TESOL Social Justice


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 | Leave your 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 She attends a school at which the library has been long neglected with outdated titles and a tattered selection.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 | Leave your comments

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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English Learners May Need More Time

Schools that add significantly more time to their schedules may be able to offer English language learners the extra support necessary for their success, according to a study of three successful schools released last month by the National Center on Time & Learning.

Giving English Language Learners the Time They Need to Succeed” profiles three expanded-time elementary schools (two of which offer dual-language immersion), identifying four effective practices that have led to student and teacher success:

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December 29th, 2015 | Leave your comments

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Dual-language Programs Improve Reading Skills

According to a recent study, the first of its kind and scale, students enrolled in dual-language immersions programs, in which students are taught in both English and a second language, outperform their single-language peers by almost a full grade-level in terms of English reading skills. The study followed almost 30,000 students in Portland Public Schools, including those in dual-language immersion programs in Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, Chinese, and Russian and was sponsored by the research firm RAND, the American Councils for International Education, and Portland public schools. “Part of the way Portland sees the issue, really is about ensuring schools and classrooms are diverse and people really benefit in a tangible way from that diversity,” said Jennifer Steele, RAND’s primary investigator for the study. “It is about kids learning from each other; the language you bring to that class is treated as an asset and the languages you get from your peers is also an asset, because more languages are better than fewer,” she continued.

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November 23rd, 2015 | 3 Comments

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Early Literacy Especially Important for ELLs

ThinkstockPhotos-490931604A new study from Oregon State University (OSU) shows that English learners are more likely to become proficient English speakers if they enter kindergarten with a strong initial grasp of academic language literacy, either in their primary language or in English. The study, published recently in the journal Educational Policy, is part of an emerging body of research examining the role that language acquisition plays in a student’s education. “This study shows that building literacy skills, in English or the child’s native language, prior to kindergarten can be helpful,” said Karen Thompson, an assistant professor of cultural and linguistic diversity in OSU’s College of Education and lead author of the study. “Having those academic language skills – the kind of language used in school to retell a story or explain a math problem – is likely going to set them on a path to success.”

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October 22nd, 2015 | Leave your comments

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World Teachers’ Day Empowers Educators

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 12.24.16 PMUNESCO is celebrating World Teachers’ Day (WTD) on October 5 by highlighting the importance of empowering teachers to achieve inclusive and sustainable global development.

This year World Teachers’ Day highlights the need to empower all teachers through the provision of decent, safe, and healthy working conditions, trust, professional autonomy, and academic freedom.

Worldwide there is a growing shortage of quality teachers and inadequate professional training. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics estimates that to achieve universal primary education by 2020 countries will need to recruit a total of 10.9 million primary teachers.

All these factors result in equity gaps in access and learning which mostly affect the poorest regions and schools and the earliest grades. This is particularly damaging, as there is clear evidence that the earliest years of a child’s development are the most critical.

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October 5th, 2015 | 1 Comment

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Digital Media Can Boost Literacy

ThinkstockPhotos-468178463Technology and the amount of information it provides us is deepening the divide between the haves and the have-nots in terms of education. As we become more dependent on digital tools to live our lives and navigate the world, parents and teachers also find themselves at a crossroads, sometimes banning seemingly mind-numbing tech like TV and video games while embracing the education trend of technology in the classroom. “We argue for a modern, “third way” approach to technology that gives young children of all backgrounds more opportunities to learn to read and succeed in the 21st century. We need to get past the tired nagging of “no screen time” and the overheated enthusiasm over apps as the holy grail of early education. Instead, let’s take a more mindful approach and combine the power of parents, educators and high-quality media (print and digital) to make literacy opportunities available to all kids and families, regardless of income,” Lisa Guernsey, co-author of Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens and director of the Early Education Initiative and the Learning Technologies Project at New America, explained to NPR.

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October 2nd, 2015 | Leave your comments

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