Reading and Language Arts Curricula in Elementary and Secondary Education for American Indians and Alaska Natives

In this article, the author reviews literature addressing reading and language arts curricula for Native students, with a goal to provide teachers with helpful instructional tools. An overview is presented of theories of first and second language acquisition and learning, stages of language development, and the influence of the learning environment. Content-based instructional approaches and the relationship between academic competency and second language (English) competency are discussed. The author covers instructional strategies believed to be effective for Native students, including: analyzing the language complexity of the learning task; providing contextual cues; peer interaction and cooperative learning experiences; modifying lessons or providing alternative activities for limited English proficient students; incorporating comprehension checks; using preview and review techniques; making the text comprehensible; and adapting content. Specific teaching strategies for each of the above are provided.

Content Comments 

Similar to other articles addressing American Indian (AI) education, this article opens with an overview of AI achievement, which is in nearly all cases substantially lower than other students in American schools. The goals are well stated, including an overview of recent literature and recommendations for instructional strategies to improve reading and literacy skills of AI students. Much of the article’s literature review section is familiar, especially for the education of English language learner students. The journal style format makes the article fairly easy to read; however, practitioners will likely find the most helpful information toward the end of the article, which focuses on effective instructional strategies for AI students and their unique needs. While the author states that these are proven strategies, the evidence is scant. Consequently, teachers may be unable to implement more than a handful of the author’s recommendations, given classroom time constraints. Actual impact on learning is difficult to gauge, but the article provides a nice background and overview of the topic that stands the test of time, given its 1991 publication date. The most likely users of this article are researchers and practitioners who work with AI students and seek potentially useful instructional strategies.