NABE News Indigenous Education Columns 1992-1994
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11. Affective Factors, 16(1), 3. 10/1/1992
12. "Whole Mathematics", 16(2), 5-6. 11/15/1992
13. Resistance and Empowerment, 16(6), 11 & 25. 5/15/1993
14. Native American Literary Encounters, 16(8), 9. 8/15/1993
15. Tuba City's Two-Way Bilingual Program, 17(1), 5.
16. Constructivist Approaches to Literacy, 17(2), 21 & 29. 11/1/1993
17. Second Language Acquisition, 17(3), 25 & 35. 12/15/1993
18. Tribal Colleges are Training a New Generation of Bilingual Educators, 17(5), 19. 3/15/1994
19. Crow Students Read Poetry at Library of Congress, 17(7), 25. 6/15/94
20. American Indian English, 17(8), 11. 8/1/1994

Affective Factors
NABE News October 1, 1992, Vol. 16, No. 1
Jon Reyhner and David Davison

Recent research on American Indian dropouts illustrates how secondary students give up on school because they do not perceive their teachers as caring and they do not see that what they are learning is relevant to their lives. Deyhle (1992) quotes an American Indian student:

The way I see it seems like the whites don't want to get involved with the Indians. They think we're bad. We drink. Our families drink. Dirty. Ugly. And the teachers don't want to help us. They say, "Oh, no, there is another Indian asking a question" because they don't understand. So we stop asking questions. ( p. 24)
She quotes another student:
It was just like they [teachers] want to put us aside, us Indians. They didn't tell us nothing about careers or things to do after high school. They didn't encourage us to go to college. They just took care of the white students. They just wanted to get rid of the Indians. (pp. 24-25)
Secada (1991) reports meeting high school mathematics teachers who did not want anything to do with limited English proficient (LEP) students, and quotes a teacher as saying "I was trained to teach mathematics, not to teach those students" (emphasis in original, p. 35). The U.S. Secretary of Education's Indian Nations at Risk Task Force found that Indian students are faced with "an unfriendly school climate that fails to promote appropriate academic, social, cultural, and spiritual development among many Native students" (Indian Nations at Risk, 1991, p. 7), and the Task Force set a goal that "by the year 2000 all schools will offer Native students the opportunity to maintain and develop their tribal languages." Deyhle's and Secada's findings also reinforce another recommendation of the Indian Nations at Risk Task Force on the need for high quality teachers of Native students with special training. Of course, that special training needs to include training in dealing with LEP students, such as knowledge of bilingual education and teaching English as a second language, and teacher certification requirements need to reflect that need.

Today, about one third of American Indian students drop out of school with the Hispanic dropout rate not far behind (Indian Nations at Risk Task Force, 1991). The Navajo Area Dropout Study (Brandt, 1992), a very extensive study performed on the largest Indian reservation in the United States, showed that unsuccessful Navajo students perceived language problems as only a small part of the reason they were unsuccessful in school. Thirty-seven percent of students who planned to drop out were bored with school. Only 8% gave academic failure as a reason. Twenty-four percent of the school administrators reported students dropped out of school because they were not interested in education.

However, even though students do not perceive language as a major reason for their lack of school success, Deyhle, in interviewing dropouts and observing classrooms, found that many Navajo and Ute students did not have the academic language skills, specifically reading, to be able to do the typical type of classroom work required in class -- reading the textbook and doing questions at the end of the chapter. This common type of classwork tends to bore students when they have the academic language skill s to perform it, but it is doubly boring when students must sit quietly at their desks doing nothing because they cannot read well enough to do the assignment. Typically, the type of extra remedial help this type of student gets in special education and Chapter I classrooms breaks the content down into smaller pieces and allows students more time to get their work done. This type of instruction can increase student boredom and pull students out of mathematics and science classes to take remedial reading classes. In next month's column, we will discuss ways that mathematics teachers can help their LEP students succeed through teaching language and providing more interesting assignments.

Note: This column is adapted from a paper titled "Improving Mathematics and Science Instruction for Middle and High School Students Through Language Activities" that the authors wrote for the Third Annual National Research Symposium on Limited English Proficient Student Issues sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs and held in Arlington, Virginia on August 12-14, 1992.


Brandt, E. A. (1992). The Navajo Area Student Dropout Study: Findings and implications. Journal of American Indian Education, 31(2), 48-63.

Deyhle, D. (1992). Constructing failure and maintaining cultural identity: Navajo and Ute school leavers. Journal of American Indian Education, 31(2), 24-47.

Indian Nations at Risk Task Force. (1991). Indian nations at risk: An educational strategy for action. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education.

Secada, W. G. (1991). Diversity, equity, and cognitivist research. In E. Fennema, T. P. Carpenter, & S. J. Lamon (Eds.), Integrating research on teaching and learning mathematics (Ch. 2, pp. 17-53). Albany, NY: State University of New York.

"Whole Mathematics"
NABE News November 15, 1992, Vol. 16, No. 2.
David Davison and Jon Reyhner

"Whole Mathematics" is a language oriented approach to teaching mathematics that is being tried in Australia and which is akin to the Whole Language approach to teaching language arts. Pearce and Davison (1988) observed Montana teachers using five methods to help students put mathematical concepts into language and to learn better. These methods were "direct use" such as copying information from the board, linguistic/translation such as translating a mathematical formula into a complete sentence, summarizing/interpreting such as a student explaining in writing how they solved a problem, applied use such as a student writing their own story problems, and creative use such as having students write a report on a mathematics project. They note in the best Whole Language tradition that writing activities "are more valuable if students write for an audience other than just the teacher" (p. 8). This extended audience can include classmates, younger students, parents, and "mystery" friends.

American Indian students who do well adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, often fail when it comes to solving story problems that add a reading dimension to mathematics. This is one explanation of the downward trend in Indian student standardized test scores in the upper elementary grades where solving story problems becomes more important. Having students start in the primary grades to write their own story problems relevant to the world around them will help them understand what story problems are all about, will help develop their language skills, and will give them an understanding of the real world applications of mathematics. A teacher can ask each student in class individually or in groups to write and illustrate a story problem to fit a given problem such as 6/3 = 2 and then ask each student to read and solve the story problem for the rest of the class. One Billings, Montana, teacher then had her students glue their sheets together on a bulletin board in such a way that at the end of the school year each student had his or her own math storybook to take home for review during the summer.

A coordinated program to lead LEP students to success with story problems starts first with leading students to observe how mathematics are used all around them and to discuss and write about the importance of mathematics. Second, students should discuss and write about the meaning of the mathematical process they used to arrive at an answer. Third, students are asked to explain, orally and in writing, the steps they used to solve a textbook-type mathematical problem using manipulatives. Fourth, students are shown a similar problem with just manipulatives and no numbers. Fifth, they are asked to describe the steps they used to complete the problem. Sixth, students make up a problem in which manipulatives may be used, and finally, the students are asked to make up a story problem that uses the same mathematical operation they have dealt with in the preceding two activities.

Davison and Pearce (1988) gave examples of language development activities including journal writing, vocabulary development, writing story problems, letter writing, and mini-mathematical projects. Each student kept a personal mathematics journal that served as a means of communication between the student and teacher. For example, in their journals students wrote their own definitions of new mathematics terms they learned. In groups, students wrote story problems as a culminating activity after sample problems were worked through in class. Students then exchanged the problems they wrote. Students also wrote letters to someone else explaining a rule or concept they were learning. The mini-mathematics project was a public opinion graphing project that involved students coming up with a topic of interest, developing a questionnaire, interviewing people, and tallying, tabulating, and reporting their results in writing, which were then shared with the rest of the school.

This "Whole Mathematics" integration of mathematics, reading, writing, speaking, and listening activities fits the Whole Language approach to instruction currently being advocated by a number of educators for all children. The tasks students were assigned, including journal writing, descriptions, explanations of procedures used, and creation of problems, are typical of Whole Language classrooms. Analysis of observational data indicated that these students, who were reluctant writers, became more willing to write. Performance in both language and mathematics improved; in language because students were writing more and in mathematics because they showed some understanding of the processes they were studying (Davison & Pearce, 1992).

Note: This column is adapted from a paper titled "Improving Mathematics and Science Instruction for C Middle and High School Students Through Language Activities" that the authors wrote for the Third Annual National Research Symposium on Limited English Proficient Student Issues that was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs and held at in Arlington, Virginia on August 12-14, 1992.


Davison, D. M., & Pearce, D. L. (1988). Using writing activities to reinforce mathematics instruction. Arithmetic Teacher, 35(8), 42-45.

Davison, D. M., & Pearce, D. L. (1992, Spring). The influence of writing activities on the mathematics learning of American Indian students. The Journal of Educational Issues of Language Minority Students, 10(Special Issue II), 147-57.

Pearce, D. L., & Davison, D. M. (1988). Teacher use of writing in the junior high mathematics classroom. School Science and Mathematics, 88(1), 6-15.

Resistance and Empowerment
NABE News May 15, 1993, Vol. 16, No. 6.
Jon Reyhner

Educators are currently debating why some minority groups experience relative school success and others do not (Ledlow, 1992). Some examine the differences between dominated minorities who resist "colonial" education and voluntary minorities that view education as a path to economic success. Others focus on cultural differences between home and school. A recent book by Mick Fedullo (1992), a poet who has worked as an artist in residence in dozens of Indian schools since 1979, sheds some light on this debate. Light of the Feather: Pathways Through Contemporary Indian America is an account of Fedullo's experiences on Indian reservations helping students to write poetry.

Fedullo gives good examples of both American Indian resistance and intercultural differences. Quoting an Apache elder, he writes,

[The students' parents] had been to school in their day, and what that usually meant was a bad BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] boarding school. And all they remember about school is that there were all these Anglos [white people] trying to make them forget they were Apaches; trying to make them turn against their pa rents, telling them that Indian ways were evil.

Well, a lot of those kids came to believe that their teachers were the evil ones, and so anything that had to do with "education" was also evil--like books. Those kids came back to the reservation, got married, and had their own kids. And now they don' t want anything to do with the white man's education. The only reason they send their kids to school is because it's the law. But they tell their kids not to take school seriously. (p. 117)

In his chapter on "Teachers" Fedullo shows from his own experiences at Red Mesa Public School in Arizona that assimilationist teachers and direct student resistance to their efforts still exist. In another passage about a counselor at Fort Wingate Boarding School, Fedullo describes how cultural differences alone can lead to educators and students not connecting.

Before teachers can be successful with many Indian students, they must both overcome their students' resistance to education and master the art of intercultural communication. Jim Cummins (1992) lists four factors that need to be addressed to allow Indian students to identify with schooling and create the conditions for empowerment: cultural and linguistic incorporation, community involvement, experiential and interactive teaching methods, and testing programs that emphasize student advocacy. Cummins advocates a move from a subtractive assimilationist approach to education to an additive bilingual "English Plus" approach. Fedullo writes how,

For over a hundred years, the missionary and BIA schools had sought to reach the core of Indian inner life and destroy that which made it ethnically and culturally unique. Somehow many Indians had managed to steal away into the center of a complex maze of minimal outward adaptation and maximal inward adherence to their particular vision of the world. (p. 55)
He finds that successful Indian educators,
demonstrate their belief in the move toward Indian self-determination, while the worst are full of the passionate intensity of the old assimilationists. The best go about learning as much as they can about the tribe they work for and attempt to become culturally sensitive, respecting tribal customs and beliefs. The worst fiercely adhere to the paternal idea that Indians must be "civilized." They approach education as though it embodied their own personal mission to convert Indians to thinking that the only way to happiness is the "White Way." (p. 184)
To help overcome the resistance of Indian students and to establish good rapport and intercultural communication, Fedullo advocates an expressive language curriculum. He has described this approach in his teaching guide It's Like My Heart Pounding: Imaginative Writing for American Indian Students (1990). In the guide's introduction, NABE executive board member Richard Littlebear tells how expressive language instruction is a way of both retrieving traditional Indian story-songs and giving students samples of those story-songs. Littlebear gives personal testimonial as to the affect this culturally relevant writing curriculum has on the self esteem of Indian students and emphasizes the ownership the students feel for the poetry they create, how these poems are "the products of Indian students' own experiences and imaginations," how the lessons develop students' writing skills, and how these lessons make writing fun (p. iv, emphasis in original). The guide contains two introductory chapters describing Fedullo's teaching methods and 18 lessons and is now available from the Montana Office of Public Instruction (Phone 406 - 444 2423).

I highly recommend Light of the Feather to anyone wanting an introduction to reservation education and It's Like My Heart Pounding to any teachers wanting to lower the resistance to education of their students, to provide the classroom environment for student empowerment, and to help develop both the self confidence and the creative writing abilities of their students.


Cummins, J. (1992). The empowerment of Indian students. In J. Reyhner (Ed.), Teaching American Indian students (pp. 3-12). Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Fedullo, M. (1990). It's like my heart pounding. Ogden, UT: Mountain West Educational Equity Center, Weber State College.

Fedullo, M. (1992). Light of the feather. NY: Morrow.

Ledlow, S. (1992). Is cultural discontinuity an adequate explanation for dropping out. Journal of American Indian Education, 31(3), 21-36.

Native American Literary Encounters
NABE News August 15, 1993, Vol. 16, No. 8.
Jon Reyhner

The Montana Association for Bilingual Education (MABE) held their twelfth annual conference in Bozeman on June 24-26. The theme of the conference was Native American literature. Various workshops and keynote speeches touched on both children's classics like Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie that perpetuate damaging stereotypes about Indians and problems with current popular works that purport to portray American Indian beliefs, including recent best selling books like Brother Eagle, Sister Sky (Dial, 1991).

American Indian authors Joseph Bruchac, Simon Ortiz, and Luci Tapahonso told stories, read from their works, and discussed the current state of American Indian literature. Joseph Bruchac particularly recommended for children Bernelda Wheeler's I Can't Have Bannock, But the Beaver Has a Dam and Michael Lacapa's Antelope Woman, an Apache Folk Tale. Simon Ortiz noted how American Indian literature focuses on concerns for land, culture, and community. Together, the speeches and workshops at this years MABE conference helped get the word out to Montana's teachers about today's Indian writers and their books.

Over the years there has been compelling evidence from both researchers and casual observers that students learn to read by reading and to write by writing -- and by being in an environment where reading and writing are valued. Frank Smith in his book Joining the Literacy Club (Heinemann, 1988) is one of the writers that has put forward this argument most eloquently. One obstacle for American Indians and other minorities to joining the "literacy club" in the past is that in reading textbooks the children used to be different. They were all white middle class. Even today, with minority characters in textbooks, stories with American Indian and other minority group characters often reflect a generic Indian/minority child from an indeterminate location rather a child from a specific tribe and locality. In addition, these stories about minorities are often written by majority group authors who too often have a superficial, at best, understanding of the group they are writing about.

Having culturally authentic stories for minority students to read is very important. Cultural authenticity includes using traditional narrative structures as well as real children in real settings. If teachers use stories in their reading instruction that have a narrative structure familiar to the students and to which students can relate their prior experiences, the students will understand better what they read and have more academic success. This conclusion is documented by research reported in both the second edition of John W. Oller, Jr.'s Methods that Work Ideas for Literacy and Language Teachers (Heinle & Heinle, 1993) and Kathryn Au's Literacy Instruction in Multicultural Settings (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1993). Developing students ability to comprehend written material is central to the academic language proficiency that Jim Cummins and others describe as key to the academic success of language minority students.

While no one suggested at this year's MABE conference burning or banning popular books such as Lynne Reid Bank's The Indian in the Cupboard that perpetuate damaging stereotypes about Indians, it is clear that educators have a responsibility to correct stereotypes in such books and to provide well written alternatives that accurately portray minorities. Teachers need to point out how American Indians and other minorities are often used as out-group villains, such as "Injun Joe" in Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer. This is only because they are outsiders rather than because of any traits that a particular minority group has.

One source of better books are the ones being written by the rapidly increasing number of minority authors. The Native American Authors Distribution Project has been attempting since 1980 to make literature by Native American authors more accessible. According to the Project's brochure, "The project offers 360 different titles from over 80 different publishers. The publications range from novels and books of poetry, to children's literature, journals and newspapers, how-to books and history -- all by authors of Native American ancestry." Recently they have added audio cassette tapes of American Indian storytelling. A book list can be obtained by sending a stamped ($.29) self-addressed envelope to the Native American Authors Distribution Project, c/o T he Greenfield Review Press, 20 Middle Grove Road, P.O. Box 308, Greenfield Center, N.Y. 12833. The project handles only retail sales; quantity buyers are advised to buy directly from publishers.

Tuba City's Two-Way Bilingual Program
NABE News, Vol. 17, No. 1
Jon Reyhner

Tuba City Public Schools in Arizona recently instituted a Two-Way Navajo-English bilingual program. The program is a response to a 1986 mandate by the Navajo Tribe that all schools within the Navajo Nation teach Navajo and to a recent mandate by the Arizona State Board of Education that all students be able to speak and understand English plus a second language by the completion of eighth grade.

Arizona's model 21 semester credit bilingual teaching endorsement has also aided the establishment of Tuba City's program. The endorsement requires bilingual teachers to have courses in linguistics, bilingual methods (taught in the children's first language, in this case Navajo), community involvement, and the foundations of bilingual education. In response, Arizona universities are now offering the courses needed so that Tuba City and other school districts can staff their programs.

Tuba City's Two-Way program started for first grade students in 1992-93 and includes one half day immersed in a Navajo Language classroom and one half day immersed in an English language classroom. This year both first and second graders have 1/2 day o f Navajo instruction and 1/2 day of English instruction, while third grade students in 1994-95 will have a mixture of 1/5 Navajo and 4/5 English. Emphasis is on language development with whole language activities, including thematic units, that integrate listening, speaking, reading, and writing in both languages.

First grade thematic units include family, food, clothing, seasons, animals, plants, and so forth. Students write booklets, language immersion activities, and informal language use. Preliminary results show that student English writing skills are better than when they had all day English. The enriched curriculum of Tuba City's Two-Way Bilingual Program costs about the same as the old monolingual curriculum. Additional in-service teacher training in various aspects of bilingual education is the only extra cost as the overall pupil-teacher ratio remains the same.

That is not to say that past supplemental Title VII funding was wasted. Today's Two-Way Program at Tuba City is an out-growth of an older bilingual program based on a transitional model. Planning started in 1977 for a Title VII supported program that would allow students to learn academic concepts and reading in Navajo and then to apply this knowledge as they learned English.

The curriculum planners believe that bilingual instruction will build bridges between home and school, will maintain positive attitudes towards family, and will set the stage for learning English better. In addition, over the years, the district has esablished a model cultural center and a model bilingual center. The culture center has exhibits and an extensive library of American Indian, Navajo, and Hopi books.

The training and experience of past Title VII projects helped lay the groundwork for the present program. However, the new Two-Way Program represents a departure from the old transitional philosophy. Now clearly it is important that non-Navajo speaking children in Tuba City learn Navajo as well as non-English speaking students English.

Whether the need is to speak to non-English speaking grandparents or just play with one's peers, bilingualism in Tuba City is an asset for any child. It is for the future to tell if some subjects will be taught in Navajo right through high school as recommended by Stephen Krashen and others. However, the fact that Tuba City High School presently is one of the few high schools with a Native American Studies requirement for graduation indicates K-12 commitment to bilingual and bicultural education.

Constructivist Approaches to Literacy
NABE News November 1, 1993, Vol. 17, No. 3
Jon Reyhner

A Review of Kathryn H. Au's Literacy Instruction in Multicultural Settings (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993)

Intended as a college textbook with suggested activities and readings at the end of each chapter, Au's book is a 208 page comprehensive review of the latest research on literacy instruction. She takes an additive, native language maintenance approach to bilingual education.

One of the things I like best about this book is the frequent use of student-teacher dialogue from various ethnographic studies. These classroom quotes clarify the more abstract ideas put forward in the book through actual classroom practice.

Au advocates constructivist models of instruction. After Vygotsky, she defines instruction as "helping the student to become interested and involved in a meaningful activity, then providing the student with the support needed to complete the activity successfully" (p. 40). In constructivist models:

  1. Learners actively construct their own understandings.
  2. Teaching proceeds from the whole to the part.
  3. Literacy is embedded in social contexts.
  4. Students are encourage to explore the functions of literacy.
  5. Instruction is student-centered; individual differences are taken into account.
  6. Instruction emphasizes the processes of thinking; recognizes the place of students' life experiences and cultural schemata.
  7. Instruction allows for cultural diversity. (p. 48)
These characteristics are opposed to those of the transmission model where students passively absorb knowledge provided by teachers and textbooks. On the basis of the constructivist model, Au advocates throughout her book what is popularly called the Whole Language approach to literacy.

Her first chapter examines various reasons put forward for the poor academic performance of cultural minorities, including structural inequality and resistance, citing the work of James Ogbu and Jim Cummins. The second chapter gives an expanded definition of literacy as the "ability and willingness to use reading and writing" (p. 20). She distinguishes between official (school) literacy and unofficial literacy and sees most literacy activities as socializing students into the dominant culture.

Chapter three explores constructivist models. First she discusses emergent literacy, the literacy experiences that kids bring with them to school from their homes. Au declares that "efforts to read and write should be seen as acts of successive approximation" (p. 36). In these constructivist models instruction is given in specific skills, "but skills are not taught for their own sake" (p. 43). "Skills are taught in relationship to students' needs and interests" (p. 49).

Chapter four looks at student goals and teacher philosophy. Au takes a student-centered approach that asks the student "What would you like to learn next to become a better reader or writer?" (p. 56). While she maintains students should set their own goals, she makes the important point that the "student's own goals are limited by their previous experiences, so part of the teacher's job is to introduce new literacy experiences [such as poetry] that may lead student to formulate new goals" (p. 61). Thus as the teacher changes roles from exclusively providing students knowledge through direct instruction to becoming a guide and facilitator, it is important to remember that it is the guide, not the student, that has the experience, knows the destination, and has a major responsibility for managing the student's trip.

Chapter five deals with classroom organization and building a sense of community in the classroom. Au cites research against pull-out programs and tracking because they hurt the students' sense of classroom community. The next two chapters look at patterns of interaction and classroom gatekeeping. She notes that mainstream parents socialize their children into common classroom practices such as answering questions to which the questioner already knows the answers. She advises teacher to "begin with the assumption that students' actions are inherently logical" and that it is the teacher's job to search for that logic (p. 103). She advocates a composite classroom culture where both the home and school cultures are valued and used.

Chapters' eight and nine are on language differences. Au reviews recent research that indicates native language literacy should be developed before second language literacy. Citing the work of Luis Moll and Stephen Diaz on how students can give more information about a story read in English when questioned in their first language, Au notes how monolingual instructors underestimate the language competencies of bilingual children. Chapter 10 talks about the process approach to writing and describes "writer's workshop" activities.

The last chapter on multiethnic literature is the weakest. It includes only three short paragraphs each on Hispanic and American Indian literature. The book has no real conclusion, but I do not think such a clear and concise review of recent research needs one. This is an excellent book for teachers wishing to update their knowledge about developing children's literacy in multicultural settings.

Central to this book is the idea that many classrooms in the United States today are characterized by the transmission model of instruction in which it is assumed that students already know the importance and uses of literacy. Mainstream students can survive and even prosper in these classrooms in spite of boredom because of the education they have received at home in terms of both motivation to succeed and language abilities. However, minority students flounder and often find failure in these transmission oriented classrooms. If classroom cultures are changed in the direction Au advocates, more students, both mainstream and minority, can achieve academic success.

Second Language Acquisition
NABE News December 15, 1993, Vol. 17, No. 3.
Jon Reyhner

More interest is being shown today in maintaining and renewing tribal languages in schools where previously the government sought to eradicate them. The passage of the Native American Languages Act in 1990 and the recommendations of the Indian Nations at Risk Task Force in 1991 and the White House Conference on Indian Education in 1992 have reinforced this interest.

But efforts over the last two decades at native language restoration have sometimes turned out to be token. Tribal elders and others hired to teach the languages taught only numbers, colors, and names of animals because they lacked the professional knowledge needed for classroom teaching.

Based on my own bad high school and college experiences trying to learn Spanish, French, and Navajo, I have previously recommended the "Natural Approach" (Krashen & Terrell, 1983) for developing the communicative competency I think is needed for tribal languages to remain vital (Reyhner 1986, 1992). However, the Natural Approach has received considerable criticism. Much of this criticism is of Krashen's claim to have developed a comprehensive theory of second language acquisition rather than of the specific classroom practices he advocates, but there is also criticism of some of his advice for classroom teachers.

Brandt and Ayoungman's 1989 article "Language Renewal and Language Maintenance: A Practical Guide" gives some excellent suggestions for teachers that parallel the Natural Approach. The contributors to Ronald M. Barasch and C. Vaughn James's Beyond the Monitor Model (1994) detail the criticisms of the Natural Approach and make suggestions that can improve tribal language programs.

The contributors also note, examining especially European sources, that what is good teaching in the Natural Approach is not new with Krashen. Waldemar Marton notes the "anti-pedagogical" aspects of Krashen's theories. Like the Whole Language Approach, Krashen talks more about creating an "acquisition" environment rather than specific teaching strategies. Wilga Rivers recommends a more "interactive approach" where besides providing comprehensible input in a low anxiety environment, teachers do correct grammar based on the level of the students understanding.

As Ian Dunlop puts it, "explanations of grammar help as long as those explanations are understandable, do explain and do not confuse, and are at the linguistic level of the student" (1994, p. 217). Without that correction there is evidence that students' errors will "fossilize" with the result that while they will be able to get by in the language they will never achieve near-native fluency. As stated by Carlos Yorio, "What the immersion program evidence shows is that in the best of all possible aquisition-oriented classroom situations, comprehensible input and full emphasis on meaning result in fluency but not in accuracy." (1994, p. 132). There is some evidence of this from the Canadian French immersion classrooms.

Teresa Pica, Richard Young, and Catherine Doughty also note the importance of interaction plus "redundancy in input" in second language instruction. Pica notes that "a number of studies have shown that a priori adjustments to input in the form of paraphrase and repetition of linguistic constituents, simpler syntax, and commonly used words have a facilitating effect on L2 comprehension of texts or lecturettes [mini-lessons], compared to their unadjusted counterparts" (p. 183). She also states that students need more "opportunities to initiate interaction, seek clarification [ask questions], or signal for help with comprehension" (p. 185).

Peter af Trampe argues that some of Krashen's dislike of grammars results from their written language bias. The last thing beginning language users can use is a complicated grammar produced by linguists, but they can use a simplified oral language oriented grammar.

I mentioned previously the parallels between Krashen's Natural Approach and the Whole Language Approach to literacy. They both downplay direct instruction in favor of providing a language rich environment that will motivate students. While this fits in with some of the recent research in cognitive psychology and the constructivist theory of learning, taken to the extreme they severely limit the role of teachers. Basically, teachers would only provide high interest, low anxiety, language rich environments for students.

The more conservative approach found in Barasch and James's book adds a teaching function to this environment. Similar to the mini-lessons on grammar and other subjects on an as needed basis advocated by some Whole Language proponents, the interactive element of language teaching advocated in Beyond the Monitor Model calls for teachers to play a carefully circumscribed role in teaching grammar to students.


Barasch, R.M., & James, C.V. (1994). Beyond the Monitor Model: Comments on Current Theory and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Brandt, E.A., & Ayoungman, V. (1989). Language Renewal and Language Maintenance: A Practical Guide. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 16 (2), 42-77.

Krashen, S. D., & Terrell, T. (1983). The Natural Approach. Hayward, CA: Alemany.

Reyhner, J. (1986). Bilingual Education. In J. Reyhner (Ed.), Teaching  The Indian Child. Billings, MT: Eastern Montana College. (ERIC Document No. ED 283 628)

Reyhner, J. (1992). Bilingual Education. In J. Reyhner (Ed.), Teaching American Indian Students. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Tribal Colleges are Training a New Generation of Bilingual Educators

NABE News March 15, 1994, Vol. 17, No. 5

Jon Reyhner

Tribal colleges began with the founding of Navajo Community College in 1968. Since then the number of institutions has grown till in 1993 the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) listed 29 members.

Tribal colleges and universities today serve students who would never have had a chance to go to mainstream colleges because of poverty, family obligations, geographic isolation, and poor academic preparation. And they give a second chance to students who have dropped out of mainstream colleges.

Tribal colleges are needed because of the failure of other institutions to adequately educate the average tribal member. In particular, mainstream colleges and universities have been unable to graduate the large numbers of Native teachers needed to fill teaching positions on Indian reservations, positions that non-Native teachers often avoid because of isolation and cultural differences. As a result, tribal colleges and universities have stepped forward to fill the void.

Sinte Gleska University and Oglala Lakota College in South Dakota, Navajo Community College (now Diné College) in Arizona, and Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas have or are developing four-year teacher education programs. In Montana, Salish Kootnai, Little Big Horn, and Stone Child colleges have used Title VII Personnel Training Grants to team up with four year colleges in the state to train teachers.

Long-time Sinte Gleska University president Lionel Bordeaux has stated the major reason for the founding of tribal colleges was

to provide a means for tribal people to strengthen their own tribal nations. These founders foresaw the need to preserve the Indian culture so cultural preservation is really the foundation of the tribal colleges. (1991, p. 12)
In many places a tribe's college is the only place a particular tribe's language is taught at the college level.

In contrast to the old assimilationist approaches to Indian education, tribal colleges are formulating a multicultural/ecological educational approach. Oglala Lakota College's "Philosophical base of the teacher education program" states:

We believe that by learning a second way of life, without forsaking reverence due to one's primary group, personal understanding between individuals and cross-cultural understanding between groups will be enhanced. This approach to life needs to be integrated into all areas of education that affect Indian students on and near the reservation. (n.d., p. 1)
Recently President Tommy Lewis of Navajo Community College told a group of teachers:
We are developing the teacher education program within the natural education processes of the culture.... We believe that the knowledge of Navajo culture, language and S'a' ah Naagh'ai Bik'eh Hozh'o'on is necessary for anyone involved in the Teacher Education Program. We are attempting to set this development programmatically within our knowledge system so that it addresses real issues facing real people through a living curriculum and pedagogy. (1992, pp. 1-2)
The Navajo have used a corn plant metaphor to illustrate their educational philosophy. This natural generative metaphor is in sharp contrast to the static, abstract idea of a knowledge base and the industrial metaphors used in education today.

Currently through a Ford Foundation grant, the Navajo Division of Education and Navajo Community College are working with local universities toward the ambitious goal of training 2,000 Navajo teachers by the year 2000. Ford Scholars major in elementary education and minor in Navajo. For their minor they are required to take courses in Navajo literacy for speakers, Navajo literacy and grammar for speakers, Navajo descriptive and narrative writing, and Teaching Navajo to the Native speaker and as a second language.

The tribal college efforts described above are helping achieve the goals set by the U.S. Secretary of Education's Indian Nations at Risk Task Force in 1991 for both increasing the number of well-trained Native teachers and for having tribal languages taught in all schools serving Native students.


Bordeaux, L. (1991). Higher education from the tribal college perspective. In D. LaCounte & P. Weasel Head (Eds.), Opening the Montana Pipeline: American Indian higher education in the nineties (pp. 11-18). Sacramento, CA: Tribal College Press.

Lewis, T. (1992). Speech presented on October 15, 1992 at the First Annual Symposium on Language, Culture and Education: Empowerment Through Partnership, Tuba City Public Schools, Tuba City, AZ.

Oglala Lakota College. (n.d.). Philosophical base of the teacher education program. (Photocopied document obtained from Oglala Lakota College).

Crow Students Read Poetry at Library of Congress
NABE News June 15, 1994, Vol. 17, No. 7
Jon Reyhner

Eight Crow Indian students from Montana read their poetry on March 10 at the Library of Congress at the invitation of United States Poet Laureate Rita Dove. The poems were on the theme of "Keeping Our Heritage and Our Lands."

Students in grades 7-12 from the Pryor and St. Xavier communities on the Crow Reservation competed to go to Washington to read their poems. Before going east, the students read their poetry before a packed gymnasium at Pryor that included Montana State School Superintendent Nancy Keenan. In Washington, the students were greeted by Montana Senator Max Baucus and Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

This presentation by Crow students marks two "firsts:" The first time American Indians have presented at a Library of Congress function and the first time school-age children have appeared. The literary evening is an annual event hosted by the Poet Laureate. A video essay about the students also appeared on the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour on the Public Broadcasting System.

The students' advisor Mick Fedullo is a half-time language consultant for a newly funded Title VII bilingual program for the Pryor Public Schools and St. Charles School. Fedullo is author of Light of the Feather: Pathways Through Contemporary Indian America (Morrow, 1992) and an expressive language teaching guide. Despite hearing negative comments about Indian students' abilities to write poetry and be able to present before large audiences from their teachers, poet Fedullo has been getting Indian students to do just that for the past ten years across the Western United States and in Canada.

A sample of the Crow students' work is the poem "Becoming An Indian Again" by Scott Plain Bull:

Becoming An Indian Again
Scott Plain Bull

The old one
cannot see my voice,
and I cannot find
the words, the words
that separate us
from other Indian tribes.
My pride and my ignorance
have led me away from my
people and their past.
I have lost the way
that has brought my people here,
so I sit
with the old one
as he sings,
the old ways
dancing through
my eyes,
an Indian again.

The Pryor Bilingual Program is described in the lead article of the Winter 1994 issue of Winds of Change, the magazine of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. The program's focus is to improve Crow students' language skills and their mathematics and science achievement.

American Indian English
NABE News August 1, 1994, Vol. 17, No. 8
by Jon Reyhner

While you have to be a linguist to fully appreciate William Leap's new book American Indian English (1993), there is still a lot in this book to interest anyone involved in American Indian bilingual education. Leap uses a variety of examples from across the country in his extensive review of the literature on dialects of English spoken by various tribes.

He explores how Navajo, Hopi, Mojave, Ute, Tsimshian, Kotzebue, Ponca, Pima, Lakota, Cheyenne, Laguna, Isleta, Chilcotin, Seminole, Cherokee and other tribes use English and finds that today there are also at least two hundred American Indian and Alaska Native languages still "widely spoken" in North America.

His major thesis is that ancestral tribal languages influence both the grammar and the use of Indian English dialects, and thus each tribe has its own unique version of Indian English. In explaining the development of the various forms of Indian English, Leap discounts the central role of pidgin/creole sources, that they are the result of developmental errors as Indians learn English, or that they are a partially learned form of English, thus a form of semilingualism.

The book has four sections: speakers and structures, Indian English and ancestral language tradition, history and functions, and Indian English in the classroom. In these sections Leap examines the sounds, grammar, and social uses of Indian English dialects.

Leap finds that most Indian students speak English today. One study of 32,000 America Indian/Alaska Native students found only 2% who did not, and about 50% of the English-speaking students are monolingual English speakers. However, loss of their Native language has not necessarily brought school success and does not mean that these students speak the "standard" English that teachers expect from their students. It has been estimated that up to 48% of Native students could be considered Limited English Proficient.

An especially interesting part of the book deals with the cultural expectations that speakers of the various versions of Indian English have in terms of conversational interaction. These expectations, including the etiquette involved in how adults talk to children and how questions are asked and answered, can seriously conflict with common classroom practices in the United States and elsewhere.

Leap also gives an example from McLaughlin (1991) on how English speaking Native adults have trouble dealing with "officialise" English spoken by government workers. School officials and teachers need to be aware that in order to communicate with Indian parents they should avoid educational jargon and try to personalize what they say.

The book ends with recommendations for teachers. These include:

While not a book for everyone, anyone researching the school performance of Native American students needs to be aware of what American Indian English has to say about the language capabilities of these students.


Leap, William L. (1993). American Indian English. Salt Lake City: University of Utah.

McLaughlin, Dan. (1992). When Literacy Empowers: Navajo Language in Print. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico.

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