Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Superman" Documentary Draws Praise, Controversy

Education Week (8/30, Aarons) reported, "Well in advance of its official release, the education film 'Waiting For 'Superman' has attracted a level of attention that could make it one of the year's most-watched documentaries-and one of the most controversial among educators, some of whom question its depictions of the American school system and how to improve it." According to Education Week, some educators "see the film as cheerleading for charter schools and putting teachers' unions in an unfairly negative light. Its descriptions of teacher tenure have been criticized by teacher bloggers and others, as has the fact the students featured are looking toward nontraditional public schools as the cure for their education ills." NEA Executive Director John I. Wilson said that the movie was inspiring, but added that "when you give the impression that charter schools are the panacea for allowing kids to escape from public schools, I think that's unfair."

Cincinnati Parents Raise Concern Over Rushed Lunch Period

The Cincinnati Enquirer (8/30, Brown) reported, "The Enquirer talked to parents in districts across Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky who claim that by the time their children get into the cafeteria and get their food, they have as little as 14 minutes to eat, leading many to throw food away, bring it home mostly untouched or rely on vending machine fare. With the help of Parents for Public Schools, more than a dozen Cincinnati Public School parents have been bringing their concerns with increasing regularity to school board meetings." According to the Inquirer, the parents "researched health studies and even drafted sample resolutions in their push for a districtwide policy requiring at a 30-minute lunch period."

School Districts' Creative Budgeting Approaches Noted

Investopedia (8/30, Folger) reported that all US school systems "struggle with budgeting and finding the money that is necessary to providing high-quality education and a positive work environment for the dedicated teachers and staff." Some districts "are taking a creative approach to budgeting" in an effort to achieve those goals. This year, for instance, some schools are asking parents to purchase janitorial supplies, "copy paper, construction paper...and other arts and crafts items typically provided by the school." In California, meanwhile, one school has started requesting "donations from parents when children miss school for absences such as family vacations. During the 2008-2009 school year, this district received $20,217 in donations."

Monday, August 30, 2010

English Language Learner Teaching Strategies That WorkProven strategies to improve English language learners' success.

While a wide variety of subject-specific strategies can be used to improve English language learners' success, the following checklist offers proven strategies for any classroom.

  • Visual Aids
    Visual aids give ELL students visual cues that may help clarify meaning and solidify learning. Visual aids should be clear and reproduced for ELL students, whenever possible.

  • Hands-On Activities
    Where appropriate, hands-on activities help ELL students connect with classroom content. Processes that can be experienced or observed make learning more concrete.

  • Sufficient Wait Time
    ELL students need additional time to formulate their answers in English. Some may still be translating their first language into English, others may need time to find the appropriate words. By pausing after a question is asked, everyone, English proficient students included, has time to think about the question before responding.

  • Modeled Spoken Language
    Refrain from correcting your students spoken language. Instead, model the proper usage in a restatement. For example, if a student says "No understand." You might reply, "You don't understand? Okay." Students may occasionally ask to be corrected; but as a rule, it is best to leave corrections to the written word. In this case, be sure to balance positive feedback with corrections.

  • Lesson Outlines
    Teacher-prepared outlines or notes can help ELL students follow along in class. Alternately, you may ask another student to share his or her notes with the ELL student. You may also choose to give the student information regarding the teaching plan and objectives so that they may have an easier time following along.

  • Skim and Scan
    Directly teach ELL students reading strategies that will enhance their reading skills. Skimming, scanning and even outlining chapters in the textbook are excellent pre-reading strategies that can help students preview material prior to reading. They can also engage in other strategies such as predicting chapter content from headings, creating vocabulary lists, writing responses, and summarizing.

  • Respect the Silent Phase
    Most second language learners go through a silent phase. Forcing a student to speak may make them embarrassed and overly self-conscious. In a worst case scenario, other students may laugh them at them. While your intention may be to give them practice, this technique very well may backfire.

Read more about it...

Aardvark's English-Forum
This site is packed with information for student of English and teachers of ESL students. Here you will find a teacher's message board, links to activities and interactive Web sites, reference materials, grammar teaching resources, and other materials.

Internet TESL Journal
This monthly Internet journal provides articles, links, activities, and lesson plans for the ESL teacher. In existence since 1995, the archives provide a wealth of information for your classroom.

Texas Center for Bilingual/ESL Education
Developed by the Texas Education Agency, this site contains extensive professional development materials for teachers of ESL and bilingual education. Within the materials, you will find information about teaching ELL students in core competency areas.

That's a lot of tweets

Have you ever sent out a "tweet" on the Twitter social media service? If so, your message will now be housed in the U.S. Library of Congress. This spring, Twitter announced the donation of its entire digital archive of public tweets. Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets per day from people around the world. The Library will receive all public tweets--which number in the billions--from the 2006 inception of the service to the present. To learn more, read this article from the Library of Congress's Information Bulletin.

Teachers and students go back to school with Thinkfinity has just released a new Back to School mini-site for educators packed with suggested resources for all of those key components that help set the tone for a successful school year: tools to support innovative uses of technology by students; tried and true cross-curricular lessons and activities; resources to help build community in the classroom; professional development opportunities and materials for educators; and information on staying connected with the Thinkfinity program and other Thinkfinity-using educators in the Thinkfinity Community. As always, all resources and professional development are offered free of charge. 

New to Thinkfinity? Or just need a quick update on the new Thinkfinity? Sign up today for the webinar, Captivate Students with Verizon Thinkfinity.

Internet kills print dictionary?

The digital version of the Oxford English Dictionary now gets 2 million hits a month from subscribers in the U.S. Officials of Oxford University Press say the current printed edition (a 20-volume set has 291,500 entries) has sold about 30,000 copies.

Most Americans are familiar with a dictionary first published in 1828 by
Noah Webster.

longest word in most English language dictionaries has to do with a lung condition.

The word believed to be the longest in the English language contains
1,913 letters.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Teachers Expected To Pay More Out Of Pocket For Classroom Expenses This Year (8/25, Yousuf) reports that the New York City Council this year scaled back its fund to reimburse teachers for classroom expenses by nearly 30 percent. "That breaks down to just $110 per teacher -- or roughly $4 per student per year." Consequently, teachers, who already dip into their own pockets to purchase items for the classroom, are likely to spend even more of their own funds. A national survey by Kelton Research shows that "a whopping 97 percent of teachers frequently dip into their own pockets to purchase necessary classroom supplies." On average, teachers spent more than $350 of their own money last year. Al Campos of the National Education Association noted, "They're not required to, but teachers will pay out of their own pockets to make sure their students have the supplies they need to receive a quality education."

California To Delay Monthly Payments To Schools, Counties Beginning Next Month

The AP (8/24) reports that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and the state controller and treasurer announced in a letter Monday that they will "delay $2.9 billion a month in payments to school districts and counties" beginning in September "so the state can meet debt and pension obligations." The delay was originally expected to happen in October, and it "came on top of a July deferral of $2.5 billion for schools and $700 million for counties."

Laptops Becoming Increasingly Popular As Classroom Tools

USA Today (8/24, Steinberg) reports laptops are becoming standard back-to-school supplies "for a growing number of families," and are becoming increasingly integral to some districts' curricula.  Michigan's Walled Lake Consolidated School District offers "a districtwide laptop program" that "starts in the sixth grade and incorporates technology in math, science, English and history lessons."  Most of the students' work is done on their computers, although they "also use 'smart boards' and electronic clickers to key in answers."  Officials there "say laptops improve grades, boost critical-thinking skills and increase collaboration among students."  And Michigan is not alone; Maine has been pursuing the goal of expanding classroom laptop use since 2000, and has set a goal of "a laptop for every student in grades 7 through 12 by 2013."


High School Renovated To Appeal To "Tech-Savvy" Students. The Miami Herald (8/23, McGrory, et al.) reported that the first day of school in Miami-Dade County, Florida "kicked off in some unconventional ways." At the new iPrep Academy in Miami, for instance, "classrooms are furnished with plush leather couches and decorated with large mirrors, retro lamps and colorful throw pillows." Students also "have access to the school iCafe, where they can purchase wraps, smoothies, and power bars," and "there's a Wii hooked up to a large flat screen TV." Moreover, each student at iPrep Academy gets and iBook. The academy "seeks to reinvent high school by making it relevant to today's tech-savvy teenagers."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chicago Public Schools Rolls Out Cyberbullying Policy

NBC Chicago (7/30, Wojciechowski) reports that Chicago Public Schools has rolled out a strict new policy on cyberbullying. The policy imposes "serious new sanctions for offenses that previously were outside the bounds of school discipline." Punishments include "mandatory suspensions, possible expulsions, and police investigations." NBC Chicago notes that "the new Student Code of Conduct treats cyberbullying offenses with the same severity as burglary, aggravated assault and other crimes."

Anti-Bullying Program Yields Positive Results For Massachusetts District

The Boston Globe (7/29, Travaglini) reported that Danvers school administrators plan to expand an anti-bullying program they say saw positive results "at the elementary schools last year." The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program was implemented at the elementary level in 2008. The program includes training for all school employees "on how to recognize bullying and ways to deal with it. ... Regular school-wide assemblies, classroom discussions on bullying and parent meetings on the topic were introduced as the final phase of the program." Its "success is measured in part by" a decline in the "number of reports of possible bullying incidents the school" received last year.

California BOE Votes To Adopt National Standards

The Los Angeles Times (8/3, Blume) reports that the California BOE "unanimously adopted common national academic standards" which "are to ultimately supplant California's current academic framework, which is widely viewed as among the best in the nation, although the same cannot be said of the results in the classroom." The Times adds that the vote by the California board "enhances the state's chances in its bid" for Race to the Top funding, and the "decision before the California board went right to the wire, with a federal deadline set for 1:30 p.m." on Monday "for states to vote on the standards, to qualify for added points in the Race to the Top competition."


The AP (8/3) adds that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) "praised the board's unanimous vote Monday saying the standard's 'maintain California's high expectations and our belief that every student is capable of success in the classroom.' ... The board also voted to direct the state Education Department to create an implementation plan."


The Sacramento Bee (8/2, Lambert) added that California "school trustees praised the standards, which were molded to California's standards by a commission over six days last month. They said the standards are more focused than the previous standards and teach critical thinking instead of memorization." Catherine Gewertz also covered this story in a blog for Education Week (8/2).

New Documentary Focuses On Education Reform

Tom Marshall wrote in the St Petersburg Times (8/3) "Gradebook" blog that David Guggenheim, creator of the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," is directing a new documentary that focuses on education reform called "Waiting for Superman." DC Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee is in the documentary, as is Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone. Marshall added, "Judging from the trailer," Waiting for Superman makes an "emotion-laden call to action" similar to that of "An Inconvenient Truth," "just substitute Al Gore for a classroom's-worth of ambitious kids, angry parents, lagging Pisa scores, and a star-studded cast of national ed reformers."

Researchers Will Test Use Of iPads In K-8 Classrooms

T.H.E. Journal (8/3, Schaffhauser) reported, "Through a partnership with a large urban school district in Utah, a research project at the University of Cincinnati will experiment with the use of Apple iPads in K-8 classrooms. The initiative will test the use of 35 Apple iPads to collect educational research in a federally funded partnership to improve teacher quality in elementary math and science education." T.H.E. Journal added, "An overarching purpose for the project, however, is to help schools to become greener and reduce the amount of paper shuttled among researchers and stored for archival purposes."

Senate Approves Bill Aimed At Preventing Teacher Layoffs

The AP (8/6, Taylor) reports, "Congress is moving rapidly just weeks before the start of the school year to speed billions of dollars in emergency education aid to states in hopes of reversing the layoffs of tens of thousands of teachers." The AP adds that "some $10 billion in aid to school districts is set to flow after a 61-39 Senate vote Thursday -- to be followed quickly by a House vote next week -- in hopes that it will come in time for many school districts to reconsider teacher layoffs." The New York Times (8/6, Hulse) notes, that the $10 billion is meant "to retain teachers who might otherwise lose jobs to cutbacks."


Education Week (8/5, Klein) reports that language in the bill specifies "that the money would have to be used for salaries, benefits, and support services for school staff." School systems "also could use it to recall or rehire former staff members, or to bring on new employees for K-12 schools and early childhood programs."


The Los Angeles Times (8/6, Mascaro) reports that "the bill is paid for by the food stamp cuts, closing foreign tax loopholes, eliminating advance filing of a low-income tax credit that President Obama had sought to end, and trims in various other government programs." The Christian Science Monitor (8/6, Khadaroo), Washington Times (8/6, McLaughlin, Bloomberg News (8/6, Faler), Reuters (8/6, Lambert, Cowan) and KGO-TV San Francisco (8/5, Ishimaru) also covered this story.