1st Edition

Teaching and Researching ELLs’ Disciplinary Literacies
Systemic Functional Linguistics in Action in the Context of U.S. School Reform

ISBN 9781138090903
Published February 21, 2019 by Routledge
298 Pages

USD $49.95

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Book Description

Written from a critical perspective, this volume provides teachers, teacher educators, and classroom researchers with a conceptual framework and practical methods for teaching and researching the disciplinary literacy development of English language learners (ELLs). Grounded in a nuanced critique of current social, economic, and political changes shaping public education, Gebhard offers a comprehensive framework for designing curriculum, instruction, and assessments that build on students’ linguistic and cultural resources and that are aligned with high-stakes state and national standards using the tools of systemic functional linguistics (SFL). By providing concrete examples of how teachers have used SFL in their work with students in urban schools, this book provides pre-service and in-service teachers, as well as literacy researchers and policy makers, with new insights into how they can support the disciplinary literacy development of ELLs and the professional practices of their teachers in the context of current school reforms. Key features of this book include the voices of teachers, examples of curriculum, sample analyses of student writing, and guiding questions to support readers in conducting action-oriented research in the schools where they work.

Table of Contents




1 Teaching and researching ELLs’ disciplinary literacy development in hard times: A critical perspective

Rationale: The making of a "perfect storm"

My literacy biography: Learning (and not learning) to become a critical reader, writer, and thinker

A critical approach to understanding language, learning, and social change in U.S. public schools

Overview of chapters


2 Celine’s questions: Race, immigration, and literacy development in schools

Celine’s literacy practices: A case study

Crossing linguistic, cultural, and institutional boundaries in schools

Text/context dynamics

Celine’s educational background

Mr. Banks’ feedback

Rethinking the word "grammar" from an SFL perspective



3 Skinner, Chomsky, and Halliday: Shifting conceptions of grammar and language learning

Skinner: A behavioral perspective

Chomsky: A psycholinguistic perspective

Halliday: A social semiotic perspective

Summary and critique of different perspectives of grammar and approaches to language teaching and learning in schools


4 Genres, registers, and the teaching and learning cycle

Text/context dynamics: Analyzing email requests sent to a professor

SFL, genres, and registers

SFL in action: The teaching and learning cycle in K-12 schools

The teaching and learning cycle and Martin’s genre theory

SFL, genre theory, and the TLC in the context of U.S. school reforms

ACCELA’s approach to the TLC



5 Registers: Critically analyzing field, tenor, and mode choices

Field: Constructing content, ideas, and experiences

Tenor: Constructing voice, social roles, and power dynamics

Mode: Managing the flow of information



6 Policies and practices to support ELLs’ disciplinary literacy development: A civil rights perspective

Twenty-first century demographic changes in U.S. public schools

Students’ civil rights and approaches to language education

K-12 ESL program types

The WIDA Consortium



7 Shifting conceptions of equity: Standardization, accountability, and privatization in school reform

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

English-only policies and anti-bilingual education ideologies

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the disciplinary literacy development of all students

Standardization and accountability in teacher evaluation



8 Placing the education of ELLs in a historic, economic, and political context

The growth of the modern school system: Two faces of the Progressive Era

The schooling of immigrants in the 20th century

The schooling of immigrants in the 21st century



9 Putting it all together: SFL in Action

Text/context dynamices in U.S. public schools: A review of key concepts

Teaching and researching ELLs' disciplinary literacy development at Milltown High

Implications for classroom practice and research



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Meg Gebhard is Professor of Applied Linguistics and co-director of the Secondary English Education Program at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA.


"This book is a highly significant contribution to second language research, showing a deep respect for the needs and interests of multilingual learners, their teachers and language researchers. Informed by a critical perspective on systemic functional linguistics, Gebhard provides readers with a highly accessible and graduated introduction to SFL-informed literacy instruction and critical discourse analysis. What makes the work unique is its use of highly contextualized examples of teacher and student textual practices across the curriculum; and also its widening circles of recommended practice across the chapters that move into consideration of the institutional and societal discourses that inform the teaching/learning culture in our public schools."

Ruth Harman, University of Georgia, USA 

"Meg Gebhard does a brilliant job of translating long histories of complex theories into digestible chunks to expand understandings about how language works, and how we can best support its development in school settings.  Theoretical and practical aspects are closely entwined, and the information is incrementally layered for a final result that is both enlightening and easy to read. Each chapter ends with a praxis section that nicely supports practitioners into application. Through the theory, the praxis, and the technicalities of language – as well as the personal details in the case studies – Gebhard keeps this text deeply human, illuminating, and easy to connect to."

Fernanda Kray, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

"While we know that different content areas require the mastery of specialized terminology, Gebhard provides convincing evidence to show that it is as important to master their different grammars and genres. With the use of illustrative texts and clear explanations, she shows how teachers can use Halliday’s multi-functional grammar to give ELLs access to the language and literacies they need to succeed in content areas across the curriculum."

--Hilary Janks, Wits University, South Africa