Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Strategy Series!

No L1 Required!

We are starting a new strategy series called "No L1 Required!" For the next five post, Dr. Allen Lynn will be giving some strategies that require no L1 knowledge from the teacher. When working with English Language Learners there will be times the teacher has no knowledge of a student's native language. The strategies presented by Dr. Lynn help ease that gap in language and promote effective learning for the student.     

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Rise of Asian Americans

Pew Research Report: The Rise of Asian Americans

(Contributed by C. Allen Lynn)

According to the Pew Research Center, Asians are the fastest growing immigrant group in the United States. However, like the terms “Latino” or “Hispanic”, “Asian” does not describe a monolithic group. The Pew report does a fine job of parsing the issue, pointing out the various individual nationalities of the new immigrants and what they bring to the United States in terms of education and wealth.

Although North Carolina is well known for its large Latino population, has anyone seen any evidence of this rise in Asian immigration in North Carolina ESL classrooms? What kind of challenges do you think such a shift will present to ESL teachers accustomed to working mainly with Spanish speaking ELLs?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Using Sign Language with ELLS

Hands-On With Building Vocabulary: Using Sign Language with ELLS
(Contributed by Matt Hilton)

 Integrating a new student into a school can be a daunting task for an ESL teacher as well as school faculty, particularly when the student has no knowledge of English or has had limited exposure to English. In some cases, students may not understand the most basic words or commands, let alone social or academic language. This brings an important question to the surface, “How will the student communicate their basic needs?” 

A small sample of research supports the use of sign language to help students and teachers communicate. Teachers have used sign language to ask students if they understand a concept during large class activities. Students signed yes or no when the teacher asked, “Does everyone understand?”  Teachers can also use sign language for students to ask basic commands; for example to ask for help or to use the bathroom. The biggest area is using sign language in conjunction with vocabulary words. This works by the teacher signing the word while saying it verbally.

 The idea behind using sign language is building a student’s confidence, allowing for a sense of control, and building vocabulary by providing another connection with a vocabulary word. Another bonus to this is that the cost is low to free in gathering resources. Teachers don’t need to teach the students a new language but rather use it as a tool for commands and building vocabulary.  Also the prep time is minimal because the teacher is only using sign language with one or two words at a time. However; the research shows sign language is an area worth looking into. The link provided below is one teacher’s account of using sign language with her ELL students.      

Resource: Signing Math and Science (requires IE 6 to see avatars)   

NAEP Report: Vocabulary and the Achievement Gap

NAEP Report: Vocabulary and the Achievement Gap
(Contributed by Dr. Eleni Pappamihiel)

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has just released a new report spotlighting the role of vocabulary in the infamous achievement gap.  For decades we have noted that there is a sizable achievement gap between groups of students, and for just as long schools have tried to reduce it, with some success in some areas and very little success in others.

This new report suggests that there is a consistent relationship between performance on vocabulary tests and the ability of students to comprehend a text. While the report did not identify English Language Learners (ELLs) as a group, this new finding hits ELLs quite hard.  We know that ELLs often have limited vocabularies in the English language, and their vocabulary level often impacts their achievement in English.  Not only did the NAEP report find a relationship between vocabulary knowledge and text comprehension, but they also noted a relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and vocabulary knowledge, with children from lower SES backgrounds having a more limited vocabulary. Again, this hits our ESL population hard since many ELLs are also lower SES. 

The report emphasized that students must go beyond simply being able to define a word. They must be able to identify it in context to be able to effectively comprehend text. For our ELLs this means that we have to focus on both depth and breadth of word knowledge.  So we need to give them multiple opportunities to use words in different contexts as they’re learning words at multiple levels. Teachers may begin the process with a vocabulary notebook where students begin to notice and develop an initial knowledge of the word at a surface level. Then the teacher can use the word in increasingly complex contexts, moving from concrete to more abstract contexts. It’s also important that the student hear and read the word as s/he is developing this knowledge.