January 2009

Strong technology skills are a must for students in today's classrooms, and English language learners are no exception.

Type of Newsletter: TELLEGRAM
Date: March, 2009

Dear Subscribers,

Happy New Year! At Colorín Colorado, we have had a busy start to 2009, planning for many new resources and features this year. Be sure to keep checking back periodically to see what has been added!

In the meantime, feel free to keep in touch with questions, concerns or suggestions.

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


The Colorín Colorado Team

This month's highlights

Featured Articles

Strong technology skills are a must for students in today's classrooms, and English language learners are no exception. In fact, technology can open the door to success for ELLs, both in language development and in content area learning. Unfortunately, teachers are often at a loss as to how they can help their ELLs develop the technology skills they need. In 21st Century Learners: ELL Students and Technology, Kristina Robertson reviews several recent studies on ELLs and technology and offers detailed teaching strategies for using technology in the ELL classroom.

As discussed in recent reports from both NPR and the Detroit Metro Times, the number of Iraqi refugees settling in the U.S. has steadily grown since 2007, when the State Department increased the number of Iraqis who could be admitted to this country each year. Like most refugees, the Iraqis who come to the U.S. are fleeing political, social, and even religious persecution. As portrayed so vividly in the interviews included in these two reports, they often arrive with very few resources, relying on hard work and the support of their new communities to make a life for themselves. Clearly, schools have a major role to play in providing community support for these families. For further discussion of the challenges facing refugee children and their families, as well as suggestions for ways that you can help, see the Colorín Colorado article, How to Support Refugee Students in the ELL Classroom.

For more information on the experience of Iraqi students in Jordan and Syria in recent years, take a look at the Education Week 2007 series, The Lost Years: Iraqi Students in Jordan.

The average native English speaker enters kindergarten knowing at least 5,000 words. The average ELL may know 5,000 words in his or her native language, but very few words in English. While native speakers continue to learn new words, ELLs face the double challenge of building a foundation in English proficiency and then closing the gap with native speakers. Vocabulary Development provides a discussion of effective strategies for teaching the academic vocabulary that will help ELLs begin to close that gap.

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Research and Reports

Just out this month is Education Week's Quality Counts 2009 report, which focuses for the first time on English language learners. Produced in partnership with the Pew Center on the States, Portrait of a Population: How English Language Learners are Putting Schools to the Test, provides a comprehensive look at state education policies and their impact on ELLs' achievement. The report includes detailed, state-specific data on funding for ELL programs, teacher preparation standards, instructional programs, and student outcomes. There are also articles on a variety of topics related to ELLs, including assessment, immigration, state policies, current research, and teacher preparation. A highlight of the report is a series of student profiles, featuring ELL students from around the world. This report is a must-read for anyone who works with English language learners.

Center for American Progress has just published a report that supports expanded learning time as a way of improving learning outcomes for English language learners. A Race Against the Clock: The Value of Expanded Learning Time for English Language Learners (Lazarín, 2008) recommends that learning time be increased by at least 30% to allow ELLs an opportunity to catch up to their native English speaking peers, both in content knowledge and in academic vocabulary. The article includes descriptions of how five different schools have increased learning time by extending the school day and reorganizing the class schedule to expand math and English language arts blocks. The summary of the report is also available in Spanish.

Book Review

When English Language Learners Write: Connecting Research to Practice, K-8
By Katherine Davies Samway

In this very accessible guide to writing instruction for ELLs, Samway begins by rejecting what she calls the "deficit views and myths" associated with English language learners and writing, that is, that ELLs have difficulty writing, that they are reluctant to write, and that they need lots of instruction in the mechanics of writing before being allowed to write on their own. Instead, Samway suggests that writing instruction for ELLs should be based on the same research-based methods used successfully with native English speakers. The book includes a discussion of current research on second-language writing, placed in the context of overall writing research. There are also chapters on the effect of gender, race, ethnicity, and social class on writing; the interconnectedness of reading and writing; the use of reflective writing (e.g., journal writing and log writing) with ELLs; and the effect of environment on ELLs' writing. Samway also includes case studies of five young ELLs, describing their writing development and their understanding of the writing process. Throughout the book, there are clear, concise descriptions of hundreds of practical, easy-to-implement strategies that teachers can immediately put into place in their own classrooms.

Samway, K. D. (2006). When English language learners write: Connecting research to practice, K-8. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Books.

Purchase book from Amazon.com* >>

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In the Classroom

Bright Ideas that Work

Five Things Teachers Can do to Improve Learning for ELLs in 2009!

This Bright Ideas article recommends five specific and measurable actions teachers can implement to assist ELL learning in 2009. All of the strategies have been featured on the Colorín Colorado website, and the Hotlinks section has links to helpful articles and websites for further support.

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Beyond the Classroom

Book of the Month

Home of the Brave
By Katherine Applegate

Home of the Brave, written in free verse, tells the story of Kek, an eleven-year-old boy from the Sudan who arrives as a refugee to Minnesota in the middle of winter. The novel follows his stages of assimilation, from seeing snow for the first time to arriving at his school and ESL class, and all of his adventures in between.

The Teacher's Guide for Home of the Brave* includes discussion questions, activities on idioms and language, and web resources about the war in Sudan. Highly recommended for ELL educators and students. Appropriate for grades 4-12.

* 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.

In a Word: Indirect Vocabulary Learning

This month's glossary term refers to vocabulary learning that occurs when students hear or see words used in many different contexts — for example, through conversations with adults, being read to, and reading extensively on their own.

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About the Colorín Colorado T·ELL·E-GRAM and ColorinColorado.org

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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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