Literacy/ESL

Fable Learning’s enhanced e-books inspire reading

thinkstockphotos-600401662With a collection of award-winning e-books, Fable Learning’s digital content is specially designed to engage Pre-K–8 students in learning and discovery. Educators rely on Fable Learning for enhanced support to inspire reading and meet learning objectives in the classroom, in the library, and at home.

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December 13th, 2016 | Leave your comments

The Bane of Background Noise

Studies indicate that background noise hinders learning for all kids especially English language learners

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Hear the sound wave

According to a new study, toddlers who spend a lot of time in noisy environments may have a harder time learning to speak, because background noise—especially the kind that comes from voices on the television or radio—can make it tough for young children to learn new words.

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December 13th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Measuring Expressionism

Jenny Williams uncovers the secret elements of expressive language using assessment

m3Can a computerized assessment measure expressive language skills? This is an important question, since the ability to express ideas is one of the major indicators for College and Career readiness. Many times, I am asked this question in workshops. Participants inquire about expressive language skills because they associate expressive language with oral vocalizations. To analyze this question, we must first define expressive communication and its components.
Receptive and expressive communication occur in both oral and written forms.

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December 13th, 2016 | Leave your comments

ABCmouse: Schools for Early & English Learners

abc_classroom_10028Age of Learning, Inc. has launched ABCmouse for Schools, a scalable solution designed to help schools worldwide meet the needs of pre-K through second-grade students, building on the success of ABCmouse.com Early Learning Academy, a leading digital education resource for early learners. Available on computers, tablets, and smartphones, ABCmouse is already used by millions of children at home, in more than 65,000 U.S. classrooms, and in more than one third of all U.S. public libraries.

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December 13th, 2016 | 1 Comment

Review: Creating Enthusiastic Writers

close-writingPaula Bourque’s enthusiasm for experience her subject is undeniable. She is a K–8 literacy coach in Augusta, Maine, and has worked for 28 years in education. Her book Close Writing: Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2–6 provides solid instruction in developing purposeful writers. The target audience is elementary school instructors, but writing instructors for other grade levels will find useful techniques here also. Close reading is really rereading, and re-engaging with the text to determine what is missing. Bourque readily acknowledges that writing is hard work and too often students feel that when the task is done, they are done with the task. Often, when she asked students to read their work aloud, she found that they also treated that as a task and read their writing too quickly.

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December 13th, 2016 | Leave your comments

What’s the Secret?

thinkstockphotos-503844316Jennifer Helfand verses on the ‘musts’ of language learning

Vocabulary and grammar. When I was a child, I thought that these were the only two things I needed in order to learn another language. I thought that if I just had enough words and knew how to put them together correctly, all the gifts that languages have to offer would be mine. Now, after having studied other languages for more than 20 years and having taught English for almost 13, I know that there is so much more to language learning than nouns and verbs. I also know that some of the most essential things a language learner needs to succeed will never be found in any language book or classroom, but deep within their own being.
You must be brave to learn a language. You must face your fear of being laughed at.
You must be wise to learn a language. You must know that everyone has experienced the same fear. You must be even wiser to know that no one is laughing at you. You must be wiser still to know that if someone does laugh at you, the problem is not with your language abilities, but with that person’s lack of kindness.
You must have a sense of humor to learn a language, because being able to laugh with others at your own mistakes will help you remain brave enough to keep making new mistakes and, as a result, to keep learning.
You must be gentle to learn a language, because the best response when you make the same old mistakes, again and again and again, is not “That was so stupid of me,” but “That is me, like everyone else, simply being human.”
You must have fun to learn a language, because language learning, like life, is not so serious.
You must be humble to learn a language. You must admit to not knowing.
You must be vulnerable to learn a language. You must be able to say “I don’t understand” and “I need help.”
You must be smart to learn a language. You must resist the urge to say, “I wish I could speak so fast that I could speak without thinking!” You must remember that thinking before you speak, in any language­­—­in every language—­is a very good thing.
You must be patient to learn a language, because one day may be enough to love a language, but it is not enough to know it.
You must have vision to learn a language, so you can see your progress every day, even if it is small.
You must be open to learn a language, because different sounds and words soon make way for different experiences and ideas. A closed mind can acknowledge them, but only an open mind and an open heart can appreciate them.
You must be present to learn a language, because even though you may wish you had learned the language you are studying five or ten or 20 years ago, you didn’t. And longing to be someone you are not yet—fluent—prevents you from being who you are—a brave language learner. It also prevents you from being where you are, and from seeing all of the opportunities around you right now.
You must be confident to learn a language and believe in your ability to express yourself, and in the value of what you want and need to express.
You must be motivated to learn a language, because in the moments when it feels too difficult, you may feel like giving up. But you can’t give up, because on the other side of what feels hard or even impossible, there are amazing people to meet, incredible experiences to have, and dreams to transform into reality.
You must love in order to learn a language, if not always the language, then at least always yourself. Then on the days when you feel what all language learners have felt—frustrated, like you’re not improving at all, like you can’t understand or say what you need to, like the opportunities you want are far out of reach—you will still remember that your worth is not in how many languages you know or in how well you speak them, but in your heart, and how much of it you give.

Jennifer Helfand has an EdM in TESOL from Boston University and a CELTA from International House Madrid, Spain, and has been teaching ESL in the U.S. and abroad, for the past twelve years. She currently teaches at Drexel University and also provides private instruction.

November 7th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Stressing Classy Communication

Business people group works at a table - TableMargo Gottlieb and Gisela Ernst-Slavit know that academic language is important for all students and essential for English language learners

In a midsized school, a veteran second-grade teacher is working diligently with her students on a unit called Taking Shape. An aspect of Irene’s teacher craft that she values is getting to know her students, how their linguistic and cultural resources can enrich the class, and what fosters their learning. Additionally, during planning time, Irene and her grade-level team pay special attention to academic language use to construct a multishaped model, the product of the unit.
The group of teachers carefully selects relevant college and career readiness standards and matches them to English language development standards to ensure that English language learners (ELLs) have as many opportunities to access the content, engage in learning, and achieve academically as their English-proficient peers. In designing curriculum, the standards, the instructional materials, and the funds of knowledge from the families and community are major sources of academic language in classrooms. Using these resources, the team sets learning targets that focus on the major concepts and highlight academic language.

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November 7th, 2016 | 1 Comment

Helping Students Find Their Voices

thinkstockphotos-511918608Adrienne Almeida examines the unique challenges that ELL students face and the impact these
challenges have on their social-emotional and academic health

 

Imagine being a student whose family has recently immigrated to the U.S. Your family is often struggling to make ends meet, is undocumented, and lives in poverty. Your ability to speak English is limited, yet you are the most fluent in your family, so you are required to take time off of school to be the translator in adult situations such as doctor’s appointments and job interviews. You have no agency over your situation while you are trying to navigate life as a teenager in a foreign place, deal with adult conversations and adult concerns, and hide from the stigma associated with your home language. Then, on top of all of this, imagine that your school launches a new course that requires you to participate in online discussions or to engage with materials online. You are being asked to master yet another level of communication that is outside of your comfort zone.

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November 7th, 2016 | 1 Comment

Use Data Effectively to Drive Instruction

group of students and smiling teacher in classroomEvery Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states and districts to provide all students, including English learners (ELs), equal access to educational opportunities. In order to fulfill the law’s requirements beginning in the 2017–2108 school year, educators need the tools and accurate data-collection systems in place to give them decision-making information.
Local school districts and schools will be required to accurately recommend placement in quality language programs, and effectively monitor students’ progress to ensure the district provides the instructional support necessary for every EL to attain the high academic goals established by the state for all students. continue reading

November 2nd, 2016 | Leave your comments

Everyone’s Story Matters

group of school kids writing test in classroomAs a parent and veteran teacher, Katie Egan Cunningham presents a heartfelt case for returning stories to a place of primacy in today’s classroom. As a literacy consultant ,she backs her argument with logic and a deep reservoir of knowledge and experience. And while her tone is collegial and inviting, her approach is research driven and takes into account today’s modern classroom and especially the needs of the contemporary student. In an environment seemingly dominated by standardization and high-stakes testing, Cunningham seeks not only to revive the emphasis on human stories as a central part of the classroom experience but to make sure that every student, from every background, can find the stories that speak to them and in turn find the voice necessary to tell their own unique stories.
Cunningham explains that the power inherent in stories provides young readers with mirrors and windows through which to see themselves and their world. But she also points out that it is more often the case that only the children from dominant social groups can consistently find themselves reflected in their reading choices. America’s classrooms have become increasingly diverse, but the availability of multicultural literature for young students has not kept pace. Cunningham knows that becoming engaged as a reader, taking that first step toward a life enriched by a love of reading, often depends on finding that one special text, the one story that resonates on a deeply personal level. But she also knows that readers cannot fall in love with stories from which they feel excluded.
Not content with merely pointing to the problem and talking about it, Cunningham assumes the role of private consultant and provides a wealth of practical suggestions and solutions. She includes lists of publishers and award-winning authors that represent a diverse range of cultures and topics, as well as brief but engaging descriptions for each. She couples these lists with online resources that will further aid teachers of any level in their pursuit of classroom excellence. Each chapter contains samples of suggested classroom activities that are clearly marked for grade level and for pacing. Cunningham also links these activities to specific texts or other media samples to demonstrate exactly how the lesson will work. She closes each chapter with a tool kit of final thoughts and questions that are designed to solidify and enable the chapter’s content.
Katie Egan Cunningham has produced a work that is as enjoyable as it is informative. The chapter layout, with lessons and discussions, is easy to navigate and flows naturally from each section to the next. The bibliography of children’s and young adult literature alone is a fantastic resource and is augmented by an extensive listing of professional literacy research. Any teacher who works with young readers will find Cunningham’s book to be a refreshing and invaluable resource worthy of space in any classroom.
Brian Snorgrass holds a master of arts degree in English from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona with a primary option in rhetoric and composition as well as a TESOL certificate. He has taught in China and also teaches annual language and music camps for students visiting from China. His research interests include studying the effects of social inertia on issues of literacy, educational equity, and social justice.

November 2nd, 2016 | Leave your comments

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