Differentiating Instruction via Literature Circles to Support English Language Learners in a Science Classroom

Big Moon Tortilla


  • Jane Elizabeth Casey Texas A&M University Central Texas
  • Diana Linn Texas A&M International University
  • Lisa Pennington Governors State University
  • Selina Mireles University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
  • Dallas Lopez


elementary science, ELLs, literature circles, metacognitive strategies


It is important that preservice and in-service teachers use effective supports for English language learners (ELLs) in science classes to enhance learning. ELLs with limited English proficiency may need more supports to address language barriers that affect student learning. Literature circles can be used to enhance understanding of content when embedded into instructional strategies. This grant-funded study collected data on effective instructional approaches to support ELL students in upper elementary science classes from October, 2017 through May, 2018. During a lesson on phases of the moon, researchers incorporated literature circles into instruction embedded with metacognitive strategies to assess student learning outcomes. Student-participants: (a) took a researcher-designed, pre-assessment, (b) received direct instruction in phases of the moon, (c) were engaged in literature circles, (d) created “Phases of the Moon” booklets, and, (e) took a post-assessment.  For the collaborative activity, students were grouped with peers who had similar English proficiency levels; and each group was given a book in English, a book in Spanish, or a book that had text in both Spanish and English. Students were asked to read, identify cognates/clarify unknown words, develop a summary/gist, and create questions to ask peers after a group presentation (Klingner & Vaughn, 1999; Palincsar & Brown, 1984).

Author Biographies

Diana Linn, Texas A&M International University

Dr. Diana Linn is an Associate Professor in Curriculum and Instruction at Texas A&M International University Her research interests include the disproportionate representation of diverse student groups in special education, prereferral interventions for diverse student populations, and multicultural education. Dr. Linn has received numerous awards during her time at TAMIU including Scholar of the Year, Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy , Global Scholar Award, and University International Faculty Award.

Lisa Pennington, Governors State University

Dr. Pennington completed her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction-Social Studies at Virginia Tech in 2016.  Her research interests include professional development, museum education, and genocide education.  Dr. Pennington was awarded a University Research Grant in 2017 to continue research on museum education, to include preparing teachers for class visits to museums. She has two recent publications on educating students in social studies classrooms. Dr. Pennington has teacher certification in Virginia.

Selina Mireles, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Dr. Mireles is currently serving as the Senior Associate Vice President for Faculty Success & Diversity at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Dr. Mireles has a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from the University of Texas at Austin. She has numerous publications and grant awards to her credit.


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