Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Using Big Books: A Standards-Based Instructional Approach for Foreign Language Teacher Candidates in a PreK-12 Program

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Using Big Books: A Standards-Based Instructional Approach for Foreign Language Teacher Candidates in a PreK-12 Program

Article excerpt


Foreign language teacher candidates learn to bring literacy in second languages (L2s) to children through a standards-based task in which they develop a thematic instructional unit, implement the lessons in foreign language enrichment classes in an urban school, and reflect on student learning. To teach reading in an L2 requires knowledge of literacy theories, first language (L1) reading practices, L2 reading practices, second language acquisition (SLA), and Standards for Foreign Language Learning (National Standards, 1999). For the last several years, teacher candidates developed "big book" units after studying current literacy theory and practice. The task of designing and implementing a big book and teaching unit afforded them experience that had pedagogical benefits. As they gained knowledge of techniques for learners' acquisition of interpretive skills, candidates expressed the value of their learning experiences and opportunities. These teacher candidates also articulated an appreciation that reading, as a tool within a familiar and meaning-based context (Curtain & Dahlberg, 2004), is essential in L2 learning.

Key words: big books, foreign language literacy, foreign language teacher education, foreign language shared reading, interpretative skills

Language: Relevant to all languages


In this article, we describe an approach for preparing foreign language teacher candidates in a PreK-12 licensure program to develop effective skills for teaching reading and to use context- and standards-based instruction in all levels of their foreign language classes. This approach involves the development and use of an instructional unit involving a "big book"-or text that uses enlarged print and illustrations. We discuss emergent literacy theory, literacy in a new language, characteristics of big books, and the task: the big book and teaching unit. In addition, we provide teacher candidate feedback about the value of their learning experiences, some of the opportunities that have come to them as a result, and extensions they have developed.

Bringing literacy to the foreign language classroom is an elusive task for the teacher candidate. In many instances, teacher candidates have not had optimal reading instruction in the target language themselves. They are often unaware of how one reads in a foreign language or even how they learned to read in their first language (Ll). In today's Ll learning environments, a balanced approach to literacy is advocated (Vacca, Vacca, Gove, Burkey, Lenhart, & McKeon, 2003), one that includes a combination of both skills-based instruction and a more holistic literature-based approach. This balanced approach to literacy learning can also apply to working with children who are beginning to demonstrate emerging literacy abilities in their second language (L2).

To provide the most current theory and practices on the teaching of reading or literacy in a foreign language education program requires knowledge of Ll reading practices, research in reading, literacy theories, second language acquisition (SLA), and standards for foreign language learning. Cooperation and collaboration between the literacy and foreign language education faculty members can result in a stronger, more balanced approach to preparing teacher candidates. Such collaboration has provided foreign language teacher candidates the opportunity to learn more about shared reading and the use of big books at the University of Akron. The term big books describes large format books with big print texts and illustrations that are highly visible to learners as their teachers read them to the entire class. Using big books in the classroom usually involves a shared-reading experience. Shared reading refers to a teacher-centered activity with the teacher pointing to and reading a big book or other enlarged text visible to students in the classroom or in a small group, followed by inviting the students to participate as they feel able to do so. …

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