Category Archives: ELLs / DLLs

3 Controversies in Bilingual Education

language controversies

by guest blogger Rachael Everly

The benefits of both learning and speaking many languages are well documented in our ever-shrinking world. Language can shape our view of the world and as more and more people become engaged in international business and travel it’s important for adults to have a working knowledge of, and fluency in, various languages and cultures on a global scale. 

Not surprisingly, Mandarin Chinese is the language most used for business after English. Mandarin is spoken by over 845 million people in China, the world’s second-largest economy, and nearby Taiwan. French comes in at the number two position, Arabic (the key to the Middle East) at number three, and Spanish ranking fourth.

However, there are some controversies when it comes to language learning. Most notably this occurs in countries with large immigrant populations changing the demographic and influencing what languages are spoken most often in business and commerce.

Here are 3 of the most notable language controversies:

Language of Instruction

According to UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning Learning Portal, there are 7000 languages spoken worldwide in only 200 countries. Multilingualism is the norm around the world with many children growing up speaking one or two languages in the home, with often a third language spoken in institutional and governmental settings.

This can make it difficult for educational institutions to determine in which language to conduct their instruction. There’s an ongoing debate on whether courses should be taught in the students’ native languages – to ensure students can actually learn and understand the information presented – or whether courses and classes should be presented in the national language or other international language in order to open the door wider to further educational and economic opportunities. Some also feel the two approaches are best combined.

English as a medium of instruction (EMI) is a controversial topic of discussion in non-anglophone countries, as it has become the language of instruction in subjects as diverse as mathematics, geometry, and medicine.

Establishing National Languages

In the U.S., Spanish is spoken as a first or second language by an estimated 45 million people. This makes it the most spoken language in the contiguous United States after English. It’s such a powerful force in business that many managers and other employees are learning the language in order to have a competitive edge over their peers and communicate with others.

There’s been talk of making Spanish an official second language of the USA. But without an official first language, another movement worth mentioning, this makes establishing Spanish as a second national language difficult to push forward. Spanish is not going to be chosen as an official language anytime soon, especially considering that the PEW Research Center reports a downward trend in usage in the home. While there have been efforts to push Spanish forward as an official language, the U.S. remains too pluralistic for any one cultural group to make theirs the official language.

Recently issued U.S. Census tables, based on American Community Survey data collected from 2009 to 2013, have expanded the languages and language groups tabulated from 39 to 350. The data, released on November 3, 2015, is the most comprehensive look at languages and communities in the U.S. including “Pennsylvania Dutch, Ukrainian, Turkish, Romanian, Amharic and many others. Also included are 150 different Native North American languages, collectively spoken by more than 350,000 people, including Yupik, Dakota, Apache, Keres and Cherokee.”

Erik Vickstrom, a Census Bureau statistician reported, “While most of the U.S. population speaks only English at home or a handful of other languages like Spanish or Vietnamese, the American Community Survey reveals the wide-ranging language diversity of the United States.” He added, “In the New York metro area alone, more than a third of the population speaks a language other than English at home, and close to 200 different languages are spoken. Knowing the number of languages and how many speak these languages in a particular area provides valuable information to policymakers, planners and researchers.”

Other countries, like India, face similar political challenges and controversies when it comes to Sanskrit, the ancient language of the region and mother to languages like Hindi, Bengali, and Marathi.

This is due to the fact that reviving the ancient language of Sanskrit, closely linked to Hinduism and Hindu religious texts, is an ongoing project of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the right-wing Hindu nationalist party currently leading the new Indian government since 2016. Minorities feel that the push towards reviving this ancient language is a direct affront to the secular striving of the nation.

Higher education and language learning

A growing number of U.S. high school graduates are looking for alternative ways to avoid the high cost of higher education by travelling and studying abroad, especially in Europe – an area where most European students started studying their first foreign language before the age of nine.

At the University of Helsinki in Finland, the cost of a four year decree is only $40,000. This is roughly only one-third what it costs for a similar diploma from the University of California San Diego. Other European countries, including Norway, Sweden, and Iceland, offer free tuition in their public universities.

Savvy international students are striving to secure seats in these studying opportunities – if they can pass the native language exams – to both avoid soaring tuition costs in the U.S., and gain invaluable life experiences. Planning in advance to minimize or avoid student debt altogether is a sound alternative compared to the debt dodgers who flee to Europe after becoming delinquent or defaulting on their student loans.

Final thoughts

Language learning can open doors and create more opportunities for those who want to leverage their skills in an increasingly global village. Gaining fluency in the languages of learning and international business can take students far – even as far as other countries – to grow their network and careers. Language learning, while controversial and political at times, has the ability to connect cultures and increase compassion and tolerance to those different from us – a worthy goal.

 

“Language School, Teams, Interns” by Sprachschuleaktiv via Pixabay is licensed under CC0 https://pixabay.com/photo-834138/

Parents and Teachers of Bilingual Kids, Make Books and Reading Your Highest Priority!

parent reading bilingual book with childrenby guest blogger Adam Beck

Though I no longer teach at Hiroshima International School, I return there every year, with my family in tow, for the school’s annual spring festival. For me, my main motivation—apart from seeing old friends—is the sale of used books: children’s books of all kinds, from the school library and students’ homes, at rock-bottom prices.

I practically start drooling as I paw through them.

Each year I come home with dozens of books for our home library: books I can read aloud to my kids at breakfast, books we read together for “shared reading” (taking turns, page by page), and books they can read on their own.

A couple of years ago, we came home from the festival and I dumped two heavy shopping bags of books on the kitchen table. I pulled out a chair and sat, happily examining my treasure and taping together the loose covers and pages. That’s when my daughter Lulu, then 9, approached and exclaimed, “Daddy, we have too many books!”

The truth is, if you stepped inside my little house, you’d probably laugh: It’s bursting with books, to the point where there really isn’t room for them all. Our bookshelves overflowed long ago and there are now piles rising from the floor like sunflowers.

But I turned to Lulu and I replied: “Too many books? You can never have too many books!”

My philosophy of education

“You can never have too many books!” These seven words basically sum up my view of language education since I first became a teacher of bilingual children 20 years ago. Books and reading—lots of books and lots of reading—became my main ally in nurturing language development.

During my time at Hiroshima International School, I flooded my classroom with books and read often to my students. And as I watched their English ability grow, I realized that this same approach would become the cornerstone of my efforts to one day raise bilingual children of my own. I would flood the house with books in the minority language and make reading a daily staple of my family’s lifestyle.

baby reading bilingual book

500 books

I have seen the rewarding results of this “method” in my own personal experience, but in fact, there is also prominent research which indicates that a correlation between the number of books in the home and a child’s language development and ability, as well as academic achievement and even career success, is evident in countries and languages around the world.

Pursued over a period of 20 years and published in 2010, the authors of the massive study Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations analyzed the lives of some 70,000 people in a range of countries. At the heart of their research was this key question: About how many books were in your family’s house when you were 14 years old? (Any books, not simply books for children.)

At the same time, they gathered background data on these participants, such as the parents’ level of education and occupation, and their own schooling and work.

What does this research reveal? It demonstrates—even given the parents’ level of education and occupation, as well as such factors as gender, class, nationality, political system, and gross national product—that the impact of books is the same throughout the world and throughout many generations: Children in families with a home library of 500 books or more experience significantly greater educational success. On average, these children pursue their education for 3.7 years longer than children in homes with few or no books.

As the authors themselves write: “We find that parents’ commitment to scholarly culture [which they define as “the way of life in homes where books are numerous, esteemed, read, and enjoyed”], manifest by a large home library, greatly enhances their children’s educational attainment. …  Scholarly culture has a powerful impact on children’s education throughout the world, in rich nations and in poor, under communism and under capitalism, under good governments and bad, in the present generation and as far back in history as now living memory can take us. … A book-oriented home environment, we argue, endows children with tools that are directly useful in learning at school: vocabulary, information, comprehension skills, imagination, broad horizons of history and geography, familiarity with good writing, understanding of the importance of evidence in argument, and many others.”

baby reading a bilingual book

Implications for parents

Although this study was concerned more broadly with books in the majority language of each nation, and success in schooling, there are important implications for parents seeking to support the minority language of their bilingual children. After all, success in schooling is a direct outgrowth of success in language development.

  1. Build a home library of books in the minority language—the bigger, the better.

Even if you don’t own 500 books (both children’s books and books for adults count!), the more books you have, and the more you make use of those books by reading aloud to your children each day and reading together, the more your children’s language ability will grow.

And, as the study suggests, the language-related “tools” that your children will gain in the minority language will also be a source of support to them when attending school in the majority language. For example, the knowledge about the world that my kids have gleaned from our English books at home serves them well when studying similar topics in Japanese.

  1. Create an environment of bookshelves and books, not simply digital readers and e-books.

One important reason I haven’t yet shifted much from “real books” to e-books is because real books, in my view, provide a richer environment for the senses. It’s true, we’re slowly getting buried in books here, but the fact that my kids are surrounded by them (and stumbling over them), day in and day out, makes books and reading a way of life.

With bookshelves, books are continuously on display and available for discovery; this just isn’t the case with e-books lurking inside a digital device. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking e-books—they have many merits, not the least of which would be helping me dig out of my housekeeping dilemma. But, to me, they also run the risk of turning books from “public things” into “private things.”

For the sake of my children’s language development, I want our home environment to support my aims, and I think emphasizing books that are tangible and tactile, as “public things” always beckoning to the eye, is a more effective course during their formative years.

  1. Keep in mind that, as these researchers contend, “a taste for books is largely inherited.”

Of course, our main goal involves supporting the minority language of our bilingual kids. But have you ever considered the fact that, in a way, the support you’re providing to your children today will also affect the language development of their kids, your future grandchildren? (Sorry to turn you into a grandparent so soon!)

The study on “scholarly culture” makes this very clear in exploring the question: Where do libraries come from—who acquires a large library? And the authors conclude that “Scholarly culture, and the taste for books that it brings, persists from generation to generation within families largely of its own accord, independent of education and class.”

In other words, if you build a large library of books in your home, your children probably will, too, when they’re adults! And if your children do, your grandchildren will do the same for their kids! And so it goes, generation after generation, a love of language and literacy—and stronger language development—handed down far after your time.

 

Adapted from the book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids by Adam Beck, founder of the blog Bilingual Monkeys and the forum The Bilingual Zoo. Adam has worked with hundreds of bilingual and multilingual children, from toddlers to teens, as both a classroom teacher and a private tutor. He now lends support to many more families, in all parts of the world, via his book, blog, and forum. He has lived in Hiroshima, Japan since 1996 and is raising two bilingual children in Japanese and English.

How many books do you have in your home library or classroom library? Could strengthening this library help strengthen the language development of your children or students? Please add your thoughts below.

Supporting Oral Language Development in the Classroom & At Home

supporting oral language development

The process of language development in children is an amazing one, and full of so much complexity. Here, we offer 5 fun activity ideas that can help the oral language development of the kids in your home or classroom.

Oral Language and Literacy

So much of language is learned in the early years of life, simply by listening to and interacting with those around us. As time goes by, our oral language skills improve through practice and formal instruction. Oral language is made up of three parts: phonological (how sounds are combined), semantic (the smallest components of words), and syntactic (how sentences are put together).

Literacy begins with good oral language skills. In a classroom setting, it may feel counter-intuitive for a teacher to allow students more time to talk in groups, but there are a number of advantages to doing so. They gain valuable practice with new vocabulary, enhance conversational proficiency, and improve their ability to express their ideas. Also, kids often feel more relaxed when speaking to their peers because they aren’t so worried about giving the “wrong” answer.  As such, they are more open to absorbing and learning from what’s being discussed, in turn improving their overall language skills.

Activities for Oral Language Development

No matter the type of activity, keep these guidelines in mind when planning:

  • Keep the activity free from anxiety by creating a positive environment to limit the fear of embarrassment.
  • Provide clear instructions, possibly in different formats, so that all learning types can understand what’s expected.
  • Keep activities engaging by introducing fun or dramatic elements.
  • Lastly, remember that kids will need lots of repetition to practice their oral language skills.

Here are 5 activity ideas, from our post about language development in the classroom:

  • Mini Circle Chats:  Have your students sit in circles of 4 or 5. Give them a list of fun questions that encourage more than single-word answers. Let students know that they can engage in discussions together so they can talk about similarities and differences.  If you have a very diverse classroom, ensure that each circle includes a mix of cultures.
  • Word Play: Ask students to write 5-10 words (in any language). Have each student share one of their words with the class, and ask the student to explain why he or she chose to write down that word. Does it represent a feeling or an event that took place?
  • Memory Drawings: Have students draw their favorite memories, then share with the rest of the class, explaining the different elements of their picture. Or, spread out a long piece of paper and have students draw their memories at the same time on a wall mural. When the time is up, hang the mural up on the wall and let everyone spend a good amount of time looking at it up close and talking about it. Eventually you can have the students sit down on the floor in front of the mural and talk as a group about what they see and what thoughts come to their minds.
  • Multicultural Traditions:  Have students sit together in a circle to share one of their cultural or family traditions. Then ask others in the circle if they also participate in the tradition with their family and if so, whether or not they celebrate it in the same way. Help students notice that not everyone has the same traditions, and that even the same traditions can be celebrated in different ways.

Differentiated Instruction

For those times when group or peer interaction isn’t realistic, an individualized learning tool like the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen can be invaluable in providing the differentiated instruction needed to help teachers reach every student, of all skill levels, in an effective way. Free video and print resources on the Language Lizard website help educators and parents use the Talking Pen to effectively develop and assess oral language skills, as well as build fluency and improve phonemic awareness with their students.

 

“Girl Talk” by Dean Wissing via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6r3SmY

 

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Multicultural, Multilingual Libraries for Diverse Communities

multicultural library

April is an important month for our nation’s libraries. Take the time to celebrate the many ways our libraries contribute to our communities. In a previous post, we explored innovative ways for libraries to attract ethnic populations. Here, we take a look at ways libraries can transform a community.

Diverse Communities, Multicultural Library Offerings

Libraries have always been a place to read and learn, and have functioned as important community centers. Librarians assess their communities, its needs, and decide how best to meet those needs. Community outreach is a big part of a library’s purpose. As the US becomes more diverse, it’s imperative that libraries increase their services and programs to meet the needs of non-native-English speakers. These changes establish libraries as true centers of learning for the entire community.

National Library Week

The second full week of April each year is National Library Week. It’s a time to celebrate and promote our nation’s school, public, and academic libraries. This year’s theme is “Libraries transform.” It’s an initiative from the American Library Assocation (ALA) aimed at making more of the public aware of the many services libraries offer, and the value and impact of those services in communities. The main idea behind the initiative is that “[l]ibraries today are less about what they have for people and more about what they do for and with people.”

Dia! Diversity in Action

April 30 of each year is the culmination of Dia! Diversity in Action, a nationwide initiative from the ALA. Also known as El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), it provides support to libraries wanting to connect their patrons to more bilingual/multicultural services and resources. The initiative is a “daily commitment to linking children and their families to diverse books, languages and cultures.”

Storytime in a Foreign Language & More

The Association for Library Service to Children, the world’s largest organization supporting children’s library services, includes multicultural programs in its list of recommended programs for school-aged children. One is Storytime in a Foreign Language, where members of the community are invited to come in and read books in their native language. Parents are also encouraged to share foreign language books and cultural stories with their children.

PENpal Audio Recorder Pen – A Unique Tool for Libraries

The PENpalTalking Pen” is great for libraries in search of an easy-to-use, multipurpose tool that will attract and meet the needs of their ethnic patrons. In addition to turning existing bilingual children’s books into audio books in over 40 languages, the Mantra Lingua PENpal can bring fully customized recordings to any learning resource. Just some examples:

  • Listen to sound-enable posters, photos or charts
  • Create interactive displays
  • Create verbal treasure hunts for children to follow
  • Provide step-by-step instruction for any Learning Center
  • Make an oral version of forms and booklets to facilitate communication with patrons.

The PENpal Recorder Pen is so versatile, it can be used to support reading, writing, speaking and listening for any person in need of an inclusive resource that develops literacy skills.

Do you have an outstanding multicultural library in your neighborhood?  Tell us about their innovative programs and services by commenting below!

 

“Canada Water Library Shelves” by Barney Moss via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/dNwts8

Fun Ways to Learn a New Language

The key to learning a new language is not giving up. But what happens when you become bored or frustrated? The answer: try out a new, fun way of learning. Below are some ideas on how you can learn a new language more effectively, and have fun doing it.

Study in a New Place

When you study in the same location, day after day, it can get boring rather quickly. Instead of doing all your language studying in your home or college dorm, why not go to the coffee shop or library? Changing up the scenery will help boost your enthusiasm towards learning the language, and may even improve the way you retain it. There is a link in how your brain memorizes what you learn based on where you are. By switching up your location, you are actually forcing your brain to make different connections with what you are learning, and this will help you remember what you are learning.

Find a Conversation Buddy

Do a search online to find language learning friends to practice having conversations with. Even if you can’t find someone near you, you can still exchange emails, talk over Skype or even through instant messages. A great free website for connecting with other language exchange friends is Conversation Exchange. This site enables you to have real conversations with foreign language speakers who also want to learn your native language. It’s a win-win for both of you.

Try Podcasts in iTunes or English Radio Stations

You can find foreign language podcasts in a multitude of topics, including politics, entertainment, news and more. You can search for a podcast through Apple iTunes or Google Play. Find what interests you, and listen wherever you are.

Get Out and Practice

Whether you are inexperienced in the language or just timid about practicing, get out there and practice using the language as much as possible. If you’re taking a class, discuss with your teacher ways that you can practice your language skills. While you are traveling, stop someone and ask them for directions in the new language. Pick up the phone and order something, or call a foreign language customer support line.

Switch on the Subtitles

When you are watching a TV program, turn the closed captioning on. This allows you to see the people speaking, hear the words and see the texts all at the same time.

The guest author, Vineet Maheshwari, is from AdvancedWriters.com, an English paper writing service.

Japanese Language & Japanese Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

Japanese childrens booksToday’s spotlight language is Japanese. Below, we offer background and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Japanese children’s books.

Where is it spoken?

Japanese is the national language of Japan, and there are approximately 125 million speakers worldwide. Its origins are unknown, and it has no known linguistic relatives. There are dozens of dialects spoken in Japan, but the main distinctions are between Tokyo-type and Kyoto-Osaka-type.

How Many People Speak Japanese in the US?

According to the 2011 US Census, there are 436,100 Japanese speakers in the US. There are large Japanese-speaking populations in California, Washington, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Interesting Facts About Japanese

Modern Japanese began around 1600. It has a large number of “loan words” from the Chinese language (words of Chinese origin). In the last 50 years, the number of loan words from the English language has grown considerably, especially words that are technology related. For example, intānetto for “internet.” Loan words can also be shortened, like wāpuro for “word processor.”

The writing system consists primarily of three scripts: kanji, hiragana and katakana. Japanese writings can be in “western style,” which is in horizontal rows starting from the top, or “japanese style,” vertical columns starting from the right.

Japanese Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Japanese books for children.   Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Japanese language include: Mei Ling’s Hiccups, Farmer Duck, Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat, Lima’s Red Hot Chilli and My Daddy is  Giant.  There is also an illustrated Japanese English dictionary with audio for children.

Do you speak Japanese, or know someone who does? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

“Japan” by Moyan Brenn via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/pMe6Pj

Bilingual Baby Books – 5 Tips to Get You Started

baby reading bilingual baby book

There are so many reasons to read to your baby, especially when you’re raising a bilingual child. Not only is reading a great way to bond, it’s a chance to link spoken words with visual images on the page. And don’t forget to get older siblings involved in the bilingual reading fun! Here are 5 tips to getting your bilingual baby book collection started.

Choosing the Right Bilingual Baby Books

What is Peace? bilingual children's book

Your first bilingual books for your baby should be made of sturdy material that can withstand strong baby hands and teeth. Board books with thick pages are a great choice, as are cloth and vinyl books that can be washed off.

For babies newborn to 6 months, choose books with large pictures in bright colors. Older babies love books with images of their favorite things, like balls, bottles and other babies.

Make Dedicated Reading Time

Life with a baby means getting a million things done each day (and night). Feeding, changing, nap time… repeat. Find a special reading time that works best for your family: maybe at snack time, after a bath or at bedtime. Soon, reading time will be one of the best parts of your daily routine.

Read with Enthusiasm!

Row Row Row Your Boat bilingual children's book

Whether it’s animals noises, singing or character voices, your baby (and you) will have more fun when story time is full of excitement, emotion and enthusiasm. But remember to keep your expression pleasant, so baby doesn’t get frightened if there are scary parts.

Name Everything as You Read

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See bilingual children's book

Don’t limit yourself to the text on the page. Feel free to point to pictures and objects and name them all in both languages!

Let Your Books Grow with Your Child

Handa's Surprise

As your baby grows, don’t forget to add more challenging stories to your collection. These will have longer sentences, with more complex vocabulary. But it’s ok to keep the old favorites in the rotation! Find multicultural children books that are culturally appropriate. International holidays and common experiences, like making friends or trying new foods, are great topics that your little one will enjoy.

What is your family’s favorite story to read? Comment below and let us know!

“Gordon” by 8/52 – Reader via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9XdiDp

Nepali Language & Nepali Books: Facts, Figures and Resources

nepali books spotlight languageToday’s spotlight language is Nepali. Below, we offer background and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Nepali books.

Where is it spoken?

Nepali is the official language of Nepal, a country in South Asia. It is also spoken in Bhutan, Burma (Republic of the Union of Myanmar), and India. There are about 17 million Nepali speakers around the world.

map of nepal nepali books bilingual childrens books

How Many People Speak Nepali in the US?

There are relatively large Nepalese communities in New York, California and Texas. According to the US Census Bureau’s most recent estimates in 2014, over 120,000 people in the US identify as Nepalese. Of these, about 25,000 are school-aged children.

Interesting Facts About Nepali

In the past, Nepali was called the Khas language and Gorkhali.

One of the most well known words in Nepali is “namaste,” which means hello. It is usually spoken with a slight bow and palms pressed together. It can be used as a greeting or a goodbye. A more casual greeting is “Tik chha,” which means “How are you?”

Nepali Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Nepali books for children.   Here are some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Nepali language as well as a Nepali English dictionary for children.

Do you speak Nepali, or know someone who does? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

 

“Nepal – Evening lights at Bhaktapur” by Dhilung Kirat via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6gHdSS

“Nepal-map-blank” By CIA World fact book (Image:Nepal-CIA_WFB_Map.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANepal-map-blank.png

Promoting Differentiated Instruction & Inclusiveness using Interactive Technology and Bilingual Audio Books

differentiated instruction and inclusiveness in the classroomIf a classroom were a puzzle, the students in it would be its pieces. Each piece would have its own shape, or learning style; its own size, or level of readiness. Teachers are trying to reach every student in an effective way with a finite amount of resources. More educators are looking to differentiated instruction and inclusiveness to help them achieve these goals. New technology, like the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, along with interactive bilingual literacy sets, are helping teachers customize content specifically to their students’ needs.

What is Differentiated Instruction?

The concept of differentiated instruction has its roots in old-fashioned, one-room schoolhouses, where students of all ages were taught in a single classroom. Individualized, guided support and instructions are provided to children with different ability levels.  Differentiated instruction can help teachers:
  • meet rigorous standards
  • focus on essential skills in different content areas
  • incorporate assessment into instruction
  • provide students with multiple avenues to learning
  • respond to individual student needs

What is Inclusion?

Inclusion means that all learners have access to learning, so there are no barriers due to inequality, inferiority or discrimination. It promotes a sense of belonging on the part of each student in the classroom. Inclusion means that everyone is accepted, despite their differences.

Using Technology to Promote Differentiated Instruction and Inclusiveness

Teachers must cover a wide range of subjects in a short amount of time, so they can’t afford to teach content at a slower pace. The use of appropriate technology can simultaneously provide support to students who need scaffolding, and enrichment to students in need of extra challenges. The result: students who are more engaged in the classroom.
Bilingual literacy sets, available in many languages, along with the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, can help teachers develop and assess oral language development, build fluency and improve phonemic awareness, and support parental involvement. Teachers can customize content specifically to their students’ needs with both English and home-language resources. For example, a classroom with Spanish and Russian speaking students could include English-Spanish Audio Books and English-Russian Audio Books that students can use with the PENpal, either in class or at home.

PENpal resources can help teachers achieve differentiated instruction and inclusiveness in their classrooms in many ways:

  • Provide step-­by-­step instructions for Learning Centers.
  • Students record the telling of a story, add sound effects, narrate a character’s thoughts or imagined conversation between characters.
  • Provide narration in different languages and record support for homework.
  • Record messages or questions for parents, who can record their responses in English or their home language.
  • Use the PENpal as a multi­-sensory spelling tool by having students record the word they are spelling, and the phonemes or graphemes that make up the word.
  • Use as an assessment tool by keeping all recordings as evidence of a student’s progress.
  • Narrate storyboards in preparation for storytelling/story writing/drama exercises.  Record dialogue between characters and document additional information, such as length of scene, props, or characters.
  • Create interactive wall displays.
  • Audio­-enhance flashcards.

Don’t forget to check out our comprehensive and informative collection of videos for even more ideas on how the PENpal can foster English language learner (ELL) language development in the classroom and at home.

 

 “Niños de Tilcara saliendo del cole” by (M) via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/2SqBe3

Educational Resources for Student Immigrants, Refugees

bilingual resources for student immigrants, refugeesThe number of immigrant and refugee children has increased over the past decade, and is now the fastest-growing segment in the US youth population. These students face many challenges when adapting to a new life in the US: culture shock, making friends, and learning a new language, just to name a few.  All too often, schools lack the resources to research the best ways to help these students, and miss out on methods developed by other districts that have faced similar issues. Below are some online resources that can help educators trying to accommodate an increasingly diverse student population.

Refugee or Immigrant?

An immigrant is “someone who chooses to resettle to another country.” For example, a foreign national who is issued a visa to live and work permanently in the US via a legal process to attain citizenship.

A refugee is “someone who has been forced to flee his or her home country.” Refugees apply for asylum in the US, and must prove that they will be injured if they return to their home country due to their race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion.

How to Prepare Your Classroom

New York’s Bureau of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance offers a straightforward guide with tips to prepare your classroom for new immigrant and refugee students. The tips include discussing the advantages of having students from around the world in the classroom, showing on a map where the students are from, and how far they have traveled, and the importance of watching out for signals that newcomers are being bullied, since many refugee students won’t voluntary speak up about these issues.

The US Department of Education has a website dedicated to “Educational Resources for Immigrants, Refugees, Asylees and other New Americans.” There, you can find the latest news and guides that focus on the importance of integrating newcomers into the classroom community. You can also find resources like a toolkit for school districts serving English language learners, and services for unaccompanied children.

Welcome & Orient Newcomers

To help smooth the transition for newcomers arriving at a new school, create a welcome process for teachers, administrators and students. Include a school ambassador program, where newcomers are paired with a “buddy” who is a trained peer, and try to integrate information about the new student’s culture and country into your classroom routines. Or, find appropriate activities to keep the new student engaged in learning while their English skills are still developing.

Reach out to Parents

The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools offers a detailed guide that focuses on the importance of successfully engaging the parents of immigrant and refugee students. It gives many ways to partner with those families, and reminds us that “refugee parents resettled here for their children. They are fully invested in their children’s future.” Some tips include having regular meetings with families that include bilingual support, food and childcare.

All children go through a transition period when first entering school. Immigrant and refugee children, in particular, need clear and dedicated support from their schools. By doing this right from the beginning, the year is sure to progress more smoothly and comfortably for everyone in the classroom.

 

“I <3 2 read” by Kate Ter Haar via Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/dRpekF

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