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Emergent Level Fiction for Newcomers in Grades 4-12

Saddleback Educational Publishing conducts a Webinar Series to spread information and resources for online learning programs. The following article is an enhanced summary based on our webinar Emergent Level Fiction For Newcomers In Grades 4-12 hosted by Jill Haney , Director of Literacy on September 16th 2020.

Thank you to all of you for joining us. Today I am extremely excited to introduce you to a new set of books that we are premiering, our emergent level fiction for newcomers. As many of you have been using our Welcome Newcomers boxes, our large box sets, many of you kept telling all of us here at Saddleback that you really wanted to see some books that were at lower reading levels and that’s what we’re going to be sharing today. We’re extremely excited about that.

We will certainly be talking a bit about some adaptations because many of you are still in a virtual teaching situation, either full-time or part-time and we recognize that any adaptations we can have that will help with that virtual is definitely going to be important right now.

Newcomers In The Classroom

Let’s get started really with talking about our newcomers today. When we think about our newcomers, I always think about diversity. I’m always thinking about the fact that the diversity is not just in languages, which is what tends to first be thought about with newcomers, and we know that there are classrooms that some of you have out there that have over 20 languages, but that in many ways just the tip of the iceberg in terms of all of the different ways that our newcomers are diverse. When I say that, I mean we often have deeper issues that our newcomers come to us with. They may have had traumatic experiences and they may still be dealing with some of that trauma. They may have had huge gaps in their learning. They may have had situations where they were in refugee camps or where they were fleeing violence. All of those factors are going to have a huge effect in the classroom.

Immigrant and Newcomer Integration

So when we think about this group, we know that it has really grown in the United states. This is from Adelman and Taylor’s research about the immigrant population tripling in the United states in just under three decades. We also know that we have a lot of places who, 10 or 15 years ago did not have newcomers, but are now really seeing an influx of newcomers. So it’s not just the growing numbers, it’s also the way that they are spreading in terms of districts. So districts that may not have typically been used to serving newcomers are having to learn how to do that. There are, as always when we’re working with our newcomers, some major challenges. Certainly the languages are one but as we just talked about in terms of diversity, we’re also seeing an increasing number of our students who have had trauma-inducing experiences.

We see also that many of them are going to have a lack of knowledge of social norms, which can make their work in schools and in the community and all of their interactions a little more difficult. We have seen as virtual has become more and more the way of life that we have a significant gap in terms of our students having access to remote learning, whether it be because of lack of internet service or lack of devices that can connect to the internet. Then of course with many of our newcomers we are seeing emergent reading levels, even if they are at a middle school or high school age. So when we think about all the different challenges that our newcomers themselves are feeling, it certainly is something that we have to reflect on when we think about how we can best serve them. How can we best reach them and help them to really thrive here as they have just come to us?

Emergent Reading Levels

As we think about the emergent reading levels, one of the biggest things that we often do because of those emergent reading levels is think about, okay what books can my students access because they’re at emergent reading levels? But the problem is that most emergent level books are not aimed at middle school and high school age students and these baby books will not motivate many of our students because they’re thinking to themselves, these are for little kids. This isn’t for me. That’s why we’re here today, because our students need emergent level text that also is appealing to them, that is something that they want to read. In fact I know classrooms out there where they are hungry to read and we really want to be able to provide them with books that they are going to be not only excited to read but are also able to read.

Welcome Newcomers Fundamentals

So that’s what we’re introducing today. These are our brand new Welcome Newcomers Fundamentals and Go! Welcome Newcomers Fundamentals. If you’re familiar with our larger box sets with Welcome Newcomers, you know that those have been really enjoyed by the students but may have needed more guidance from teachers. So what these new sets represent are opportunities for the students to really access the books more from an independent reading level, because these are going to be at an emergent level. Just like the other newcomer books that you may be familiar with, these are topic-based but they are all fiction. They are intended for newcomers in grades 4 through 12. There are two different sets.

So the Go Welcome Newcomers Fundamentals is aimed at grades 4 through 8, and the Welcome Newcomers Fundamentals is aimed at grades 8 through 12. We have that whole range in terms of the books and you can see here a sample tween book and a sample teen book. The characters are going to be very much reflective of the students who are reading them in terms of ages, in terms of backgrounds, in terms of experiences, and in terms of being newcomers themselves. We wrote these and created these specifically for newcomers so you’re going to see emergent level text in these books with readabilities from 0 to 0.9, what we would call that pre-K or K reading level. For those of you who are using lexiles, the lexiles range from 10 to 90, so very low levels in terms of the reading.

Emergent Reading Strategies

There are additional helps because we know these are emergent readers. One of them is the full color photos that are on every page and we also have less text on a page because of the number of pages in the book, which we’ll talk a little bit more about in a moment, the topics are definitely ones that are important to newcomers, from things like school basics to transportation and being able to get around their new community. The main characters are all relatable not only in terms of age, for the Go Welcome Newcomers they’re going to be middle schoolers and for the Welcome Newcomers Fundamentals they’re going to be high schoolers, but also in terms of the fact that these main characters are newcomers themselves.

I wanted to talk a little bit not only about these levels, but look at the page count and the fact that the word count is just 525 to 650. You can imagine that that allows us to have far less text on a page than you might see in a normal book, so it’s become something that’s very manageable for students. Let’s take a quick closer look at these. This is the Go Welcome Newcomers Fundamentals. These are again aimed at our upper elementary and middle school newcomers. There are 14 fiction books, each one with a different topic and those topics are exact mirrors to the topics in the Go Welcome Newcomers box.

If you have that larger kit these are going to have the exact same 14 topics, everything from American culture, community and health resources to things like exploring your future, social skills, school success, and weather in natural disasters even. So you’ve got quite an array of topics all being presented through a fiction lens and through a newcomer perspective. Here’s a sample book. This is actually from one of the money books and you can see those full color photos dominate the pages. There is in this case no more than two sentences on a page and you see these are tween characters. They’re learning important information as we are reading about a story that in this case it is about going to the movies.

Emergent Reader Books For Teens

Our Welcome Newcomers Fundamentals are for our high school or teen and young adult newcomers. I mentioned young adults because we have many of you who are working in the community, maybe working with some students who are working towards getting their GED or other things and these would also be very much appropriate for those young adult newcomers. The topics here are going to mirror the same topics that are in the Welcome Newcomers box and these differ slightly from the Go Welcome Newcomers. Each of those larger boxes has 14 topics and some of them are repeated and some of them are unique to the different levels.

For example, here at the high school level we have things like finding and keeping a job, and a new home, which is really about finding an appropriate apartment or place to live. These kinds of topics are going to be much more reflective of something that a high school or young adult newcomer is going to be interested in and these are not found in the Go Welcome Newcomers. We have different kinds of things there.

Emergent Level Fiction and Nonfiction

Here’s another sample book from the Welcome Newcomers. Again you’ll see just a few sentences per page and you’ll see the featuring of diverse teen characters and that the topics are being explored through a realistic, everyday scenario. These are really functioning as fantastic starter packs. If you have these boxes, the Welcome Newcomers or Go Welcome Newcomers boxes, these books present a great opportunity to introduce students to the topics.

Imagine if you will for a moment, that in your larger box, you have a fiction and non-fiction pair for each topic, but now you’re going to have an emergent level fiction book that could provide an entry point into that topic and discussion. It can also be what i would call a supplemental read, where students now have these emergent level books as opportunities to do independent reading while you are guiding them through that topic in the larger box.

So the same topics as we talked about, here’s a great example where you see in Welcome Newcomers Fundamentals, we have the Credit Gone Wrong and then in the Welcome Newcomers box this same topic of managing money, has a non-fiction and a fiction, but the big difference is in the reading levels. Take at a Welcome Newcomers Fundamentals. That’s at 0.8 readability 40 lexile versus the Welcome Newcomers. It’s the same topic that’s at a 2.4 reading level and a 270 lexile, so much much lower in terms of the readability but the topic and the importance of that and the the story itself is still very much something that newcomers are going to be interested in and really give them some good skills and information to think about as they navigate that topic in their own lives.

Idea Implementation Process For Newcomers

Let’s talk about some implementation ideas. Certainly these books offer an opportunity to introduce students to the topics and those of you who may have been using those larger Welcome Newcomers boxes may know that we really recommend those be guided reading experiences. So with these now being available, you have the opportunity to really let students enter that topic through a book that they are much eight more able to read and that is also because it’s short, because they’re just 600 words or so. You have that opportunity to really read a book in one sitting very very easily.

Now let’s talk about the fact that we are virtual. These books are coming out in print. They are not currently in a digital situation but you may have heard the great news that Saddleback has just launched a digital platform and we have our bigger box sets on that digital platform, so you would be able to get Welcome Newcomers, the big boxes, digitally. These new little books, the Welcome Newcomers Fundamentals, are still in the print so how might that look in terms of a virtual situation? Certainly it could be easily something that you could do a shared reading in synchronous learning or do a recording of yourself reading and sharing the book so that students can be hearing you and be having access to that book. It can also be something that if you have an opportunity, as some of our schools are doing, with pickup days or share days where students are able to get some of these books in their own hands, these are great books for them to have at home. So there are a lot of different ways that you can provide the books and the experiences for students with these Welcome Newcomers Fundamentals while also still teaching virtually.

Digital Resources For Emergent Level Readers

If you have the digital platform now that Saddleback will have, you’ll have that option to do the Welcome Newcomers big box with all the digital resources. You can also think about this from a whole class reading and discussion, which is an easy thing to really make as an adaptation if you’re doing virtual where you would share the book in a reading. Because they are so short, it is something that you would be able to share in really five to ten minutes, so it’s great for synchronous learning where we want our readings and our teachings to be in shorter periods and then give an opportunity for some discussion.

I have seen a lot of great options happening now, where if your platform that your school district provides allows for breakout rooms, teachers can share something like a reading and then students can go into breakout rooms to have still some small group discussion. We’re seeing that in the district that I live in with my own students. Now Webex is allowing for some breakout room options, just like Zoom has been, so we’re pretty excited about what that is allowing for.

Fundamentals Of Reading For Newcomers

The other thing I like about these Fundamentals, again that short number of words, so it’s really easy to implement repeated readings so that students can get that increasing independence. This is something I would highly recommend as we’re working with our newcomers. Repetition is so important for students as they begin to get used to the language and get more and more confident. I also love these for echo reading, where I will read a line and then the student will read it back and i get some of that echo opportunity to model good fluency and good expression, and the student gets to read that back and try to go off of my model, so that they’re getting some chance to get some of that expression and fluency as well. I also love these Fundamentals as options for comparison and contrast to the corresponding pair that’s in the larger box. If you have that Welcome Newcomers larger box, you now have three different books per topic between Fundamentals and the big box, and that gives some great opportunity for comparing and contrasting how different newcomers have dealt with the same topic and what that might look like, and how things are similar or as well as how things are different.

So once again, just as a kind of quick overview, what we’re introducing today is our Welcome Newcomer Fundamentals, which we have at two levels– Go Welcome Newcomer Fundamentals for those upper elementary and middle school students, and Welcome Newcomers Fundamentals for those high school students.