December 2008

One of the most important gifts parents can give their children is their time and love. A great way to do this is through sharing books and stories together, and Colorín Colorado offers a number of ideas to help parents get started!

Type of Newsletter: TELLEGRAM
Date: March, 2009

Dear Subscribers,

As the year winds down, we want to thank you for your continued use of Colorín Colorado's resources, as well as your input, suggestions, and support.

All the best to you and yours during this holiday season and for 2009!


The Colorín Colorado Team

This month's highlights

Holiday Booklists and Resources

The holidays are upon us! This is a great time of year to think about special celebrations, family traditions, classic stories, and holiday fun. One of the most important gifts parents can give their children is their time and love. A great way to do this is through sharing books and stories together, and Colorín Colorado offers a number of ideas to help parents get started! This article is available in English and Spanish.

See article in English >>
See article in Spanish >>

Bilingual holiday books

Colorín Colorado presents some holiday books to share with your students. The list includes books in Spanish and English, as well bilingual books.

See booklist in English >>
See booklist in Spanish >>

For more holiday children's book suggestions in English, take a look at these Reading Rockets' holiday booklists:

New! From Our Learning Store

Teaching Reading to English Language Learners, Grades 6-12

No longer confined to just a few states, English Language Learners are now present in schools and school districts across the country. Teaching Reading to English Language Learners, Grades 6-12 provides a comprehensive and systematic framework for developing literacy skills and accelerating language development. With funding from the Carnegie Corporation and the U.S. Department of Education, author Margarita Calderón has developed a research-based approach to expediting reading comprehension that results in higher test scores, not just for ELLs, but for all students.

Parent Articles

You may be interested in sharing these articles with parents in the new year!

School Attendance: A Key to Success

This article suggests some things parents can do to help their children make the most of each school day, and to ensure their children don't fall behind when a school absence necessary. The article is available in English and Spanish.

See article in English >>
See article in Spanish >>

New Year's Resolution: Help Your Kids Do Well in School This Year

This article offers parents some ideas for ways they can support their children's school success during the upcoming New Year! The article is available in English and Spanish.

See article in English >>
See article in Spanish >>

Featured Articles

Good comprehension instruction takes place before, during, and after reading a text. This is true for both fiction and non-fiction text. See the Classroom Strategies page on our sister sitee,, for a comprehensive list of strategies for each phase of the comprehension lesson. For each strategy, there is a detailed description of how to implement that strategy, and in many cases, links are provided to other sites that provide additional information.

Background knowledge is vitally important to good reading comprehension. One way that we can support ELLs' comprehension is by including texts that represent familiar concepts and situations from the students' own cultures. Culturally Responsive Instruction for Holiday and Religious Celebrations, by Cynthia Lundgren and Giselle Lundy-Ponce, offers some great ideas for bringing cultural content into the classroom in a way that increases all students' knowledge and interest while at the same time being respectful of the culture being featured.

As you teach content areas to ELLs of diverse backgrounds, you may find that they struggle to grasp the content, and that they approach the content from very different perspectives. Drawing on your students' background knowledge and experiences can be an effective way to bridge those gaps and to make the content more accessible. Connect Students' Background Knowledge to Content in the ELL Classroom offers a number of suggestions to classroom teachers as they find ways to tap into the background knowledge that students bring with them.

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Research and Reports

The Online Event Archives on WestEd's Schools Moving Up page include an excellent selection of webcasts related to teaching both ELLs and native speakers. Ninety different topics are represented, including:

  • using formative assessments to improve achievement
  • reading science for understanding in middle school and high school
  • building oral language development into content area teaching, and
  • adapting a K-12 reading model for middle and high schools.

Originally designed as interactive online webinars, these presentations are now archived and can be accessed either as video presentations or as audio recordings. You may also go to WestEd's Online Events page to participate in upcoming interactive webinars, including two presentations on Response to Intervention scheduled for February 2009.

The What Works Clearinghouse has just published a report on the effectiveness of several interventions currently being used to address the problem of school dropout. The report evaluates school- and community-based interventions for their effectiveness in three separate areas: keeping students in school, helping students progress in school, and helping students finish school. One intervention that received a positive review is called ALAS (Achievement for Latinos through Academic Success).* According to the report, this program, which includes family, school, and community components, was found to have positive effects on both staying in school and progressing in school.

Double the Work: Challenges and Solutions to Acquiring Language and Academic Literacy for Adolescent English Language Learners, by Deborah Short and Shannon Fitzsimmons, identifies six major challenges to improving adolescent ELLs' literacy achievement:

  1. Lack of Common Criteria for Identifying ELLs and Tracking Their Academic Performance
  2. Lack of Appropriate Assessments
  3. Inadequate Educator Capacity for Improving Literacy for ELLs
  4. Lack of Appropriate and Flexible Program Options
  5. Limited Use of Research-Based Instructional Practices
  6. Lack of a Strong and Coherent Research Agenda for Adolescent ELL Literacy.

The authors discuss all of these challenges in depth and recommend potential solutions for addressing each. Of particular interest are the detailed descriptions provided of programs and policies that actual schools or districts have put into place in order to address these challenges.

* 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

Reading Comprehension: Strategies for Independent Learners
By Camille Blachowicz and Donna Ogle

This practical but comprehensive guide to reading comprehension instruction begins with the question, "What do good comprehenders look like?" What follows are detailed descriptions of seven students, representing different ages and backgrounds, all of whom are skilled, successful readers. The authors use these descriptions as a basis for their definition of comprehension and as springboard for the rest of their discussion. The book includes chapters on: classrooms that support comprehension instruction, comprehension assessment, comprehending fiction, reading to learn information, vocabulary instruction, research skills, and studying and test taking. Each chapter is filled with strategies that teachers can implement in their own classrooms with both English language learners and native English speakers.

Blachowicz, C. & Ogle, D. (2008). Reading comprehension: Strategies for independent learners (2nd ed.). New York: The Guilford Press.

Purchase book from* >>

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

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In the Classroom

Bright Ideas that Work

Increasing ELL Student Reading Comprehension with Non-fiction Text

One of the most important skills students learn as they transition into middle and high school is how to get information from a non-fiction text. This skill can be especially challenging for ELLs, who may not have had much experience working independently with expository texts. December's Bright Ideas article offers ways that teachers can help ELLs work effectively with non-fiction texts and includes strategies for introducing components, structure, and purpose of expository texts.

Creating a College-Going Culture

Some English Language Learners may not know what to expect from the college application process, while others don't start thinking about college until their junior or senior year. One way to ensure that students are prepared to apply for college is to create a college-going culture in your school and across your district. This article offers some ideas for how to get started!

From the Heart: The Year in Review

This year, Colorín Colorado has had the opportunity to interview some wonderful educators in the ELL field. If you missed any of these articles, take a look at our From the Heart archive!

Latino Student Success: Providing the Right Learning Opportunities
Dr. Frances Contreras — Seattle, Washington

Helping Parents Become Partners
Ma'Lena Wirth — Baker City, Oregon

Filling in the Holes
Jacqueline Jules — Falls Church, Virginia

Good Instruction: The Key to ELLs' Success
Dr. Robin Scarcella — Irvine, California

Supporting Students and Educators
Dr. Catherine Collier — Ferndale, Washington

Building Bridges to the Future
Xiao-lin Yin-Croft — San Francisco, California

The Great Kabob: A Lesson in Mindful Teaching
Dr. Cynthia Lundgren — St. Paul, Minnesota

Drawing Inspiration from Her "Heroes and Sheroes"
Inés Millin Mevs — Miami, Florida

Making Reading Fun
Sarah Harbert - Indianapolis, Indiana

Getting Students Where They Need To Be
Toniann Jeffery — Litchfield Park, Arizona

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Beyond the Classroom

Book of the Month

The Storyteller's Candle
By Lucía González
Illustrated by Lulu Delacre

Many years ago, a wonderful thing happened in New York City — a librarian named Pura Belpré welcomed her fellow Puerto Ricans to the public library for the first time. Many had never entered the library before, and they hadn't realized that Pura was making an effort to include her Spanish-speaking neighbors in the library's activities by hosting bilingual story time and purchasing books in Spanish for the collection.

This is her story, told through the eyes of two young children who are introduced to the library and its treasures by Pura just before Christmas. Lulu Delacre's lovely illustrations evoke New York City at the time of the Great Depression, as well as the close-knit and vibrant Puerto Rican community that was thriving in El Barrio. Bilingual Spanish-English text.

In a Word: Monitoring Comprehension

This month's glossary term refers to the skill that allows students to recognize when they are understanding what they are reading and when they are not. Students who are adept at self-monitoring are able to use appropriate "fix-up" strategies to increase their comprehension.

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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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