Cheung & Slavin (Dec, 2012) synthesized research on English reading outcomes for Spanish dominant English Learners and conclude that in the end, instructional quality is more important than language of instruction for English reading. (Of course, we need to remember that language of instruction may not matter if you are only concerned about students learning English, but you'd have to have Spanish instruction as well to become literate in both languages...) However, their research did show that bilingual classrooms did give students an advantage (an effect size of +.21). Whether you are critical of their research or not, it is important to attend to instructional practice and recognize another study that emphasizes it's importance. What does quality instruction include? The interventions that Cheung & Slavin describe with the highest effect sizes for English reading outcomes are: a program with cooperative learning among 4 member teams, a program with peer-assisted learning, and small group instruction. I find it interesting that the higher effect sizes seem to be for interventions that involve students learning with one another. Discussion and interaction are key components of language acquisition theory and may be a key to effective practice.
Here are a few teaching tips and materials that promote interaction:
Reference: Cheung, A.C.K. & Slavin, R.E. (2012). Effective programs for Spanish-dominant English Language Learners (ELLs) in the Elementary Grades: A Synthesis of Research. Review of Educational Research, 82(4), 351-395.
The U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse examines programs and practices intended to support English Learner achievement. The following classroom practices have been shown to have a positive or potentially positive effect on educational outcomes. For more details on the practices visit the What Works Clearinghouse.
1) My students often work in pairs or small groups discussing and interacting to complete academic tasks.
2) My students frequently engage in teacher-facilitated small group discussions about key concepts from readings.
3) My students often respond in writing in a literature log to a prompt about readings.
4) I teach students how to use reading comprehension strategies.
5) I teach students to use the writing process for a variety of purposes.
6) I provide high quality vocabulary instruction throughout the day.
7) I provide focused and intensive small group instruction for readers who are struggling.
The National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition has published a list of websites with younger ELs in mind.
Websites Offering Learning Activities for Young ELs
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/: language games, songs, and stories
http://www.literacycenter.net/: activities to learn numbers, colors, shapes, reading and writing letters and words
http://www.starfall.com: reading instruction and reading games
http://www.rif.org/kids/readingplanet.htm: language-related activities and stories
http://www.storyplace.org/preschool/other.asp: stories and language-learning activities
http://pbskids.org/: a variety of reading, writing, and learning activities
http://pbskids.org/berenstainbears/games/story/index.html: learning activities to prepare children for school
http://www.storylineonline.net/: stories read by actors from the ScreenActors' Guild.
http://www.scholastic.com/clifford/: reading and writing activities
http://www.eduplace.com/kids/hmsc/content/simulation/#gk: science content from Houghton Mifflin Science Series
(Source: www.ncela.gwu.edu, Winter 2012 Issue of AccELLerate!)
Tactile Review - For K-2ND GRADE, have them trace letters, numbers or key vocabulary words listed on the board, on their partner's washed hand and the partner guesses the letter or word. A list of possible words can be listed on the board or on a chart. Switch roles.
A new poll by HuffPost/YouGov found that about 60 percent of Americans support immigration reform and even more - 81 percent - support a policy that requires immigrants learn English to become citizens. This brings up a lot of questions. What does it mean to learn English? What to Americans think about the first language(s) of immigrants? Resource or not? How might this effect policies and funding for English as a Second Language compared with Bilingual Education? Are our goals as a nation to be monolingual or bilingual? What does this mean for parents and children that we serve in our schools?
(Reference: Huffington Post, Emily Swanson, Feb. 1, 2013)
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will be sharing proposals for new state tests that will be more aligned with the Common Core State Standards which require more critical thinking and elaborated responses and fewer multiple choice questions. The committee recommended that "students starting to learn English, for example,
should be tested in their primary language, have tests with simplified
instructions and glossaries, and even have exams delivered by audio.
With computerized testing, that can all be done easily" (Hoag, 2013). How is your school preparing students for the heavy linguistic load of the Common Core State Standards?
(Reference: CHRISTINA HOAG/Associated Press; Created: 01/08/2013 07:37:41 AM PST)
PWIM (Calhoun, 1999) is an oft-used and well-cited strategy for students to develop their reading and writing from a picture. I like it because it engages so many research-based strategies for language acquisition. Students develop background knowledge, study and play with words, engage in repeated exposures to vocabulary, and all within the context of a single picture. The basic steps are the following:
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Everyday ELL is now Every Language Learner.