Monday, October 27, 2008

Language Learning Strategies for ESL Students - Links

I had the opportunity to chair the annual Intermountain TESOL Conference this past weekend in St. George, Utah where attendees were privileged to hear plenary addresses from two world-renowned experts in language learning strategies for ESL students: Dr. Andrew Cohen and Dr. Anna Chamot. Dr. Cohen discussed the development of a website for helping students learn to develop grammar strategies while learning Spanish. Dr. Chamot discussed how to help K-12 students become good language learners by using language learning strategies. I want to share a couple of links that were provided in their presentations.

- Dr. Cohen's grammar strategies website:

- Dr. Cohen's personal website, which contains other helpful links:

- Dr. Chamot's Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA): For a list of strategies developed by Chamot, see

- Links to Cohen's and Chamot's handouts, as well as other presenters' handouts, will be available at shortly.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is Your Child Dyslexic? - Dyslexia Symptoms and Signs

I came across this checklist in a 2003 issue of Time magazine that lists questions to ask yourself if you have suspicions that your child has dyslexia. I do not suggest that if you answer any of these questions in the affirmative that your child has dyslexia. I am simply passing along this information to be used as you see fit.

Is Your Child Dyslexic?
You can often spot the symptoms of this learning disability even before your child starts to read,
if you know what to look for.
From the July 28, 2003 issue of Time magazine
By Sora Song
Sources: Overcoming Dyslexia, by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.
Straight Talk About Reading, by Susan Hall and Louisa Moats

Ages 3 to 5: Does your preschooler…
1. Seem uninterested in playing games with language sounds, such as repetition and rhyming?
2. Have trouble learning nursery rhymes, such as “Humpty Dumpty” or “Jack and Jill”?
3. Frequently mispronounce words and persist in using baby talk?
4. Fail to recognize the letters in his or her name?
5. Have difficulty remembering the names of letters, numbers, or days of the week?

Ages 5 to 6: Does your kindergartner…
1. Fail to recognize and write letters, write his or her name, or use invented spelling for words?
2. Have trouble breaking spoken words into syllables, such as cowboy into cow and boy?
3. Still have trouble recognizing words that rhyme, such as cat and bat?
4. Fail to connect letters and sounds? (Ask you child: What does the letter b sound like?)
5. Fail to recognize phonemes? (Ask your child: What starts with the same sound as catdog, man, or car?)

Ages 6 to 7: Does your first-grader…
1. Still have difficulty recognizing and manipulating phonemes?
2. Fail to read common one-syllable words, such as mat or top?
3. Make reading errors that suggest a failure to connect sounds and letters, such as big for goat?
4. Fail to recognize common, irregularly spelled words, such as said, where, and two?
5. Complain about how hard reading is and refuse to do it?

Ages 7 and older: Does your child…
1. Mispronounce long or complicated words, saying “amulium” instead of “aluminum”?
2. Confuse words that sound alike, such as tornado for volcano, or lotion for ocean?
3. Speak haltingly and overuse vague words such as stuff or things?
4. Have trouble memorizing dates, names, and telephone numbers?
5. Have trouble reading small function words, such as that, an, and in?
6. Guess wildly when reading multisyllabic words instead of sound them out?
7. Skip parts of words, reading conible instead of convertible, for example?
8. When reading aloud often substitute easy words for hard ones, such as car for automobile?
9. Spell terribly and have messy handwriting?
10. Have trouble completing homework or finishing tests on time?
11. Have a deep fear of reading aloud?

Click for more signs and symptoms of dyslexia and dyslexia resources.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Parts of Speech - ESL Grammar Skills

The following information serves as a quick reference to parts of speech. The information provided is certainly not comprehensive, but it touches on basic grammatical principles that go hand-in-hand with the learning of English vocabulary in your course. This information can be referred to and built upon as needed while teaching vocabulary. Doing so can enhance your students’ capacity to use English vocabulary beyond the word level.

A noun names a person, place, thing, or idea.

The horse galloped across the field.
The speaker talked about happiness.

A common noun is a noun that names a general person, place, thing, or idea.

The dog wagged his tail.
A horse eats hay.

A proper noun is a noun that names a specific person, place, thing, or idea. Proper nouns are capitalized.

The Nile River flows through Egypt.
Mary is flying to St. Lewis.

Compare common nouns with proper nouns:
common nouns - City, Girl, Store, Teacher
proper nouns - San Francisco, Sue, Macy's, Mr. Smith

A singular noun is a noun that names one person, place, thing, or idea.

The camel sniffed the air.
Dad rode in a car.

A plural noun is a noun that names more than one person, place, thing, or idea.

Camels carry heavy loads through the desert.
Can camels travel through sandstorms?

Compare singular nouns with plural nouns:
singular nouns - camel, desert, dress
plural nouns - camels, deserts, dresses*

* Notice that if a singular noun ends in s, z, x, ch, or sh, the suffix –es needs to be added to the end of the word to correctly form the plural.

A possessive noun is a noun that names who (or sometimes what) possesses something.

The king’s crown glittered with jewels.
Jill’s bag fell off her bike.

A pronoun is a word that takes the place of one or more nouns.

Mr. Hall climbed the rocky cliff. Angie and Tyson flew to Florida.
He carried a camera. Abbey watched their children for them.

An adjective is a word that describes a noun or pronoun.

Mother cooked a delicious meal.
She served fresh vegetables.

An action verb is a word that names an action. It may contain more than one word.

Small boats carry people up the river.
The cat is climbing the tree.

Transitive verbs
are followed by an object.

Jon answered the phone.
Aaron hit the ball.

Intransitive verbs are not followed by an object.

The children laughed.
A crowd gathered.

A linking verb is a verb that connects the subject part with a noun or adjective in the predicate part. It tells what the subject is or is like.

Joel is my brother.
The flowers are pretty.

A helping verb helps the main verb to name an action or make a statement.

The Smith’s have arrived in Florida.
Barbara was helping her sister.

The present tense of a verb names an action that happens now.

My students ask many questions.
Linda leaves for California today.

The past tense of a verb names an action that already happened.

The boys entered the theater.
Harry waited on the sidewalk.

The present perfect tense of a verb names an action that happened at an indefinite time in the past. The present perfect tense also names an action that happened in the past and is still happening in the present.

The workers have started the machines.
Father has returned to his job.

The present progressive tense of a verb names an action that is continuing now.

The music is playing loudly.
The couple is dancing happily.

The past progressive tense of a verb names an action that was continuing at an earlier time.

My sister was building a table.
My brother was reading his book.

An adverb is a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Adverbs sometimes end in the suffix –ly.

Jane silently walked into the room.
She whispered softly to Brad.


A preposition is a word that shows the relation of a noun or pronoun to another part of a clause. The following words are commonly used prepositions:

about - at - for - of - through

above - before - from - on - under
across - behind - in - onto - with
after - below - inside - to - without
around - by

The moon travels around the earth.
My cat is under the table.

A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition and ends with a noun or pronoun.

The president of the company gave a speech.
Jane’s bird was in the cage.

NOTE: Information adapted from the Decoding Strategies for Literacy Development manual published by Reading Horizons and is used by permission.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Teaching Reading "Fundamentals" to Older, Struggling Readers

My colleague gave a presentation recently about the importance of not neglecting to teach the fundamentals of reading to older, struggling readers who need it, even though you may fear that going back to the basics would turn these older learners off. Going back to the basics, including instruction in such skills as phonics, when teaching older, struggling readers is important in order to locate and fill the gaps in these students' reading skills. Of course, it is crucial to match your reading instruction to these specific students' needs. It is also important to convey to these older, struggling learners why you are going back to the basics so they can see the purpose of doing so. My colleague (previously mentioned) suggested one effective way to do this is by sharing an excerpt from Randy Pausch's book, The Last Lecture, that relates the importance of going back to the basics--learning fundamentals. I've included her reference to Pausch's experience here:

Randy Pausch's experience on the importance of fundamentals

Randy Pausch is the professor who last fall gave the “Last Lecture” at Carnegie Mellon and has a book published with the same title. He recently passed away from pancreatic cancer. He loved football, but he did not start with much enthusiasm since he was a “naturally wimpy," small kid. He was very intimidated by his hulking, six-foot-four coach, but he said he learned some of his greatest lessons from that man. This is an excerpt from his lecture:
“On the first day of practice, we were all scared to death. Plus he (the coach) hadn’t
brought along any footballs. One kid finally spoke up for all of us. ‘Excuse me, Coach. There are no footballs.’

And Coach Graham responded, ‘We don’t need any footballs.’

There was silence, while we thought about that…

‘How many men are on the football field at a time?’ he asked us.

Eleven on a team, we answered. So that makes twenty-two.

‘And how many people are touching the football at any given time?’ One of them, we said.

‘Right!’ he said. ‘So we are going to work on what those other twenty-one guys are doing.’

Fundamentals. That was a great gift Coach Graham gave us. Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. As a college professor, I’ve seen this as one lesson so many kids ignore, always to their detriment: You’ve got to get the fundamentals down, because otherwise the fancy stuff is not going to work.”
(Pausch, Randy. 2008. The Last Lecture (pp. 35-36). New York: Hyperion.)

See also the following posts about teaching "fundamentals":