Geddes Elementary: Dual Language Early On Reaps Benefits Later

I thought I had posted this last week but the letter gremlins seem to have taken it away into space.

“It’s important for me, because my children are from here. I’m from Mexico, and I want them to know their origins,” said Ana Lepe, speaking in Spanish. The 40-year-old mother of three has sent all of her children to Geddes because she also believes being bilingual will help them get better jobs in the future.

I liked this story because this school is obviously one where bilingualism is really treasured and supported by all within the community. Once again the question of jobs when the children reach school-leaving age are a focus, but sadly this is often forgotten by the policy makers.

What is useful for teachers is If you go through the links there is also a video showing how some of this is achieved.

“There’s a lot of research now that shows that dual-immersion programs/bilingual programs are teaching kids to read better,” she added.

One reason the dual-language program works at Geddes is because it’s one part of a strong academic structure, school officials say. Castro is obsessed with data: Teachers give assessments every two weeks in math and reading to see how their students are progressing and where they might need help.

As bi-literacy starts to become popular and general literacy is a focus in both USA and UK schools there are some lessons that can be definitely learnt from this school. Especially those wishing to become strong free bilingual schools.

The initial news story is interesting but if you go into the school website there are some amazing facts about their achievements.

http://www.educationnation.com/casestudies/geddes/index.html

10 % OF PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS.

The Challenge: For English Language Learners, mastering the language is even more difficult if they struggle with their first language.
The Solution: At Geddes Elementary School in Baldwin Park, Calif., young students in the dual-language program are taught in Spanish 90% of the day until third grade. This approach has led to significant achievement gains, with 60% of third-graders scoring proficient or above in English language arts in 2011.

RESULTS: TEST SCORES

Geddes Elementary School’s API score (California’s system for rating schools based on reading and math test scores) rose from 678 to 838 over four years, exceeding the state target of 800. Proficiency on English language arts tests doubled to 62 percent, and the percentage of the school’s students who are proficient in math rose by half, to 74 percent.

RESULTS: ATTENDANCE & DISCIPLINE

In the 2005-06 school year, 391 students (out of 901) had unexcused absences or were tardy at least three times at Geddes. The truancy rate was 43 percent. In 2010-11, by contrast, 192 students (out of 703) had unexcused absences or were frequently tardy. The truancy rate fell to 27 percent.

RESULTS: PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT

Parental participation went from only a handful of parents regularly visiting the school to between 40 and 50 attending monthly meetings with the principal.

The original news story can be found here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48897100/ns/today-education_nation/

The school information can be found here:

http://www.educationnation.com/casestudies/geddes/index.html

 

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International company moves to area with more bilingual speakers.- USA

Many people argue that there is no point in keeping the learners first langauge alive as “they are in our country so they should use our language”.  There has not really been a  good reply, but this story shows how keeping the language alive allows companies to grow and become successful, and also regionally it can keep jobs in a certain area. Thinking of the amount of money it costs councils etc to attract companies the last thing they want to do is lose them.

It all stems from Chiquita Brands moving it headquarters from Cincinnati to Charlotte as they have more bilingual speakers. Cincinnati are fighting back by creating a database of Bilingual speakers.

http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/29baffe64a8542b086fa94c0ac314855/OH–Cincinnati-Hispanics

CINCINNATI — A Cincinnati business group has launched a searchable database of the region’s multilingual students and professionals.

The Cincinnati USA Hispanic Chamber said it will spend the next few months building the database. Chamber president Alfonso Cornejo told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the goal is to connect those with language skills with companies and organizations who work with diverse domestic markets or operate internationally.         It’s meant as a development tool, and also to showcase the Cincinnati region’s resources. It’s expected to be available for searching by next February. He hopes to have 5,000 people registered within three years.

The database is being developed in partnership with Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. The chamber’s corporate partner members, universities and churches will have unlimited access, while others will have limited access, Cornejo said.

The project was triggered partly as a response to the decision by Chiquita Brands International last year to move its headquarters from Cincinnati to Charlotte, N.C., which has more bilingual people. The banana company cited that as among the reasons it made its move.

Some 5 percent of Cincinnati residents speak a language other than English. While the database can’t increase Cincinnati’s bilingual rate, it will help businesses like Chiquita locate those with language abilities.

“We were very frustrated that we lost Chiquita brands,” Cornejo said. “In the opinion of (Chiquita chief executive officer Fernando Aguirre), there was not enough bilingual talent in Cincinnati compared to Charlotte. Up to a point, he’s right. But we intend to overcome that.”

Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com

Use activities that bridge their new English language to the Spanish vocabulary they are more familiar with

This seems obvious but creating resources and activities that are relevant and interesting to the pupils is really important, especially when using one language to bridge the gap of knowledge to another one.

This article shows how young people helped nursery or preschoolers children develop their English language skills.

http://thesouthern.com/news/local/siu/students-efforts-help-bilingual-preschoolers/article_9481983e-f2dd-11e1-aa9f-0019bb2963f4.html

CARBONDALE – When it comes to “how I spent my summer” experiences, a group of students from Southern Illinois University Carbondale can say they made a difference in the lives of some area preschoolers.

Eight graduate students in the Communication Disorders and Sciences program participated in a summer practicum at Su Casa Migrant Head Start in Cobden helping a group of bilingual children between three and five years old prepare for kindergarten. This is the third year that students, under the direction of Valerie Boyer, assistant professor in the program, assisted Su Casa. The experience is beneficial to both the children and graduate students, Boyer said.

“The focus of our program is providing prevention-based services and assessment/intervention when needed. We are helping prepare children for kindergarten by increasing their ability to name letters, connect letters with sounds, and understand critical phonological awareness skills such as rhyming,” Boyer said. “For our students, it offers the opportunity to work with a growing population in a classroom setting. It is real-world experience and one that they report is very beneficial.”

The project linking SIU Carbondale students with the youngsters began in the summer of 2010. It began as a research project on an alternative assessment tool to identify language deficiencies in children who are learning the English language, Boyer said. The University students observed the children in their classrooms, spoke with the teachers, and worked one-on-one with the children during a four-week period. The project proved to be so successful and such a good learning experience for all involved that it expanded to include a significant service component in 2011, Boyer said.

Last year, 10 graduate students worked with preschoolers in a six-week service/research project and implemented an evidence-based emergent literacy program for four-year-olds. They utilized tools that included “Read It Again,” a 30-week shared storybook reading and related activity program, which has documented evidence that it improves language skills in Head Start children. The goal is to build a child’s English vocabulary, narrative skills, print awareness and awareness of phonics.

The University also expanded the program and began working with Southern 7 Head Start, Migrant Education Inc., and Su Casa to help children from Cobden and Anna. Graduate and undergraduate students in the Communication Disorders and Sciences program worked with children in Anna are starting a second year with the bilingual children.

“We will evaluate the program fully after two years, but data from the first year is promising significant growth in vocabulary development,” Boyer said.

This summer, Su Casa provided support for Laura Garcia, a graduate student from Cobden, as she organized and implemented prevention, assessment and intervention activities. The University students use a variety of methods to help the children with their English vocabulary development, particularly using activities that bridge their new English language to the Spanish vocabulary they are more familiar with.

Garcia’s involvement dates back to the project’s inception and she said she has learned much and really enjoyed the work. She said she has a tremendous love for the Spanish population and looks for opportunities to get involved in work like this. She has learned how to relate English information to Spanish-speaking children, prepare them for school, and in the process discovered much about the way bilingual children learn and process information.

“These children are like sponges; they absorb everything. Even though sometimes it may seem like they don’t understand, they are gaining exposure to the English language,” Garcia said.

Bilingual programmes are helping students achieve a greater proficiency in reading and maths, perhaps UK schools should take note with the new inspection orders in place.

Jesus Santos, director of bilingual-multicultural education for MPS, said the research showed that the district’s bilingual programs are helping students achieve at a greater proficiency level in reading and math.

As the new school year approaches in the UK OFSTED have issued their guidance to inspectors which will come into effect on 1st September. One of the biggest challenges will be for schools to achieve success with their learners with English as an Additional Language (EAL or ESOL) learners.  These Dual langauge learners (DLL) will wish to keep their first language and build on it to gain their second. This creates a problem for monolingual teachers or those who feel less confident with teaching another language.

I can see that this is going to be the challenge as OFSTED clearly states that they will be looking at children who have the pupil premium attached to them, and also those who need support together with those designated EAL. The challenge will therefore be to get the learner as quickly as possible to the same level as their non-EAL equivalent, as anything between that will be scrutinised.

We can all be assured and reassured from the comments above by Jesus Santos that if we embrace the learners first language and use it as a stepping stone where appropriate, then the children learn and catch up quicker, particularly with reading and maths which is clearly another huge focus for the Inspectors.

Schools need to be looking for resources that with their innovative ways reassure and  give confidence to the teacher whilst celebrating and empowering the learner. A big ask but I am sure it can be done.

To read the new inspectors handbook in which I have highlighted with any mention specifically to EAL children go to our website  http://languagesupportuk.com/What%2527s-Good-.php Very worryingly is that  this group of children can alert inspectors and by my reading of the judgements you are better reading from the bottom up and checking that you fulfil the criteria for not achieving special measures or serious weaknesses otherwise you may find yourself at risk.

If you would like to read more about Francesca Lopez who has been through the school system right through to doctorate and researched her beliefs you can do so here  http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/educator-turns-rough-start-into-bilingual-mission-jo6k7ip-167495545.html  or read the read the story below.

Francesca Lopez vividly remembers starting school in El Paso, Texas, in the third grade.

She hated it.

Though she and her family lived in El Paso, she and her mom, like many others at the time, crossed the border to Juarez, Mexico, back and forth every day for school. Her mother taught high school, and she attended grade school.Then in the third grade her Mexican-born mother and American-born father decided she should go to public school. It’s an experience vividly etched in her memory.

“It was traumatic. I was very alone. I didn’t speak English very well, so I daydreamed. I wasn’t a very good student. I hated it,” she says while sitting in the living room of her Wauwatosa home.

But in the fifth grade it was announced that a new pilot program for gifted and talented students was starting. Everyone had to take the nonverbal intelligence test.To her surprise, and that of many classmates, she got in.That changed her life. And it set her on a lifelong educational path of teaching, counseling and researching the subject dear to her heart – bilingual education, testing, student achievement and how teachers teach students learning English.

Now 38, with a doctoral degree, she’s an assistant professor in the department of educational policy and leadership at Marquette University. She teaches courses on children and adolescents in a diverse society. She also researches language acquisition, teaching practices and the development of language, and the development of ethnic identity among Hispanic youths.

She also looks at the issues of testing, assessment and the outcomes of bilingual education programs vs. English immersion programs.Lopez still smiles broadly when she talks about how a test changed her own trajectory.

“That (fifth grade) test gave me an incredible boost,” she says. “I remember how I felt. It was like a ticket to a brand-new life, a new school, a new identity. I became an A student,” she says adding that by that time she was fluent in English.

Her new school emphasized literature and English, science and math. Her science project on right- and left-handedness – it used statistics she had learned in class – was chosen for the citywide science fair. The exposure to higher-level math and stronger academics propelled her. She attended an all-girls Catholic high school with many who, like her, were from Spanish-speaking homes but where much was expected.

Those early years, she says, taught her the importance of perception, self-confidence, motivation and what you can do if you believe in yourself, especially for bilingual students.

“If you believe you can do something, you can,” she says. “Whereas, if you don’t even believe you can do it, you might not even try.”

After college she began teaching in a third-grade bilingual class, then became a counselor. She received a master’s in counseling from the University of Texas at El Paso.When her husband’s job transferred him to Tucson, Ariz., she stayed home for a time with her young children and then pursued a doctorate in educational psychology at the University of Arizona. When she looked for a job, all the offers came from Midwest colleges and universities.

“In the Southwest everyone is bilingual, but in the Midwest you’re wanted and you feel needed because of the shifting demographics and growth of Latino and Spanish-speaking populations,” she says.

Last year she studied developmental and bilingual programs at 13 Milwaukee Public Schools.

Sometimes in dual-language programs where the classroom has equal numbers of English- and Spanish-dominant students, “there’s the potential for marginalizing Latino students, but I didn’t see that,” she says. “I found excellent teaching strategies.”

She adds, though, that teachers volunteered to be part of the study, so that might have skewed the overall picture.

Jesus Santos, director of bilingual-multicultural education for MPS, said the research showed that the district’s bilingual programs are helping students achieve at a greater proficiency level in reading and math.

“But we also learned that we need to continually provide professional development for teachers so we can continue to improve achievement,” he says. “Better teachers also understand the background of the students, and if they do they are more successful in teaching.”

That’s especially important for new bilingual teachers, whom the district is constantly recruiting, he says.

This school year, working with the Greater Milwaukee Catholic Education Consortium, Lopez will do research at several largely Latino Catholic elementary schools. The consortium comprises the five Catholic colleges and universities in the area and provides resources and research to Catholic K-12 schools.

Lopez said she will look at linking teacher behavior to student identity and student achievement and how it can grow.

With the growth of the Latino population and Spanish-speaking students, teachers need the skills to effectively work with the complexities of students from a different culture who speak another language, says Jennifer Maney, the coordinator of the consortium.

“We’re doing our best to keep up with the need,” Maney says, “so that we can improve student achievement and make good schools better

 

It’s like when I go to another town, I don’t know Spanish, I can’t talk to anyone, I have no voice.”

It’s like when I go to another town, I don’t know Spanish, I can’t talk to anyone, I have no voice.”

How would you feel if this happened to you.  Competent to speak to friends and neighbours in one area of our global world and suddenly unable to communicate on reaching another town or village.

This is an interesting news article that explores the school experiences of children and teachers who speak an indigenous language.

http://www.younglives.org.uk/what-we-do/news-and-events/news-archive/intercultural-bilingual-education-a-public-policy-priority

Intercultural Bilingual Education: a public policy priority
Research from Young Lives on the uses and attitudes towards Spanish and native languages in rural public schools was presented in Lima on 16 August, by the researcher Elizabeth Rosales. Her work explores the school experiences of children and teachers who speak an indigenous language. It is based on a language test and in-depth interviews with children, their mothers and teachers. Rosales found that although a large proportion of both the children and their teachers were highly competent in the indigenous language, Spanish was mainly used by both of them in school. Teachers used their knowledge of the indigenous language primarily to ensure that the children learned better Spanish, rather than using the children’s native language as the medium of instruction.

“Spanish is highly valued as it is useful for children to continue to higher levels of education and to find work in the future” Rosales commented. She found consistent with previous research that parents prefer not to register their children in bilingual schools and do not expect better quality from those schools. Their attitude to their own native language can be attributed to a fear that their children will be stigmatised or they will lose opportunities to become completely fluent in Spanish.

Following the presentation, Elena Burga (Director General for Intercultural Bilingual and Rural Education within the Ministry of Education) and Madeleine Zúñiga (Vice President of the Foro Educativo), lead the discussion.

Madeleine Zúñiga emphasised that indigenous children have the right to receive an education in their own language. “They have the right to learn in their mother tongue… but what about the right to learn good Spanish?” she asked.

Elana Burga confirmed that the Government has allocated more resources to schools that offer bilingual and intercultural education, and that attitudes to indigenous languages and cultures are changing. However, she acknowledged that basic public services in indigenous areas – including many health centres, police stations and the courts – do not have access to sufficient interpreters. She added that more bilingual schools, better teaching materials, better training for new teachers, are all needed in order to reach all children. “Our aim is that all children should be able to learn in both languages,” Burga said, adding for this to be achievable will require efforts not just from government, but also civil society and researchers.

Read more about the event on the Niños del Milenio website [in Spanish]
Bilingual Education in Peru: Read the policy paper by Elizabeth Rosales [in Spanish]

parent academies – will these be GOVE’s next UK Education innovation?

I read with interest that in America Illinois is to be the next state to introduce parent academies.  These support parents with information relating to educational expectations including what standardised testing is.  Sadly my first thought was will this be Mr Gove’s next radical idea, not that it is necessarily a bad one, but if it is not well thought out and delivered well then it will be a waste of money and energy and those who it is supposed to support will be its biggest criticisers.

The Advisory Council will discuss the possibility of parent academies to teach parents about standardized testing, homework strategies, and student-teacher relationships.

http://www.wrex.com/story/19237963/illinois-law-strengthens-bilingual-education

CHICAGO (WREX) –

A new law signed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on Thursday hopes to strengthen bilingual education in the state through study and parent academies.

House Bill 3819 will require the Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education to review the success rate of bilingual programs, examine initiatives like parent academies and cultural competency programs, and give a report on their findings to the State Superintendent of Education, Governor, and General Assembly by the first of the year.

In 2010 there were 183,000 students (almost ten percent of the student population) in Illinois for whom English was not a first language. Eighty percent of students enrolled in English language programs spoke Spanish, with Polish, Urdu, Arabic, Tagalog, Korean, Cantonese/Mandarin, Gujarati, Vietnamese, and Russian rounding out the top ten.

The Advisory Council will discuss the possibility of parent academies to teach parents about standardized testing, homework strategies, and student-teacher relationships. Similar programs have been successful in other states.

“Parents of non-English speaking students want—and need—to feel a greater stake in navigating their child’s education,” Representative Chapa LaVia, Chairperson for the Illinois House Elementary and Secondary Education Appropriations Committee, said. “This new law opens the door to such innovations as ‘parent academies’ to accomplish that.”

The bill passed both chambers unanimously and will take effect on January 1

Are we failing our bilingual students by language immersion?

There has been a few news items about bilingual teaching and the change to ELL  lessons where the student is unable to access prior experiences via their bilingual teacher.  It is very refreshing to read this from Helen Marques who has been through this process and who can also give such dramatic feedback about the difference these changes have made. I have highlighted in bold the items that I believe to be true from my classroom experiences.  The biggest impression I am left with is the drop out rate when their safety net within the classroom is removed…..is this what we are doing to our learners?

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120727/OPINION/207270306

Creativity will develop English language learners

As the executive director of the Immigrants’ Assistance Center Inc., I feel obligated to express my deep concern regarding the high school dropout rate among students for whom English is not the first language.

In 1971, the bilingual education program was implemented. Although it was not a perfect model, it created a safety net for English Language Learners. Classes were taught by bilingual teachers so that when students could not understand the lessons, teachers were able to explain in the students’ native language. This encouraged learning by easing their frustration and promoting confidence.

As a product of bilingual education, I know how important it is to have that support system in place in the classroom. The bilingual program was eliminated in 2001 and replaced with the English Immersion Program. This removed that safety net and ELL students started to fall through the cracks of the educational system. That is exactly what has been happening for several years in the New Bedford school system.

In 2011, the high school dropout rate for English Language Learners was 63.3 percent in four years. That is an alarming statistic. I am aware that a group of more than 36 teachers and educators recently authored a plan for revising the education of ELLs in New Bedford. Three school committee members voted to urge the superintendent to move forward on the plan: John Fletcher, Joaquim Livramento and Marlene Pollock. I am grateful to these members for standing up for an often overlooked population.

In addition, I support the two proposals for innovation schools, Renaissance Community School for the Arts and Esperanza School of Language and Culture. They both address the needs of ELL students and all of the children of New Bedford.

New Bedford has a great opportunity to move forward by making changes for the benefit of all of the children of New Bedford and to make sure that they have the educational tools that they need in order to succeed.

Helena S. Marques

Executive Director of Immigrants’ Assistance Center Inc.

New Bedford

What’s the point of the question? Were you testing her ability to count or speak English? – USA

This was a parents response to a teacher when the  child was asked to count to twenty. The child did so in Spanish and was marked as wrong. It begs the debate I often have with those who do not understand bilingualism what are you testing? Was your assessment criteria flawed? Did the child understand that they had to respond in English?

No one is blaming the teacher it is just a change in the way we view things.  In mine and the parents case any previous knowledge in whatever language it was demonstrated in is fine. As in my opinion they will pick up English as they go along, but pretending they have no prior learning eats away at their confidence and self-esteem daily.

Hursh helped the teacher see that she was ignoring the knowledge the child did have. Still, Hursh understands that teacher’s perspective.

“Before coming to Erikson, I would have thought the same thing: I have to get these children speaking English. Now, I’m confident that they’ll pick it up. In the meantime, I want to support them in what they are able to do.”

Meléndez agrees with this balanced perspective. “Of course, dual language learners need to learn English if they are to succeed in school and life, but the acquisition of their second language does not have to mean the loss of their first.”

If you want to read the rest of this there are some extracts below and the original can be found at http://www.erikson.edu/default/news/news.aspx?c=6054

Susan Pryor, M.S. ’09, a kindergarten teacher at Erie, leads her class’s chant:

Donde quiera que vamos Todos nos preguntan ¿Quien somos? Y decimos Somos Loyola, los niños de Loyola. ¡Hola!

Erie is a bilingual charter school predominantly serving Latino students in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. The kindergarteners call themselves “children of Loyola,” because every classroom at Erie is named after a different university — a nod to the school’s goal of putting all students on the path to higher education.

“The commitment to graduating college-bound, bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural students is held by everyone, the teachers, the administration, the board,” says Pryor. “Everyone is on the same page.”

Erie, which partners with Erikson’s New Schools Project, is a model of bilingual education. However, there is no school system-wide commitment to high-quality biliteracy. Erikson seeks to change this by developing policies, practices, and teacher preparation programs to help meet these students’ unique needs.

DLL education in Illinois

In Illinois, nearly 8 percent of students are dual language learners (DLL), learning a home language and English simultaneously. The default program for educating them is a transitional bilingual program, which is designed to make non-English-speaking students proficient in English by third grade, when they first take the ISAT, or Illinois Standard Achievement Test. In this approach, the student’s native language is not supported beyond the transitional period.

 

The biggest thing teachers and administrators need to understand is the better a child learns his first language, the better he’ll learn his second language.”

Children are often rushed into learning English in the classroom, according to Meléndez, and parents are sometimes encouraged by teachers to speak English at home — even when they themselves have a limited command of the language.

“This causes many problems. The children start picking up their parents’ limited use of English, which isn’t accepted at school, but much worse is that their limited vocabulary keeps conversations to superficial exchanges. Their ability to have rich discussions and express abstract ideas is greatly diminished — a huge loss at that age.”

Perhaps most damaging, children whose native language is not supported may lose their ability to speak it. For immigrants, this may disconnect them from their family and their culture. In a short time, children could find that they are unable to communicate with their grandparents or interact when they visit their native country. This also wastes students’ bilingualism, which is something many English-speaking students strive to gain in their education.

Dawn Hursh, BESL ’11

“I’m always on my soapbox about dual language learners,” she admits, laughing. She recounts debating a teacher who had asked her students to count to 20. When one girl recited her numbers in Spanish, the teacher marked the response as incorrect.

“Later, I asked her, ‘What’s the point of the question? Were you testing her ability to count or speak English?’”

Hursh helped the teacher see that she was ignoring the knowledge the child did have. Still, Hursh understands that teacher’s perspective.

“Before coming to Erikson, I would have thought the same thing: I have to get these children speaking English. Now, I’m confident that they’ll pick it up. In the meantime, I want to support them in what they are able to do.”

Meléndez agrees with this balanced perspective. “Of course, dual language learners need to learn English if they are to succeed in school and life, but the acquisition of their second language does not have to mean the loss of their first.”

 

Reading Guidance

Following on from the last blog about reading.  I thought about the types of questions I would ask my EAL readers, or indeed other readers, about the books they have read. Most questions need to be open questions otherwise the reader doesnt have the opportunity to tell you what they gained from the book. There is nothing worse than 30 replies of my book was …… written by ….. I liked it …..because and then the reason doesnt really show you what they have enjoyed, liked etc.  This set of questions is just here to help you stretch them and give you some ideas. If you have further suggestions please add to the comments.

After starting off with finding out the name of the book and author, find out what the book was generally about and if they have been taught about genres what genre/style is it e.g. mystery. If they have been on an end of term break you could ask where they read the book, in bed, outside on the grass, on the beach etc.

Then to encourage further discussion

  • How different was it to how you thought it would be before you read it? … some choose books from pictures on the front and then find the story doesn’t match at all.
  • Was the cover a good cover to let you know what the story was about?
  • For more advanced readers was the book  as good as the back cover details led you to believe?
  • Did you want to read it right to the end ….if not what made them feel this way but what kept them going if they did… I was given the Water Babies by Charles Kingsley as a child after an operation in hospital.  I couldn’t read it then and havent been too since as it all seems to far-fetched, although I have tried many times I get as far as the chimney sweeps and that’s it .
  • What was your favourite part of the book?  This may be a line, a character, a part of the story try to draw out as much information as possible.
  • Is it like a story or stories you have read before? …..maybe they have read a similar series or style
  • What caught your attention? …we often tell them that the first line must when writing, but it is not necessarily the same when reading ?  It may have been something much further through the book.
  • Which bits didn’t you like? ….this gives you further ideas of the types of books they may enjoy and ones to start to drop.
  • What was your favourite character? Why
  • What character didn’t you like? Why
  • Did you read the bits you didn’t like? …… If it is gory I don’t.
  • Did it remind you of a celebration you celebrate ?(i.e.)This may help draw out something about their cultural background
  • What was different about this book … if it’s a series has one of the characters shown a different side to their character, is the adventure in a different land which is different to either this country or the previous country they lived in?
  • Would you read books from this author again?  Why/Why not ….I did love Enid Blyton and the adventures of the characters, probably why I like Agatha Christie’s Poirot in adult life.
  • What made you think about the book now you have finished it … they may have liked it so much they want to read more or it was so awful they don’t want to read similar stories again.  My daughter was sent home from school with the book ‘There a monster under my bed’. We duly helped her read it but at 20 we all still remember the nightmares it gave her because it made her think there may be something under the bed?

Further ideas

  • Take the first line of the book and create a whole new paragraph for a new story
  • Take their favourite line and use it to create a mini story
  • Take their favourite character and write a character profile
  • Reset the story in another setting e.g. if they come from or speak Chinese set in China what differences would that make to the story?
  • If they were the author show the changes they would make to make it better… this could be as simple as a new title or more in-depth by adding a new character.

For older children or more advanced readers

  •  Take a children’s author e.g. Enid Blyton and compare with a  similar Adult author e.g. Agatha Christie and look at the similarities in the plot , characters, locations etc.
  • Write a short synopsis to replace the information o the back cover of the book
  • Find out the authors history and work out what aspects of this are within their work e.g. location, if they worked in a tax office maybe the story is set within this industry etc.

Why Chinese immigrants can struggle with English fluency

“Sometimes, people are just afraid to make mistakes and decide not to speak. We have to learn not to be afraid to embarrass and humiliate ourselves.”

Derwing said English-language training for immigrants must focus more on listening, speaking and pronunciation skills, as well as the so-called soft skill of engaging in casual conversation.

How often have we heard other teachers say this of our children in schools? Zhenyong Li gives a great account of the difficulties he finds particularly with small talk.  I am not sure that the children find some of these problems mainly because they pick up the social play ground talk quite easily, but have a problem with academic language.

The study by the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy followed 25 immigrants each from Mandarin and Slavic groups, and assessed their listening and speaking skills at years 1, 2 and 7

There are observations to be thought about here not least why do they struggle so much more than the Slovak group, and what can we as teachers do to improve this.  Also this is surprising as those English speakers learning Mandarin seem to be really well.  A school in Canton Cardiff has achieved the success of many of its students passing exams for  adults to a really high level.

Read the rest here: http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1205277–why-chinese-immigrants-struggle-with-english-fluency

Zhenyong Li has no trouble speaking English in his engineering jargon, but the Chinese immigrant says it can still be challenging to carry on small talk.

And yet, casual conversation with native speakers around the water cooler is crucial to language development — and social integration — for those whose mother tongue is something else, especially Mandarin.

A new study found the Mandarin-speaking immigrants it tracked had made “no significant progress” in their English accent, fluency and comprehensibility seven years after their arrival here, compared with their Slavic-language (Russian and Ukrainian) speaking counterparts.

The study by the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy followed 25 immigrants each from Mandarin and Slavic groups, and assessed their listening and speaking skills at years 1, 2 and 7.

“Mandarin-speakers over time did not get much easier to understand when native listeners heard them speak,” said University of Alberta educational psychology professor Tracey Derwing, who co-authored the study with NorQuest College language instructor Erin Waugh.

“They made very little progress in their pronunciation and fluency. They still had many pauses and hesitation.”

Participants in the study — all possessing the same overall language proficiency, well-educated and with similar language training here — were shown pictures and asked to describe them in their own words, while being evaluated by 30 listeners to eliminate any bias or subjectivity.

Researchers also found the Mandarin speakers had had significantly fewer conversations of 10 minutes or more with native and non-native English speakers than did the Slavic participants.

The Mandarin speakers were, as a whole, more reluctant to initiate conversation and appeared to be less aware of current local events than the Slavic speakers.

The Slavic speakers, as a group, the report said, were more assertive and more deliberate in their effort to learn English. They also had an advantage because of interests shared with the larger community (ice hockey, for example), which helped with conversations.

Li, who came here from Shanghai in 1998, said Mainland Chinese learn their English from textbooks through reading and writing, and have no opportunity to drill their listening and speaking skills outside the classroom.

“If you cannot listen or speak proper English, you feel discouraged to participate in a conversation because you are afraid others don’t understand you,” said Li, 52, who has a master’s degree in engineering from the California Institute of Technology and is a manager of a Markham consulting firm.

The Chinese Professionals Association of Canada in Toronto has introduced several programs to address the language gap, which focus on pronunciation and “soft skills” in communication.

“It’s vital to be able to carry small talk,” said its president, Hugh Zhao, who moved here from Shenyang in 1989. “Small talk leads to common understanding and other big topics. It’s not enough just to talk about the weather in Canada.”

Zhao, a computing manager at the University of Toronto, said the Chinese language is very different from the English alphabet, and so are the cultures attached to those language.

Also, silence, which for the Chinese is a virtue reflecting humbleness, is not valued in the West, where people tend to appreciate participation and outspokenness.

“(Mainland) Chinese students are not active in class because, if they understand it, they don’t want to show off. And if they do not understand something, they don’t want to ask and show their ignorance,” Zhao said.

“Sometimes, people are just afraid to make mistakes and decide not to speak. We have to learn not to be afraid to embarrass and humiliate ourselves.”

Derwing said English-language training for immigrants must focus more on listening, speaking and pronunciation skills, as well as the so-called soft skill of engaging in casual conversation.

“Communication is a two-way street. The burden of communication should not be on immigrants’ shoulders only,” she added. “Canadians should not just zone out or shut down when they hear somebody speak with an accent.”