America’s Lingua Franca?

Could Spanish become the language of choice throughout the Americas?

For the last century and more, English has been the lingua franca of much of the world, including North America, some of Central America, and the business elite of South America. However, economic and demographic shifts could cause English to be replaced by Spanish in the next few decades. continue reading

June 22nd, 2016 | Leave your comments

Pushing the Multilingual Envelope

   Kathy Stein-Smith updates us on the campaign for world language learning in the U.S. 

Just as the campaign for the White House has stepped into high gear, so has the campaign for foreign languages in the U.S.

A 2014 Harvard Business Review article, “What’s Your Language Strategy?,” highlighted the importance of foreign language skills as global talent in multinational organizations.

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May 19th, 2016 | 3 Comments

ESL Preparation for a New Era

  The Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Association has released a new report on preparation for ESL teachers in this changing educational climate, where roles and standards are ever-shifting. Based on the outcomes of a convening of ESL teachers, administrators, and policy leaders, “The Preparation of the ESL Educator in the Era of College- and Career-Readiness Standards” focuses on the need for a definite vision of what ESL educators should do to prepare themselves for a new era of educating resulting from three changes: a new standards-related emphasis on inclusion-based instruction, content and language practices required by new standards, and developments in second language acquisition theory. continue reading

May 12th, 2016 | 2 Comments

Campaigning for the Right 2 Read

 Margery Mayer & Francie Alexander explain to editor Daniel Ward how we might resolve the U.S. literacy crisis  continue reading

May 12th, 2016 | 1 Comment

Breaking Down Silos, Joining Forces in Education

 Claudia Rinaldi and Caroline E. Parker call for an end to the compartmentalization of educational approaches

Samuel, a second grade English learner born in the U.S., struggles to read at grade level. Almost every day, Samuel is pulled out of his general education class to work with an English as a second language (ESL) teacher. This process is in line with federal education guidelines to help students reach proficiency in English and learn content, but Samuel continues to struggle. His teacher, Ms. Graham, is considering referring Samuel for a special education evaluation. Does this sound familiar? More importantly, is it an appropriate decision and the right path for Samuel?  continue reading

May 12th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Reading, Writing, Language Development Grant Writing Webinar (U.S.)

ThinkstockPhotos-509611914Researchers interested in reading, writing, and language development are invited to participate in a one-session webinar, IES Reading, Writing, and Language Development Grant Writing Overview. The webinar will be held on May 12, 2016, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. (EDT) and is hosted by the U.S. Institute of Education Sciences (IES) research centers – the National Center for Education Research (NCER) and the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER).

This webinar will provide a general overview of the Reading and Writing (NCER) and Reading, Writing, and Language Development (NCSER) grant topics and general strategies and suggestions for successful application writing. The grant topics are the Institute’s primary programs aimed at supporting research on improving literacy outcomes for students, including English learners and those with disabilities or who are at risk for disabilities or academic failure.

You may register for the webinar here (registration closes on May 5, 2016).

For more information on the Institute’s FY 2017 Requests for Applications, visit the IES website.

If you have any questions about the webinar, contact Rebecca McGill-Wilkinson in NCER at (202) 245-7613, Kimberley Sprague in NCSER at (202) 245-8464, or Sarah Brasiel in NCSER at (202) 245-6734

April 27th, 2016 | 3 Comments

Libraries Transform Lives


Students Studying at the Library

Rebecca Constantino recounts the story of how funding an inner-city school’s library changed the whole dynamic of a family

Marilyn is a gregarious, loquacious, and active 4th grader at a school in south Los Angeles nestled near the 110 freeway in a highly industrial section of the city. Marilyn lives in a converted garage with her mother, father, three year old sister, and one year old brother. The family shares one room that serves as a kitchen, dining room, living room, and bedroom. There are no parks or bookstores near her home. The closest public library and grocery store are accessible only by bus. Marilyn’s family owns no books. “I love books but I don’t have any. Sometimes, the teacher lets me take a book home from her classroom. I feel really special. I really love to read. I love the feeling it gives me I just don’t have much to read,” Marilyn explains. She attends a school at which the library has been long neglected with outdated titles and a tattered selection. Some books are over 60 years old. Marilyn had never visited the public library. “We found out about it at school but it is so far away and we just don’t go,” she said. The closest bookstore from her home is a solid 90 minute bus ride. Surprisingly, when asked, Marilyn did not even know bookstores exist. “You mean that’s all they sell? You could buy some?” she inquired. Clearly, she’s never visited a bookstore.

What is the result when Marilyn has access to high-interest books at a well-stocked school library? On a Saturday in the spring, a group spent the day refurbishing the library with new paint, comfortable furniture, and more importantly, new, high interest books. This had a profound effect on Marilyn, her school culture, and her family.

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April 20th, 2016 | 1 Comment

Attentive Listening: An Overlooked Component of Academic Interaction

Kate Kinsella offers insights and strategies to support English learners in becoming focused and proactive listeners during classroom discussions.

Kinsella_p28Communicative Demands Posed by 21st Century Skills
As U.S. K-12 classrooms move to incorporate 21st Century skills to prepare students for increasingly complex learning, life, and work environments, justifiable emphasis has been placed on effective communication and collaboration with others to accomplish a common goal. From kindergarten to AP coursework, young scholars are now routinely expected to demonstrate their ability to work productively with diverse lesson partners and teams. While teachers across subject areas assign advanced literacy and problem- solving tasks, many aspiring collaborators are underequipped with the requisite language and listening skills.

Students grappling with core content in a language they are striving to master approach lesson interactions with the most compelling auditory processing and linguistic needs. English learners and youths enrolled in alternative language programs need more than daily opportunities to exchange ideas in the target language. Effective communication during a collaborative process entails considerably more than a positive attitude toward peers and equal opportunities to contribute. While classrooms from Miami to Seattle are adorned with posters extolling the district’s mission of “Rigor, Relevance, Community,” few educators have been adequately prepared with the instructional tools to analyze and address the communicative demands posed by peer-mediated teaching and learning. To reap the well-documented benefits of genuine collaborative endeavors, second language scholars need to learn how to communicate with one another over a meaningful task. Responsibly implementing interactive lesson tasks including second language students requires explicit instruction in the assignment goals, steps, behavioral expectations, and relevant language tools for an array of communicative purposes or functions, from making inferences to asking for clarification (Dutro & Kinsella; Kinsella, 2012). continue reading

April 15th, 2016 | 1 Comment

Early Language Skills Key to Math Success

According to a study carried out for the international charity, Save the Children, British children who lack adequate language skills at age five are significantly more likely to underperform in math at age 11. In the study, 21% of pupils who struggled with language when they started school failed to meet the expected standards in the U.K.’s national math tests when they graduated elementary school. Researchers at the University of London’s Institute of Education analyzed the progress of 5,000 children and concluded that poor language skills adversely affect attainment of all children, regardless of family background. Parents’ education and poverty were, however, also factors.

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February 22nd, 2016 | Leave your comments

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Why Reading Helps Language Development

A new study from the University of Iowa suggests that paying attention and responding to baby babble is the key to language development. Book reading has been linked to quicker language development in young children, but not just as a result of words being read from a page. The study found that when mothers spent time with 1-year-old children during reading, puppet play, and toy play, they were much more likely to respond to speech-like sounds while reading than during other activities. Reading creates an environment for interaction and speech development that, if paid attention to, can be extended to all types of play. “A lot of research shows that book reading even to infants as young as six months of age is important to language outcomes, but I’m trying to explain why by looking at the specifics, which could be responding to speech-like sounds,” said Julie Gros-Louis, assistant professor of psychology at the UI and corresponding author on the study.

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January 8th, 2016 | Leave your comments

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