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IES Grant

Title: The Iterative Development of Modules to Support Teachers' Engagement in Exploring Language and Meaning in Text with English Language Learners
Center: NCER Year: 2010
Principal Investigator: Schleppegrell, Mary Awardee: University of Michigan
Program: Policies, Practices, and Programs to Support English Learners      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,396,598
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A100482
Description: Co-Principal Investigator: Annemarie Palincsar

Purpose: This study will develop, test, and refine a set of five professional development modules called Exploring Language and Meaning in Text, intended to support reading comprehension and writing development for English language learners (ELLs). The modules will be informed by systemic functional linguistics, a theory of language that links form and meaning, and will be designed to prepare teachers to develop activities that help their students focus on an author's language choices and what they mean. The modules will also incorporate classroom interactional practices shown to support English language learning and link reading with writing to encourage students' active use of the language they are learning.

Project Activities: Modules and accompanying training materials will be developed in the first year of the study. Iterative development of the modules will be based on cognitive interviews with participating teachers as well as records from planning meetings, classroom observations, teacher logs, and analysis of student writing. Development of teacher expertise in utilizing the modules will be studied through observing teachers over time.

Products: The research team will develop five modules, supported by print and video materials that can be used by teachers of English language learners in grades 2 to 5. The team will also provide evidence of the modules' promise for supporting English language learner growth in reading comprehension and writing. The research team will publish reports on this work.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will be conducted in elementary schools in Michigan.

Population: Exploring Language and Meaning in Text will be developed and piloted with teachers in grades 2 to 5 at six different Michigan schools with high numbers of students with low socioeconomic status and limited English proficiency (80–90% in some schools), and where the native language for the majority of students is Arabic. The intervention will be further piloted in the third year in schools with a minority of students who are ELLs and whose native language is Spanish.

Intervention: Four of the five modules in the intervention will address linguistic issues central to teaching reading comprehension: text type or genre, clause structure, voice, and cohesion. The fifth module will offer suggestions for lesson planning and incorporating the modules into the regular instructional program. Each module will consist of video clips illustrating implementation of focus strategies; information about the language elements in focus, followed by practice exercises for teachers; support materials to help teachers analyze texts in their reading program; suggested instructional activities; suggestions for extending learning through writing; and practice in applying the new knowledge to novel texts.

Research Design and Methods: An iterative process will be used in the first two years to develop and refine the modules. Cognitive interviews will be conducted with two teachers each in grades 2 through 5 to explore their understanding of and response to the linguistic information provided in the draft modules. Workshops will also be held with teachers to gather feedback on the modules. A similar process will take place for the revised modules in the second year of the project. Researchers will work with teachers in grade-level planning meetings and assist in co-teaching and modeling use of the modules in class. Videotapes of use of the modules in classrooms will be reviewed for use in refining the modules and assessing fidelity of implementation, and writing prompts and student writing samples will be analyzed. In year 3, the modules will be field tested in a different school context to study the broader utility of the intervention.

Prior to implementing the modules, teachers will receive an orientation and training each year and will receive additional coaching throughout the year.

Control Condition: There is no control condition.

Key Measures: The researchers will use a range of measures including cognitive interviews, records from workshop and grade-level planning meetings, records of classroom practice (observations; teacher logs), focus group interviews, pre- and post-intervention assessments of teachers' linguistic knowledge, pre- and post-intervention surveys of teachers' use of different classroom participation structures, and analysis of student writing samples. These measures will focus on factors such as teacher decision-making, student interest and motivation, student language use, and the amount of class time spent implementing the curriculum.

Data Analytic Strategy: Qualitative data will be analyzed through a variety of coding schemes. Workshop records, planning meeting records and teacher interviews will be analyzed using constant comparative analysis to identify emerging themes and concerns. Teacher logs will be summarized to provide means and standard deviations of the time spent on instructional activities. Student writing samples will be examined to identify language that reflects engagement with the key comprehension and functional grammar foci of the classroom lessons. Teacher knowledge will be assessed through asking teachers to complete a brief survey on their prior experience with functional grammar and by asking teacher to demonstrate knowledge of linguistics in text.


Book chapter

Schleppegrell, M., & Moore, J. (2018). Linguistic tools for supporting emergent critical language awareness in the elementary school. In Bilingual Learners and Social Equity (pp. 23–43). Springer, Cham.

Schleppegrell, M., Moore, J., Al–Adeimi, S., O'Hallaron, C., Palincsar, A, and Symons, C. (2014). Tackling a Genre: Situating SFL Genre Pedagogy in a New Context. In L. de Oliveira, and J. Iddings (Eds.), Genre Pedagogy Across the Curriculum: Theory and Application in U.S. Classrooms and Contexts (pp. 26–40). Sheffield, UK: Equinox.

Schleppegrell, M.J., and Palincsar, A. (in press). Contribution to "Researcher Voices". In H. Joyce, and S. Feez (Eds.), Exploring Literacies: Theory, Research and Practice. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Klingelhofer, R., and Schleppegrell, M.J. (2016). Functional Grammar Analysis in Support of Dialogic Instruction With Text: Scaffolding Purposeful, Cumulative Dialogue With English Learners. Research Papers in Education, 31(1): 70–88.

Moore, J., and Schleppegrell, M.J. (2014). Using a Functional Linguistics Metalanguage to Support Academic Language Development in the English Language Arts. Linguistics and Education, 26, 92–105.

O'Hallaron, C.L. (2014). Supporting Fifth–Grade ELLs' Argumentative Writing Development. Written Communication, 31(3): 304–331.

O'Hallaron, C., Palincsar, A., and Schleppegrell, M.J. (2015). Reading Science: Using Systemic Functional Linguistics To Support Critical Language Awareness. Linguistics and Education, 32, 55–67.

O'Hallaron, C. L., and Schleppegrell, M. J. (2016). 'Voice' in Children's Science Arguments: Aligning Assessment Criteria With Genre and Discipline. Assessing Writing, 30, 63–73.

Palincsar, A., and Schleppegrell, M. (2014). Focusing on Language and Meaning While Learning With Text. TESOL Quarterly, 48(3): 616–623.

Schleppegrell, M.J. (2013). The Role of Metalanguage in Supporting Academic Language Development. Language Learning, 63(1): 153–170.

Schleppegrell, M.J. (2016). Content–based Language Teaching with Functional Grammar in the Elementary School. Language Teaching, 49(1): 116–128.

Symons, C. (2017). Supporting Emergent Bilinguals' Argumentation: Evaluating Evidence in Informational Science Texts. Linguistics and Education, 38, 79–91.