Supporting language acquisition through Literacy

These are a few ideas for teaching learners who are learning English and have to read for meaning.

Before reading a book give the children the words needed to understand the important parts of the text. Where appropriate allow the child to revert back to prior language via internet machine translators to access their prior learning.  Give them the time needed to answer allowing them to process in their mind.

Their process could include reading it in English, reverting back to previous language understanding what is meant in prior language and then finding the words to explain this in their first language and then back into English.  All this can take time so try not to get too impatient as they practice. Think about when you try to translate in a language you know, what process do you go through?

By allowing this to happen it develops the pupils minds and they have a clear understanding of what the written word is conveying.  In turn this allows the child to develop a secure understanding of the text and characters.

When the child falters allow them to read a sentence and then encourage them to read it again this time more fluently to help them practice and develop their fluency. Keep a regular check on each child’s comprehension to ensure they are fully understanding the new words. Where possible put them into context so that when the child next sees the same letter formation they feel confident at reading it aloud.

Then ask each child in a the group to read part of the story.  Question them to ensure understanding and also check their fluency but importantly make it a secure environment where they can try out new sound sensations.

When questioning develop their sentence level via a game e.g. put their hand in a  bag and pull out a word related to the new text they are reading.

  1. Ask them to find a word e.g. beach
  2. Read out the word
  3. Then ask them to create a sentence e.g. I went to the beach
  4. and finally extend it by asking them what they did e.g. I went to the beach and swam in the water.
  5. Review and repeat the sentence to ensure concrete understanding.
  6. Above all make it enjoyable.

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

 

Developing Literacy for EAL learners

Literacy is one focus of OFSTED in the UK from the start of this month.  First let us be clear what Literacy means…often these words are used without much thought about what it means… Literacy in education is how we help children enjoy reading and writing, with focus on three areas speaking and listening, and reading and writing.

With EAL learners John Foxwell Director EMASUK suggests we look at how to use Pip to support the parents reading to the children in either language (bi-literacy will also be improved when used effectively), use this lovely book to allow them to read to their siblings and new arrivals in English. Pip itself is bilingual so can be used to develop vocabulary by using the first language as a bridge. There is also the advantage of the picture book being part of the range, so that the parent/teacher and child can see how they have progressed in their development of their reading skills.

He further suggests starting points for conversations, and when linked to the computer programme it scaffolds writing by giving word lists.  It encourages story boarding by linking up pictures and words and develops personal awareness by making children think and discuss how they feel.

And so to OFSTED themselves.

OFSTED Inspectors report that they have found  that the factors that most commonly limited pupils’ learning included: an excessive pace of a lesson; an overloading of activities; inflexible planning, and limited time for pupils to work independently. In some schools teachers concentrated too much or too early on a narrow range of test or examination skills and few schools give enough thought to ways of encouraging the love of reading in school and beyond the classroom.

OFSTED have themselves suggested the following as good examples of how to develop good reading practice to support literacy development.

To get the reading habit integrated straightaway, in the first term of Year 7, the English homework for all students is to read independently at home. The school launched a joint parent/child reading group, attended by a local author, which inspired parents and pupils. Family Review Days held in the library give parents the opportunity to talk about books with the librarian and with students. They can drop in anytime to discuss how they can help their child choose a suitable book and offer support and encouragement.

The school annually updates and sends out a list of recommended reads to reflect current trends in reading as well as classics. It also produces ‘Reading Matters’ leaflets for parents, with useful hints and tips to support their child’s reading, which include the following.

• ‘Read aloud with your child, or try reading the same book they are reading and talk to them about it.
• Let them see you reading, whether it is a book, a magazine or a newspaper. Lead by example!
• If they enjoy movies or TV shows based on children’s books such as Tracy Beaker or Harry Potter, encourage them to give the books a try.
• Encourage them to read to younger brothers and sisters. We have a ‘babysitting’ box in the library with great books they could use.
• Encourage them to join the school Readers’ Club. They can then get involved in all kinds of extra-curricular activities, from drama workshops to meeting the illustrator from Beano!’

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/news/driving-standards-of-literacy

John Foxwell reminds us that Pip is available as a picture book or English only, or bilingually in  English and Polish, Albanian, Chinese Mandarin, Chinese Cantonese, Czech, Dutch, Russian, French, German, Nepali, Kurdish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Hebrew, Latvian, and Romanian http://shop.emasuk.com/  Add storycreator to make a truly useful inexpensive package for all language learners whether learning English, MFL Languages or bridging from their home language.

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.

Literacy EAL – Reading Guide

Reading allows us to be active and think about what the person has written. We then have to decode the words and sentences to make sure that we have understood what the writer intended.

Straight away you can see that the EAL learner needs to have the following skills to:

  1. read the words correctly
  2. understand the construction of the sentence
  3. interpret what that string of words in that formation means to the rest of the population
  4. create an accurate picture of what that means where description is used to describe a situation, object or feeling

We are asking a lot of a monolingual but for a bilingual or multilingual child this becomes more difficult.

Add this to the four types of knowledge that the reader needs:

  1. Phonic  awareness (what each letter sounds like)
  2. Grammatical knowledge (Knowledge of sentence structure and the symbols we use to demonstrate this… such as !, ?, ” “)
  3. Knowledge of context (know about the culture, world especially of the area where they are learning, and topic)
  4. Word recognition and graphic knowledge (what the sounds look like when in written form)

In real life in the classroom this can be presented as:

  1. Difficulty decoding words
  2. Not understanding the vocabulary
  3. Confusion of words
  4. Not understanding something, for example, that the writing may be a joke or irony
  5. Having no background cultural information so it may be difficult to reach the true meaning easily.

Read for Meaning

In order to support this in the classroom if we can encourage reading for meaning that will encourage the EAL reader to take a risk by guessing a meaning to make accessing the text easier. If the book needs cultural background, input this knowledge beforehand as a precursor to allow even greater understanding when the reader eventually reads the book.

Pre-Teach

Support this further by pre-teaching any sentences with an idiom included such as if the book refers to a senior moment – pre teach the learner that this means a memory lapse or a momentary confusion in someone who is no longer young is a senior moment.

More idioms

lose heart

Make the grade

Step up a gear

It’s raining cats and dogs.

Finally look at the reading environment

  1. Have bilingual books in the target language to support both the learning language and continue to support their first language
  2. Have a resource box with texts at different challenge levels and interests
  3. Where possible increase the versions available by having a simplified version.
  4. Ensure access to dictionaries or translation software to develop their language acquisition.

Have you any good examples you would like to share with us?

Preparing my child for secondary education

For all of you who are parents of children moving ‘big school’.

kipmcgrathashford

Preparing my child for secondary education.

This is a most fabulous blog from Clare and Martin Rimmer of Kip McGrath Lisburn about the process of transferring to Secondary School.

As the father of a daughter moving to Grammar School in September it has been invaluable.

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Twelve Struggling Students Become Reading All-Stars

Scholastic have a reading system that helps children with English as an additional learn quicker. Below are soem quotes from the children.

ah Azad Age: 13 – Grade: 6 – South End Middle School,Springfield, MA

Originally from Pakistan, Abdullah arrived in the US fluent in four different languages, none of them English. He struggled with English and adapting to American culture after moving here. A quiet, disengaged and distracted student, he scored at a Lexile level of zero on his first reading test. It was in the READ 180 “Stolen Childhoods” workshop, which chronicles the plight of child laborers, that things turned around and Abdullah began to share his story with other students. With a renewed attitude, his reading scores began to rise quickly – from kindergarten to a second grade level. “Now when I do assignments in System 44, it seems easier and I don’t mind answering a question if I am wrong,” Abdullah wrote. “Ever since I’ve been in System 44, English is getting easier and the questions are getting easier.”

Gustavo was a shy kid when he arrived at Elaine Wynn Elementary in April 2011. A child who grew up in a family that spoke only Spanish, his struggles with language zapped his confidence and made learning extremely difficult. For many other children who face daunting language barriers, this would have been too much to overcome. Many students like this become dropouts. He struggled so much that his parents thought he might have a speech problem. But through hard work in READ 180, Gustavo has undergone a rapid transformation and now reads on grade level. “I’m finally noticing improvement in my grades,” he said.

http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/18/4423362/twelve-struggling-students-become.html