• How Culture Affects the Way ESL Students Read English

    How Culture Affects the Way ESL Students Read English

    Guest Post by Dr. Eugenia Krimmel

    Even though the text is in English, English Language Learners (ELLs) are reading it through culturally patterned filters. Also known as discourse patterns, the way a language group organizes their expressions in longer text or conversations is strongly influenced by their culture.

    English speakers, like most Germanic language groups, subconsciously seek a beginning, middle and end of a joke, paragraph, story, or informational text. We English speakers view the world in a linear, concise, direct manner; therefore, our discourse pattern is a line of three elements. We do not respond well to redundancies, incomplete thoughts or going off on tangents within the text or conversation.

    Romance Languages

    In contrast, ...

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    Jun 01 2012
  • The Importance of Assessing Students Reading Ability Individually

    The Importance of Assessing Students Reading Ability Individually

    Guest Post by Jamie Menard, MA in Reading

    Over the years, most elementary schools have made it a priority to assess students' reading skills and, if students are below grade level expectations, to administer more detailed assessments that helps them figure out exactly what's going on, so that they can provide those students with appropriate interventions.

    A vast majority of elementary schools have administered computer-based screening tools to their students. Many even have a team of Reading Specialists that assess students in beginning, middle and end of the year benchmarks. Some elementary teachers are thankful that assistants and volunteers offer to administer both formal and informal assessments. This assistance results in teachers breathing a sigh of relief because it seems as though part of their heavy work load has become lighter. However, there is a possibility that teachers are in turn doing themselves a disservice and in turn struggle to understand why their students are indeed below grade level. ...

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    May 29 2012
  • What is the Best Approach for Teachers to Help Struggling Readers Over the Summer?

    What is the Best Approach for Teachers to Help Struggling Readers Over the Summer?

    This is my first year as a full time employee for Reading Horizons. In truth, I love my new job but I do have a confession to make. I miss the energy-charged feeling that accompanies the end of the school year as teachers and students anticipate the change of pace that summer vacation provides. However, I also clearly remember the elevated concern that most teachers feel about the effect that the summer months will have on the progress of students they have worked so hard with throughout the school year.

    Research validates their concerns showing that struggling readers in particular lose ground during the summer months compared to their non-struggling peers. This widening gap not only diminishes the instructional time invested by the previous years’ teacher, it adds to the instructional load of next years’ teacher. Many schools have implemented summer reading programs in the hope of narrowing the gap. Teachers at my previous school (Go Miners!) volunteered three hours weekly so students could have access to books on their level throughout the summer. We even included a story time so preschool students would be likely to check out books as well preparing them for literate futures. Overall, we didn’t see the effects we would have liked to see with the summer reading program. Now I know why. ...

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    May 21 2012
  • How Can You Include Phonics Instruction in High School Classrooms?

    How Can You Include Phonics Instruction in High School Classrooms?

    As much as you wish every student had a solid understanding of phonology and were able to transfer this understanding to written texts by the time they reach high school – this is not always the case. In fact, as was pointed out in a recent webinar hosted by Reading Horizons, often graduate students struggle with what are supposed to be basic and beginning level reading skills. Here is an enlightening comment from the webinar:

    “You folks are so on target with this.  I cannot tell you how many of my graduate students don't make these connections and apply the skills of encoding and decoding to real texts!”

    High school students (and apparently graduate students) still need phonics instruction in later grades, but there’s a problem: you aren't given any time for it. High school aged students are expected to already know these skills and you are expected to be focusing on vocabulary and comprehension instruction – not phonics instruction! What to do...   ...

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    May 17 2012
  • How Should You Teach Exceptions to Phonics Rules?

    How Should You Teach Exceptions to Phonics Rules?

    One of the most difficult things about teaching the English language to beginning readers, struggling readers, and ESL students is that there are exceptions to many of the rules that you teach. It's difficult to teach exceptions because the very nature of exceptions is confusing. And when students don't understand something, they start feeling the one emotion you never want them to feel in class: confused.

    How can you teach something as confusing as exceptions - and not confuse your students while doing so? ...

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    May 16 2012
  • 6 Best Practices for Mainstreaming Students With Special Needs

    6 Best Practices for Mainstreaming Students With Special Needs

    “I just did a major research study here in Massachusetts that verified this - that in general, most kids with disabilities do better in inclusive settings, particularly if they get the supports that they need, significantly better.

    So the move towards integration or inclusion or mainstreaming - clearly has some support in the data."

    - Thomas Hehir, former director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs and current professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education

    This quote is from a recent NPR interview about mainstreaming special needs students. Here is the complete interview:

    As pointed out by Thomas Hehir, mainstreaming is beneficial for special needs students. Of course, like any practice, it is only beneficial if it is done effectively.

    Thus, here is what Thomas Hehir’s research has found to be the best practices for inclusion classrooms: ...

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    May 10 2012
  • The Importance of Reading Aloud to Students of All Grades and Levels

    The Importance of Reading Aloud to Students of All Grades and Levels

    “If we are always reading aloud something that is more difficult than children can read themselves then when they come to that book later, or books like that, they will be able to read them – which is why even a fifth grade teacher, even a tenth grade teacher, should still be reading to children aloud. There is always something that is too intractable for kids to read on their own.” – Mem Fox

    In a recent Reading Horizons webinar, Author Sarah Collinge, discussed the importance of reading aloud to students of all reading levels and the impact this simple practice can have on increasing students’ reading levels. Regardless of how many times I learn that little things can make a difference, the impact of many simple practices never ceases to amaze me.

    As the above quote points out: reading aloud is beneficial for students of all ages. During the webinar, Sarah discussed how this simple classroom practice builds students' reading levels by ...

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    May 04 2012
  • Classroom Practices That Accelerate Language Acquisition for ESL Students

    Classroom Practices That Accelerate Language Acquisition for ESL Students

    Guest Post by Dr. Eugenia Krimmel

    Coming from an era in which English Language Learners (ELLs) were mainstreamed into regular education with the assumption they will linguistically “sink or swim,” researcher Stephen Krashen wrote why this theoretical practice was ineffective. He refuted the “sink or swim” ideology in his Comprehensible Input Hypothesis described in his book, Foreign Language Education the Easy Way:

    “We acquire language in only one way, when we understand messages, that is when we obtain 'comprehensible input.'  Thus, we acquire when we understand what people tell us or what we read, when we are absorbed in the message.” 

    Krashen’s research and writing highlighted the need for teachers to create comprehensible input in their classrooms. To that end, comprehensible input practices can be categorized into three types: visual, graphic and linguistic. Use one, two or all three types per lesson, and your ELLs English acquisition will accelerate as well as their content knowledge learning.

    Visual Supports

    Visual supports include meaningful, relevant pictures, icons, symbols, videos, skits, and realia. What is realia you ask? ...

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    May 02 2012
  • The Teachers Guide to Summer Break: Tips for Fun, Relaxation, & Professional Development

    The Teachers Guide to Summer Break: Tips for Fun, Relaxation, & Professional Development

    Students often think of school as a marathon, and even the slightest utterance of the word “summer” calls forth images of a beautiful bright banner that marks the finish line. For teachers, this is not the case. Even though summer does also provide a break for teachers, they don’t get to experience the same sense of freedom as their students.

    Being a teacher means keeping your body of knowledge in tip-top shape. Summer break equals a lot of preparation for the coming marathon, especially since teachers have to stay a few steps ahead of their students in order to guide the race over the course of the next school year.

    Here are some ideas and guidelines that are aimed at helping teachers keep up with their summer-training schedules: ...

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    Apr 27 2012
  • What Should High School Students Be Doing Over the Summer?

    What Should High School Students Be Doing Over the Summer?

    Lately I’ve been talking a lot with my little sister – a junior in high school – about her preparation for entering college.  Just listening to the classes she is taking next year (lots of Advanced Placement and Concurrent Enrollment) and what goals she has for her senior year (scholarship and college applications), I realized that even more than when I was walking the halls of our hometown’s high school, kids are feeling the pressure to become “college ready.” 

    I remember being in high school and worrying so much about my future life.  I was afraid that one bad grade would ruin me for good, and so I pushed myself very hard and achieved a lot.  I often felt overstressed, tired, and hopeless.

    Now, having actually experienced the rigors of college, I have had plenty of time to reflect on what I could have done to be more prepared for college while in high school.  My school counselor and teachers saw me as “college ready,” but I definitely was not – ...

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    Apr 25 2012

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