Second Language Acquisition: Methods, Perspectives and Challenges


Doris Luft Baker, PhD – Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, USA
Deni Lee Basaraba, PhD – Data Analyst, Bethel School District, Eugene, Oregon, USA
Cara Richards-Tutor  – California State University, Long Beach, California

Series: Languages and Linguistics
BISAC: LAN020000

“An important and much-needed contribution to the field, this book helps fill a ubiquitous gap: what we know and what we think we know based on empirical research about educating English learners. This book provides insight into research across an impressive array of topics, each one pertinent to today’s schools. It is a must-read for educators working with English learners.” – Jana Echevarria, Ph.D., Professor Emerita at California State University, Long Beach, USA

“You will be glad you read Second Language Acquisition: Methods, Perspectives, and Challenges the next time you find yourself having to field a question about why it takes recent generations of English learners so long to learn English. As the acquisition of English language has become increasingly conflated with criteria for academic success, current generations of English learners face unique learning demands not encountered by their predecessors. This book’s collection of chapters uses varied research methodologies and sophisticated statistical methods to shine a much-needed light on the complexities of learning a second language for academic purposes.” – María S. Carlo, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies, College of Behavior and Community Sciences, University of South Florida, USA

“This dynamic collection of chapters and content-related studies provides a nuanced understanding of why English learners struggle to acquire second language proficiency and domain knowledge simultaneously. The insights provided around the multi-dimensional factors (e.g., the language of math, science, and social studies, as well as the complexity of the mathematics, science, and social studies registers) that contribute to English learners’ struggles are long overdue and often overlooked in pre-service teacher education programs. Hence, this text is essential reading for teacher educators who are charged with preparing the next generation of teachers for a diverse population of English learners.” – Sharolyn D. Pollard-Durodola, Professor, English Language Learning Program, Department of Early Childhood, Multilingual, and Special Education, University of Nevada Las Vegas, USA

Although learning English as a second language is ubiquitous across schools worldwide, it can be particularly challenging in classrooms with a linguistically diverse population of students. For example, although 76% of English learners in the United States speak Spanish as their native language, ELs in the United States actually speak more than 450 languages (Baker, Richards-Tutor, Gersten, Baker, & Smith, 2017). Moreover, all ELs, even Spanish-speaking ELs, are a remarkably heterogeneous group in terms of their: (a) English language proficiency, (b) native language proficiency, (c) socioeconomic status, (d) parental level of education, (e) country of origin, and (f) individual and family experiences (Dürgunoglu & Goldenberg, 2011). Thus, understanding more nuanced ways to support this growing population of students should be a priority.

Collectively, this book provides the most up-to-date review of our current knowledge about how the complexities of each of the linguistic registers across mathematics, science and social studies extends far beyond content-area vocabulary and warranting an intentional, purposeful focus on language, particularly academic English during content-area instruction. Moreover, the current disciplinary content standards demand the integration of discipline-specific language instruction within content-area instruction. To address these demands, the topics of the chapters in this book span content areas (ELA, mathematics, science, and social studies), topical areas (assessment, language growth, instruction, and professional development), and grade levels (preschool, elementary, and secondary). Each chapter provides a synthesis of the research on one of the specific topics, and it concludes with implications for practice and research.

References to the most relevant research are provided. We hope that this book can guide future research and professional development initiatives in school districts on what needs to be taken into account when training teachers to be effective instructors of content and academic language. English learners constitute a large percentage of the student population outside and inside the United States. Thus, learning more about language growth patterns in English and the native language, assessment considerations, effective interventions, and curricular analyses can provide a road map to direct the research that can support this increasingly large number of students worldwide.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1. An Introduction to Second Language Acquisition: The Role of Academic English across the Content Areas
(Doris Luft Baker, Deni Lee Basaraba, and Cara Richards-Tutor, Department of Teaching & Learning, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, US)

Chapter 2. Different Patterns of Reading Growth Trajectories among Adolescent Dual Language Learners and English-Only Students
(Jin Kyoung Hwang and Joshua F. Lawrence, School of Education, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, US, and others)

Chapter 3. A Review of the Measurement of Early Dual Language and Literacy Growth in Spanish-English Bilinguals
(Lillian Durán, and Alisha Wackerle-Hollman, College of Education & Human Development, University of Oregon, Minneapolis, MN, US, and others)

Chapter 4. Spanish and English Skills and Practices that Support Bilingual Students’ Literacy Achievement: Lessons from Innovative Assessments and Participants’ Voices
(Paola Uccelli and Gladys Aguilar, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA, US)

Chapter 5. Helping English Learners Navigate the Challenges of Academic Writing
(Carol Booth Olson, Vicky Chen, Jenell Krishnan and Jane S. Nazzal, School of Education, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA, US)

Chapter 6. Exploring the Distribution of EL Vocabulary Instructional Supports in a Core Reading Program during Pre-, During- and Post-Reading Instruction
(Susan R. Massey, Alain Bengochea, Irina Malova and Mary A. Avalos, School of Leadership, Education & Communications, St. Thomas University, Miami, FL, US, and others)

Chapter 7. The Importance of Mathematical Language in Early Numeracy Development: Implications for Dual Language Learners
(David J. Purpura, Jorge Gonzalez, Jorge Gonzalez, Francisco Usero-Gonzalez and Melody Kung, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, US, and others)

Chapter 8. English Learners and Mathematical Word Problem Solving: A Systematic Review
(Virginia Clinton, Deni Lee Basaraba and Candace Walkington, Department of Educational Foundations and Research, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, US)

Chapter 9. Perspectives from Research on the Linguistic Features of Mathematics and Science Test Items and the Performance of English Learners
(Tracy Noble, Rachel R. Kachchaf, and Ann S. Rosebery, TERC, Cambridge, MA US, and others)

Chapter 10. Facilitating Participation: Supporting English Learners in Science Classrooms
(Karla del Rosal, Department of Teaching & Learning, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, US)

Chapter 11. Enhancing Reading and Critical Thinking Skills for English Learners in Social Studies: Findings from Three Experimental Studies
(Colleen K. Reutebuch, Sharon Vaughn and Leticia R. Martinez, The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, US)

Chapter 12. Linking Theory to Practice: Review of Empirical Studies on the Effects of Second Language Acquisition Instructional Strategies and Interventions on Content Area Outcomes
(Doris Luft Baker, Deni Lee Basaraba, Paul Polanco, and Anthony Sparks, Department of Teaching and Learning, Simmons School of Education and Human Development, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, US, and others)

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