Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Part III – Reading comprehension Strategies for ELLs: Determining Importance of Information

Ms. Mc Bride was teaching animal adaptations to her 3rd grade science class. She wrote down the key idea of the chapter that the class is reading on the chalkboard: Adaptations are important to an animal’s survival. She taught her students that relevant information is that which is related to the key idea. She gave several examples of information from the chapter and asked students to practice deciding what is relevant and what isn't. Students then read the chapter. When they were done, Ms. McBride divided them into groups and had them brainstorm what they'd learned. Students in each group wrote a list of information they'd learned from the chapter, and then placed an R next to facts that they feel were relevant. Ms. McBride made a large T-chart and displayed the relevant and irrelevant facts from the groups' lists in front of the whole class.

Good readers can distinguish between important and unimportant information in nonfiction text. This ability is key to understanding the content that students must read. First, teachers should introduce students to the conventions of nonfiction text, such as by having them scan chapter titles, headings, subheadings, picture captions, maps, glossaries, and indexes. English language learners should receive plenty of support before they even begin to read the text. They need to understand that reading is not necessarily a front-to-back task.

Students can then learn to identify the title, table of contents, bolded words, photographs, captions, maps, headings, subheadings, and labels in a textbook chapter to preview information. These conventions of nonfiction text help students to identify what is important in the text. Even though the text as a whole was above the reading level

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Howard Gardner's Five Minds for the Future

I am at TESOL 2010 in Boston, an international conference of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. It is so energizing to be with the 7000 attendees that have come from all over the world. Tonight I attended Howard Gardner’s Opening Plenary on Five Minds of the Future with approximately 1500 other people. Dr. Gardner’s speech was so relevant to many of the topics that I have discussed on Twitter with educators in my PLN about the future of education.

Rather than tweet lines from his speech, I decided to put together a blog and outline his what he said.

There are several major changes in our culture that have occurred that have led to a transformation in how we view education.

·Globalization has resulted in mega cities all over the world. It is the reason that immigrant children are entering U.S. schools in unprecedented numbers. The emergence of global markets and knowledge-intensive economies are bypassing national borders.

·Biological revolution – The potential of brain science for education are indeed enormous Teachers today need to know about how the brain works. Educators and scientists need to cooperate so the educators know about brain science and scientist know about education

· Digital revolution – I won't go into all that Gardner mentions about the digital revolution but he specifically mentions the advent of social networking such as Twitter and the possibility of allowing students to use cell phones and other electronic devices in the classroom. Technology has changed the way we think about learning.

· Lifelong learners – people cannot go to school and then stop learning in today’s world. We must learn to think outside the box, to be flexible and learn beyond our disciplines.

The Five Minds for the Future are:

* The Disciplinary Mind: The goal of schools can no longer be the memorization of an assortment of facts. Students need to learn to think across many disciplines (historical, mathematic, artistic, scientific) and to become experts in one discipline. t
* The Synthesizing Mind: This is the ability to synthesize information has become more and more important. There is so much information available to students that is undigested and unevaluated. Students need to be able to synthesize the information that is available and communicate it to other.
The Creating Mind: This is the ability of a person to clarify new problems and come up with new solutions. The Creative Mind thinks outside the box and is not afraid to try new things and fail.
* The Respectful Mind is respectful of the differences among human beings. Diversity is a fact of life and we must go beyond mere tolerance to show our respect for others.
* The Ethical Mind demonstrates the ability to conceptualize oneself as a good worker and a good citizen. We must take our responsibilities in these two areas seriously.

So with this new book Five Minds for the Future, Howard Gardner goes beyond the cognitive realm and into the realm of getting along with other cultures and living up to our responsibilities to our community.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Part 2 - Reading Comprehension Strategies for ELLs: Asking Questions

Good readers are always asking themselves questions before reading, during reading and after reading. In this blog, I will discuss how to help English language learners learn to use this strategy. It's difficult for ELLs to ask questions about a topic for which they have no background knowledge.

Let's peek in Mrs. Mahoney's 6th grade social studies class and observe as she discusses the title of a nonfiction book about the Underground Railroad. Mrs. Mahoney modeled “I wonder” questions for the students. Maria, an English language learner in the class, wondered how a railroad could really be underground. It was apparent that she knew the meaning of the words “underground” and “railroad” but had a lot of difficulty with the concept. Through picture books and reading material on her reading level, Maria was able to participate in this discussion.

Hyung Jae, another ELL in Mrs. Mahoney’s class, read an entire book at home about the American Civil War in Korean. This background information gave him a springboard for asking questions. Although his language was still quite limited,he developed the schema that he needed to participate in the social studies lesson. The important point is that the ELLs in Mrs. Mahoney’s class were able to read about the topic on their own level or in their own language and ask questions that were on their English language levels. They were able to follow much of the class discussion and pose simple “I wonder” questions such as “Why is this family running away?” “Were the people afraid?” Also, they were able to participate because their teacher had made a point to teach her students about the ways to respond to “I wonder” statements. The teacher modeled these questioning strategies and Maria and Hyung-Jae were able to draw from her examples.

English language learners may not be able to ask questions about the author’s language or vocabulary in the same the way that proficient English native speakers do. However, they can begin to make a habit of questioning and this habit will improve their capacity for understanding and thus support their becoming more proficient readers of English text. It is important to emphasis with ELLs that they need to voice what they don’t understand and use reading strategies to figure out answers.

Here are some questions to help your ELLs get started.
• Ask students to predict what the story will be about based on the title and/or a picture on the cover. This is a strategy that can be used at all grade levels.
• Explain that a prediction is a guess. It doesn’t have to be correct. It just needs to make sense. Help students to become aware that their predictions might change as they read.
• Help ELLs identify “stopping places” in the text where they may have questions or should make predictions. Ask them to mark these places with sticky notes or write about them in their reading notebook. This will help ELLs to become better readers and supports their reading comprehension.