November 2008

College application season is upon us, and so we thought we'd take a look this month at how ELL educators can support their students through the process.

Type of Newsletter: TELLEGRAM
Date: March, 2009

Dear Subscribers,

College application season is upon us, and so we thought we'd take a look this month at how ELL educators can support their students through the process. It's a confusing and complicated process for all students, but especially so for students who are recent immigrants to this country, who are learning English, and whose parents are new to the process as well. We provide some suggestions in our Bright Ideas article for getting ELLs on the path to college, in addition to ideas offered by an ELL teacher and a educational researcher in our featured interviews.

Along those lines, we also provide links to articles, reports, and our webcast about adolescent ELLs and academic success throughout the newsletter.

Don't miss our new retrospective article on language instruction in Native American communities by Dr. Catherine Collier, or the link to Sesame Street's bilingual resources for military families with young children.

We wish you a very happy and safe Thanksgiving — we are grateful for your continued support of Colorín Colorado!

The Colorín Colorado Team

Resources from Colorín Colorado

American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month

American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month takes place each November and is a great way to celebrate the traditions and cultures of the first Americans. Colorín Colorado salutes the rich history and culture of Native Americans with games, books, activities, and fun! Also, don't miss our American Indian Heritage booklist or the Reading Rockets Native American stories booklist.

New! Retrospective: Language Instruction in Native American Communities

This article about the evolution of language instruction in Native American communities over the past 30 years was written for Colorín Colorado by Dr. Catherine Collier, a leader in the fields of cross-cultural, bilingual, and special education. Dr. Collier currently is the director of CrossCultural Developmental Education Services (CCDES), a company offering support and professional development opportunities to community organizations, departments of education, school districts, teachers, and parents.

To learn more about Dr. Collier, read her From the Heart interview with Colorín Colorado!

Thanksgiving Tales

If you are looking for bilingual books to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, check out our booklist, Thanksgiving Tales, also available in Spanish. From The First Thanksgiving Feast, to Gracias, the Thanksgiving Turkey, Colorín Colorado has just the book you need to start a discussion about Thanksgiving in the classroom.

Back to Top

This month's highlights

Featured Articles

English language learners (ELLs) comprise the fastest-growing segment of the middle and high school population, with enrollments soaring in almost every part of the country. As a group, however, ELLs are among the country's lowest-performing students, scoring far below the national average on the reading portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Urgent but Overlooked: The Literacy Crisis Among Adolescent English Language Learners, an issue brief by the Alliance for Excellent Education, reviews the existing research on literacy instruction for adolescent ELLs and describes a number of challenges and priorities for policymakers to consider.

Explicit teaching of reading comprehension skills helps English language learners become successful readers in all of their content area subjects. See Reading Comprehension Strategies for Content Learning for a discussion of strategies that support effective comprehension instruction across the curriculum.

English Language Learners in Middle and High School, a Colorín Colorado webcast featuring Dr. Deborah Short, focuses on effective instructional strategies for teaching English language learner students in middle and high school. Dr. Short gives a thorough introduction to the challenges facing teachers of English language learners in middle and high school and discusses how to teach content to late-entry English language learners and how to ensure reading comprehension for success in all content areas.

Back to Top

Research and Reports

Many English-language learners face the risk of not being able to go to college because they cannot pass the assessments required for high school graduation. The Maryland State Board of Education recently took a look at high school assessment requirements in their state, which will take effect for the first time with this year's senior class. See the Baltimore Sun article, Suffering Test Anxiety, for a discussion of how Maryland is addressing this timely issue.

Resources about Secondary English Language Learners, published by the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition and Language Instruction (NCELA), is a valuable collection of resources designed for educators of secondary ELLs. It includes information on the characteristics and achievement of the secondary ELL population in the United States, as well as research on specific programs and strategies that have proven successful with secondary ELLs. Each resource can be accessed by clicking on a link within the NCELA document.

The Education Alliance at Brown University has published two reports that examine the parallels between research on the literacy development among adolescents and research on secondary English language learners. Meeting the Literacy Development Needs of Adolescent English Language Learners through Content Area Learning, Part 1* focuses on motivation and engagement as factors in literacy development while Part 2* focuses on strategies that support literacy development in the content area classroom. Both are filled with useful information on research-based strategies that teachers can use to help all of their secondary-level students, both ELLs and native English speakers, become successful readers.

* 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

Academic Language for English Language Learners and Struggling Readers
By Yvonne S. Freeman and David E. Freeman

Many students struggle with reading in middle school and high school because they lack the academic language skills necessary for good comprehension. An excellent new book by Yvonne and David Freeman addresses this issue by using recent research as a context for discussing academic language instruction in the content area classroom. What distinguishes this book from many other discussions of academic English is that it focuses not only on academic vocabulary, but also on academic language at the sentence, paragraph, and text level. The authors use examples from their own experience with struggling readers, both English language learners and native English speakers, to illustrate how academic language development can be a meaningful part of content area instruction at the secondary level. Some of the topics included are: distinguishing between academic and social English, evaluating content-area textbooks, developing language-related objectives for the content area classroom, and teaching academic writing across the curriculum.

Freeman, Y. & Freeman, D. (2008). Academic language for English language learners and struggling readers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Books.

Read a sample of the book, as well as a student essay the authors use to illustrate the importance of academic language, on the Heinemann Website.

Back to Top

In the Classroom

Bright Ideas that Work

Getting Ready for College: What ELL Students Need to Know

For ELLs, the challenges of going to college and learning about the many intricacies of the process can be overwhelming, but their teachers can play an important role by helping students prepare for and navigate the application process. This month's Bright Ideas article offers some great ideas for ways that you can support ELLs as they consider their future plans.

For more ideas, take a look at Getting ELLs on the College Track, an interview with one of Colorín Colorado's advisors.

Frequently Asked Questions

With high school students who are struggling readers, finding instructional resources is sometimes one of the most difficult challenges a teacher faces. Often, books that are at an appropriate reading level seem too childish for secondary students. For some ideas on where to find appropriate books for older English language learners, you may want to explore the following FAQ:

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

Achieving Success: From the Heart

Dr. Frances Contreras is an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington in the College of Education in Leadership and Policy Studies. Dr. Contreras presently researches issues of equity and access for underrepresented students in the education pipeline. She addresses transitions between K-12 and higher education, community college transfer, faculty diversity, affirmative action in higher education, and the role of the public policy arena in higher education access for underserved students of color.

In this interview with Colorín Colorado, Dr. Contreras discusses her forthcoming book, The Latino Education Crisis: The Consequences of Failed Social Policies (co-authored with Patricia Gándara), as well as her current research with Latino middle and high school students in Washington State.

You can learn more about Dr. Contreras in our Meet the Experts podcast!

Back to Top

Beyond the Classroom

Book of the Month

Mama, Do You Love Me?
By Barbara M. Joosse
Illustrated by Barbara Lavallee

Mama, Do You Love Me? tells the story of a young Inuit girl trying to find out how much her mother loves her. Beautiful illustrations of Alaska and the characters convey the cultural richness of this timeless story. A Spanish edition is also available.

In a Word: primary language

This month's glossary term refers to the language in which bilingual/multilingual speakers are most fluent, or which they prefer to use. This is not necessarily the language first learned in life. See also dominant language.

From Sesame Street: Bilingual Resources for Military Families

In recognition of the contributions made by the United States Armed Forces, Sesame Workshop presents this bilingual educational outreach initiative designed for military families and their young children to share. Resources include, videos, parent information, and a facilitator guide — all available in English and Spanish.

Back to Top

About the Colorín Colorado T·ELL·E-GRAM and

The ¡Colorín Colorado T·ELL·E-GRAM is a free monthly electronic newsletter from, created and sustained thanks to support from the American Federation of Teachers.

If you received this message from a friend, you too can subscribe to the Colorín Colorado T·ELL·E-GRAM.

Want to share this information with someone else? Tell a friend about the ¡Colorín Colorado T·ELL·E-GRAM.

We've made a few changes to and this newsletter. What do you think? Do you have comments, questions, suggestions, or contributions? Contact us and let us know.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Back to Top