ERIC Identifier: ED286705
Publication Date: 1986-03-00
Author: Zarate, Narcisa
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Rural Education and Small Schools Las Cruces NM.
Reading Skills Development of Hispanic Students in American
Public Schools: Some Specific Strategies. ERIC Digest.
Mexican American students' grade-level reading and overall academic
achievement, as measured by standardized tests, decline as they progress through
the educational system. By grade seven, 65% of Mexican American students fall
one or more grade levels below expected achievement. As a result, Mexican
American attrition in junior and senior high schools is the highest among all
racial and ethnic groups. To address this problem, teachers, students, and
parents need strategies for developing and applying reading skills in all
THE CURRENT STATE OF HISPANIC EDUCATION IN AMERICA
In order to function in American society, non-English speaking students must
learn the language. Their learning, however, can be encouraged and enhanced by a
positive pedagogical approach in the classroom. One very telling and immediate
suggestion is for teachers to recognize and incorporate into the classroom the
valuable twin resources of Hispanics: their language and culture.
Since language mastery precedes reading instruction, intensive language
instruction must be a part of the curriculum. Developing and shaping basic
reading skills (along with other cognitive processes) improves both reading and
academic proficiency. Chicano students can and do achieve, given access,
educational support, and encouragement (Anrig, 1984). They generally meet
teachers' expectations; to expect less from Hispanic students is to
underestimate their capacity for learning and to diminish the significance of
education (Boyer, 1983). Elementary school Hispanic students who have received
intensive reading, writing, and language instruction can be adequately prepared
for secondary schooling if several tactical assumptions are implemented.
ESSENTIAL TACTICS OF HISPANIC EDUCATION
Four assumptions underlie the application of educational strategies: namely,
that the teacher possess a knowledge of language and reading skills applicable
to the subject taught; that the teacher be able to recognize and diagnose
reading skill problems; that the teacher is cognizant of and sensitive to
Hispanic culture--its beliefs, values and behavioral codes; and that the teacher
is flexible and creative in the classroom.
The premise that reading requires "mastery" of language is part of the
rationale for concentrating on the following strategies. Knowledge of a language
involves both its literal and nonliteral forms, and hence idiomatic expressions
and figures of speech which enable students to infer, associate, and recognize
implications. Since vocabulary acquisition is a linchpin of literacy and since
reading comprehension and vocabulary are intimately related, any student who
falls below the 50th percentile on a standardized pre-test in reading/vocabulary
should be targeted for rich instruction. According to the findings of the
National Commission on Secondary Education for Hispanics, Hispanic students need
more personal attention and daily contact, including more instructional
materials, if they are to improve their reading comprehension.
SOME SPECIFIC AND EFFECTIVE EDUCATIONAL STRATEGIES
Among the strategies found effective with Hispanic students are:
--Language Experience Approach (Stauffer, 1980) A strategy demanding student
participation in the learning process via action between teacher and student and
interaction among students. Cognitive and affective transaction is the key to
this strategy, appropriate for preschool through adult education. Preschool
children learn language and then learn to read. Here, respect is shown not only
for the experiences and language students bring with them to school, but also
for their heritage and natural curiosity.
--Directed Reading/Thinking Activities, DRTA (Stauffer, 1969) A sequential
strategy designed to help student and teacher establish purposes for reading,
identifying concepts and applying reading skills. Adaptable for all levels and
subjects, it is particularly appropriate when students need individual
attention, structure, extended activities or refinement in reading skills. It
enables the teacher to identify the specific skill which warrants remediation
and to initiate appropriate activities to encourage those skills (i.e., making
relationships, forming analogies, classifying, etc.).
--Easy Steps to Reading Improvement, ESTRI (Chaffee, 1975) This structured
strategy, focusing on the English sound system and on writing, employs five
principles of syllabification of English words. Exceptions are handled through
reverse principles. Appropriate for any grade level, ESTRI encourage students
with a limited English background, students having problems with the English
sound system, and those with spelling difficulties.
--Cloze Procedure (Taylor, 1953) The original "cloze" procedure asks that
every fifth word be omitted, but the teacher has the option of omitting the
element or skill being focused. Some examples of omissions are language markers,
context clues, definitions and examples within the reading material. Cloze works
for those who need to learn language structure involving any subject area.
--Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review, SQ3R (Robinson, 1961) SQ3R is a
five-step strategy appropriate for all grades and subjects and designed
especially to encourage mature students to become independent in reading
expository materials. Those who read at grade level can apply its techniques to
improve comprehension. SQ3R not only aids students in organizing and outlining,
but also assists them in developing a sequential process in reading any
assignment. The teacher can thus create extension and refinement activities to
develop higher levels of thinking.
--Sequential Steps to Reading Nonliteral Language (Sherer, 1977) Appropriate
for all grades and subjects, this strategy proposes a five-step approach to
reading nonliteral or figurative language (metaphors, similies, hyperboles,
personification, idioms). Its steps include: defining each type of figurative
language, providing signal words; helping the student see comparisons;
identifying the author's purpose in making the comparisons; and deciding what
similarities the author wants readers to see. This strategy helps students
understand what they read and clarify concepts, while increasing their
vocabulary, improving their writing, and helping them read literature and
--Cognate Recognition In this strategy, teacher and student identify words
which are the same in both languages. Using the sound systems of each language,
students pronounce words in that particular reading in order to become aware of
the differences. Definitions are presented, compared, and discussed. Some
examples of cognate words are: doctor, local, and adobe.
--Paragraph Function (Robinson, 1975) This strategy recognizes specific
functions of paragraphs which serve as guideposts to meaning: explanatory,
definitional, introductory, transitional, narrative, descriptive, summary and
conclusion. The paragraph function also establishes writing style and pattern.
The essence of paragraphs is that the organized message is equal to the sum of a
series of paragraphs. Applicable for any grade level and content area, this
strategy strengthens knowledge of structure in reading and writing. Knowing the
function of a paragraph increases understanding of content and improves reading
--Critical Analysis (Chaffee, 1985) This strategy permits student-teacher
interaction and involves extensive use of English. Students dissect statements,
paragraphs, or essays and then reconstruct them. Students become aware of
multiple denotations, connotations, euphemisms, etc., while teachers identify
vague and precise language, techniques of persuasion, and differentiate among
facts, opinions and propaganda. Ample opportunities occur for discussion of
A CODA TO CURRENT HISPANIC EDUCATION
The strategies suggested are adaptable to the needs of Mexican American
students. Although they apply to most educational levels, several specific
recommendations for junior high school teachers include: (1) providing clear and
concise sequential steps in assignments; (2) devising a variety of activities
using English language and reading skills; (3) striving for effective English
instruction and, whenever possible, incorporating intensive instruction for all
students who fall below grade level; (4) alerting students to reading skills
they possess and prompting them to use those skills in every reading activity;
(5) recognizing students' varying language and reading skill levels and
constructing lesson plans accordingly; and (6) providing, as needed, individual
instruction, rich vocabulary instruction, extensive reading, and opportunities
to experiment with English.
Similarly, high school teachers should become more proficient in teaching
reading skills, provide students with appropriate labels for reading skills, and
encourage students to apply collateral cognitive processes to all reading
assignments. High school teachers should be cognizant of the principles of
learning: overlearning, ordering, sizing, or programming new material, rewarding
desired responses, and frequent reviews.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Anrig, Gregory R. EDUCATIONAL STANDARDS, TESTING AND ACCESS: ACCOUNTABILITY
REPORT. Princeton, New Jersey: Educational Testing Service, 1984. ED 247 236.
Boyer, Ernest L. HIGH SCHOOL: A REPORT ON SECONDARY EDUCATION IN AMERICA. New
York: Harper and Row, 1983. ED 242 227.
Chaffee, John. THINKING CRITICALLY. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1985.
Chaffee, John. EASY STEPS TO READING IMPROVEMENT: SECONDARY DEVELOPMENT LEVEL
TEACHER'S MANUAL. New York: Technical Learning Corporation, 1975.
Robinson, Francis. "Study Skills for Superior Students in Secondary Schools."
THE READING TEACHER 25 (1961): 29-33.
Robinson, H. Alan. TEACHING READING AND STUDY STRATEGIES: THE CONTENT AREAS.
Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1975.
Sherer, Peter A. "Those Mystifying Metaphors: Students Can Read Them."
JOURNAL OF READING 20 (1977).
Stauffer, Russell G. TEACHING READING AS A THINKING PROCESS. New York: Harper
and Row, 1969.
Stauffer, Russel G. THE LANGUAGE EXPERIENCE APPROACH TO THE TEACHING OF
READING. 2nd ed. New York: Harper and Row, 1980.
Taylor, N. L. "Cloze Procedure: A New Tool for Measuring Readability."
JOURNALISM QUARTERLY 30 (1953): 415-433.