Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Treasures -- LOL

Treasures (K-5)


click K-6



Holt (6-12)


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Teens Help Adults Pass California High School Exit Exam.

The Los Angeles Times (3/22, Cruz) reported that Brandy Rice was "one of 20 Compton Adult School students in a tutoring program for the California High School Exit Examination. The tutors weren't teachers, but teenagers from Palos Verdes High School," set in a wealthy "beach community on a hill." According to the Times, the "adults receiving tutoring...all have the same regret: They didn't get a high school diploma."

Learning English through science

This looks very exciting!

Learning English through science

Learning about snails

By Emily Charrier-Botts

Teachers and school administrators agree that science education has fallen by the wayside in favor of English and math development because of the heavy emphasis on passing state and federal tests created by the No Child Left Behind Act. There simply isn't time to teach everything.

A pilot program launched last year at El Verano Elementary School is attempting to kill two birds with one stone by merging science education with English language development through a new partnership between the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, the Exploratorium's Institute for Inquiry, the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation and the Vadasz Family Foundation. The goal is to develop English-language learners' vocabulary and language skills through engaging hands-on science inquiry. "I love the fact that you can address the English language development standards and the science standards in one lesson," said Louann Carlomagno, superintendent of the school district. "One of the biggest challenges is trying to fit a really rich education into the day ... There is power in integrating subjects."

The program involves creating open-ended opportunities for students to explore scientific concepts on their own without being required to follow predetermined steps. For example, third-graders at El Verano recently learned about light reflection, and instead of following a lesson plan, teacher Craig Madison handed out flashlights and mirrors and turned out the lights, allowing the students to explore the concept on their own. "We know kids are curious, we know they like to play," said Madison. "When they're allowed to discover things on their own, they really retain that."

Following the personal exploration, the students read about and discussed light reflection, learning specific vocabulary words to use when speaking about this new concept. Students then broke into groups and were asked to identify a specific question about light reflection like, for example, what happens if you bounce a light through a circle of hand mirrors.

"They get to decide on a question they want to investigate," Madison said. "They're taking ownership of their education."

After making an educated hypothesis on what the students' think might happen, they test out their assumption. All steps, including the inquiry, question and discovery, are compiled on a poster that outlines the students' findings. The final step is to give a presentation on their research to a younger class, developing both language and public speaking skills.

"It's fun. You can experience stuff you don't really know about," said 8-year-old Yubani Herrera, one of Madison's third graders. Herrera said his family speaks Spanish at home, but having to discuss and present his science projects has "helped me learn to speak English better at school because I have new words."

The San Francisco-based Exploratorium launched its Institute of Inquiry in 1972 to develop more exciting, hands-on science education to Bay Area schools. In 1995, the program went national and has helped create inquiry-based science curriculum, where students develop and answer their own questions at 700 school districts in 44 states and 10 countries. More recently, the Institute sought a school partner to explore the relationship between science and language development.

"(El Verano) is very, very focused on language development, so it was a natural match as we were interested in seeing how science impacts language development," said Lynn Rankin, director of the Institute of Inquiry.

The Institute worked with the school district to develop a three-year plan in which the program begins within a few classes and gradually grows both within El Verano and to other elementary schools within the district. Launched in January 2009, it began with four El Verano teachers taking a series of workshops hosted by the Exploratorium based on inquiry-based science curriculum.

"It's really on teachers' minds how best to get English language learners excited about science," said Fred Stein, science educator with the Institute of Inquiry. "The teachers really took ownership of developing this program."

Over three years, the core teachers are charged with continuing to develop inquiry-based lesson plans that combine both science and language developments. Those teachers will also be required to teach inquiry-based science curriculum to 24 El Verano teachers and 48 other teachers at Prestwood, Sassarini, Flowery and Dunbar elementary schools.

"I think having it expand to our other elementary schools is wonderful, our teachers are really excited about it," Carlomagno said. "It's a costly program but I think it's worth every penny."

The program is expected to cost $398,662 over three years, which includes Exploratorium salaries, teacher salaries, materials and evaluations. The costs are being covered through education grants for English language learners, the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation and the Vadasz Family Foundation. It was Vadasz Family Foundation founder Les Vadasz who first connected the school district and the Exploratorium, setting the entire program in motion.

"We brought the two organizations together and wonderful things happened," said Vadasz, who added his foundation is focused on supporting education. "I'm very satisfied with the program, but that's really minor. The fact that the school community is satisfied, that's what's really important."

The program will be reviewed annually, with a completely independent report conducted by the Inverness Research Associates. The results will be useful both to the school district and the Exploratorium, which hopes to utilize this program in other schools with a large population of English language learners. Although the program is new, so far El Verano has seen a largely positive response.

In a report about the first year of the project, Maite Ituri, principal of El Verano, wrote "We are in awe of the level of language and engagement the students demonstrated."

Madison said he too has been impressed at how his students have reacted to the increased focus on science education. "When you ask them what their favorite part of school is, besides recess and lunch, it's science," he said.

Could School Bus Ads Save School Budgets?

The Associate Press has published an article with that headline. For years I've been thinking this might be part of the solution. Click here to read the article.


ESL – Teaching Games

A bevy of teaching games designed for English Language Learners:


Friday, March 19, 2010

Solving Algebra on Smartphones

Research shows that a project to use the devices as teaching tools in some N.C. districts has had a measurable impact on student achievement in math.

By Michelle R. Davis

If North Carolina high school junior Katie Denton struggles with her Algebra 2 homework, she knows she's not on her own.

Denton can use her school-issued smartphone to send instant messages to her teacher or classmates for help. She can use the same device to connect to the Internet and post an algebra question on a school math blog. Or she can watch student- or teacher-created videos demonstrating algebra concepts on her smartphone screen.

Her math class is taking part in Project K-Nect, a grant-funded program that has adopted smartphones as teaching tools in some math classes in a handful of North Carolina school districts. Research on the program has shown a measurable effect on students' math achievement, and the organizers of Project K-Nect say students have driven the program to heights they never imagined.

"Most adults laughed at the idea that students would create a blog on solving linear equations," says Shawn Gross, the managing director for Digital Millennial Consulting, an educational technology consulting firm based in Arlington, Va., that oversees Project K-Nect. The first week of the program, students posted 75 video blogs on just such a math topic.

**Click here to read this story in its entirety**

Educators Embrace iPods for Learning

Unlike most of its counterparts around the country, Roswell High School is embracing iPods and other MP3 players as educational accessories.

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Roswell, Ga.

Students can use their iPod touches in plain sight in Mark Schuler's World History class at Roswell High School here. The portable devices and the telltale ear buds are also welcome in the hallways, library, and cafeteria.

Roswell officials, unlike most of their counterparts around the country, have changed their view of the MP3 players, seeing them less as contraband and more as educational accessories. Educators at the 2,400-student school in suburban Atlanta are hoping to put more content at students' fingertips and capture their interest by enlisting the digital tools today's teenagers have already mastered for social and leisure purposes.

"Five years ago iPods were banned, but we got overwhelmed with trying to discipline kids and fight the technology," says Edward Spurka, the principal of Roswell High. "Our philosophy here now is let them have it, ... so we've allowed all those resources out in the world to be on their person."

The school's pilot program, which integrates iPods into Advanced Placement classes and encourages appropriate applications for other lessons and activities across the curriculum, was introduced as part of Georgia's educational technology plan. The initiative, being rolled out in 60 high schools across the state, uses federal funding for hand-held technologies as a means of expanding access to and success in rigorous high school courses for underrepresented student groups.

"We thought this would be a great way to engage learners and deliver more-rigorous material to them," says Becky Chambers, who manages the AP program for the Georgia Department of Education. "Oftentimes, kids have technology but they don't use it for substantive work, only social media or for pleasure such as listening to music. They don't recognize the power of these devices to improve knowledge and skills."

The state program provides grants of up to $64,000 to districts—funded primarily from federal Enhancing Education Through Technology, or EETT, grants—to buy the portable devices and provide professional development and support services to teachers in AP courses.

Expanding Learning Time

The touch-screen devices—which are equipped with wireless Internet capability, play high-quality video, and can be equipped with any of thousands of free educational applications, or apps—have found favor in a number of schools across the country. First graders in Orange County, Calif., for example, are using iPods to record themselves reading aloud and retelling a story in their own words to demonstrate comprehension. In Springfield, Ill., teachers can create podcasts, or audio recordings, of lessons and provide links to related online resources that students can access at any time using their hand-held computers. And 3rd graders in Wells, Maine, are using iPods to preview exhibits at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art as they prepare their own podcasts related to a field trip.

At Roswell High, Schuler's students have round-the-clock access to the class Web site, where there are links to text resources, podcasts and notes from previous lectures, video clips on related topics, and details about assignments and exams. The students often take notes or compose drafts of essays on the miniature keypads using word-processing software and then send them to themselves via e-mail. Schuler gives multiple-choice quizzes on the devices, which then automatically calculate scores and provide data on students' knowledge of the content.

"With the [iPod] touches, I'm not bound to the 55 minutes of class time," he says. "They have expanded my time with students, and if they are willing to put in the work, they can learn at their own pace and easily find more information on their own."

When he sees students hunched over their iPods typing furiously, Schuler sometimes wonders if they are attending to classwork or something unrelated. Ultimately, he's learned to trust they will do the necessary work, generally a given among his high-achieving students, he says.

Cellphones vs. iPods

The experiment at Roswell is still limited to two classrooms—Schuler's as well as an English literature class—where students are issued iPods. But other teachers are finding ways to do similar activities using students' personal devices. Spurka and other administrators use their own iPods to document classroom observations and collect data on teachers' performance.

The iPod touches are appealing for educators and students alike because of their ease of use, the availability of free educational applications, and ready Internet access, according to Lisa Thumann, a senior specialist in technology education at Rutgers University's Busch Campus in Piscataway, N.J., where she teaches a class for educators who want to use the devices as teaching or administrative tools.

In Thumann's view, cellphones or smartphones offer more instructional options for teachers than MP3 players, because large numbers of middle and high school students have their own, and applications are adaptable across brands and types. While many students own MP3 players, it would be harder to coordinate lessons when some students have Apple's iPods while others have Sony's Walkman or Dell's Zune devices, Thumann says.

But the iPods and similar devices don't require costly data plans and, without telephone and texting capabilities or camera features, they tend to alleviate some of the concerns over cybersafety and inappropriate use that have made many school administrators prohibit cellphones in schools, according to Kathy Politis, the director of technology for the Fulton County school district, which includes Roswell High.

For officials in Georgia, the MP3 players provide the ideal solution for using mobile technology efficiently and effectively in schools.

"We've been struggling to move teacher instruction away from some of the more traditional approaches to formats that are more engaging for students," says Elizabeth Webb, the state's director of innovative academic programs. "We're giving them a great tool not only for them to be successful in high school, but when they get out in the real world."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lawmakers Question Whether NCLB Overhaul Addresses Issues Faced By Rural Schools.

    The New York Times (3/18, Dillon) reports, "Lawmakers who represent rural areas told Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a hearing Wednesday that [NCLB], as well as the Obama administration's blueprint for overhauling it, failed to take sufficiently into account the problems of rural schools, and their nine million students. ... In his testimony before the" Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, Duncan "argued that the administration's blueprint would solve some problems for rural schools, including one related to the No Child law's teacher-quality provisions."

        The Washington Post (3/18, Anderson) reports, "Senate Republicans raised questions Wednesday about whether President Obama's plan to turn around struggling schools would fly in rural America. ... But for the most part, Education Secretary Arne Duncan drew a positive reception from key lawmakers as he began pitching the administration's blueprint to rewrite" NCLB.

        Obama Administration Urged Not To Lower NCLB Accountability Mandates. The New York Times (3/18, A30) editorializes, "President Obama's blueprint for reworking [NCLB] has good ideas, but it doesn't have anything close to the rigor that the word 'blueprint' would suggest. Whether the president's plan will strengthen or weaken the program will depend on how the administration fleshes out the missing details - and how Congress rewrites the law." According to the Times, "Teachers' unions, state governments and other interest groups have long wanted to water down or kill off the provision of the law that requires the states to raise student performance - especially for poor and minority children - in exchange for federal money," and "Congress must resist" these efforts.

        NLCB Overhaul Seen As Opportunity For Bipartisan Cooperation. Time (3/17, Altman) reported, "When the bare-knuckled brawl over healthcare reform finally wraps up, and the Obama Administration pivots to less divisive topics, education reform may be one of the few issues capable of drawing bipartisan support. The Obama Administration's proposed overhaul of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) could resonate with Republicans, many of whom have been disappointed with the results of George W. Bush's signature education initiative." According to Time, "Obama's blueprint, which was sent to Congress March 15, sets forth an ambitious national standard -that by 2020, all students graduate high school ready for college or a career - but leaves the specifics on how to achieve this goal up to state and local authorities."

On My List – Blabberize

On My List – Blabberize    

Most of us are already using multimedia presentation software packages like PowerPoint, Photo Story, and Windows Movie Maker. Blabberize is a free, web-based program that you may not have heard of yet.

Blabberize is a really cool, interactive website. It is free. It looks like it could be used for most any grade and most any content area, and seems like it would be a natural fit for English Language Learners.

I haven't tried Blabberize yet, but it is definitely on my list of resources. I am planning on trying it out very soon. Teaching Tomorrow is a great blog with lots of cool ideas. Check out how Nicole used Blabberize in her class.


Survey: Students Want Mobile Devices in School

By Katie Ash

The new results of the annual Speak Up survey, which asks administrators, parents, students, and teachers about their views on technology, was released yesterday and it finds that students are increasingly harnessing the technological devices that they have at their disposal for educational purposes.

"Students are no longer waiting for policy changes within their schools, or
from Washington," said Julie Evans, the chief executive officer of Project Tomorrow, the organization that conducts the survey, in a press release. "Students want their voices heard by those making education policies, but we are now seeing them move beyond their attempts to share their needs with adults. They are taking the technology they have grown up with and using it to help them learn, inside and outside of the classroom."

In previous Speak Up surveys, the biggest obstacle to using technology in school cited by students was "school filters and firewalls." This year, students in grades 6-12 identified the top obstacle as "I cannot use my own cellphone, smartphone, or MP3 player in school." However, 67 percent of teachers believe that such mobile devices will distract students from learning in class, and roughly half of teachers are worried about providing equal access to portable tech tools for all students.

Many of the themes identified in this year's survey are covered in detail in Technology Counts 2010, Education Week's annual report about the status of educational technology, which was released online today. The report examines the increasing use of mobile devices for learning.


More School Districts Seek To Generate Revenue Via Website Advertising.

USA Today (3/18, Martin) reports, "A growing number of school districts facing budget cuts are looking to advertising on their websites as a new revenue source. School districts in Virginia and Arizona already have ads on their official sites, while officials at districts in South Dakota, Wisconsin and California say they are planning to place ads soon." USA Today adds that the "130,000-student San Diego Unified School District has lost about 25% of its revenue in the past three years because of state budget cuts, says chief district relations officer Bernie Rhinerson," and officials in that district "are developing a plan they believe could generate at least $100,000 annually by selling ads, he says."


Elementary School’s Roof Coating Expected to Reduce Energy Costs

California's Mercury News (3/18, Richards) reports that on the surface of the roof on Las Juntas Elementary School is "an 'engineered coating' designed by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory scientists to better deflect solar heat and light back into the sky rather than into the building." The coating is intended to "save energy costs, keep teachers, students and staff members cooler, and thus reduce air pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions," said Bay Area Air Quality Management District spokesman Ralph Borrmann.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Should Schools Rethink Their Schedules?

Below is a very interesting article on how one school is having success by using an irregular schedule. The teachers work their regular 180 days per year, but they're set up in way that bucks tradition. Click on the link at the end to read the article in its entirety:

N.Y.C. School Built Around Unorthodox Use of Time

By Stephen Sawchuk

New York

Superficially, the Brooklyn Generation School, here in the Flatbush area, looks a lot like the other six small public high schools that share space in this tall building, the former South Shore High School.

What's noticeably different about it, though, is the strength of the relationships among staff members. Teachers can be seen running across the hallways to each other's rooms. They tease each other good-naturedly in staff meetings. Most importantly, said Principal Terri Grey, the tenor of staff conversations is markedly different.

"They aren't about something egregious a student did," Ms. Grey said. "Instead, it's three teachers standing there, talking about how one of their kids really got the lesson today."

Teachers here attribute the collegial atmosphere to the public school's novel way of differentiating teachers' roles and staggering their schedules. At Brooklyn Generation, teachers instruct only three classes a day, get two hours of common planning with colleagues each afternoon, and have a highly reduced student load—as few as 14 students per class. Yet the restructured scheduling costs no more to operate than a traditional schedule.

When the visionary behind this school model, Furman Brown, began devising it more than a decade ago, he did so with an eye to using time in new ways so that both students and teachers had opportunities to learn.

"I could always hear great teaching through the wall, but I couldn't see what was happening," Mr. Brown said, recalling his experience as one of the first Teach For America corps members in Los Angeles. "There are a lot of great teachers in inner-city schools, but they don't have the opportunity to learn from each other."

Building Supports

Opened in 2007, Brooklyn Generation now serves about 230 students in grades 9-11, most of whom are black and qualify for federal school-nutrition programs. The school will add a 12th grade next fall and expand to the middle grades over the course of the next few years.

The school's schedule is both dynamic and flexible. Each morning, one group of educators teaches foundations courses in mathematics and the humanities. In the afternoons, those same teachers take on one studio course—science, the arts, and electives. They are also given daily breaks at the same time as their "instructional team" —colleagues in the same grade and content area—allowing them two hours of common planning time.

Twice a year, these dual-role teachers receive a monthlong reprieve consisting of three weeks of vacation followed by a week of professional development with their instructional teams. A second coterie of educators steps in to teach monthlong "intensives," focused on aspects of college and career readiness, from internships through the college-entrance process and financial-aid applications.

Class sizes for the foundations and intensive courses are small—around 15 students—and expand to about 25 for studio classes. The staggered schedules mean that students receive 20 additional instructional days, but no teacher actually works longer than the 180 days set in the New York City teachers' contract.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Susan Kunze, of Bishop Unified School District, led a workshop yesterday designed to offer web resources to teachers. Here are two that I'd like to share:

This site is home to California State Parks, amongst other stuff. There are teaching units, lesson plans, and lots of great opportunities for virtual field trips.

Teacher's Domain is a great free resource the houses tons of video clips, primary documents and more. Once you've registered you even have the ability to create your own folders and organize site material however you'd like.

Census and Sensibility

  • How does the 2010 U.S. Census differ from previous years?

    In early 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau will mail out millions of forms to adult residents of the U.S. to fill out and return to the agency. These questionnaires ask respondents about their age, race, income and other personal information. But why is the census such a big deal? Why do we need an accurate population count? How does the census affect us?

    Because the framers of the Constitution knew the U.S. population would change greatly in size and composition over time, they called for a national census to be taken every 10 years (decennial) to keep reliable statistical information about the country's inhabitants. This information was key in distributing seats in the House of Representatives among the states (a process called apportionment). The first census, taken in 1790, counted a U.S. population of 3.9 million; the most recent, taken 210 years later in 2000, counted around 280 million.

    What's the Census For? The census contributes much more than assisting reapportionment. Participating in the survey is in the individual's own self-interest. According to the federal government, respondents help their communities obtain federal and state funding and valuable information for planning schools, hospitals, roads and more. For example, accurate population data helps decision makers understand which neighborhoods need new schools and which ones need greater services for the elderly. The government will not be able to tell what neighborhoods need if residents do not fill out their census forms. The census also tracks changes in family structures and in racial composition in order to reflect and present the full diversity of the American family to policymakers.

    Which Box Do I Check? In response to lobbying by ethnic and cultural groups, the Census Bureau — starting with the 2000 Census — expanded its list of race and ethnicity categories for use in this decade's "head count." The 2000 Census was also the first year people with mixed racial heritage may select more than one racial category. There are a total of 15 classifications from which to choose. However, the federal government, for purposes of collecting and classifying information, will continue to record individuals as belonging to one of six groups and will collapse responses into the following categories:

    1. American Indian or Alaska Native

    2. Asian

    3. Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

    4. Black or African America

    5. White

    6. Other

    The Asian/Pacific Islander category, used previously in the 1990 Census, has been divided into two separate groups, and "Hispanic or Latino" has been added as an ethnicity. In federal statistical systems, ethnic origin is considered to be a separate concept from race. On the current Census form, people of Hispanic origin are instructed to answer the question on race by choosing from the six available classifications. They then use the Hispanic origin question to indicate the specific group they belong to: Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, or other groups, such as Spanish, Honduran or Venezuelan.

    In 2000, the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies (IGLSS) and the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) launched the campaign "Make Your Family Count" to encourage same-sex couples to be counted in the U.S. census. What is being done for the 2010 Census?

    Although these changes reflect more accurately the make-up of our national community, many people argue that the reforms fall short of being fully inclusive. The Census Activities are designed to help students explore this issue and other important topics surrounding the 2010 Census.

    (Source = )

Education Stakeholders Debate Whether All Should Seek College Educations.

USA Today (3/16, Marklein) reports, "Long before President Obama vowed last year that America will 'have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world' by 2020, the premium placed on going to college was firmly embedded in the American psyche. ... And yet, there's an undercurrent of concern about a group of students - sometimes called 'the forgotten half,' a phrase coined 22 years ago by social scientists studying at-risk young people - who, for whatever reason, do not think college is for them." According to USA Today, what is "still getting lost, some argue, is that too many students are going to college not because they want to, but because they think they have to."

**This has always been an interesting debate.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Challenge of Teaching Listening Skills

By Kenneth Beare

Teaching listening skills is one of the most difficult tasks for any ESL teacher. This is because successful listening skills are acquired over time and with lots of practice. It's frustrating for students because there are no rules as in grammar teaching. Speaking and writing also have very specific exercises that can lead to improved skills. This is not to say that there are not ways of improving listening skills, however they are difficult to quantify.

One of the largest inhibitors for students is often mental block. While listening, a student suddenly decides that he or she doesn't understand what is being said. At this point, many students just tune out or get caught up in an internal dialogue trying translate a specific word. Some students convince themselves that they are not able to understand spoken English well and create problems for themselves.

They key to helping students improve their listening skills is to convince them that not understanding is OK. This is more of an attitude adjustment than anything else, and it is easier for some students to accept than others. Another important point that I try to teach my students (with differing amounts of success) is that they need to listen to English as often as possible, but for short periods of time.

I like to use this analogy: Imagine you want to get in shape. You decide to begin jogging. The very first day you go out and jog seven miles. If you are lucky, you might even be able to jog the seven miles. However, chances are good that you will not soon go out jogging again. Fitness trainers have taught us that we must begin with little steps. Begin jogging short distances and walk some as well, over time you can build up the distance. Using this approach, you'll be much more likely to continue jogging and get fit.

Students need to apply the same approach to listening skills. Encourage them to get a film, or listen to an English radio station, but not to watch an entire film or listen for two hours. Students should often listen, but they should listen for short periods - five to ten minutes. This should happen four or five times a week. Even if they don't understand anything, five to ten minutes is a minor investment. However, for this strategy to work, students must not expect improved understanding too quickly. The brain is capable of amazing things if given time, students must have the patience to wait for results. If a student continues this exercise over two to three months their listening comprehension skills will greatly improve.


Does NCLB Promote Monolingualism?

Rosemary Salomone is the Kenneth Wang professor of Law at St. John's University School of Law, in New York City, and the author of True American: Language, Identity, and the Education of Immigrant Children (Harvard University Press, 2010).

She writes a thought-provoking commentary regarding NCLB. (Be sure to click on the link at the end to read her piece in its entirety.)

By Rosemary Salomone


Eight years into the No Child Left Behind Act, educators, researchers, and advocates remain locked in heated debate over the effects of the law's testing and accountability mandates on students, many from immigrant homes where a language other than English is spoken. Remarkably lost in the crossfire are the equally serious implications for the nation and its competitive position internationally.

Two recently reported developments related to language instruction, set against rising multilingualism abroad, lend truth to that proposition. Together, they reveal that NCLB is an impediment to fostering bilingual skills and bicultural understandings, especially among the nation's 12 million students from immigrant families, including the 5.1 million identified as English-language learners, as well as millions of English-dominant students who are economically disadvantaged.

The first of these developments has surfaced in the Obama administration's proposed English Learning Education Program, with an $800 million commitment tucked into the president's budget plan for fiscal 2011. The proposal, as laid out by Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Thelma Melendez in a speech before bilingual educators in February, is a disheartening mix of more of the same peppered with hopeful hints of a changed vision. And yet, though threaded through with continued talk of testing and "rigorous" standards, it nonetheless conveys a long-overdue message that the bilingual potential of English-language learners, or ELLs, is a national asset, rather than a deficit as conventionally considered.

Reversing four decades of federal wavering on the question of home-language instruction, the assistant secretary openly affirmed the cognitive benefits of bilingualism, the need for "nuanced instructional approaches" that recognize the diversity within the ELL population, and the administration's desire "in particular … to encourage dual-language programs" that would help prepare students, both English- and non-English-dominant, for a "globally competitive world."

Tying such programs to the global economy is not new to Washington. More than 40 years ago, then-U.S. Sen. Joseph Montoya of New Mexico, a co-sponsor of the original 1968 Bilingual Education Act, warned that "in a world that grows smaller every day, America should no longer ignore the language ability and cultural variety of its people and its heritage." The act's 1994 amendments echoed those sentiments, noting that as the world was becoming "increasingly interdependent" and "international communication becomes a daily occurrence," multilingual skills were an "important national resource" promoting the nation's "competitiveness in the global economy."

That was before the No Child Left Behind Act took a definitive turn otherwise. Though the law neither prescribes nor precludes any particular teaching approach, and even permits dual-language programs that include English-dominant students (a nod to mainstream parents), it still presents strong deterrents against using federal funds for that purpose. The fact that schools are judged by the percentage of students reclassified as fluent in English each year creates a built-in incentive to set aside non-English-language instruction in the interest of moving ELLs swiftly and exclusively toward English proficiency.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Video games can foster critical thinking skills, researcher says

Video games may be able to teach problem-solving skills better than textbooks, according to James Paul Gee, a leading proponent of developing video games for education and a professor of literacy studies at Arizona State University. His most recent book is Good Video Games and Good Learning. Listen to him in this Frontline series video at National Public Radio's WHYY station.

(Source = )

"Learning Powered by Technology" draft released

Friday, March 12, 2010

If there were any doubts about the Obama administration's intentions toward education technology, the United States Department of Education settled them with the release March 5 of the first public draft of the National Education Technology Plan. The 114-page document reveals an intent not only to infuse technology throughout the curriculum (and beyond), but to implement some major--sometimes radical--changes to education itself.

The plan, titled Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology, sets forth, in part, a manifesto for change, questioning many of the basic structures of American education, enumerating the principles of change that are the foundation for the plan, and setting goals and recommendations for achieving this change. To read more about the plan, visit The Journal online or see the report.

Source =

Kenneth’s Odd Word Out Quizzes

Odd Word Out quizzes focus on finding the one word that doesn't fit in. For example: apple / orange / peach / potato 'potato' is the odd word out because it isn't a type of fruit. Here are two odd word quizzes focusing on clothing:

Men's Clothes odd word out quiz
Women's Clothes odd word out quiz

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Report outlines demographics of Latino online readers

One of the most interesting aspects of Facebook's recent demographic study was the finding that Latinos were joining the service in considerable numbers. There wasn't much analysis around this point — which was a shame — but a just-released report from the Pew Hispanic Center picks up a lot of the slack. "Latinos Online, 2006-2008: Narrowing the Gap" looks at how Internet use among Latinos changed between 2006 and 2008. The full report is available online It's a quick and recommended read for any news organization — English- or Spanish-language — interested in understanding its Latino readers. Here's a couple findings that caught my attention as I dug into the study.

English literacy = more Internet use — Most Internet content is in English; some say 80%, others say less. Whatever the number, there appears to be a direct connection between knowledge of English and Internet use. The usage gap between Latinos who are fluent English speakers and those who can't speak English at all is a whopping 57 percentage points. Spanish fluency doesn't appear to affect Internet use among those surveyed. Read the rest of the post by the Nieman Journalism Lab or the report online at the Pew Hispanic Center.

A Variety of Teaching Techniques

A Variety of Teaching Techniques


From Kenneth Beare, your Guide to English as 2nd Language

Current English teaching practice usually employs a number of teaching techniques based on a number of teaching theories. Generally, private schools don't require teachers to use any one technique. There are exceptions to this rule when teaching at schools founded on a specific teaching technique (for example schools employing The Shenker Method). Most adult learners are interested in using English for communication purposes. Consequently emphasis is generally put on communicative approaches in the most popular teaching materials (Oxford and Cambridge University Press Series). Obviously, knowing a number of techniques and theories can help you facilitate your students' learning experience by giving you the tools to provide for a variety of learners' needs.

General Introduction to ESL / EFL Teaching Theory


Setting ESL Objectives

People learn English for many and extremely varied reasons. Taking these reasons, as well as language acquisition needs, into consideration when planning a class or individual instruction is crucial for a successful learning experience.


Principled Eclectisim

Principled eclecticism refers to the use of various teaching styles in a discriminating manner as required by learner needs and styles.

The Language Instinct

"The Language Instinct" by Steven Pinker is not a book about ESL teaching methods. However, it provides a deeper understanding of the language learning process and is an excellent read for any teacher of learner of a foreign language.

Various Teaching Styles

BRAIN Friendly English Learning

The underlying foundation (greatly simplified) of this learning/teaching theory is that all the areas of the Brain should be involved in the learning process.


Suggestopedia Lesson Plan

According to this technique, long-term memory is semi-conscious. Teachers must sidetrack people with other things in order to allow them to receive information through peripheral perception.


Implementing the Lexical Approach

"Implementing The Lexical Approach" provides the ESL EFL teacher with the tools needed to use the lexical approach in class. Instead of dividing language into grammar and vocabulary, this approach maintains that "...language consists of chunks which, when combined, produce continuous coherent text."


Global English

English plays a central role in "globalization" and it has become the de facto language of choice for communication between the various peoples of the Earth. However, some teachers confuse teaching English with teaching "English" culture. If a businessperson from China wants to close a deal with a businessperson from Germany, what difference does it make if those speak either US or UK English?




Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Basic English Conversations

Thanks Kenneth!

Basic English conversations help beginning learners build basic English skills. Each conversation group includes a few short conversations introducing basic English phrases. These short dialogues are ideal as models for beginners to begin speaking English.


Telling the Time

Giving Personal Information

In a Shop

In an Airport

Asking for Directions

In a Motel / Hotel

In a Restaurant

Beginning Level Dictations

Another awesome activity from Kenneth:

Short dictations are helpful for both listening and writing practice. Each of these beginning level dictations focuses on a specific learning point such as 'at the restaurant' or 'comparisons'. The dictations include five sentences. Each sentence is read twice with time to write down the answer.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Publishers Focusing On Technology Supplements To Textbooks.

Inside Higher Ed (3/9, Kolowich) reports on the increased use of software provided by publishers such as Pearson that offers automatic grading and feedback on student understanding, tools which some professors argue has improved their efficiency and their ability to address issues that students are having difficulty with. Now, major publishers "say that as instructors begin to realize the capabilities of e-learning tools, it is not enough to pitch professors -- particularly those in the natural sciences -- a traditional textbook or even an e-textbook." William Reiders of Cengage's Global New Media division said, "It is a fact that we are aggressively trying to add curricular solutions to what traditionally would have been our print textbooks - that's really driven by what the professors want." The article goes on to address issues stemming from the "added costs" that come along with the additional tools and content, and how these impact students.

He's trying to break into / catch on the tourism industry.

**From Kenneth's Blog

The correct choice for the title is 'break into'. 'Break into' is a phrasal verb which means 'become successful in something'. These four phrasal verb quizzes first test your understanding by matching definitions, and then ask you to use the phrasal verbs you have learned in sentences.

Phrasal Verb Quiz - 1

Phrasal Verb Quiz - 2

Phrasal Verb Quiz - 3

Phrasal Verb Quiz - 4

Monday, March 8, 2010

Generation Z

***The average American teen sends 2,900 texts per month***

The February issue of California Educator has a really great cover story on the students we currently serve, Generation Z.

According to Mark McCrindle, Generation Z members are:

  • Well educated and the most technologically advanced generation.
  • Growing up in smaller households with older parents.
  • Until recently, more materially endowed.
  • Headed for careers that don't even exist today.
  • Likely to have at least five careers and more than 20 employers.
  • Very concerned about the environment.

Young people aswim in 21st century literacies: 53 hours a week

The amount of time young people spend consuming media has ballooned with around-the-clock access and mobile devices that function practically as appendages, according to a new report. A few years ago, the same researchers thought that teens and tweens were consuming about as much media as humanly possible in the hours available. But somehow, young people have found a way to pack in even more.

In the last five years, the time that America's 8- to 18-year-olds spend watching TV, playing video games and using a computer for entertainment has risen by 1 hour, 17 minutes a day, the Kaiser Family Foundation said. Young people now devote an average of 7 hours, 38 minutes to daily media use, or about 53 hours a week — more than a full-time job.

"What surprised me the most is the sheer amount of media content coming into their lives each day," said Kaiser's Vicky Rideout, who directed the study. "When you step back and look at the big picture, it's a little overwhelming." Read about the study in The Chicago Tribune

May I help you? Yes, I'm not sure which shoes I want.

***Another great set of resources from Kenneth's Blog:

A lot of what we say is for a purpose: expressing a wish, apologizing, asking for help, etc. Here are some helpful guides to common language functions focusing on standard phrases, structure and vocabulary used in each situation.
Contrasting Ideas
Making Complaints
Asking for Information

Giving Advice
Being Imprecise or Vague
Saying 'No' Nicely

Showing Preferences

Making Suggestions

Offering Help

Giving Warning
Demanding Explanations

More Districts Moving To Four-Day Weeks.

The Wall Street Journal (3/7, Herring) reported that an increasing number of school districts around the U.S. are shifting to four-day weeks amid major budget shortfalls, but critics say education quality will suffer if instruction days are reduced. The Journal noted that more than 100 districts in about 17 states are currently using a four-day week, according to Education Commission of the States data. An ED spokeswoman is quoted saying in an e-mail that "generally, we are concerned about financial constraints leading to a reduction in learning time."


The Macon Telegraph (3/8) reports Ray Markwalter of the Baldwin County Board of Education "plans to move forward with a proposal for a four-day school week for the district." He first heard the idea "during the Georgia School Boards Association conference in December after listening to Peach County Superintendent Susan Clark present her school system's results." He said that "the drop in disciplinary incidents, as well as fewer teacher absences, were among the appealing aspects of adopting a four-day school week."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Building a Better Teacher


Published: March 2, 2010

ON A WINTER DAY five years ago, Doug Lemov realized he had a problem. After a successful career as a teacher, a principal and a charter-school founder, he was working as a consultant, hired by troubled schools eager — desperate, in some cases — for Lemov to tell them what to do to get better. There was no shortage of prescriptions at the time for how to cure the poor performance that plagued so many American schools. Proponents of No Child Left Behind saw standardized testing as a solution. President Bush also championed a billion-dollar program to encourage schools to adopt reading curriculums with an emphasis on phonics. Others argued for smaller classes or more parental involvement or more state financing.

Lemov himself pushed for data-driven programs that would diagnose individual students' strengths and weaknesses. But as he went from school to school that winter, he was getting the sinking feeling that there was something deeper he wasn't reaching. On that particular day, he made a depressing visit to a school in Syracuse, N.Y., that was like so many he'd seen before: "a dispiriting exercise in good people failing," as he described it to me recently. Sometimes Lemov could diagnose problems as soon as he walked in the door. But not here. Student test scores had dipped so low that administrators worried the state might close down the school. But the teachers seemed to care about their students. They sat down with them on the floor to read and picked activities that should have engaged them. The classes were small. The school had rigorous academic standards and state-of-the-art curriculums and used a software program to analyze test results for each student, pinpointing which skills she still needed to work on.

But when it came to actual teaching, the daily task of getting students to learn, the school floundered. Students disobeyed teachers' instructions, and class discussions veered away from the lesson plans. In one class Lemov observed, the teacher spent several minutes debating a student about why he didn't have a pencil. Another divided her students into two groups to practice multiplication together, only to watch them turn to the more interesting work of chatting. A single quiet student soldiered on with the problems. As Lemov drove from Syracuse back to his home in Albany, he tried to figure out what he could do to help. He knew how to advise schools to adopt a better curriculum or raise standards or develop better communication channels between teachers and principals. But he realized that he had no clue how to advise schools about their main event: how to teach.

***The full article is a long one, but worth the read. Thanks to Hannah Tran for the tip! Click here to read it in its entirety.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

National Grammar Day Is TODAY!

Visit the National Grammar Day (NGD) website for fun, free stuff:

An NGD e-card
A video of the official NGD theme song
A hall-of-shame playlist
A list of our blog partners
Photos from the Grammar Girl Flickr group.
Teaching materials
Vote for your favorite Schoolhouse Rock! episode.

Are you trying to climb / drop / kick a bad habit?

If you answered Yes, I am! to the above, congratulations! The correct verb choice is 'kick a bad habit'. Test your knowledge of action verb idioms with these two quizzes. Each quiz is followed by answers as well as definitions.

Action Verb Idioms #1
Action Verb Idioms #2

Looks like another winner from Kenneth's ESL blog

Plan Would Allow E-learning on Snow Days

By The Associated Press

Columbus, Ohio

Ohio students who may be used to sledding or playing video games on snow days could instead be given schoolwork via computer, under a proposal from state lawmakers.

A bill offered by a bipartisan group of legislators would let schools use online lessons so as many as five school days called off for bad weather or other calamities would not have to be made up. Districts could immediately post assignments on their Web sites for students to complete within two weeks.

One of the bill's co-sponsors says students who don't have Internet access at home would receive hard copies of the lessons when classes resume.

Ohio House Education Committee Chairman Brian Williams has reacted favorably to the proposal. He says learning would keep moving during snow shutdowns.

Typing Web

Typing Web

Typing is one of the first skills students need for efficient day-to-day use of computer technology. This basic skill takes practice and dedication, but it may come easier with some help from Typing Web. This free Web site tests users' abilities to type accurately and effectively. There are hand-positioning and typing lessons for beginners, as well as a number of practice drills to see how many words per minute an intermediate or expert can type. To use the service, users must sign up for a free account. The site also offers a premium-based subscription model for educators, called Typing Ace. The upgraded service, which costs about $8 each for the first 100 students, provides administrative tools that allow teachers to track student progress.

Class, Take Out Your Cellphones!

By Paul Barnwell


I finally cracked. Even though I'm a huge proponent of educational technologies, employing blogging, moviemaking, and other digital literacies in my 8th grade language arts classroom, I have felt reluctant to integrate cellphones into my lessons.

Not anymore.

There are responsible ways to incorporate cellphone use into classrooms, and we may be doing students a disservice by allowing draconian anti-cellphone policies to persist in schools.

I teach 8th grade, and my biggest challenge is student engagement. If I insist on teaching in a manner that doesn't reflect students' reality of a media-, image-, and gadget-saturated world, then I'm potentially facing an uphill battle to capture and maintain their interest. I didn't grow up with an iPod or a cellphone in my pocket, as my students do. But, as an adult, I sometimes can't imagine going more than a few days without communication, information, and entertainment from tools like my BlackBerry or iPod.

So how might I encourage, or even require, students to use cellphones constructively in class? I could log on to the Web site and create open-ended questions for the students to use for brainstorming and then texting answers to the site. This would create a real-time, scrolling database of their thoughts and responses. (The other day, during a similar exercise in my 3rd period class, even the most uninterested students couldn't wait to text in their sentences to see them on the projector screen, alongside the work of their more diligent classmates.)

I might have them text the ChaCha service at 242242, and teach them about information and validity: How do we decide what information is worthwhile and what is not? Or I could have them use the camera feature on their cellphones and do a scavenger hunt, taking pictures that relate to class concepts or to new vocabulary words.

There are other questions thoughtful school leadership teams should consider. Incorporating laptops or other technologies into a classroom can be time-consuming and frustrating, for example. At my middle school, we have a wireless network with mobile laptop carts. But the computers are fast becoming outdated, and the boot time is painfully slow on some machines. For a student with a cellphone, however, the time to "boot up" and retrieve, create, or share information is comparatively minuscule. This could be a major advantage for teachers wanting to incorporate quick Web searches, collaboration, or idea sharing, and it also lessens the pressure on school wireless-network infrastructures.

How cool would it be if school announcements were sent to students on their phones? Or, instead of using a blaring PA system, the main office could text a student to come and pick up the lunch he or she forgot on the counter at home? Or perhaps students could openly record cellphone video of teachers for test-review purposes. Or teachers could send texted reminders to students about homework assignments.

Opponents of this type of innovative approach are likely to bring up the potential distractions and abuses that cellphones in school can certainly create, like covert and sneaky text or picture messaging between friends. But guess what? We did the same thing back in our day, writing notes to our friends on actual paper. Inappropriate communication in school will never cease. I expect, however, that structured use of cellphones in my classroom would reduce the temptation to use them in irresponsible ways.

Information technology allows us to share, compose, search for, and disseminate knowledge in ways unimaginable only 10 to 15 years ago. The power of cellphone technology should be positively transformative in our classrooms, keeping students alert, engaged, and excited about what is happening there.

"Police state" school technology and filtering practices are shortsighted and need to be revised. In this regard, schools do not reflect the real world. The challenge is to create positive structures and practice for students' cellphone use, remaining vigilant, protecting privacy, and constantly assessing whether or not the incorporation of educational technologies measurably improves teaching and learning.

Paul Barnwell teaches middle school in Shelbyville, Ky. His Web site is

iPhone 'App' for School Designed by W.Va. Teen

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Students are often the first ones to master new technologies in schools, well before the teachers do. In the case of Cory Dobson, he is way ahead of the curve.

Mr. Dobson, a senior at Capital High School in Charleston, W.Va., recently created an iPhone application for his school to use for checking schedules, grades, and school closures, plus several other tasks.

It's not the first iPhone app created specifically for a school, but it is clearly one of the first ones created by a student for use by an entire school.

The program Mr. Dobson created, called "iCHS," gives students access to EdLine, the Kanawha County's online report card site; Capital High's home page; Google Maps; the school's student-behavior policy; and the high school's bell schedule.

Robert Haddy, Capital High's multimedia teacher, came up with the idea over the Christmas break of having students create an application for the popular iPhone. He said he was inspired by young people's constant use of such smartphones and other technologies.

The high school, which used to ban cellphones from the classroom, lifted the policy last school year. Principal Clinton Giles approved the use of cellphones in class as long as teachers have a good reason to include them in the curriculum.

Before starting the project, Mr. Haddy sent a mass e-mail to the rest of the high school's teachers asking what they'd like to see. He also contacted a sales representative for Apple Inc., the maker of the iPhone, to ask how difficult it would be to get an application approved. He was told that as long as the program was free and for educational purposes, the Apple screeners probably wouldn't have a problem offering the application.

Quick Work

Originally, the project was supposed to be a group project and was expected to take all semester, but Mr. Dobson completed it in just a few weeks.

"I didn't think one kid would take it upon himself to finish it in three weeks," Mr. Haddy said.

Mr. Dobson said he never programmed on a Macintosh computer before the iPhone project, and he personally uses the Google Droid phone instead of the Apple version. But he said programming for the iPhone was much easier than other coding projects he's done in the past.

He points to the iPhone developer's software, which allows programmers to see applications as they're making them. In other programming software, developers have to wait until all the computer code is written to see the fruits of their labor.

After about two weeks of learning how to write code for the phone, Mr. Dobson was able to make the iCHS application in a day and a half.

The student said he made sure to craft the program so it could be updated easily.

"I want every kid in the class to at least be able to do one thing," he said.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

US teachers more interested in reform than money


SEATTLE — U.S. teachers are more interested in school reform and student achievement than their paychecks, according to a massive new survey.

The survey of 40,090 K-12 teachers — including 15,038 by telephone — was likely the largest national survey of teachers ever completed and includes the opinions of teachers in every grade, in every state and across the demographic spectrum.

Called "Primary Sources: America's Teachers on America's School," the survey was conducted by Harris Interactive between March 10 and June 18, 2009, and was to be released Wednesday. It was paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Scholastic Inc.

The purpose of the survey was to keep teachers' voices in the debate over education reform, said Vicki L. Phillips, director of Gates Foundation's K-12 education program.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Click here to read or download the full Primary Sources survey.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Former 'No Child Left Behind' Advocate Turns Critic

by Steve Inskeep

In 2005, former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch wrote, "We should thank President George W. Bush and Congress for passing the No Child Left Behind Act ... All this attention and focus is paying off for younger students, who are reading and solving mathematics problems better than their parents' generation."

Four years later, Ravitch has changed her mind.

"I was known as a conservative advocate of many of these policies," Ravitch says. "But I've looked at the evidence and I've concluded they're wrong. They've put us on the wrong track. I feel passionately about the improvement of public education and I don't think any of this is going to improve public education."

Ravitch has written a book about what she sees as the failure of No Child Left Behind called The Death and Life of the Great American School System. She says one of her biggest concerns is the way the law requires school districts to use standardized testing.

Emphasis On Test Scores Led To Cheating, Dishonesty

"The basic strategy is measuring and punishing," Ravitch says of No Child Left Behind. "And it turns out as a result of putting so much emphasis on the test scores, there's a lot of cheating going on, there's a lot of gaming the system. Instead of raising standards it's actually lowered standards because many states have 'dumbed down' their tests or changed the scoring of their tests to say that more kids are passing than actually are."

Some states contend that 80 to 90 percent of their children are proficient readers and have math proficiency as well, Ravitch notes. But in the same states, only 25 to 30 of the children test at a proficient level on national tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

"Secretary (of Education Arne) Duncan often says we're lying to our kids," Ravitch says. "And we are lying to our kids."

'There Should Not Be An Education Marketplace'

Part of the reason schools were so intent on achieving high tests scores was because they were competing with other schools for resources, which were often doled out on that basis alone.

Ravitch is critical of the impact this had on schools.

"There should not be an education marketplace, there should not be competition," Ravitch says. "Schools operate fundamentally — or should operate — like families. The fundamental principle by which education proceeds is collaboration. Teachers are supposed to share what works; schools are supposed to get together and talk about what's [been successful] for them. They're not supposed to hide their trade secrets and have a survival of the fittest competition with the school down the block."


(From NPR - - Click here to read the first chapter of Ravitch's book.)