Sunday, September 25, 2016

ELL Newcomers: SevenTips for Helping Students and Teachers

The below article is now available on youtube for viewing at  your professional development events.

  Elementary ELL Newcomers arrive throughout the school year. Often they are academically and linguistically behind their ESL and General Ed. peers. It is frustrating for both the teacher and the ELL Newcomer student in the first few weeks. The student is trying to assimilate into a new culture and school environment without knowing the language. The teacher has the task of addressing the various language acquisition levels of her class and attend to the complex needs of her " ESL Newcomer" student. Here are a few tips to make the first few weeks of this orientation period easier for both the student and the teacher.

One:  Ease fears- This includes the parents as well as the child.  Give the parents a tour of the school and the classroom with the child.  Even if you don’t speak the language of the parents this is a very important step.  The parents are probably dealing with culture assimilation in their own respect.  It will help them to visualize where their child is working and playing while they are away from him/her during the school day.  It also helps ease the separation anxiety for the child.

Two: Assign a buddy immediately.  Hopefully, there will be a child who speaks the new student’s language.  The assigned buddy should have an open and friendly personality.  The buddy should also be dismissed the same way as the Newcomer student.  (Assigned to the same bus for example.)  Place the new student next to the buddy near the front of the room.

Three:  Assessment- Assessment drives instruction. Your school department has probably given a language proficiency test upon the student’s registration with the school department. Therefore, you already know your student’s language level for English. Although, many times a newcomer arrives with no academic paper trail.  Give your student a quick academic assessment to ascertain what basic skills they are capable of in an academic setting.  Little Language Learners provides an assessment like this in our Newcomer Bundle.

Four: School Staff- Your new student just starts to get comfortable with you and his/her new classroom environment and then it is time for a special class.  Transitions can be hard for a Newcomer in the first week of school. There are so many people to meet and they are all speaking quite fast in a second language.  Many times specialty teachers are not specifically trained to teach ELL students.  Give them little tips that come naturally to you but they might not be aware that they are doing or not doing. Remind them to slow their speech down.  Give them tips about cultural sensitive teaching behavior. ( Example- Don’t ask an Asian child to look you in the eye when being addressed.)  If your Newcomer/ New arrival comes from a country that you do not know about certain cultural interpersonal communication styles, it is a good idea to research them and share them with your teacher peers.  Suggest a limit on the use of confusing idioms. (“Good job! You knocked my socks off!”)

Little Language Learners offers poems and illustrations for each member of a school staff in our Newcomer Bundle.  These resources help a Newcomer/New arrival become familiar with the adults in their academic lives.  Head templates are available for the child to create a portrait of each administrator, school nurse and specialty teacher.

Five:  Building Survival Vocabulary- The best way to develop academic language is through Sheltered Instruction techniques and strategies.  Although, your newcomer needs to build their own personal survival lexicons immediately.  This will help them understand simple directions and be able to communicate important information in emergency situations.  (Example-If they are ill are hurt, they need to know body part names or emotion names.) The Direct Instruction method is the fastest way to teach survival vocabulary.  Little Language Learners has designed a language development kit for this purpose:  Here is the description:

 This vocabulary kit is an essential resource for ELL Newcomers. It is an integral part of any language development program for both ELL and General Education learners. The cards were designed to develop growth in vocabulary that is essential for functioning in everyday social and academic situations. On the back of each card is a direct instruction script. The scripts follow a repetitive pattern to allow the children to internalize the vocabulary. Extension questions and dialogue to foster conversation skills and teach facts about the words’ subject is provided. A teacher, paraprofessional, or a peer tutor can use the vocabulary cards. There are 242 cards in this kit. The topics of this kit were carefully selected. These cards are not just simply run of the mill picture cards. It is a set that was designed particularly for the development of language skills of the early primary child or the ELL newcomer student. These cards are a lifesaver for a teacher of any grade that has an ELL newcomer enter their room as a late arrival. This set can be considered survival vocabulary for a new student to this country. It is a must have resource for any ESL teacher. The cards are designed for easy handling and storage. Photocopy the scripts onto the back and laminate. You will use these cards for your entire teaching career.

The topics of the cards are:

Action Words
Letters and Sounds
Shapes and Numbers
Parts of the Body
Family Names
School Things
School Staff

This kit is also a part of the Newcomer Bundle.

Six: Breaking the Ice- It is hard for a Newcomer/New Arrival to make friends in a class.  A good way for the child to introduce themselves to the class is with an autobiography.  The student can work on their autobiography with the help of their buddy. Little Language Learners has designed an autobiography template that can be used by students from the Entering to Bridging proficiency levels. (There is also a memory book that can be used at the end of the school year to help celebrate their first year in America or Canada.)

Seven:  Writing- Newcomers/New arrivals can feel overwhelmed with writing assignments in the first weeks in a new school. Writing rubrics and writing templates geared to the proficiency level of your new student is the best way to develop this domain.  Rubrics that address each level of language proficiency are a great way to assess skills through formative assessment. Little Language Learners offers a complete rubric wall for writing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Benefits of Dual Language Programs and Effective Resources

Dual language programs are blooming all over the country. The following article shares five benefits for implementing a dual language program.

Here are five reasons why dual language immersion programs are becoming so popular:
1. BILINGUALISM FOR ALL: In contrast to the remedial bilingual education model, which aims to bring ELLs up to speed in English so they can be mainstreamed, dual language immersion is an enrichment model that challenges all students to become fluent in two languages. Classes are often taught by two teachers who each speak exclusively in one language. There is no translation or repeated lessons. Native English speakers and ELLs learn a second language together with no stigma attached.
2. CLOSING THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP: The recent move away from traditional bilingual education toward English language immersion was meant to help ELLs catch up with English speaking peers. Instead, standardized test scores from 2003 to 2010 show a widening achievement gap. Numerous studies demonstrate that ELLs become more fluent in English when they learn to read in their primary language.
In 2004, Virginia P. Collier and Wayne P. Thomas from George Mason University published an 18-year longitudinal study of dual language programs in 23 school districts and 15 states. They found that dual language immersion fully closes the achievement gap between ELLs and native speakers of English.
3. POSITIVE SCHOOL CULTURE: Collier and Thomas discovered that the effectiveness of dual language education extends beyond academic outcomes. The entire school community benefits when multiple languages and cultural heritages are validated and respected. Friendships bridge class and language barriers. Teachers report higher levels of job satisfaction. Parents from both language groups participate more actively in schools.
4. BRAIN BENEFITS: Cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok has studied bilingualism for almost 40 years. She recently told the New York Times that people who regularly use two languages tend to perform better on executive function tasks and maintain better cognitive functioning with age. Bilingualism is also associated with a five to six year delay in the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms after diagnosis.
5. HAPPY KIDS: Six-year-old Kyra is a first grader who loves her dual language Spanish-English program. "It's really fun because your brain gets to work with two different languages, and your tongue gets to do two different sounds,” she told the L.A. Times.
"This is an amazing program and people should consider putting their children in it," said sixth grader Isaiah Coyotl, the son of Mexican immigrants. "It could help a lot of boys and girls get better jobs, speak two languages and help people in need."

The author, Melanie Smollin writes about all things education for TakePart:

Virginia Olivelli's Little Language Learners Educational Resources offers excellent dual language resources in Spanish and Chinese.  The resources are differentiated for all levels of language proficiency for the early primary grades.  They are aligned to CCSS, NGSS, and WIDA.  The units are designed to be used with a Sheltered Instruction approach-although you will also find beautiful direct instruction vocabulary and conversational skills development cards. Teachers can visit TpT for individual purchases:

School districts may purchase the entire Language Development Kit at Little Language Learners website:

Spanish Dual Language:

 Dual Language Neighborhood and Community Helpers: Vocabulary and Concept Development

Chinese Dual Language-Traditional Version: