Who Are Generation 1.5 Students?
1.5 students cannot be simply and easily defined as they fall into a
broad range. So this cannot be a one size fits all definition. Some
Generation 1.5 students immigrated to the U.S. in elementary school or
high school or they have migrated from U.S. territories such as Puerto
Rico. Some are the children of wealthy families who are living with
relatives while they receive an education here. Probably the most
commonly identified Generation 1.5 students were born in this country
but grew up speaking a language other than English at home. What
Generation 1.5 students have in common is that they share
characteristics of both first and second generation immigrants (hence
the title Generation 1.5), but they do not fall into traditional
categories of English as a Second Language students. They are U.S.
educated but do not have English as a home language. They have very
diverse prior educational experiences and a wide range of English
language proficiency and academic literacy. A common trait is limited
or no literacy in the “home” language.
- They typically speak 2 or more languages fluently.
- They are aural and oral learners, having learned English through
listening and speaking and not through reading and writing. Their
language is fluent and shows thorough knowledge of social customs, U.S.
culture, and idioms. They often sound like native speakers.
- They have a limited knowledge of academic English. They are often
identified as having weaker literacy proficiency than native speakers.
- They have never acquired or are losing literacy in their home
language. Some may not be able to communicate effectively with their
- They have cross-cultural identification,
or confusion about cultural identification. They identify both with
U.S. culture as well as home culture. Sometimes Generation 1.5
students may develop language characteristics in common with the social
group they socialize and/or identify with.
- They have done
most or all of their schooling in the U.S., but their education has
been inconsistent, a hodgepodge of differing placements, pedagogies,
programs and teaching practices. A common problem is that these
students have been placed into low ability classes in U.S. high schools
so they have had limited experience with academic reading and writing.
Another common problem is that the students identify themselves as
lacking skills and ability. They often see themselves as less capable
than native speakers.
Generation 1.5 students have slipped through the cracks for years
because no one foresaw the types of issues that might arise. Some
Generation 1.5 students have been inappropriately placed in ESL classes
because they have some characteristics of non-native speakers in their
writing. These courses, while appropriate for students who have
grammatical proficiency in their first languages but lack knowledge of
culture, vocabulary, and social customs, do not address the needs of
the orally fluent Gen. 1.5 students. Other students in their earlier
schooling were placed into low ability courses, where the instruction
consisted mostly of drill, short answer or writing from models. So the
students had little experience with their own writing or reading
others’ writing. Since many of these students have relied on their
ears to tell them what is correct and what is not, they have problems
detecting correct and incorrect forms in their writing. Because the
students have made the same mistakes over and over, these errors have
become automatic for them. As Generation 1.5 students do not have
literacy in their home language, they do not have the ability to
compare grammars in home language and English and lack terminology.
Generation 1.5 students have not had much exposure to reading and
writing and generally avoid it. They rely on oral/aural skills.
- Be aware of students’ prior academic experiences in reading and writing classes and make up for lacks.
the students have typically had very little experience with revising
their writing or writing from sources, show them how. Give them
explicit directions about criteria for editing writing and how to apply
them. Show them methods of research and how to document sources in
smaller assignments before they take on the larger projects.
Instruction in smaller increments is helpful. They often have not had
the same introduction to these skills as other high school students in
- Help promote critical and academic literacy.
them the difference between academic and other types of writing and
make them aware of the purposes and conventions involved. They also
need to have challenging and authentic writing tasks. Find ways to
have them be actively engaged in questioning, discussing, reading, and
evaluating. Remember that these students have great fears about their
own academic abilities and so have a tendency to make themselves
invisible in the classroom.
- Teach students the grammatical terminology they need so that they understand grammatical errors!
Part of Speech guide sheet may be helpful. Make general grammar
information available and easy to understand. (This seems like a
no-brainer, but handbooks and
on-line grammar resources are often not helpful since they cover too
much and the directions are geared towards instructors.)
- Do not over-mark.
you do, the student will be overwhelmed and will assume that the task
of learning and correcting is too great. Put errors in priority
order. Focus on a pattern of errors. Do not mark all the errors in the
paper at once.
- Highlight or underline patterns of errors.
you have explained to the students what the errors are and how to
correct them, give them time to correct errors on their own in class.
The students should identify types of errors and correct them on their
- Teach from the students’ own writing.
Contextualize grammar assignments. Make student quizzes from errors the students have made in their papers.
the students keep an error log so that they can remember types of
errors they have made and gradually unlearn fossilized errors.
- Have the students compare Before and After papers, so that they can see their progress.
- Tell the students that the types of errors they are making come from
the way that they learned the language and not because they aren’t
smart or good students.
The correction process is very difficult
and takes time. Reward them for the effort they are taking and the
progress they are making.
- Allow and require revisions and rewrites.
that the students have not had a chance to learn that writing is a
process yet and this is their chance. Help them to learn how to do it.