February has been another busy month for Colorín Colorado! We recently attended the conference of the National Association for Bilingual Education, where we had the opportunity to meet educators from around the country who are working with English language learners and their families.
While many educators know our website, there are many who haven't used it before, so please be sure to spread the word to your colleagues and students' parents about all of the resources Colorín Colorado has to offer!
In addition, keep in mind that the free materials on Colorín Colorado are available for professional development, staff training, and parent outreach, and we welcome their use by educators and parents. If you have questions about the use of our materials, please feel free to send us an email with your questions.
For those of you tracking the stimulus package and its impact on education, don't miss Education Week's new section on the stimulus with in-depth coverage of the legislation. Also be sure to take a look at the From the Heart conversation with Mary Ann Zehr from Education Week, and to watch the clips of our new video interview with author and illustrator Lulu Delacre.
All the best,
The Colorín Colorado Team
Celebrate Read Across America Day!
Read Across America Day is the nation's largest reading event, occurring each year on or near Dr. Seuss's birthday (March 2nd). Our sister site, Reading Rockets, is a national partner of NEA's
Read Across America project. To help mark the event at your school, they have created some resources you can use to celebrate reading on Read Across America Day and every day!
Education Week: Schools and the Stimulus
If you're wondering how the new stimulus bill will affect schools and districts around the country, take a look at Education Week's in-depth coverage featured in its Schools and the Stimulus section. This section includes the latest news from the local, state, and national level, as well as blogs, polls, commentaries, data, and forum discussions.
To read more about how stimulus spending may potentially affect ELLs, take a look at Mary Ann Zehr's blog posting, ELLs and the Stimulus Package.
What student wouldn't love to create his or her own original podcast? Creating Podcasts with Your Students (Vincent, 2008) guides you through each step in the process, including preproduction, recording, postproduction, and publishing. Along the way, your students will have lots of opportunities to develop their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills in English.
Television can be a great way for young English language learners to hone their English skills. See Using Children's Television to Learn Literacy and Language for ideas on how quality children's programs can enhance English language development and build the foundation skills that children need in order to learn to read.
Are you looking for a creative way to help your English language learners increase their speaking and reading fluency? The website Repeat After Us offers a huge selection of recorded texts that allow students to read along with a native English speaker. Selections range from nursery rhymes to famous quotations, and students can even record their own reading! Contents are organized by author, by genre, by title, and by difficulty level (beginning, intermediate, advanced).
Research and Reports
The U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has just published a new report on the relationship between English language proficiency and performance on content area assessments. New Measures of English Language Proficiency and their Relationship to Performance on Large-scale Content Assessments (2009) reports the findings of a study designed to determine whether students' performance on an English proficiency assessment (ACCESS for ELLs) could predict their performance on a large-scale content assessment (the New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAP). Researchers found (a) that the English language domains of reading and writing were significant predictors of performance on reading, writing, and mathematics content assessments in fifth and eighth grades and (b) that reading and writing were stronger predictors of content area performance than the oral language skills of speaking and listening.
These findings are important because they demonstrate that the English proficiency assessments that schools depend upon to guide placement and instruction for their English language learners can, indeed, be effective for that purpose, and they can also help schools identify students who may have difficulty on large-scale content assessments. In addition, these findings point teachers and administrators to the types of proficiency tasks that are the best indicators of students' performance in content area subjects (i.e., reading and writing tasks as opposed to listening and speaking tasks).
ACCESS for ELLs, the English proficiency assessment used in the IES study, was created by the World-Class Instructional Design (WIDA) Consortium, a consortium of states created to develop research-based standards and assessments for use with English language learners. ACCESS for ELLs is based on WIDA's English Language Proficiency Standards for PreK through 12th grade, which can be accessed on the WIDA website. The website also offers a variety of other resources, including "CAN DO Descriptors," which are descriptions of reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills associated with specific levels of English language proficiency.
Research-Based Methods of Reading Instruction for English Language Learners: Grades K-4
By Sylvia Linan-Thompson and Sharon Vaughn
In 2006, the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth reported that "instruction that provides substantial coverage in the key components of reading — identified by the National Reading Panel (NICHD, 2000) as phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension — has clear benefits for language-minority students" (August & Shanahan, 2006, p. 3). Research-Based Methods of Reading Instruction for English Language Learners: Grades K-4 is a practical and accessible guide to reading instruction for ELLs that is organized around these five key components. The authors begin each section with a clear description of why instruction in that particular component is important and what that instruction should look like. The book includes descriptions of more than 60 lessons that can be adapted for many different levels of instruction, as well as a very useful glossary of terms related to literacy and English language learning. Clearly written and well-organized, this book would be equally useful to veteran reading teachers and teachers who are exploring reading instruction for the first time.
Linan-Thompson, S. & Vaughn, S. (2007). Research-based methods of reading instruction for English language learners: Grades K-4. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
* Proceeds from the sale of books purchased at Amazon.com help support Colorín Colorado.
In the Classroom
Working with Community Organizations to Support ELL Students
When building a support network for English language learners, community organizations can play a valuable role and offer resources that schools may not have at their disposal in order to work with ELLs and their families. This article offers ideas on ways that schools can collaborate with community organizations in support of ELLs.
Mary Ann Zehr is an assistant editor at Education Week. She has written about the schooling of English-language learners for more than nine years and understands through her own experience of studying Spanish that it's difficult to learn a second language. As one of the only journalists covering ELL issues on a national level, Ms. Zehr's Learning the Language blog tackles policy questions, explores learning innovations, and shares stories about different cultural groups and subgroups of ELL students, such as refugees.
In this interview with Colorín Colorado, Ms. Zehr discusses her blog and the trends she has observed in the ELL field. She also talks about the new Quality Counts 2009 report, "Portrait of a Population: How English-Language Learners are Putting Schools to the Test," to which she contributed.
Strong vocabulary skills are vital, not only for oral language proficiency, but also for reading and writing in English. One of the best ways to help your ELLs increase vocabulary is through thematic instruction, or instruction that is organized around a central theme. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, explore the following FAQ:
Find the answers to these and many other Frequently Asked Questions about teaching ELLs on Colorín Colorado.
Beyond the Classroom
Rafi and Rosi: Carnival!
Written and Illustrated by Lulu Delacre
It's time for Carnival! Three short stories in this Easy Reader present the adventures shared by Rafi and Rosi, charming and mischievous young tree frogs who are brother and sister and live in Puerto Rico.
The stories include young Rosi dressing up in "Queen for a Day," as well as Rafi's "magical" periscope, used to watch the Carnival parade. Spanish version also available.
Lulu Delacre: Excerpts from Video Interview
Lulu Delacre is an acclaimed Latina author and illustrator who has published numerous children's books, including the February Book of the Month, Rafi and Rosi: Carnival! Colorín Colorado recently had the opportunity to interview Lulu about her experiences growing up in Puerto Rico, as well as her work.
In these video clips, Lulu reads aloud from Rafi and Rosi: Carnival!, and describes the inspiration behind her beloved characters Rafi and Rosi. She also discusses how she got started publishing collections of Latin American nursery rhymes, how songs and games can help build early literacy skills, and the importance of maintaining connections to one's heritage. (The full interview will be available online in the spring.)
Getting Ready to Read: Family Activities
There are many activities that parents can share with their children at home in order to strengthen reading and language skills! These articles in English and Spanish offer an overview of some of those activities, as well as specific ideas parents can try at home. Teachers are welcome to share articles with parents.
This month's glossary term refers to the ability to read a text accurately and with proper expression and comprehension. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding words, they can focus their attention on what the text means.
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