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The nature of English language learners' descriptive and explanatory writing: An exploratory study

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Dawn M Carlson
Abstract:
This exploratory study examines the nature of English writing among six second language learners when genre methodology was employed in their 6 th grade bilingual classroom. The study is unique because it describes the informative writing of students with different levels of language proficiency in their English as a second language and social studies integrated class. Students were exposed to the process genre approach (Badger & White, 2000) within a systemic teaching and learning cycle (Hammond et. al., 1992) in order to 'approximate descriptive and explanatory genres'. Through quantification of the elements of schematic structure and Transitivity, students' paragraphs and essays were analyzed. Findings report on the similarities and differences between and among cases of students with Intensive, Strategic, and Benchmark proficiency levels. The theoretical foundation for this study is a synthesis of three fields: bilingual adolescent L2 writing, genre theory, and language and content integration. Data sources include the researcher's log, lesson plans, and first and final drafts' of students' writing. A discussion of the findings, implications for teachers and educators, and recommendations for future research conclude this dissertation.

TABLE OF CONTENTS TITLE PAGE i COPYRIGHT ii DEDICATION iii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iv TABLE OF CONTENTS vi APPENDICES xiii LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES xiv ABSTRACT xvii CHAPTERS Page

I. INTRODUCTION 1 Significance and Need for Study 1 Statement of Purpose 2 Research Questions 3 Definition of Terms 3 II. REVIEW OF LITERATURE 6 Language Acquisition 6 Oral Language Acquisition 6 Native Language Writing 7 Bilingual and Multilingual Writing 9 Process Genre Approach to Writing 18 Product Approach 19 Process Approach 20

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Genre-Based Theory and Approach 21 New Rhetoric 26 English for Specific Purposes (ESP) 27 The Sydney School-Australian genre theory 27 Genre in Language and Content Studies 28 Systemic Teaching and Learning Cycle 30 Content and Language Integration 32 III. METHODOLOGY 39 Study Design 39 Teacher/Researcher as Participant Observer 40 Systemic Teaching and Learning Cycle 42 Research Site 49 Participants 50 Data Collection 52 Research Log 52 Students’ Writing 56 Binders of Student Work 59 Transcriptions 60 Data Analysis 61 Data Preparation 62 Data Coding 63 Elements of Schematic Structure Coding 63 Sentence and Grammatical Features Coding 65

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Analysis of Sentence and Grammatical Features 69 Coding Reliability 69 Triangulation and Interpretation 70 Limitations 71 IV. RESULTS 74 Paragraph Writing 74 Intensive Students’ Paragraph Writing 74 Comparisons between Intensive Students’ Paragraph Writing 78 Strategic Students’ Paragraph Writing 80 Comparisons between Strategic Students’ Paragraph Writing 84 Benchmark students’ paragraph writing 84 Comparisons between Benchmark Students’ Paragraph Writing 85 Comparisons of Paragraphs across Proficiency Levels 86 Awareness of the Elements of Schematic Structure in Paragraphs 87 Inclusion of Details in their Writing 88 Reliance on Resources Available to Complete Assignments 89 Progression in Students’ Paragraph Production 89 Essay Writing 90 Intensive students’ essay writing 91 Comparison between intensive students’ essay writing 93 Strategic students’ essay writing 93 Comparisons between strategic students’ essays 96 Benchmark students’ essay writing 96

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Comparisons between Benchmark Students’ Essay Writing 101 Comparisons of Essay Writing across Proficiency Levels 101 Awareness and use of the elements of schematic structure in essays 102 Inclusion of Details in Writing 103 Reliance on Resources made Available to Students 103 Progression in Students’ Essay Production 104 Transitivity Results 105 Clauses and Clause-Complexes 105 Intensive Students’ Clauses and Clause-Complexes 106 Comparison between Intensive Students’ Clauses and Clause-Complexes 108 Strategic Students’ Clauses and Clause-Complexes 108 Comparison between Strategic Students’ Clauses and Clause-Complexes 110 Benchmark Students’ Clauses and Clause-Complexes 111 Comparison between Benchmark Students’ Clauses and Clause-Complexes 114 Comparison of Clause and Clause-Complexes across Proficiency Levels 115 Reductions in Clause and Clause-Complexes 115 Appearance of Gender in Final Clause and Clause-Complex Counts of Matched Writing 116 Accessibility to Different Types of Clause-Complexes 117 Individual Case Process Types and Participant Roles in Descriptive Writing 119

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Intensive Students’ Descriptive Writing 119 Comparison between Intensive Students’ Descriptive Process Types 121 Strategic Students’ Descriptive Writing 121 Comparison between Strategic Students’ Descriptive Process Types 123 Benchmark Students’ Descriptive Writing 123 Comparison between Benchmark Students’ Descriptive Process Types 126 Comparison of Process Types and Participant Roles in Descriptive Writing across Proficiency Levels 127 Process Types across Proficiency Levels 127 Voice in Material Process Types 128 Use of Quantifiers with Existential Clause-Complexes 128 Comparison of Participant Roles in Descriptive Writing across Proficiency Levels 129 Combined Counts Reveal Information across Proficiency Levels 130 Relational Process Types 131 Material Process Types 134 Existential Process Types 135 Mental and Verbal Process Types 135 Individual Case Process Types and Participant Roles in Explanatory Writing 136 Intensive Students’ Explanatory Writing 136

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Comparison between Intensive Students’ Explanatory Process Types 137 Strategic Students’ Explanatory Writing 138 Comparison between Strategic Students’ Explanatory Process Types 139 Benchmark Students’ Explanatory Writing 139 Comparison between Benchmark Students’ Explanatory Process Types 141 Comparison of Process Types and Participant Roles in Explanatory Writing across Proficiency Levels 141 Selection of Process Types 141 Process Type Configurations in Clause-Complexes 142 Comparison of Participant Roles in Explanatory Writing across Proficiency Levels 142 Combined Explanatory Process Type Counts Reveal Information across Proficiency Levels 143 Material Process Types 144 Relational Process Types 145 Mental Process Types 146 V. CHAPTER 5: DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS, CONCLUSION 148 Process Genre Approach 149 Research Question One 150 Awareness of Elements in Schematic Structure 151

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Paragraphs 151 Essays 154 Reliance on Resources and Materials Available in the Classroom 156 Progression in Paragraph and Essay Production 161 Summary of Implications for Research Question One 163 Research Question Two 164 Clauses and Clause-Complexes 165 Influence of Gender in Writing 165 Accessibility to Clause-Complex Types 166 Descriptive Process Types 166 Voice in Material Process Types 167 Quantifiers in Existential Process Types 168 Descriptive Participant Roles 168 Explanatory Process Types 169 Sentence Type Configurations 169 Explanatory Participant Roles 169 Summary of Implications for Research Question Two 169 Recommendations for Future Research 170 Conclusions 172 Looking Back: The Teacher/Researcher Role 172 References 177 Appendices 189

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APPENDICES APPENDIX A NEW YORK STATE ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE WRITING PROFICIENCY LEVELS

APPENDIX B CONTENT AND LANGUAGE FOCUSED LESSON PLANS

APPENDIX C LESSONS AND CURRICULUM WITHIN THE SYSTEMIC TEACHING AND LEARNING CYCLE

APPENDIX D SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS LIST

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LIST OF TABLES Page Table 1 Study Participant Level and Classification Instrument 51 Table 2 Audio Recorded Small and Whole Group Lesson 53 Table 3 Descriptive (D) and Explanation (E) Instructional Materials 55 Table 4 List of Assignment Questions 56 Table 5 Time Line of Data Collection 57 Table 6 Descriptive Writing Collected and Instructional Days 58 Table 7 Explanatory Writing Collected and Instructional Days 59 Table 8 Elements of Schematic Structure and Codes for Paragraphs and Essays 64

Table 9 Units of Analysis and Codes 66 Table 10 Corresponding Process Types and Participant Roles 67 Table 11 Breaks in Lesson Presentation 73 Table 12 Breakdown of Students’ Writing 74 Table 13 Elements of Schematic Structure in Intensive Students’ Paragraphs 75

Table 14 Elements of Schematic Structure in Debra’s First to Final E1 Writing 76

Table 15 Elements of Schematic Structure in Debra’s Writing 76

Table 16 Elements of Schematic Structure in Juan’s Writing 78

Table 17 Elements in Schematic Structure in Strategic Students’ Paragraphs 80

Table 18 Yaneli’s D1 and E1 First to Final Paragraphs 81

Table 19 Ray’s E1 and E2 First to Final Paragraphs 83

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Table 20 Elements of Schematic Structure in Benchmark Students’ Paragraph 84

Table 21 Jose’s D1 First and Final Paragraph-Sentence Combination 85

Table 22 Itza’s and Jose’s E1 Paragraphs 86

Table 23 Breakdown of Paragraph 87

Table 24 Final Paragraphs across Proficiency Levels 88

Table 25 Elements of Schematic Structure in Intensive Essays 91

Table 26 Elements of Schematic Structure in Debra’s First and Final Essay 91

Table 27 Elements of Schematic Structure in Juan’s First and Final Essay 92

Table 28 Elements of Schematic Structure in Strategic Essays 94

Table 29 Elements of Schematic Structure in Yaneli’s D1First and Final Essay 94

Table 30 Elements of Schematic Structure in Ray’s D2 First and Final Essay 95

Table 31 Elements of Schematic Structure in Benchmark Essays 97

Table 32 Itza’s Use of Subtitles in her Essays 98

Table 33 Jose’s Production of his First Essay 100

Table 34 Breakdown of Essays Examined 101

Table 35 Final Essays across Proficiency Levels 104

Table 36 Clause and Clause Complexes in Students’ Descriptive and Explanatory Writing 105

Table 37 Changes in Itza’s First to Final Writing 112

Table 38 Jose’s Sentence Combinations in D1 from First to Final Writing 114

Table 39 Clauses and Clause-Complexes in Final Descriptive and Explanatory Writing 116

Table 40 Sentence Types in Matched Descriptive and Explanatory Writing 118

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Table 41 Intensive Students’ Descriptive Writing Process Types 120

Table 42 Strategic Students’ Descriptive Writing Process Types 121

Table 43 Benchmark Students’ Descriptive Writing Process Types 123

Table 44 Existential Clauses with Numeratives in Descriptive Writing 129

Table 45 Summary of Descriptive Process Types across Proficiency Levels 130

Table 46 Relational-Identity Process Types in Descriptive Writing 131

Table 47 Relational-Attributive Process Types in Descriptive Writing 132

Table 48 Relational-Attributive Possessive Process Types in Descriptive Writing 133

Table 49 Material Process Types in Descriptive Writing 134

Table 50 Intensive Students’ Explanatory Writing Process Types 136

Table 51 Strategic Students’ Explanatory Writing Process Types 138

Table 52 Benchmark Students’ Explanatory Writing Process Types 139

Table 53 Process Types in Explanatory Writing across Proficiency Levels 141

Table 54 Explanatory Process Types across Proficiency Levels 143

Table 55 Material Process Types in Explanatory Writing 144

Table 56 Relational-Identity Process Types in Explanatory Writing 145

Table 57 Relational-Attributive Process Types in Explanatory Writing 146

Table 58 Mental Process Types in Explanatory Writing 146

Table 59 Student Test Scores 174

Table 60 Students’ Proficiency Level and Classification Instrument 175

FIGURE Figure 1 Modeled Explanatory Text—The Chronicler 48

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ABSTRACT

This exploratory study examines the nature of English writing among six second language learners when genre methodology was employed in their 6 th grade bilingual classroom. The study is unique because it describes the informative writing of students with different levels of language proficiency in their English as a second language and social studies integrated class. Students were exposed to the process genre approach (Badger & White, 2000) within a systemic teaching and learning cycle (Hammond et. al., 1992) in order to ‘approximate descriptive and explanatory genres’. Through quantification of the elements of schematic structure and Transitivity, students’ paragraphs and essays were analyzed. Findings report on the similarities and differences between and among cases of students with Intensive, Strategic, and Benchmark proficiency levels. The theoretical foundation for this study is a synthesis of three fields: bilingual adolescent L2 writing, genre theory, and language and content integration. Data sources include the researcher’s log, lesson plans, and first and final drafts’ of students’ writing.

A discussion of the findings, implications for teachers and educators, and recommendations for future research conclude this dissertation.

Descriptive and Explanatory Writing 1

Chapter 1: Introduction The relationship between language minority students’ academic English development and success outside of school in the United States has been the focus of many studies (Center for Public Education, 2007; Linguistic Minority Newsletter, 1999; Ovando & Collier, 2003; Perez & Torres-Guzman, 1996; Valdés, 2001). Researchers’ findings suggest that students who have weak or poor academic preparation often come from at-risk, disadvantaged, and limited English proficient backgrounds. In order to provide this group of students with opportunities for success, additional efforts need to focus on how these students can do better academically. Significance and Need for the Study Addressing limited English proficient students’ low level of academic achievement prior to eighth grade is essential. Success with using academic English is fundamental if English language learning students are to make significant progress toward attaining academic competence (Adamson, 1993). Padrón and Waxman (1996) called for "new instructional interventions or approaches for improving the education of ELLs" (p. 2). Collaboration in the fields of linguistics and education has allowed for some research that examines how English language learners write, but more is needed. Colombi & Schleppegrell (2002) state that for students to achieve advanced literacy, they need to be able to understand how language construes meaning in content-area texts and how the concepts of school subjects are realized in language. Schleppegrell (2004) has called for pedagogical research that examines “when different genres can be introduced, how best to introduce them, and studies of the development of students’ linguistic awareness about them” (p. 164). Studies in second language literacy and writing continue

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to call for focused research on identifying and describing adolescent second language (SL) writing processes and development (Fitzgerald, 2006; Matsuda & De Pew, 2002). More recently, Graham & Perin (2007) suggest that “the majority of adolescents do not develop the competence in writing they need to be successful in school, the workplace, or their personal lives” (p. 455). In the elementary curriculum, the shift from narrative to expository writing occurs in 5 th and 6 th grade. Examining early adolescent second language writing, across various proficiency levels, can provide insight into how students’ produce academic genres. Statement of Purpose This exploratory study investigated the descriptive and explanatory writing development of English language learners (ELLs) with different levels of proficiency who were exposed to the process genre approach to writing within the systemic teaching and learning cycle (Hammond et. al., 1992). In particular, it examines: 1. elements of schematic structure in descriptive and explanatory paragraphs and essays, and 2. experiential meaning as it relates to Transitivity (i.e. clause/clause-complexes; process types and participant roles). The elements of schematic structure identified in paragraphs were: (title), topic sentence, details, and (conclusion). The elements of schematic structure identified in essays were: title, (subtitle), introduction, body, details, and conclusion. Elements of schematic structure written in parentheses were optional. Clause and clause-complexes (i.e. sentence features) and grammatical features (i.e. nominal groups, verbal groups, prepositional phrases, adjectives) were the units of analysis used to identify and examine elements of Transitivity (i.e. process types and participant roles) (Halliday, 1994; Halliday and Matthiessen, 2004) in ELLs writing. Process types (i.e.

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Material, Mental, Verbal, Relational, or Existential) were identified with their respective participant roles (Actor, Behaver, Senser, Sayer, Carrier/Attribute, Existent) in students’ writing to understand how students created meaning in their paragraphs and essays. Research Questions The following research questions guided this study: 1. What elements of schematic structure appear in the descriptive and explanatory paragraphs and essays of English language learners? 2. What elements of Transitivity (i.e. process types and participant roles) appear in the clause and clause complexes of English language learners’ descriptive and explanatory writing? Definition of Terms The following terms will be used in this dissertation and are explained below. Elements of Schematic Structure Identified features in a paragraph or essay. In paragraphs the elements of schematic structure are: (title), topic sentence, details, and (conclusion). The elements of schematic structure identified in essays are: title, (subtitle), introduction, body, details, conclusions (Martin & Rose, 2008; Harcourt, 2002). Parentheses indicate optional features of the paragraph or essay. English Language Learners (ELL) As presented in Commissioner’s Regulations Part 154 of the State Education Law, students whose spoken home language is a language other than English and who score below the level of proficiency on the Language Assessment Battery – Revised (LAB-R) or the New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) are considered limited English proficient (LEP) and, therefore ELL (New York State Department of Education, 2009).

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Formerly Limited English Proficient (FLEP) Students formerly identified as LEP and who have achieved proficiency as measured by the NYSESLAT (see below). These students no longer require ESL services (New York State Department of Education, 2009). New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) is a standardized multiple assessment test created by New York State Board of Regents “to measure student progress toward meeting the learning standards established for all English language learners attending New York State schools” (online resource: NYSESLAT Parent Information Brochure, p.1). The test measures listening, speaking, reading, and writing proficiency annually in order to track student progress. Productive (i.e. speaking and writing) and receptive (i.e. listening and reading) skills are block scored. The students’ lowest score determines their level. For example, a student who scores low and intermediate will receive ESL support as a beginning student. The results of this test indicate the units of ESL provided to each student and inform the teachers instructional practices (New York State Department of Education, 2008a). New York State English Language Arts (NYS ELA) This exam is administered to all students in grades 3-8. English as a second language students who have been in the school district for one academic school year are required to write the exam. Students enrolled for less than one year are waived from the ELA; however, they must take the NYSESLAT exam (New York State Department of Education, 2008b). Process Types and Participant Roles Language features that relate to the experiential strand of meaning in Systemic Functional Linguistics. Each clause-complex is a configuration of the process and the participant involved. The process is realized

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through a verb and the participant is realized through a nominal and/or nominal group (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004). Systemic Teaching and Learning Cycle (STLC) A recursive teaching and learning cycle that provides explicit instruction of genres over time so that “approximation of the genre” is achieved. The teacher guides students through four phases: Building Knowledge of the Field, Modeling Text, Joint Construction of Text, and Independent Construction of the Text (Hammond et. al, 1992). This chapter has explained the significance and need for this study, stated the purpose of the study, research questions to be answered, and provided an operational list of terms used throughout the dissertation. The next chapter, Review of the Literature, will situate this study in three fields of theory and research: second language acquisition, genre theory, and language and content integration. Chapter three is a detailed account of the methodology. Chapter four presents the results. Finally, chapter five presents the discussion of findings, conclusions and recommendations for future research.

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Chapter 2: Review of the Literature Three fields of research provide the foundation for this study. They include research on second language acquisition, in particular, second language writing, genre theory, and content and language integration. Language Acquisition Oral language. According to Lightbown and Spada (2000), “language acquisition is one of the most impressive and fascinating aspects of human development…it is the result of the complex interplay between the uniquely human characteristics of the child and the environment in which the child develops” (p. 22). Oral language development plays an important role in writing development. Similarities can be established between speaking and writing development. While the written form does not always match the spoken form, meaning can be communicated through both (Marshall, 2002). According to LaBerge and Samuels (1974), the purpose of any writing system is to have so much familiarity with the oral language structure which the visual form represents, that one makes the connections between the two automatically. Marshall (2002) points out that for this automaticity to occur, repeated exposure to the written forms being used in a child’s spoken repertoire must occur. In her example, she responds to the case of beginning readers. For native speakers of the printed language, on average it takes between two to three years for what appears in their spoken language to be recognized and reproduced in writing. Therefore, it is important for elementary school teachers to build language-learning experiences for students with written language that parallels their oral language.

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Opportunities to develop oral language are important if students are to have successful experiences when they write about school related concepts. Christie (1999) examined how using functional grammar during a high school literature class allowed for detailed reflection of the central issues in a novel. The lessons were highly structured, focused students on how meaning could be created, and provided not only ample time for reading, but discussion, thought, and writing. In the end, structured talk about the issues supported the students writing about the issues. Schleppegrell (2004) recommends that, Students with fluent oral English, but little experience outside of school that leads to development of academic language, may need explicit focus on form in the context of purposeful learning of the registers and genres which enable them to participate in today’s complex society (p. 151). Schleppegrell’s recommendation is supported by other areas of pedagogical research. Providing second language learners with social encounters that are also structured opportunities of academic language exposure allow for learning in the native language as well. Native language writing. There are a number of theoretical attempts to explain how language is acquired. One of the theoretical views of first language acquisition considers the role of the linguistic environment and social interaction. The Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky held a strong interactionist view about the sociocultural theory of human mental processing as it relates to first language learning. In The Prehistory of Written Language, Vygotsky (1978) argued that “teaching should be organized in such a way that reading

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and writing are necessary for something. Reading and writing must be something that the child needs” (p. 117). In addition, he contended that the teaching of writing to children must be “meaningful…and relevant to life” and “that writing be taught naturally…[that is] “cultivated” rather than “imposed” on children” (p. 118). Vygotsky’s line of reasoning also delineate, “his ideas about the importance of social mediation in negotiating and constructing zones of proximal development—the distance between a child’s actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (p. 86). Given this, one can understand how the experiences a student has inside and outside of school impact his or her accessibility to language structures valued at home and in school. Other researchers have furthered this research. McDermott (1987) extended the social nature of learning to not learning. He found that “learning takes place in the context of social relationships, and both learning and failure to learn are considered socially organized activities” (p. 361). Researchers (Hudelson, 1989, Hudelson & Faltis, 1993) applied this theory to the field of literacy and found that like oral language acquisition, literacy acquisition is a profoundly social and cognitive phenomenon. The movement of reading and writing out of necessity and in natural settings initially appeared in composition studies that focused on older students and those at the secondary level. These studies dealt predominantly with native English speaking students. Early writing research focused on a writing process that followed a linear (i.e. prewrite-write-revise) model. Later on, the writing process was perceived as recursive in nature. Emig (1971), Britton et al. (1975), and Perl (1979), among others, acknowledged

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that writers moved between writing phases—planning, composing, and revising—before committing themselves to a final product. The process to expand knowledge of writing development continued. Researchers (Hayes & Flower, 1980; Flower & Hayes, 1981) proposed the model A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing. Their model was grounded in the fields of rhetoric and cognitive psychology and demonstrated the recursive and interactive elements of the writing process (i.e. planning, translating, and review). The cognitive part of their writing theory addresses the connection of low-level and high-level cognitive processes needed in order for writers to compose. Subsequently, Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987) offered more insight to the field. They found that “people can only pay active attention to only a limited number of things at once” (p. 95). Their work on a model of writing processes suggested that writers’ ability differences may be due to unique sets of writing processes. In the 1990s, writing research continued to expand. Flower (1994) began to focus on how cognition and the social context (i.e. the writing setting) interacted to influence students’ writing. Hayes (1996) and Kellogg (1994, 1996) extended the knowledge base of writing development to include motivational factors, learning-theory concepts, and social context influences. These elements can be found in some areas of second language writing as well. Bilingual and multilingual writing. Prior to the 1960s, much second language writing research focused on controlled composition studies and sentence and word level analysis. In the field of contrastive rhetoric, cross linguistic comparisons were examined. Kaplan (1966) suggested that English language learners “employ a rhetoric and a sequence of thought which violate the

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expectations of the native reader” (p. 4). Due to learners’ first language interference that went beyond the sentence level, Kaplan encouraged teachers “to provide the student with a form within which he may operate” (p. 20). Through Kaplan’s further elaboration of essay development, he identified consistent written structures. In Anglo-European expository essays, a linear development pattern was identified that was not characteristic of Semitic, Oriental, Romance, or Russian languages. Connor (1996) provides a concise summary of critiques made to Kaplan’s traditional contrastive rhetoric. The critics stated that Kaplan was too ethnocentric and privileged the writing of native English speakers (Matalene, 1985); he examined the L2 product only and ignored the process of writing (Mohan and Au-Yeung Lo, 1985); and he disregarded the unique characteristics of related Oriental languages (Hinds, 1983). In response, Kaplan (1987, 1988) added that “the differences may reflect different writing conventions that are learned in a culture” (cited in Connor, 1996, p. 16). At about the same time, contrastive rhetoric was positioned within the context of applied linguistics and then within the context of genre analysis. Contrastive rhetoric research has broadened our understanding about the influence a native language has on a student’s English as a second language text. The findings from research are important because they can influence how teachers can enhance their instruction and value the cultural differences often present in classrooms. It also provides a starting place for individualized instruction in culturally diverse classrooms and classrooms where the students’ background is not shared with the instructor. Spanish has been the focus language of various studies. Since the students in the proposed study are native Spanish speakers, related research is included here. Reid’s dissertation (as cited in

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Connor, 1996; Reid, 1990) examined the English writing of 184 native Spanish-speakers and compared it with the English writing of native Arabic, Chinese, and English speakers on the TOEFL Test of Written English. Reid found that Spanish L1 writers used longer sentences and more pronouns than native English speakers. This demonstrated “loose coordination” in the Spanish speakers’ English texts. Contrastive rhetoric continues to influence the instruction and assistance offered to English language learners. English as a second language teachers learn about their students native language patterns in order to guide their academic writing endeavors (personal conversation with two elementary school ESL teachers, June 2007). An on-line search found support for students at Portland State University (2007), the Writing Center offers a summative list of writing errors common to speakers of a shared language. Some researchers have taken first language learning theories and applied them to second language acquisition. Lantolf (2000) and Lantolf and Apple (1994) extended Vygotsky’s theory. They claim that second language learners advance to higher levels of linguistic knowledge when they collaborate and interact with speakers of the second language who are more knowledgeable than they are, for example, a teacher or a more advanced learner. Bonvillain (2000) points out that all children in all cultures pass through linguistic and cognitive stages of development, each language however presents its own specific structure to be deciphered and reproduced. By the time students reach the third through fifth grades, they are proficient, to varying communicative and academic levels—depending on their previous experiences in and out of school—in their native and second language.

Full document contains 216 pages
Abstract: This exploratory study examines the nature of English writing among six second language learners when genre methodology was employed in their 6 th grade bilingual classroom. The study is unique because it describes the informative writing of students with different levels of language proficiency in their English as a second language and social studies integrated class. Students were exposed to the process genre approach (Badger & White, 2000) within a systemic teaching and learning cycle (Hammond et. al., 1992) in order to 'approximate descriptive and explanatory genres'. Through quantification of the elements of schematic structure and Transitivity, students' paragraphs and essays were analyzed. Findings report on the similarities and differences between and among cases of students with Intensive, Strategic, and Benchmark proficiency levels. The theoretical foundation for this study is a synthesis of three fields: bilingual adolescent L2 writing, genre theory, and language and content integration. Data sources include the researcher's log, lesson plans, and first and final drafts' of students' writing. A discussion of the findings, implications for teachers and educators, and recommendations for future research conclude this dissertation.