Language & Literacy

literacy

a boy struggling to read a book

  • Paper Citation: Philip Capin, Sharon Vaughn, Joseph E. Miller, Jeremy Miciak, Anna-Mari Fall, Greg Roberts, Eunsoo Cho, Amy E. Barth, Paul K. Steinle & Jack M. Fletcher (2023) Investigating the Reading Profiles of Middle School Emergent Bilinguals with Significant Reading Comprehension Difficulties, Scientific Studies of Reading, DOI: 10.1080/10888438.2023.2254871

A few months ago, a study crossed my radar that caused me to stop, print it out, mark it up, and then begin digging into related studies, which is what I do when a study grabs my attention.

Getting into research is akin to getting into Miles Davis—if you like a given song or album, you may start checking out the other musicians he plays with, and they'll lead you into a new and ever expanding fractal universe, because Davis had a knack for collaborating with musicians who were geniuses in their own right. A few examples: John Coltrane, Tony Williams, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Wayne Shorter, Jack DeJohnette, the list goes on and on.

Read more...

Researchers with gifts This has been a great year for education research. I thought it could be fun to review some of what has come across my own limited radar over the course of 2023.

The method I used to create this wrap-up was to go back through my Twitter timeline starting in January, and pull all research related tweets into a doc. I then began sorting those by theme and ended up with several high-level buckets, with further sub-themes within and across those buckets. Note that I didn’t also go through my Mastodon nor Bluesky feeds, as this was time-consuming enough!

The rough big ticket research items I ended up with were:

  • Multilinguals and multilingualism
  • Reading
  • Morphology
  • The influence of physical or cultural environment
  • The content of teaching and learning
  • The precedence of academic skills over soft skills
  • Brain research and Artificial Neural Networks
Read more...

2nd grade students eagerly listening to a read-aloud by their teacher

Teacher Vocabulary Use and Student Language and Literacy Achievement

The Power of Teacher Talk

We know that the explicit teaching of unfamiliar words that students will encounter in written text is important. But what about the language that is used by teachers throughout the school day? What implicit learning opportunities are constrained or afforded through the model of the language that a teacher uses while teaching, and what are the impacts on student learning?

Read more...

I'm going to try out a new type of post here, in which I'll share one interesting research item I've happened across in greater depth. In the past, I've simply tweeted them out, but then I forget about them. I'm hoping this will be a better way of retaining them in memory and deepening my understanding — and of course, sharing them with you!

Individual differences in L2 listening proficiency revisited: Roles of form, meaning, and use aspects of phonological vocabulary knowledge

  • Citation: Saito, K., Uchihara, T., Takizawa, K., & Suzukida, Y. (2023). Individual differences in L2 listening proficiency revisited: Roles of form, meaning, and use aspects of phonological vocabulary knowledge. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 1-27. doi:10.1017/S027226312300044X

This paper explores how various aspects of phonological vocabulary knowledge affect second language (L2) listening proficiency. The study involved 126 Japanese learners of English.

Back in 1978, Bloom & Lahey presented a simple and useful model of language: form, meaning, and use.

Bloom and Lahey's model of language

Read more...

an image from behind the looming silhouette of the word, "Libertyville" astride a hillside overlooking a city at night.

Weaving back in a short poem to start our post:

The Influence Unseen of the Words We Use to Be

Part I: The Acculturation of the Mind

There is a fertile topsoil we are born with in our brains, imprinted by the interplay of sights and sounds and movement of those who interact with us. This immersive communicative theater, felt first in the womb, roots itself within the immediacy of each moment, even while gesturing at distant realms yet unknown. Climbing towards this mystery with our tongues and thoughts and technology bends the world toward our needs, and allows us to project our inner selves into the past and future. We ride rivers and build highways across our brains. This is our cultural inheritance, our storied legacy of language and literacy.

Part II: The Shadowed Underbelly of Words

Yet this glorified development harbors dissonance as well, darker truths of the animal and spirit world we project beyond ourselves and thus, distort. As we entangle each other in our webs of words, we may mirror and magnify influences unseen, that inarticulate undertow of us vs. them. When we summon forth our disgust and anger at someone or something else and wrap them into words until our vision becomes blinded, we may become its prisoners, trapped in the enchantment of language itself. As Alicia lived in the interlocution of the pages, the chatter of our minds can lead us unto rifts within. Do animals go mad, other than when rabies infects their brains? Language, in this sense, is viral, amplifying our extremes while shrouding our ensnarement. We can paint a veneer of progress over the denatured scars we leave behind.

Read more...

Innate vs developed

We have spent some time picking away at the tension between the generalizations and assumptions made around whether reading and writing development is natural or unnatural.

We continue this exploration, except now we dig into an even more fundamental aspect of human development: language. Language development is a seemingly magical evolutionary development that humans have uniquely adapted—or for which language is uniquely adapted for—to the surviving and thriving of our species.

Are we born with innate capacities for language baked into our brains—a 'universal grammar'? Or do we develop and hone these capacities—albeit, rapidly—through exposure and use? Is it both? If so, how much is innate, and how much is developed? And in what way do these continued advancements of language and literacy across the generations enable our cognitive, cultural, and technological achievements? And in what way might they at the same time magnify the biases and base motivations of those most able to leverage power to manipulate others? In other words, how much does language and literacy bring us into a more generative engagement with ourselves and our world, and how much does it create a distance that may lead to destruction?

This journey continues in this series of posts:

#language #literacy #innate #natural #unnatural #development #cognition

Talking is just recording what you're thinking. It's not the thing itself. When I'm talking to you some separate part of my mind is composing what I'm about to say. But it's not yet in the form of words. So what is it in the form of? There's certainly no sense of some homunculus whispering to us the words we're about to say. Aside from raising the spectre of an infinite regress—as in who is whispering to the whisperer—it raises the question of a language of thought. Part of the general puzzle of how we get from the mind to the world. A hundred billion synaptic events clicking away in the dark like blind ladies at their knitting.

Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy

A hundred billion synaptic events clicking away in the dark like blind ladies at their knitting.

OK, so let’s take some stock of where we’ve been thus far in our explorations of the development of language and literacy.

We’ve spent some time poking at the notion of whether learning to read is unnatural or not, and landed on the conviction that terming it unnatural–though useful as a rhetorical device–may be less precise than recognizing that learning to read and write is more formal, abstract, and distal from the immediate context of human interaction – and thus requires more effort, instruction, and practice to master.

We then turned to the development of language and discovered that even here–despite the ubiquity and swiftness with which native languages develop anew in every child across our species–language may not be as innate and inborn as it may appear.

Both language and literacy have bestowed humanity with sacred powers for the transmission and accumulation of cultural knowledge that seems to–as of yet–have no ceiling beyond that of our own destruction. Whether this is natural or innate or not may be beside the point. What does seem to be clear is that we have something inherited within us that is unfurled and reified by the networks that are riven across our brains through storytelling, interactive dialogue, and shared book reading that connects spoken to written language, and further strengthened with the hardwon fluency we manage to achieve on our own across modalities, texts, and languages.

Read more...

In my last post, we landed on the idea of a nascent scaffold that we are born with in our brains, which is developed through our daily interactions with one another – and then further accelerated through the reinforcement and extension of written language use.

Before we venture into the wilds of the possible relations between language and thought, I wanted to build on this idea of how our inner scaffolds are most fully realized through speaking, listening, reading, and writing by geeking out about the beauty and wonder of multilingualism.

Read more...

the inner scaffold

The Acculturation of the Mind

There is a fertile topsoil we are born with in our brains, imprinted by the interplay of sights and sounds and movement of those who interact with us. This immersive communicative theater, felt first in the womb, roots itself within the immediacy of each moment, even while gesturing at distant realms yet unknown. Climbing towards this mystery with our tongues and thoughts and technology bends the world toward our needs, and allows us to project our inner selves into the past and future. We ride rivers and build highways across our brains. This is our cultural inheritance, our storied legacy of language and literacy.

Read more...

Colors of the mind Language is a uniquely human phenomenon that develops in children with remarkable ease and fluency. Yet questions remain about how we acquire language. Is it innately wired in our brain, or do we learn all facets rapidly from birth?

Two books – Rethinking Innateness and The Language Game – provide us with some fascinating perspectives on language learning that bears implications for how we think about learning to read and write, and furthermore, for how we talk about the power and limitations of AI.

Read more...