09/14/2010

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Three simple steps for adapting lessons for English language learners At some time or another, we’ve all probably all had the frustrating experience of trying to converse with someone in a foreign language. We may catch snippets and phrases here and there, generally getting the gist of what’s being said to us. But when it comes time to open our mouths and speak, we’re tongue tied. Our vocabulary ("I don't know how to say sprint; I'll just say run instead"), conjugation (“Let’s see … what’s the third-person plural of correr?”), and dialect fail us (“Shoot. I still can’t roll my r’s.). At this point, a fear begins to grip us. We worry that our conversation partners may judge by our underdeveloped language skills that our intellect is similarly on par with a toddler. That judgment would be wrong, of course. Just because we’re not yet conversant in a second language, doesn’t mean we can’t grasp difficult concepts. Teachers face a similar challenge when they have English language learners in their classrooms. While those students’ language skills may not yet be fully developed, they are still very much capable of grasping complex content. And all learning can’t stop while students acquire their language skills—if it does, students’ will find themselves well behind their peers once their language acquisition catches up to their intellect. In a new article for TeachHub.com, Jane Hill and Cynthia Bjork, authors of training-of-trainer materials that support the book, Classroom Instruction that Works for English Language Learners, identify three simple steps for adapting lessons for English language learners...
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Should educators let boys be boys? As the father of three daughters, I sometimes forget how little boys play. My girls spend their free time acting out complex dramas, pretending to be strict teachers (with hearts of gold), exasperated mothers, cousins inheriting mansions from long-lost aunts, insolent children being sent to boarding school—their playtime has all of the dizzying social complexities of a 19th century Russian novel. Every once in a while, though, when exchanges between neighbor boys playing in their backyards drift in through the open windows of my home, my own youth comes rushing back to me. “Bang! You’re dead! I shot you.” “No, you didn’t. You missed me.” “Bang! Bang! Bang! Now I shot you.” “Nuh uh. You’re out of bullets.” Many educators are unnerved by this sort of play. They fear that boys who play cops and robbers when they’re young will grow up to be violent and aggressive, exhibiting anti-social, if not, criminal, behavior. To curtail boys’ more aggressive and violent play (read: to make them play more like girls), many schools have banished violent play from classrooms and playgrounds. Yet, as reported in a recent article in LiveScience.com, educators may need to learn to “work with, rather than against” boys’ aggressive tendencies. The article cites the work McREL Principal Researcher Elena Bodrova, whose research on early childhood education calls out the importance of dramatic play on children’s social and intellectual development. Through sophisticated forms of imaginative play (including games like cops and robbers), children learn to delay gratification (by remaining,...

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