. Typical reading strategies of making predictions, drawing inferences and using contextualized clues, are combined with current practices of translanguaging, connecting between languages, and changing registers and modalities according to the situation and text type. Overall effective reading approaches enable Els to access academic literacy. The following chapters reflect on various aspects of language from socio-semiotic and cognitive perspectives. In Chapter 14 Humphrey and Hao focus on, “New Descriptions of Metalanguage for Supporting English Language Learners' Writing in the Early Years: A Discourse Perspective.” Drawing from Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) the authors provide Els with an effective tool to explore language, expand their linguistic repertoire, and choose appropriate features according to purposes, audiences, and circumstances. They use young students’ texts from a science class to exemplify how SFL enable EL to talk and write about the disciplinary language. Chapter 15 turns the reflection onto lexicon, “Problematizing Current Vocabulary Instruction Frameworks: Where Does Student Knowledge Fit?” by Herrera, Holmes, and Kavimandan. They offer the “Biography-driven-instruction” model (Herrera, 2016), which aims at improving Els’ vocabulary development and retention through phases of activation, connection and affirmation, which include student background knowledge, teachers’ direct instruction, and full engagement, respectively. Finally, Gebhard, Accurso and Chen reflect on, “Paradigm Shifts in the Teaching of Grammar in K‐12 ESL/EFL Contexts: A Case for a Social Semiotic Perspective” in Chapter 16. The authors privilege a contextualized and meaningful teaching of grammar. Using SFL ideational, interpersonal, and textual meanings, Gebhard and her colleagues unfold students’ grammatical repertoire and encourage teachers to give explicit instructions of grammatical features that build the ways of “doing” science, math, history and the rest of curricular disciplines, helping ELs gain a better understanding of content and language, and facilitating their access to academic literacy.

The last chapters are devoted to the teaching of language through the content areas for Els. In chapter 17 Hansen‐Thomas and Bright discuss, “Teaching Mathematics to Emergent Bilinguals,” under current high-stake standards. Els are required not only to manage mathematical content and procedures, but also to communicate their mathematical thinking, being aware of specific word order, technical words, discursive features and symbolic visualizations pertinent to the area. Likewise, Oliveira, Weinburgh, McBride, Bobowski, and Shea focus on, “Teaching Science to English Learners: Current Research and Practices in the Field of Science Education,” in chapter 18. The authors find that science lessons are an excellent platform to develop Els’ higher levels of thinking and critical language. In order to support minority speaking students, teachers need to work on content, language and pedagogical knowledge, engaging Els in the challenging ways of speaking and writing in science.

In chapter 19 Smith and de Oliveira discuss, “Teaching English Language Arts to Emergent to Advanced Bilinguals: Current Research, Theories, and Pedagogical Practices.” The authors embrace content-based approaches that help fill the academic gap between monolingual and bilingual students. They also advise that English language teachers should prepare more strongly to guide ELs in developing academic language, teaching them to read and write more critically and integrate multiple perspectives. Chapter 20 refers to, “Teaching Social Studies to English Language Learners: Current Research, Theories, and Pedagogical Practices” by Jaffee and Yoder. It emphasizes two major aspects in the teaching of the discipline: imparting content in a culturally and linguistically responsive manner and integrating it with appropriate academic language. The authors suggest incorporating transnational experiences, short‐term travel experiences, and on-line platforms to the current social studies curriculum, emphasizing main directions toward justice, equity and citizenship education. The list of disciplines closes with Faltis’ “Arts‐based Pedagogy for Teaching English Learners” in chapter 21. The author examines alternative and creative ways of learning and understanding language and world topics, which contrast with pedagogies based on standardized tests and rote memorization. Many studies have proven the benefits of art education to all students, especially for Els, who may find imaginative ways to solve problems and exert critical thinking, as well as connect with their communities, languages and culture, in a safe and positive environment.

The last section focuses on, “School Personnel Preparation for TESOL in K‐12,” from language to ESOL specialists, and from content area to multilingual teachers, covering educational agents who work with ELs. In chapter 22, “Preparing Teachers to Be Advocates for English Language Learners,” Linville and Fenner address TESOL teachers as responsible for minority students’ educational rights. Among other actions they can develop workshops, create scenarios, and organize resources led to protect Els, as well as identify outlets for change that take place at classroom, school, district, state and nation levels. Lindahl and Baecher point out at, “Preparing ESOL Specialists for K‐12 Contexts,” in chapter 23. Above all, they consider solid foundation in language, culture, instruction, assessment and professionalism, and therefore, they suggest better ESOL preparation programs that instruct candidates on efficient teaching methods and intensify clinical experience and opportunities for culturally relevant practices. Chapter 24, “Preparing Content Teachers to Work with Multilingual Students,” by Viesca and Teemant, underlines how matters of language, learning and pedagogy are relevant for all teachers. As a matter of fact, disciplinary teachers need to develop Els’ language proficiency in, through, and about the content areas.

In Chapter 25, “Preparing Multicultural and Multilingual Teachers to Work with Diverse Students in K‐12 Settings,” Kamhi‐Stein and Osipova highlight low numbers of minority speaking teachers within an increasing diverse student population in the classroom. This disproportionate ratio brings negative impact on the teaching of Els, who feel the lack of effective modelling and identification among faculty and personnel. The authors urge recruiting candidates from diverse backgrounds, who can challenge still current deficit paradigms and offer an inclusive teaching, by which all students are valued for their social, linguistic, cultural, and academic capital. The final two chapters deal with major principles in TESOL teaching. Chapter 26, “Preparing Teachers for Co‐Teaching and Collaboration,” by Honigsfeld and Dove, is supported by influential notions of zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978), inclusive pedagogy (Florian & Black‐Hawkins, 2011), and co‐teaching (Honigsfeld & Dove, 2010). Most collaborations are intended to improve lesson plans, instructional materials, assessment and reflections toward Els, stimulating critical conversations and valuable partnerships among novice and experienced teachers. Finally, Morita‐Mullaney thinks of, “Intersecting Leadership and English Learner Specialty: The Nexus of Creativity, Resistance and Advocacy,” in Chapter 27. The author addresses principals and TESOL teachers who work with minority students, encouraging them to take up leading roles, defending better conditions for Els. Among practical suggestions, Morita-Mullaney indicates fostering quality professional preparation among staff and personnel and promoting creative collaborations between school and community. Above all, leaders should identify typical school barriers that usually prevent ELs from full academic access and engagement, such as conflicted master schedules, course placement, and program selection .


“The Handbook of TESOL in K-12,” edited by de Oliveira is a valuable resource for teachers and students in the field of second language. It is clearly organized in three sections that follow similar components of general overview, major findings, practical applications and further directions, which makes the reading accessible for professional and lay audiences. Well-known experts summarize major concepts in a simple style, usually accompanied by tables and figures, as well as classroom-based examples The overarching themes are already introduced in the first section, elaborated through pedagogical practices on language skills and curricular disciplines in the second section, and taken up by educational agents in the third section three. Common trends of fluid construct of language, use of students’ first language and translanguaging practices in the classroom, and collaboration are re-emphasized throughout the chapters. Every topic converges on facilitating academic access to minority students through equal opportunities, integrating academic content and language, and promoting culturally and linguistically responsive teaching.

“The Handbook of TESOL in K-12” is a convenient resource that enables interested readers to update themselves on the teaching of English as a second language. A shorter volume might be suggested, avoiding some overlapping repetitions that reappear too frequently. Overall the book is highly recommended for teaching preparation programs, raising classroom teachers and specialists’ awareness of the advocate role they should assume in current multilingual classrooms.


Cummins, J. 1979. Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research 49(2). 222-251.

Florian, L. and Black‐Hawkins, K. 2011. Exploring inclusive pedagogy. British Educational Research Journal 37(5). 813-828.

Herrera, S. 2016. Biography-driven culturally responsive teaching. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Honigsfeld, A. and Dove, M. 2010. Collaboration and co-teaching: Strategies for English learners. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Kachru, B. 1985. Standards, codification, and sociolinguistic realism. The English language in the outer circle. English in the world: Teaching the language and literatures. In R. Quirk and H. Widdowson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 11-30.

Schleppegrell, M. 2004. The language of schooling. A functional linguistics perspective. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Vygotsky, L. 1978. Mind in society: The development of higher mental processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Laura Dubcovsky is a retired lecturer and supervisor from the Teacher Education Program in the School of Education at the University of California, Davis. With a Master’s in Education and a PhD in Spanish linguistics /with special emphasis on second language acquisition, her interests tap topics of language and bilingual education. She has taught a pre-service bilingual teachers’ course that addresses communicative and academic traits of Spanish, needed in a bilingual classroom for more than ten years. She is currently helping in- service bilingual teachers with oral and written use of Spanish for educational purposes. She also volunteers as interpreter in parent/teachers conferences at schools and often translates school letters, minutes, and announcements programs and flyers. She volunteers at the Crocker Art Museum by translating artists’ captions and brochures, and in sporadic translations for emergency programs (STEAC) and the Davis Art Center. She is a long-standing reviewer for the Linguistic list- serve, the Southern California Professional Development Schools and more recently for the Journal of Latinos and Education. She published “Functions of the verb decir (‘to say’) in the incipient academic Spanish writing of bilingual children in Functions of Language, 15(2), 257-280 (2008) and the chapter, “Desde California. Acerca de la narración en ámbitos bilingües” in ¿Cómo aprendemos y cómo enseñamos la narración oral? (2015). Rosario, Homo Sapiens: 127- 133

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9781119421740
Pages: 464
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