Online Interactive Japanese has launched a comprehensive Japanese program that includes grammar, vocabulary, and exercises for learning how to read and write the complex Japanese characters, creating an integrated learning experience that allows users to advance at their own paces.
Erik Gerrits, founder of, says, “Our courses are more thorough than any other online platform, and we help language students to learn with maximum efficiency, without forgetting anything. With features like text and video chat with other users, as well as new lessons added regularly, our course is perfect for those who are serious about learning the Japanese language.”
Lessons begin with an explanation of a new grammar point. Students then practice this grammar, along with some new vocabulary, by translating sentences from English to Japanese, with help to correct mistakes and keep students on the right track.
All of the Japanese sentences in the course are accompanied with audio recordings by a native speaker to make sure that users will learn to correctly pronounce Japanese. There are also comprehensive lessons on writing and reading Japanese characters, with the ability to trace characters using the mouse or touchscreen.
Mr. Gerrits adds, “We’re continuously updating our courses to make them as effective as possible. In the future, we plan to add more reading and writing practice to all of our courses. An exciting feature we plan to introduce is to let users write their own short stories and correct those of other users—a challenge which will really test their command of the language skills they have developed.” has huge ambitions for the future. The company hopes to digitize the entire theoretical part of the precollege school curriculum within five years. The goal is to enable students to interactively learn all subjects at a speed and level that’s right for them, utilizing materials crafted by top educators. According to Mr. Gerrits, they will be able to learn twice as fast in this way, and with less exertion and more enjoyment.

September 12th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Curing Initiative Fatigue

TeacherTeachers who are bombarded with short-lived projects and underused technology are in danger of losing their enthusiasm for new initiatives—Stacy Hurst and Laura Axtell explain how to kick off the new school year with buy-in from everyone


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September 12th, 2016 | Leave your comments

On the Road to Multilingualism

guero-img_0519-copyBilingual rapper GüeroLoco takes us on his passionate journey to promote language learning and allow students to reap the benefits

Welcome to the journey! iBienvenidos al viaje! I’m really excited to get this school year started and to get back out on the road again. For the past three years, I’ve traveled all over the U.S. and Mexico to perform and speak to students about the importance of learning other languages. With students in many countries learning three to four languages before they’re out of high school, “English only” just doesn’t make sense for our students in the U.S. I used to be the kid in Spanish class wondering, “why am I studying this language? How am I ever going to use this in my life?” After some motivation from the Marine Corps, and meeting some great people, I now use the language every day and I can’t imagine where I would be without it.

I have also had some amazing opportunities during this educational journey, and I’ve tried to learn something from everyone I’ve crossed paths with along the way. Teachers and administrators have opened their hearts and classrooms to me, and I’ve been able to learn so much, not just from them but also from their students. Being able to see multiple dual-language and biliteracy programs across the country has given me a unique perspective into the world of multilingual education. My journey of going from a commercial hip-hop artist to a bilingual-educational hip-hop artist has been filled with loving and compassionate people who have helped to guide me. What I’ve learned along the way is that everyone’s approach is a little different depending on their area, the school they’re in, the district leadership, and many other factors.

While I’ve been in hundreds of classrooms during the school year, I’ve also been able to attend many dual-language and world language conferences across the country—I even delivered a keynote at the 2015 CABE Conference. Last year, I also attended the mega dual-language conference, La Cosecha. It was a life-changing experience for me, and I’ll definitely be back this year. Seeing dual-language educators from all over the world working together to do the best they can for their students really reinforced to me that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ll get a little more into that later. But first, the journey.

After having the opportunity to travel all over the U.S. and Mexico, I’ve learned that sometimes life is more about the journey than the destination. This is about both. On the journey to get back to La Cosecha in 2016, I’ll be attending and speaking at various language conferences, meeting educators, and performing for their students. We’re starting out in California then following the map to Colorado for CABE again (this year with my bird friends from Avian Kingdom), Indiana, New York, and the East Coast all before September is over.

October brings Cuba, Florida, and Texas with the TABE Conference, before we finally arrive in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to perform and present at La Cosecha in November. This year, I hope to be more prepared­—in 2015, I was invited to attend the conference for the first time, and the experience was phenomenal. I have to admit that it was a bit overwhelming for me, though. Seeing so many educators from all over the world who are hungry for knowledge and techniques to bring back to their students is nothing short of inspiring. Knowing the battles that we’re up against as educators is important to developing the most effective ways to fight those battles and to educate our students to the highest levels possible. As

their mission states: “La Cosecha offers the unique opportunity to share best practices, resources, and current theory and practice, build networks, and fuel our community’s efforts to build a better future for our children as we ‘harvest’ the best of our multilingual and multicultural communities.”

With over 300 presenters and 2,400 attendees from more than 35 states and six countries at La Cosecha this year, educators will have plenty of options to fill their instructional tool boxes and get a little food for the soul too. Teaching techniques and best practices for dual-language students are featured at the conference, but there’s so much more than that. As most dual-language educators know, our jobs aren’t solely about academics. There is a social and a personal component that sometimes influences us to stand up and advocate for our students. We also need the tools and guidance to be fully capable of doing that. Meeting and networking with educators who have “been there, done that” is one of the most effective ways to learn how to best advocate for our students. This is what makes La Cosecha and other conferences so special, along with all of the academic aspects. They really are convocations of the most awesome minds in dual-language education across many different strands.

For me, as much as it is about academics and advocacy, La Cosecha is also a cultural experience in itself. The backdrop for the conference is the gorgeous and historic city of Santa Fe, New Mexico. In countless ways, Santa Fe is the perfect city for this particular conference. Take a brief walk through the city and you begin to see the intricate ways in which the indigenous, Mexican, and European cultures are woven together to form their own distinct New Mexican identities. The speakers and performers at the conference reflect this spirit of diversity and culture. This year, the conference will also feature a live benefit concert with Grammy-award-winning Latin fusion group La Santa Cecilia and the all-female vocal and percussion ensemble Mala Maña.

The focus on American Indian and Indigenous cultures at the conference is a breath of fresh air for our Native brothers and sisters. At statewide conferences in New Mexico (DLeNM and NMABE) and Colorado (CABE), my eyes and heart were opened to the importance of Indigenous-language retention and expansion. When we lose language, we lose culture, and we lose history. Even more powerfully, I’ve seen first hand how Indigenous students have a stronger sense of identity, and of their own history, when they’re encouraged to learn their ancestral languages. La Cosecha puts a major emphasis on tribal language programs and brings in Indigenous educators from all over the U.S. In this way, the work that is happening in the individual states is shared with educators from all over the world.

We’re living in exciting and innovative times, especially within the multilingual-education community. The support for programs from educators, parents, and the scientific community has never been greater. In November, voters in California will vote to possibly repeal the state’s ban on bilingual education. The California Association for Bilingual Education has been at the forefront of raising awareness and fighting for this repeal. California isn’t alone in its fight either; multilingual education is under attack across the U.S. The idea that there’s a law against bilingual education is backwards to even think about. But it’s also the reality of how much work we still have to do.

Embracing Our Roots — Fortaleciendo nuestra comunidad bilingüe is the theme of the 2016 La Cosecha conference. I come from a German/Irish background, and I would love to know more about my family and my history. I would love to be able to embrace those roots in an authentic way, but I don’t have that link to my past. By the second generation, my family had already lost the connection to our language. The connection to our culture followed shortly after. What if my family and other German Americans had been encouraged to speak both languages? How much would that have changed the U.S. landscape and our attitudes toward language learning? We can only speculate, but one thing is for sure: loss of language = loss of culture. Encouraging all of our students to embrace their roots is crucial to allowing them to grow as individuals and to giving them a renewed sense of community. Multiple studies have shown that including culturally relevant material in the learning process leads to higher comprehension and retention. Academics, advocacy, and culture are the primary focuses of La Cosecha. I think that’s why I’m so drawn to this dual-language conference-—it’s one of a kind.

I originally got into dual-language education working with middle school Latino students in Indianapolis, mostly the children of immigrants or immigrants themselves. Our students learned in English and in Spanish. They had an open space to learn about themselves and their histories. We encouraged them to discuss and write about the issues affecting them and their families. We also advocated for them and taught them how to advocate for themselves. Learning about themselves and those issues seemed to give a sense of pride to our students. Knowing that their teachers would go to battle for them also gave them a confidence which translated academically as well as socially.

This experience set the stage for the rest of my life. It’s where I went from being musically focused to educationally focused. At the time, I had no idea that the two would one day collide to become my life’s work. Now I do my best to use my music in a positive way, and in an educational way, to help students see the possibilities that I didn’t see as a young person. At the end of the day, their future is our future.

Over the next few months, I’ll have an up close and personal look at some of the most effective multilingual-education programs in the country and their methods for success. Not being attached to only one classroom allows me to perform for tens of thousands of students and educators with the messages of multilingualism, positivity, and the power of believing in oneself. This enables me to learn from some of the best dual-language educators in the U.S. They will be the first to say that the best teaching methods and practices are steadily evolving. It’s a constant learning process ,because multilingual education isn’t set in stone-—it’s still very fluid. There’s no magical answer that will raise our students’ reading levels, test scores, and linguistic comprehension. But there are plenty of effective options and combinations to make all of that happen. It’s up to us to seek them out and integrate them into the classroom. When we do, the results will be there. Much love and have a great school year!

GüeroLoco (, AKA Mr. GL, is an award-winning bilingual-educational hip-hop artist focused on motivating students to learn another language and realize their potential to succeed. He travels the country performing for students, educators, and parents. GL has been the keynote and featured speaker at several language conferences in the U.S., including the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education (CABE), Dual Language Education of New Mexico (DLeNM), the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE), the New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education (NMABE), and the Texas Association for Bilingual Education (TABE). He is originally from Indiana and currently resides in Los Angeles. His contributions to Language Magazine cover his current educational tour, travels, and experiences working with dual-language students, conferences, and educators across the U.S. Keep in touch with GL on Twitter at @GueroLoco or at

September 8th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Testing Benefits

 Mariana Castro shows what language proficiency assessments have to offer educators of English learners

If you are an educator, chances are that you have had or will have a student who is learning English as an additional language. Some of these multilingual students are eligible for language support services if their English proficiency limits their access to learning academic content. Districts typically have specific policies for identifying these students. Once these students are identified, by federal law, they are required to take an annual language proficiency assessment to confirm their eligibility for additional support until they are considered English proficient. Language proficiency assessments are used to monitor eligibility and language growth over time vary by state. Some states, like California, New York, and Texas, have developed their own assessments. However, most states join consortia, like ELPA 21 or WIDA, for enhanced support.
Language proficiency assessments like the ones described here are considered summative assessments; in other words, they provide information on the learning that has already occurred and are typically used to meet policy requirements. However, while the main purpose of these assessments is accountability, the data from them can be used to enhance the language development of students. Here are some ideas of how to use the data from language proficiency assessments:
Identify/Monitor Language Goals for Your Students
Data from language proficiency assessments can help identify specific areas of focus for schools or districts. Whether you work as part of a leadership team or a professional learning community, collect data specific to the various language domains available through your assessment: listening, speaking, reading, writing, and any other composite scores available, like literacy, comprehension, and overall scores for all of your students.
Important reminders:
Do not use the information from your language proficiency assessment as the sole data point when making decisions. Always try to collect other data and triangulate all of your points of data.
Remember that language proficiency assessments show the performance of students at one point in time, so they do not account for average performance of individual students. However, when aggregated, they can provide one perspective on how groups of students are performing.
Monitor Language Development Over Time
In the same way that language proficiency assessments provide you with information about language performance at a point in time for a group of students, if the same data is collected over time, you can look for patterns in the language development of your students.
Considerations in Using Data from Language Proficiency Assessments to Monitor Growth:
Use the right score: Some scores from language proficiency assessments are better when trying to identify language growth across time. Raw scores, for example, are not appropriate when comparing scores from two different test forms or students. This is because typically a raw score does not take into account the difficulty of the items on the test. In some of these assessments, like ACCESS for ELLs, proficiency levels are interpretations of the scale scores that account for the grade level of the student; therefore, those levels may not be appropriate when looking at growth over time. The best score to use from ACCESS for ELL is the scale score, because its calculation accounts for the difficulty of the items, but it is not specific to grade level.
Use multiple scores: Triangulate data from multiple sources related to language growth to get more comprehensive and useful information about your students’ language use, including classroom observations across various contexts and situations.
Involve others: Make sure that you use language from classroom observations, but also from informal spaces, extracurricular activities, and home, whenever possible and available.
Using Data from Language Proficiency Assessments to Guide Instruction
While data from language proficiency assessments provides good information for goals over time or large groups of students, this data can also be used in other ways to guide teaching and learning. Enhancing the use of academic language across different contexts provides students better access to academic content and with increased opportunities to participate meaningfully in teaching and learning. For children and youth who are multilingual, and for whom English may represent a barrier to demonstrating what they know and can do, language proficiency assessments are an additional tool. Language proficiency assessments provide opportunities for students and their educators to focus on the development of language, serving as models, sources of data, and catalysts for a more intentional education.
Mariana Castro, PhD is director of academic language and literacy initiatives at WIDA Consortium, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison. For more information about the uses of ACCESS for ELLs, visit

September 7th, 2016 | 3 Comments

Creating a Community of Readers

Ruben Alejandro, superintendent of an economically challenged district with 30% English language learners, shares his secrets for getting students—and their parents—reading.

I was born and raised in Weslaco, a city of about 35,000 that sits in the Rio Grande Valley about eight miles north of the Texas/Mexico border. I have worked as an educator in Weslaco Independent School District since 1977 and have been the superintendent of schools there since 2012. I know the potential of the students, and I know the perception of the Valley outside the area. We serve a mobile population of 17,500 students at eleven elementary schools, four middle schools, two “regular” high schools, one early college high school, and one alternative, self-paced school. Our students are 98.5% Hispanic, 86% economically disadvantaged, and 30% migrant. About 30% of Weslaco students are English language learners (ELLs). One of the ways we are preparing our kids for college and careers is by creating a community of readers.

Here’s how we’re doing it.
Teaching for the Future
We are preparing kids for an uncertain future. One thing we do know is that our average student will change careers seven times in his or her lifetime. We want to prepare our kids for the positions that will be available in the next five to ten years. In our part of Texas, many of those jobs will be related to space exploration. Space X is building a launch pad near Brownsville, Texas, where the first Mars colony is rumored to be launching. For the past couple of years, our academic calendar has been themed on the Mars colony. Because we always want to be futuristic, this year’s theme is “Weslacoland,” alluding to the movie Tommorowland.
To give our students the best possible chances at success in a changing world, when I became superintendent of schools in the summer of 2012, I put together a team of administrators, parents, and teachers to create a vision for the district called Empowering 21st-Century Learners. We are making our vision a reality in two ways. For students, we are teaching communication, collaboration, and creative and critical thinking through project-based learning. With these 21st-century skills, if they want to, they can go from being plumbers to lawyers over the course of their lifetimes. We teach robotics and STEAM starting in kindergarten and are now including three- and four-year-olds. With the help of an engineer, our youngest students are building a Mars rover—a modular car that they can put together and drive. The rover will have a handle that controls a claw so students can learn by picking up blocks with numbers and letters on them. We will have mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and systems engineers to help build the rover and take it through an obstacle course. As far as I know, nobody in the world is bringing this level of STEAM and robotics to three- and four-year-olds.
For our staff, we are providing professional development to build tech literacy for everyone who works at Weslaco ISD. Everybody gets tech training, including custodians, security officers—anyone who comes into contact with our students. For our “tech illiterate” employees, we start with Tech Bingo, so they can just get used to seeing the logos of the technology that students are using. We all have a responsibility to learn as much as we can, because all of us are working together to help our children.
Training Digital Citizens
We want all of our students to have access to online learning resources, but we can’t afford a 1:1 initiative. Instead, we have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. We give everyone at school internet access via our filtered network. And because our entire staff has been trained in technology, they provide a safety net to make sure students are using the web responsibly. On top of this, all of our campuses constantly teach digital citizenship. One of our campuses is a Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified School (, and we are working to get all of our campuses certified.
Helping Kids Read Before They Can Walk
I have a strong focus on early learning, and a big part of that is early literacy. About two and a half years ago, the district started using an online library (myON) for K–8 reading, and then we worked with the company to launch an initiative called Zero to Three: Weslaco Reads, so kids who are 0–3 can download books and read them, too. The program highlights and pronounces words, and one can change the speed of reading so young kids can get started at their own pace. Our initial three-year pilot has been extended for another three years, It’s not only students who are using the program. We have seen parents who didn’t speak English start using the same books as their kids to learn the language. Studies show that children who succeed in school should hear 21,000 words a day, so we encourage our parents to talk to their children as much as possible and to encourage them to use complete sentences. If they want a glass of milk, we want them to say, “Mom, I want a glass of milk.” We have students and parents who speak English, Spanish, and a mixture I call Tex Mex. Students who speak Tex Mex don’t learn proper English or proper Spanish, and our hope is that giving them 24/7, anytime, anywhere access to digital or printed reading material will give them the push they need to learn both languages correctly. This year, we formed a partnership with Head Start to help three- and four-year-olds who are economically disadvantaged and have challenges.
Weslaco early childhood teachers go to Head Start locations and teach there for half a day every day. Now when these kids come into public schools, they’ll already be reading. We are looking at extending this program to two-year-olds, and we want to provide curriculum to kids as young as one.To keep all of our students reading, we have reading and writing camps during Christmas, spring, and summer breaks. Kids can go to the library and download books to read for free. We have a competition called the Millionaire Club, which pushes kids to read a million words. Over last Christmas break, we had one little girl who read 40 books. We also have writing competitions to get students writing for pleasure and to prepare for state assessments.
Connecting with the Community
Our entire community is working together to keep our students reading. Our local public library system partners with us on the reading and writing camps. They give kids somewhere to go when they are not in school, and we help them with a staffing issue by having school librarians work in the public libraries when needed. This also means that students who go to the public library see familiar faces. The libraries have Family Literacy Nights in fall and spring; students bring their parents at night to show them the work they are doing. Kids can buy books, and parents are eager to buy books for them. We also have a partnership in the works with a local hospital. We want to put posters and pushcards in pediatricians’ and obstetricians’ offices, showing how anybody can log onto myON using any mobile device. The more access to the internet students have, the greater the development of literacy is going to be, so we are working with businesses and the city to reach our goal of providing connectivity to 100% of our students. When he heard our plans, our mayor said that he wanted to help provide connectivity not just within the city but to all of our remotest students who live outside the city limits, too. We are partnering with vendors to get the infrastructure for free. We are looking at towers with a range of 18 miles. Once we pull this off, it will be the first of its kind, anywhere. We want everyone to have access because, when students access the internet, their understanding will depend on how much literacy development they’ve had and how early they were exposed to it.
We are also looking to partner with a local bank to provide $200 loans for students to purchase Chromebooks. Their parents would co-sign the loans, and students would pay off these loans, with interest, within a year. This plan would mean we wouldn’t have to depend only on BYOD in our classrooms. It would also develop students’ financial literacy, and they would care for their Chromebooks because they would own them. My next plan is to do a spin-off of the national Everybody Reads day. On the birthday of our community next December, I want to do Weslaco Reads One Book, where everyone in town uses myON to download a book called VIPs of the Barrio, which was written by our former mayor. This will give us a focal point for a roundtable discussion where students can learn about the birth of the community, and it will inspire them to read other historical books. We are doing everything we can to keep not just our students but all the residents of Weslaco reading. We want them to develop vocabulary and comprehension of science, math, and social studies terms. We want our kids to be CEOs, so we’re starting to build their literacy from birth and supporting them through the day they retire.

Dr. Ruben Alejandro is a 1972 graduate of Weslaco High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and biological sciences as well as a PhD in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin. His master’s degree in educational supervision is from the University of Texas Pan American. Since 1977, he has worked for Weslaco ISD in positions including chemistry and biology teacher, district technology-curriculum coordinator, federal programs director, assistant superintendent, and deputy superintendent. He was named superintendent of schools in 2012.

August 31st, 2016 | 7 Comments

Blending to Test

Julie Damron and Jennifer Quinlan assess student outcomes in the blended classroom

Located in Provo, Utah, Brigham Young University (BYU) is a private institution with one of the nation’s largest language teaching programs—70% of students speak a second language and .32% of students take world language courses. Over 55 languages are regularly taught on campus, with over 40 more available based on student needs. As programs continue to expand, unique needs arise, such as more classroom space, more flexible course scheduling, and academically meaningful study abroad and internship experiences. In response to some of these needs, several departments are developing or expanding their online and blended course options. Enabling educators to effectively teach a language online implies instructional design that reflects extensive scaffolding and careful, relevant implementation of technology and learning resources, as well as knowledge of assessment of online language teaching and learning and its impact on language education. Assessment of language-learning outcomes in an online environment and documenting students’ learning and progress in the blended classroom can be challenging. This article explores the creation, implementation, and assessment of a blended Korean language class at Brigham Young University. It also compares assessment methods and student attainment of learning outcomes in the same course administered via a traditional classroom and an online class.

We compared data from three beginning Korean classes: on campus face-to-face (F2F), blended (online and F2F interaction), and online (no F2F element). All three classes were held in the fall and winter of 2014, with 37 students in the blended section of the class, 30 students in the F2F section, and 26 students in the online section.

Learning outcomes
-The learning outcomes for all three classes were the same:
-Read (with limited comprehension) and write proficiently.
Discuss topics such as family, school, months of the year, hobbies, and vacation plans.
Interact linguistically on a limited basis using middle and high language.

Instruction and assessment
All three sections of the course were taught by the same professor, with three different TAs. All three courses used the same textbook and workbook and performed similar speaking and listening activities, assignments, and assessments.

Meeting times
The F2F class met five days a week on campus with the professor and the TA. All work was completed in the classroom or at home in a hard-copy workbook. Using a flipped classroom model, the blended class met together four days a week, with additional material (lectures, slides, quizzes, tests, and chat rooms) online for a fifth day of self-study. The online class was delivered via a series of lessons with synchronous and asynchronous meetings through a web browser with no face-to-face contact; course access was not limited to time or place.

At the end of each semester, we examined student success in overall course grade, quiz scores, chapter tests, midterm exam, and final exam. We also looked at student minutes online in comparison to minutes in the classroom and examined any relationship between minutes online and final course grade. Finally, we compared positive and negative student comments in all three sections of the course.

Course design
The faculty and an instructional designer evaluated significant course elements which could be delivered online versus face to face. We did not develop a web-facilitated version of the course. The Conversation Café is an online forum moderated by a TA. Students can drop in at any time during open hours (there are set hours five days per week) to practice speaking and applying concepts from class. The Conversation Café was available to students in the blended and online sections; it was not available in the F2F section. TAs reported that students used the Conversation Café to seek tutoring/assistance on specific items, as well as to practice free and unscripted dialogue. While the textbook content of the course included many scripted dialogues for practice, the benefit the Conversation Café seemed to provide was an element of spontaneous oral production.

Overview of Findings

Results of the study revealed the following
-Time spent online had a positive correlation with overall grade. This may come as no surprise, but students who logged more minutes online/in the course material reflected higher final course grades than their counterparts who spent less time online. This finding is not truly representative, however, as a student can be “logged in” but not actively engaged with the online content. We have not found a learning management system which can discriminate between actively interacting with online course material (e.g., reading, scrolling, answering questions, etc.) and simply accessing material (e.g., logging in and then stepping away from the desk).
-Students in the traditional classroom appeared to spend significantly more observable time with class material (tests, quizzes, slides, etc.). We emphasize observable time, as it is difficult to know how much of F2F classroom time every student actually spends engaged. Likewise, it is difficult to know how much time blended/online students might be spending studying and reviewing without being logged into the online material.
-Course grades for each class were similar. The difference among quizzes, midterm exams, final exams, and overall course grades for each of the three sections was less than 2%. However, the grade for chapter tests had a variance of 7%, with the lower score evident in the blended and online courses. We are exploring the factors which may contribute to this variance.
-Student evaluations were slightly lower for blended classes. Throughout the semester, the faculty asked students if they wanted to have a fifth day of instruction face to face for some extra review or in-person work. Consistently, their response was no. However, in end-of-course evaluations, students indicated they wanted more interaction with their professor. They also noted some negative responses to the LMS and glitches with some of the online course elements. This was the first time the faculty had run a blended section, making it a first for students as well. There was a sense of a steep learning curve for both bodies.
There was positive and negative feedback regarding each of the sections. Some of the feedback has already been identified. Further, while some students may feel more comfortable with the familiarity of face-to-face instruction, evaluations reflected that students valued the time/place flexibility offered by the blended and online sections. While they seemed to seek more in-person teacher interaction (as indicated in student end-of-course surveys), which is clearly afforded by the F2F section, they also valued the ability to access online material repeatedly and at their convenience. For example, blended students revisited course material on average twice as many times as it was presented in the F2F class. In the F2F section, students did not have access to any course materials online. Finally, while there were some technical glitches in the course which received negative feedback, students gave positive feedback regarding the ease and convenience of taking quizzes online.

Limitations/further research
There were a few unanticipated findings and/or limitations in this research. First, we had little control over who took the online course. If students were heritage or native speakers of Korean, that may have skewed the findings. Second, we found that test scores in the online course dropped significantly when they became proctored tests. Third, we found that students preferred not meeting with the professor five days a week during the semester, but then wrote negative comments about not seeing the professor enough on end-of-semester evaluations. Finally, we became aware of the extent to which online students were “binge studying,” or accessing significant amounts of course material immediately prior to an assignment deadline. Based on our findings, we are anticipating running a second phase of research to identify more discrete points of data, thus validating the results from this study. We are also implementing an ongoing measurement of student satisfaction with the course experience and a structure for student support when they encounter technical issues. Additionally, further research will explore the effects of the Conversation Café on oral proficiency, student engagement, sense of community, and mastery of learning outcomes. We anticipate comparing these elements among students in each set of classes (F2F, blended, online); the impact of the café on overall oral proficiency were not measured in this study. As part of normal course evaluation and refinement that BYU conducts for blended and online courses, we will also examine the difficulty and discrimination of assessment items and compare student performance on discrete elements within assessments. Our intent is to identify if students score better or worse on specific items within each assessment even though questions are identical in all three sections.
In developing the blended and online course design and implementation strategies, we explored learning theories (e.g., Bandura, Vygotsky, Gagne), pedagogical approaches to student learning objectives, industry reviews of blended and online instruction, and elements of classroom formats (face-to-face, blended, online). This information helped guide the instructional design of the courses as well as explore techniques for interaction/student engagement, instruction, and assessment. While we anticipated student scores in the blended classroom would not be as high as those in the traditional F2F classroom, we discovered successful student learning in the blended language classroom was possible.
Dr. Julie Damron is associate professor and associate section head of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Jennifer Quinlan, MFS, is academic product consultant for world languages and a second-language acquisition PhD candidate at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

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Ho, A., and Lu, L. (2006). “Testing the Reluctant Professor’s Hypothesis: Evaluating a blended-learning approach to distance education. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 12(1), 81-102.
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Sheehy, K. (2013, January 8). “Online Course Enrollment Climbs for Tenth Straight Year.”
“Understanding the Spacing Effect.”

August 30th, 2016 | Leave your comments

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and English Language Learners (ELLs)

Dr. Wayne E. Wright, Purdue University professor and author of Foundations for Teaching English Language Learners (2015, Caslon Publishing), addresses how the new ESSA is different, and discusses its implications for English Language Learners.


August 17th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Millions for Linguistic Research

hand giving money illustration

The Institute of Education Sciences has granted more than $100 million for education research across a wide array of subjects and topics. Over one-fourth of the 57 grants for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 funded through IES’ National Center for Education Research (NCER) were for projects that concentrated on language and literacy acquisition, including:

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August 2nd, 2016 | Leave your comments

A Literacy Autobiography


Yew Hock Yeo, Phyllis Ghim-Lian Chew, and Stephen Krashen share a tale worth reading.

It is difficult to draw conclusions from individual case histories. We can, however, learn a great deal from case histories when they are considered as a group: in this way, we can conclude what features of the cases provide evidence for or against hypotheses.
We therefore present the case history of Mr. Y. H. Yeo of Singapore in annotated form, in order to connect his experiences to those of others. The main hypothesis of interest here is the reading hypothesis, the claim that self-selected free voluntary reading leads to the acquisition of many aspects of literacy (e.g., reading ability, writing ability, and vocabulary). The case history presented here not only supplies important information about the reading hypothesis, it also gives us data on the relationship between a free reading habit and school and career success, where and how young people living in poverty get access to reading material, the importance of “narrow” reading, the value of comic books, the value of fiction, and the role of reading in lowering anxiety.

I am the first literate member of my family. Before I started school in 1959, I did not know the English language, as my family spoke Hokkien at home.1 When I was about five years old, we lived in a squatter house in Singapore, as we were poor and my father was often unemployed. The hut was made of old pieces of wood, cardboard, and zinc, and in a heavy downpour the roof would leak.
One day, my parents bought a bag of charcoal, and in it was a book without a cover. I was fascinated by it and would look at the words and pages knowing that there were meanings in them. It was the jewel in the charcoal, and I kept the book for a long time without understanding a word. I wondered when I would be able to unravel the meanings of these pages. Elementary education is compulsory in Singapore, so in January 1959, when I was six years old, I was enrolled in primary school in a class of about 40 pupils. I had not been exposed to English at all, but by staring at the books as if they were puzzles, the meaning came to me, thanks to the cartoons and pictures. And as I looked at more books, more meanings came to me by intuition. Soon, I was able to read.2 Aside from my brother, one year younger than I, I had a sister younger by three years. I had to look after her. Along with the library books, I read my English textbooks, even passages that the teacher had not yet covered. I also borrowed comics (especially Beano and Dandy) and storybooks from my friend Sin Boon Wah, who is from a middle-class background, as his father was a primary school teacher at Windstedt Primary School near Newton.3 My mother often went to wash clothes at nearby houses—the richer residents’—to earn money to supplement my father’s meager wages, so she often was not home, and I had to look after my younger brother and sister. Sometimes, I was fortunate, and Sin would loan me about a dozen comics at once. That was heaven! But I had to read all of these comic books as quickly as I could before hell broke loose: all the reading I was doing infuriated my parents, who preferred that I spend my time helping with housework and doing other things that could help pay the bills. We were always short of money.
For example, the baker delivered one loaf of bread on his bicycle each day and shouted out a number. If it was “35,” for example, it meant we had not paid for 35 loaves. Once we found money, he would start from one again. My mother ironed clothes for a neighbor for a fee, and I had to carry the ironed dresses through the village to return them. I hated it, as I was self-conscious! I had to hold the hung clothes high above my head by lifting my arms, as the dresses were taller than I was. This may have caused me to become a shy person when I grew older, and I found reading fiction was a good way to escape 4
Back in the classroom, I was a keen student and would do my homework diligently. I liked the assigned books and would volunteer to read aloud in class. We read about autumn and the falling brown leaves, as these were British books. About the third year of primary school, one of the teachers noticed that I kept borrowing books from the small school library. He put me in charge of the 200 books! I continued to read these books, in particular a science fiction series about space traveler called Kemlo.5 I kept reading all the way through elementary school: I voraciously read Enid Blyton books such as the Famous Five series and the Secret Seven series. I borrowed these books from the richer classmates.
At the end of my first year of primary school, I was ranked twelfth out of about 100 students in my class. At the end of my second year, I ranked fouth, and at the end of my third year, I was first in my class, a rank I held all the way to my sixth year.6 I also did well in writing: in second grade, my composition about the coconut tree and its uses was displayed on the school notice board.7 My younger brother was not interested in books or in studying. In fact, he often ranked last in his class. I felt that his academic problems were the result of my mother not having adequate nutrition when she was pregnant with him due to poverty. It may, however, have been because he did not develop a reading habit the way I did.

At the end of primary school, I took the Primary School Leaving Examination. I was one of only six who qualified for the Raffles Institution, one of the top secondary schools for boys in Singapore. All this was done without extra tutoring; I simply continued to read fiction.8 I feel that this is what helped me do so well. I didn’t (and still don’t) use the dictionary and don’t ask teachers to explain the meanings of words.9 When I was in secondary school, (ages 13–16), I continued my love affair with the English language and reading. In particular I read books by P. G. Wodehouse and Arthur Conan Doyle, all borrowed from the secondary school library. Some of my schoolmates also bought books of fiction and they loaned the books to me.10 I also read World War II stories by W. E. Johns. The hero of the series was a pilot named John Bigglesworth, with the nickname “Biggles.” I read several books from the James Bond series, by Ian Fleming, such as Thunderball and Dr. No.11 I sometimes went to the USIS library and read books in the reading room on the U.S. Navy and their many battles with the Japanese Navy in the Pacific War during WWII. It was exciting reading, and the books were thick and bulky—but we were not allowed to take the books out of the library. One of my secondary school teachers, David Paul, encouraged me to write a fictitious World War II adventure story based in Singapore, and it was published in the school journal. Again, reading should get the credit for my writing ability. My grades in English and English literature were always very good in primary and secondary school, and I earned a grade of A in the English literature and the English language Cambridge O-level examinations in 1968.
After finishing secondary school, Mr. Yeo joined the Singapore Armed Forces at the age of 18 as an officer-cadet and was awarded the prestigious Ministry of Defense scholarship for tertiary education. The generous allowance from the army enabled him to lift three generations of his family out of poverty, and to support his younger siblings through university. He has had a successful career with the Singapore Armed Forces and since retirement from active service at the age of 55 has continued to work with the Armed Forces as a civilian officer and adviser.

Yew Hock Yeo is a retired officer of the Singapore Armed Forces. Phyllis Ghim-Lian Chew is professor, Department of English Language and Literature, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Stephen Krashen is professor emeritus, University of Southern California, U.S.
1. Hokkien is a Chinese language spoken in several countries, including Singapore, Taiwan, China, and the Philippines.
2. Goodman (Flukey and Xu, 2003) and Smith (2004) have concluded that we learn to read by understanding what is on the page. Context (visual, linguistic, and background knowledge) helps make the text comprehensible. The research literature contains many case histories of children who learned to read in their first languages the same way Mr. Yeo did in his second language, with very little or no formal instruction (e.g., Goodman and Goodman, 1982; Krashen and McQuillan, 2007).
3. Other case histories mention friends as an important source of reading material for children living in poverty (G. Canada, described in Krashen, 2015). Several second-language case histories confirm the value of comic books (Desmond Tutu, Mark Mathabane, in Krashen, 2004), and research shows that comic books can make a substantial contribution to literacy development (Krashen, 2004).
4. A reader interviewed by Nell (1988) tells us that “reading removes me … from the irritations of living … for the few hours a day I read ‘trash’ I escape the cares of those around me, as well as escaping my own cares and dissatisfactions” (p. 288).
5. Studies confirm the importance of the school library, especially for students living in poverty (Krashen, Lee, and McQuillan, 2012).
6. A number of case histories show that pleasure readers do better in school, and typically the students give reading the credit (Krashen, 2004, 2015). Second-language cases are described in Henkin and Krashen (2015), Krashen and Williams (2012), and Mathabane (1986). In addition, a number of studies show that those who read more for pleasure know more about a wide variety of subjects (Krashen, 2004), which contributes to school success.
7. Studies show that those who do more reading write better (Krashen, 2004, p. 132; Lee, 2005). Also, several studies show that more writing does not result in better writing (Krashen, 2004, 135–6; Lee, 2005; Sari, 2013).
8. Evidence supporting the value of reading fiction: Krashen, 2015.
9. Research confirms that vocabulary can be gradually but very efficiently acquired through reading (Nagy, Herman, and Anderson, 1985; Pitts, White, and Krashen, 1989).
10. Friends continue to be an important source of books; see note 3.11. Research supports the strategy of narrow reading, the practice of reading texts by one author or about a single topic of interest, such as “series” books. Narrow reading helps ensure comprehension and natural repetition of vocabulary and grammar (Krashen, 2004).
Cho, K. S., and Krashen, S. 1994. “Acquisition of vocabulary from the Sweet Valley High Kids series: Adult ESL acquisition.”Journal of Reading 37: 662–667.
Cho, K. S. and Krashen, S. 2016. “What does it take to develop a long-term pleasure reading habit?” Turkish Online Journal of English Language Teaching. 1(1): 1–9.
Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, and Westport, CONN: Libraries Unlimited (second edition).
Krashen, S. 2015. “Fact or fiction? The plot thickens.” Language Magazine 15(3): 22–27.
Krashen, S. and McQuillan, J. 2007. “Late intervention”. Educational Leadership 65 (2): 68–73.
Krashen, S. and Williams, C. 2012. “Is self-selected pleasure reading the cure for the long-term ELL syndrome? A case history.” NABE Perspectives, September–December 2012, 26.
Mathabane, M. 1986. “Kaffir Boy.” New York: Plume.
Nagy, W., Herman, P., and Anderson, R. 1985. “Learning words from context.” Reading Research Quarterly 17, 233–255.
Nell, V. 1988. Lost in a Book. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.
Pitts, M., White, H., and Krashen, S. 1989. “Acquiring second language vocabulary through reading: A replication of the Clockwork Orange study using second language acquirers.” Reading in a Foreign Language 5: 271–275.
Sari, R. 2013. “Is it possible to improve writing without writing practice?” International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 8,1.
Smith, F. 2004. Understanding Reading. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Sixth Edition.

July 13th, 2016 | 1 Comment

Have You Read Any of Patti Smith’s Favorite Books?

"Patti with Bolex-1, 1969"

“Patti with Bolex-1, 1969”

Patti Smith is a writer and musician best known for her musical projects and her book Just Kids. Recently a list of her favorite books has resurfaced from an interview at the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

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July 7th, 2016 | 1 Comment

Vista Chat



Want to predict the future? Analyze what people are saying now!


Language is the march of empires. Learn to be aware of developing situations as they occur. For instance, we printed in: August 2007: Moscow Moves to Promote Russian Half of Ukrainian citizens want legalization of Russian language; May 2008: Possible One-State Language for Ukraine July 2009: Ukraine House Speaker Calls for Acceptance; October 2011: Russian language in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova; January 2012: Ukraine Language Policy Approved; April 2012: Ukraine Considers Making Russian Official; July 2012: Ukraine Passes Russian Bill amid Clashes

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