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Thinking in English : : Building Critical Literacy with Refugee English Learners


There is a very unique population of students who are not often represented in research and literature. These are beginning English learners, secondary students who are recent immigrants from areas with limited or interrupted formal education. These students are often from areas of great conflict and many of them have had traumatic experiences before being resettled in the United States. Many of these students arrive in the US with a strong desire to better their circumstances through education. The Thinking in English curriculum addresses the notion that when refugee English learners are challenged to use critical literacy in a series of activities that include a common theme of goals, their language proficiency will improve, as well as their critical thinking and decision- making in relation to their understanding of the educational system of the United States. It was implemented in a large, urban district in southern California where students were enrolled from a variety of countries around the world and spoke a variety of languages and dialects. Over a series of activities, the students were challenged to think critically through receptive and expressive tasks that built on a topic of setting goals and provided them appropriate scaffolding to meet their language needs. The data shows that students with limited prior education with very beginning English proficiency can successfully improve their proficiency while also building critical literacy that will help them become more successful as members of the social and educational community of the United States

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