April 2009

April highlights include a bilingual poetry booklist and 2 articles about using poetry in the English language learner classroom.

Type of Newsletter: TELLEGRAM
Date: April, 2009

Dear Subscribers,

April has been another busy month, and we have some great new resources for you! Highlights include a bilingual poetry booklist and 2 articles about using poetry in the English language learner classroom.

In addition, don't miss a new section of the T.ELL.E-GRAM, ELLs in the News (found in Beyond the Classroom). In this feature, we will pass along a few of the month's top stories about ELLs and their families. April had some important stories, including the recent ELL funding case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the College Board’s decision to support the DREAM Act.

We are also pleased to see the nationwide expansion of one of our favorite holidays, El día de los niños/El día de los libros. This year, we have added a video interview with Lulu Delacre to our resource page, and we hope that these resources can serve educators, librarians, and parents all year round!

As always, please keep in touch with questions, concerns or suggestions.


The Colorín Colorado Team

This month's highlights

Recommended Resources

New Poetry Booklist!

Colorín Colorado is pleased to present its new Poems for Everyone booklist, featuring wonderful collections of poems from different cultures. Many of the included books are bilingual in English and Spanish, offering poems for a wide-ranging audience. The booklist is also available in Spanish.

New Video for El día de los niños/El día de los libros!

¡Feliz día de los niños! Take a look at these video interviews with Pat Mora and Lulu Delacre, in which the authors discuss the significance of Día — and the importance of celebrating reading all year long!

Teach English, Teach About the Environment

The U.S. Environment Protection Agency has brought environmental education together with English instruction in its curriculum guide Teach English, Teach About the Environment.* While the guide was designed for adult ESL students, many of the lessons are at a beginning or intermediate level and will be appropriate for middle and high school students. The guide includes vocabulary, grammar, hands-on activities, and lots of ideas for ways that families can make their houses and communities greener!

* To view this file, you'll need a copy of Acrobat Reader. Most computers already have it installed. If yours does not, you can download it now.

Featured Articles

Teaching English language learners to be successful writers depends on the quality of the instructional process, practices, and classroom climate for learning. For writing instruction to be effective, it should center on meaningful communication, and it should take place in the context of a rich and challenging curriculum. Standards-Based Writing for ELLs describes practices that enhance writing instruction for ELLs and provides a list of writing conventions that can be used as standards for evaluating students' writing. For more information on ELLs and standards-based assessment, see our Assessment and Placement section.

If you're looking for a practical guide to designing and implementing a strong writing program for both ELLs and native English speakers, check out Teaching Writing to Diverse Student Populations (Access Center, 2008). The article discusses areas in which students typically have difficulty, methods for establishing classroom routines that support writing instruction, strategies for teaching spelling and handwriting skills, and ideas for incorporating writing instruction into the content area classroom.

Helping Students Who Struggle to Write: Classroom Compensations (Richards, 2008), from our sister website LD Online, is filled with excellent strategies for supporting students who find the writing process overwhelming. As the author points out, "the struggle to write often interferes with learning and prevents students from fully demonstrating what they have learned." By providing accommodations for struggling students, teachers can allow those students to meet the goals of the lesson without their writing difficulties getting in the way.

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Research and Reports

The April issue of Educational Leadership is devoted entirely to issues related to English language learners. ELL experts from all over the U.S. have contributed articles on topics such as closing the achievement gap for ELLs, teaching academic language, and helping parents become more involved in their children's schools. Of particular interest are two articles on teaching English language learners in middle school and high school. Best Practices for Adolescent ELLs, by Judith Rance-Roney, discusses the diversity that is so characteristic of the adolescent ELL population and presents "promising principles and practices" that support effective instruction. The Difficult Road for Long-Term English Learners, by Kate Menken and Tatyana Kleyn, focuses on ELLs who have attended school in the U.S. for seven years or more. According to the authors, these students, who tend to be in grades 6-12, often have a high level of proficiency in social English, but their academic English skills may be limited. This results in difficulties with reading and writing and consequently, many content area subjects.

A report just released by a group of the country's leading experts in education for English language learners recommends ways in which funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) can be used to improve educational outcomes for ELLs. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Recommendations for Addressing the Needs of English Language Learners* (March 2009) suggests seven different parts of the stimulus act that can be used to improve education for ELLs. These include areas related to: Title I help for disadvantaged students; IDEA special education; education technology; statewide data systems; improving teacher quality; Head Start and Early Head Start; the National Science Foundation; and the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. In each area, the panel identifies ELL issues that need to be addressed and outlines specific ways in which the stimulus money can be used to address those issues, stressing that allocating these funds will only be effective if it is done "in conjunction with a coherent standards-based strategy at the state and district levels."

For further discussion of this report, be sure to watch the upcoming WestEd Webinar on May 26, Recommendations for Addressing the Needs of English Language Learners: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

* To view this file, you'll need a copy of Acrobat Reader. Most computers already have it installed. If yours does not, you can download it now.

Book Review

Interactive Notebooks and English Language Learners: How to Scaffold Content for Academic Success
By Marcia Carter, Anita Hernandez, and Jeannine Richison

Educators often focus on the difficulties English language learners have with writing; however, writing can also be a vehicle for learning, especially if the format is an interactive notebook. Carter, Hernandez, and Richison define an interactive notebook as "a self-created, teacher-directed collection of notes taken for the purpose of commentary, comparison, illustration, review, and response and compiled in an organized spiral notebook (or binder section) that students use for their own reference and study" (pp. 3-4). The format is similar to that of a double-entry journal — students take notes or post handouts on the right-hand pages and use the left-hand pages for their own reactions to the posted material. This allows ELLs to interact with content material in a way that promotes understanding and helps build academic vocabulary. If you're interested in using interactive notebooks in your own classroom, you'll find all the information you need to get started in this very useful guide.

Carter, M., Hernandez, A., & Richison, J. (2009). Interactive notebooks and English language learners: How to scaffold content for academic success. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Purchase book from Amazon.com* >>

Proceeds from the sale of books purchased at Amazon.com help support Colorín Colorado.

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In the Classroom

Bright Ideas that Work

Poetry in the ELL Classroom

One of the wonderful things about poetry is its versatility, which makes it a great form to use in the ELL classroom. This month, Colorín Colorado offers two articles about ways to use poetry with ELLs!

  • Part I: Introducing and Reading Poetry with English Language Learners

    Part I offers some ideas on how to introduce poetry to ELLs and integrate it with reading instruction, as well as some ideas for reading poetry aloud in a way that will encourage oral language development.

  • Part II: Writing Poetry with English Language Learners

    Part II discusses strategies for writing poetry with ELLs, presents an overview of poetry forms that can be used effectively in writing lessons, and suggests some ideas for ways to share student poetry.

Achieving Success: From the Heart

Amber Prentice is a middle school ELL teacher in St. Paul, Minnesota. Amber, who is a member of the American Federation of Teachers ELL Cadre, has taken an active role as a leader in her school and district on a number of issues, including supporting refugee students. She also was selected by the AFT to train female teacher-trainers in Yemen as part of a special professional development program.

We had the opportunity to visit Amber's classroom last fall. In this From the Heart interview that followed our visit, she discusses how she supports students with a wide range of educational backgrounds, offers some tips for schools with growing refugee population, and explains why the AFT program in Yemen is so important in empowering a new generation of educators and girls.

Frequently Asked Questions

School divisions in many areas of the country are experiencing increased ELL enrollment, and teachers in those school divisions are eager for information on how to address the needs of a diverse population. If you are interested in learning more about ESL teaching methodologies, you may want to explore the following FAQ:

Find the answers to these and many other Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching ELLs on Colorín Colorado.

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Beyond the Classroom

ELLs in the News

This month, we are introducing a new feature highlighting recent stories about English language learners and their families in the headlines. If you are interested in following ELL stories on a daily or weekly basis, sign up for an RSS feed or weekly email!

Supreme Court Weighs ELL Funding

This month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the first case about services for English-language learners since 1973. Numerous news outlets and blogs followed the arguments presented to the court; Mary Ann Zehr offers a summary of the coverage in her Learning the Language blog at Education Week.

College Board Steps into the Immigration Debate

This article from The Los Angeles Times discusses The College Board's decision to support the DREAM Act, legislation that would offer some undocumented youths a path to citizenship through college or the military. The L.A. Times reports, "The association best known for the SAT and AP tests it administers is stepping into the contentious issue for the first time, just as President Obama is signaling that he may encourage lawmakers to overhaul immigration laws this year."

A Family Divided by 2 Words, Legal and Illegal

As part of its special series on immigration, The New York Times profiled this Ecuadorian family, whose immigration status has divided the family in complex and painful ways. The article highlights the tension between the older sister, who came to this country as a child and is still undocumented, and her brother, who was born in the country and is a U.S. citizen. This article offers insightful context for renewed discussion about the DREAM Act, reintroduced in Congress this year.

Book of the Month

Animal Poems of the Iguazú/Animalario del Iguazú
By Francisco X. Alarcón
Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez

Inspired by a visit to the Iguazú National Park in South America, Francisco X. Alarcón celebrates its animals, skies, waterfalls, and more in these short and vibrant bilingual poems. Each page holds pulsating paintings that swirl and move, further vivifying each poem. This book is a perfect selection for poetry lessons and discussions about the environment.

In a Word: Collaborative Writing

This month's glossary term refers to an instructional approach in which students work together to plan, draft, revise, and edit compositions.

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* To view this file, you'll need a copy of Acrobat Reader. Most computers already have it installed. If yours does not, you can download it now.

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