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Author of the Month: Shelley Xu

Published: January 15, 2010

Teaching English Language Learners: Literacy Strategies and Resources for K-6

Shelley Xu, Professor, Teacher Education

Arriving in January 2010 from New York-based Guilford Press, Teaching English Language Learners: Literacy Strategies and Resources for K-6 is Xu’s fourth book. Grounded in research and practical expertise, this volume helps K-6 teachers to support their English language learners (ELLs) from a single student to an entire classroom. Ideas for teaching ELLs across different grade and proficiency levels include ways to link instruction to students’ lived experiences, how to use a variety of motivating print and electronic texts and materials, ways to engage families and how to conduct effective assessments. Chapters offer tools and activities for promoting ELL development in oral language, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing and grammar. Handy reproducibles and “Voice from the Classroom” teacher vignettes enhance the book which is part of Guilford’s Tools for Teaching Literacy Series. Xu, who joined Teacher Education in 2002, explained that there are three reasons her new book stands alone. First, she incorporates such language development components as grammar, explaining “if you can’t understand sentence structure, you cannot comprehend language. This book approaches grammar instruction from an entirely new perspective.” Second, she encourages teachers to learn about their ELLs’ native languages in order to better understand why ELLs keep making the same mistakes. “It is very important for the teacher to know the student’s background,” she said.

Book of the month

Third, she explores how teachers need to tailor their instructional strategies and materials to their students. “Sometimes these strategies need modification,” she said. “Look at how teachers make use of reading aloud. They were common tools for decades. But when they are used with English language learners, teachers need to think about their special needs. What skills do they need practice with? Teachers need to modify the use of these strategies.” She believes Teaching English Language Learners also is unique because each chapter, including such topics as instruction for oral language development, instruction for phonological and orthographic knowledge and fluency development and instruction for vocabulary development, has a section called Voice from the Classroom, which is written by a classroom teacher who shares her own experience. Xu’s Bachelor of Arts in English Education came from Eastern China Normal University in Shanghai. She received her Master of Education in Teaching English as a Second Language in 1993 and her doctorate from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas in 1997.