The study took place in a K–5 elementary school located in an urban area. The majority of students at the school were Hispanic (82%), had limited English proficiency
(69%), and qualified for the free or reduced-price lunch program (62%). More than three quarters of the fourth-grade students were performing below grade level in reading,
language, and math. The school ranked among the lowest 20% of schools in the district. Schoolwide efforts were underway at the time of the study to improve bilingual
programs, English language development program, language arts instruction, and overall academic infrastructure at the school.
All 138 English language learners enrolled in three fifth-grade and two fourth-grade classrooms in one school participated in this study. They were matched by language
proficiency (limited or fluent) and teachers’ rating of reading skills, and then randomly assigned to four study conditions within each classroom. Twenty-two English language
learners were excluded from the final analysis (3 special education students, 4 students enrolled just prior to the study, 12 students not present for some of the activities, and
3 students randomly excluded to provide for a balanced design). The remaining 116 participants were evenly distributed among the four groups (29 per group). Only 32 of
these participants in two study groups are of interest for this intervention report: 16 English language learners in the comparison condition and 16 English language learners in
the Instructional Conversations and Literature Logs (intervention) condition. These students participated in the study with students fluent in English.
The study lasted for a period of 10–15 days, including pre- and post-intervention activities. The intervention was implemented over four days. On the first day, English
language learners in the Literature Log only group and the Instructional Conversations and Literature Logs group received instruction on Literature Logs in two consecutive
45-minute lessons. On the second day, English language learners in the Instructional Conversation only group and the Instructional Conversations and Literature Logs group
received two 45-minute lessons on Instructional Conversations. The same procedures were followed on the third and fourth days, with the order of the lessons reversed (that
is, Instructional Conversations lessons on day three and Literature Logs lessons on day four). English language learners in each group also spent at least 45 minutes on creating
an illustration and caption summarizing their interpretation of the story “Louella’s Song.”
English language learners in the comparison group participated in reading and writing activities related to social studies either independently or with a teaching assistant.
They also devoted at least 45 minutes to creating an illustration and caption summarizing their interpretation of the story “Louella’s Song.” Saunders and Goldenberg (1999)
reported that English language learners in the comparison group did not receive as much direct instructional time from teachers as those in the Instructional Conversations and
Literature Logs group.
The effects of the intervention were assessed using several measures, including factual comprehension, interpretive comprehension, theme-explanation essay, and theme-exemplification
essay. Although theme-explanation and theme-exemplification essays were measures used in the study, outcomes were not reported in the WWC report because the data reported in the study were the percentage of English language learners whose essays received a high score. Therefore, the measures did not meet WWC standards (see Appendix A2.1 for more detailed descriptions of outcome measures).
Support for implementation
The five teacher participants in the study were members of the research and development team implementing the school’s language arts model in Spanish, transition, and mainstream English language arts classrooms. The team was led by two instructional advisors who were able to co-teach and provide assistance in the classrooms on a daily basis. The team met on a bi-monthly basis to study instructional components, view videotapes and live demonstrations, plan instructional units, and evaluate English language learners’ work. All study conditions (including the control) were carried out in each classroom by each of the five teachers.