Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Teaching and Learning (Education)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Jeanne Shay Schumm

Second Committee Member

Mileidis Gort

Third Committee Member

Maria S. Carlo

Fourth Committee Member

James D. McKinney


This study was designed to provide information on the reading instructional practices of 36 first grade teachers in nine schools that serve predominantly Spanish-speaking and ELL students in a southeastern U.S. school district. The purpose of this investigation was to describe teaching practices employed during English language arts instruction and to examine their use in relation to instructional grouping strategies, teacher language use, and student engagement. Participating classrooms were observed three times throughout the 2006-07 school year. Data were collected via the Timed Observations of Student Engagement/Language (TO/SEL) classroom observation instrument (Foorman & Schatchneider, 2003). Paired sample t-tests, multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVA), and multiple regression analyses were employed to investigate the relationship among the following observed variables: allocation of reading instructional time, grouping strategies, teacher language use and student engagement. Several key findings emerged. Participating teachers spent a greater amount of time on meaning-focused reading instruction (i.e., writing, reading texts, reading comprehension) than on code-focused reading instruction (i.e., word work, spelling, reading fluency, phonemic awareness), both during all four observed grouping strategies and after controlling for individual student seat work. In addition, of five key collapsed instructional variables (word work/spelling, oral language, writing, reading texts, and reading comprehension), teachers spent most time on word work/spelling (19%) and writing (18%). Reading texts and reading comprehension instruction together comprised 26% of total instructional time. Whole class instruction was the grouping strategy of choice among teachers (65% of total observed time); in sharp contrast, teachers spent 11% of observed time engaged in small group instruction, despite research findings supporting the effectiveness of sound grouping instruction. In addition, as little as 1% of teachers' total instructional time was spent in oral language/discussion, and 6% of total instructional time was spent in vocabulary instruction. The results also demonstrated little variation in teacher language use. Thus, evidence of "codeswitching" was not significant. Student engagement was high- 91% of total time students were observed; and was highest during writing and word work/spelling instruction. More longitudinal research is warranted that further explores precisely documented teacher reading instructional practices in relation to student outcomes with culturally and linguistically diverse student populations. Implications for practice include teacher training and professional development on managing small group instruction, and incorporating additional oral language/discussion, vocabulary and meaningful tasks into daily classroom activities.


Second Language Learning; Student Engagement; Teacher Language Use; Hispanics; Spanish-speaking; Classroom Observations; Spanish Speakers; Limited English Proficient; LEP; Language Of Instruction; Culturally And Linguistically Diverse; Language Minority; Word-level Skills; Observations; Grouping Strategies; ELLs; Teacher Characteristics; Second Language Learner; Text-level Skills; English Language Learners; Bilingual; Reading Instruction; Vocabulary; Instructional Content