Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Research on Reading Intervention for Low-Literate Adult ESL Learners

I just read a research report on the impact of a reading intervention for low-literate adult ESL learners. A link to the research report can be found here. Reactions? For me, these findings illustrate the need for the development of more low-level materials with a systematic, sequential sequence of skills that students can transfer to reading at their appropriate levels. It also suggests a need to train teachers on how to appropriately teach students these strategies and skills. I'm working on it! A free resource currently available includes the Online Workshop which orients teachers to basic decoding and spelling skills that they can apply in their classrooms.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What are Graphic Organizers? - Teaching Reading Resources

Graphic organizers are a way to visually arrange and classify information. They are also used to demonstrate comprehension of reading material. Students can use them individually, in small groups, or as a whole class under a teacher’s direction. Graphic organizers can be used as a pre-reading activity to activate background knowledge of a topic that students are going to read about, or they can be used after students read to assess students’ comprehension of reading material. Consider using graphic organizers to supplement your reading instruction.

There are several free graphic organizer resources available online, but a few examples are included below for each designated purpose listed.

To Show Detail:
Cluster/Word Web

To Compare and Contrast:
Venn Diagram
Same and Different Chart

To Show Sequence:
Sequence Chart
Cycle Chart

To Show Cause and Effect:
1 Cause and 4 Effects Chart
4 Causes and 2 Effects Chart

Adapted from Reading Horizons Reading Library Teacher Edition. Used with permission.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What Research Says about Teaching Vocabulary to ELLs and ESL Students

This blog post highlights a few points that resurface in the research about teaching vocabulary to ELLs/ESL students. Feel free to add your thoughts and share your own experiences with teaching vocabulary!

What the Research Says about Teaching Vocabulary:
         Explicitly teach vocabulary.
         Provide repetition and practice of new vocabulary.
         The use of pictures and context sentences is effective.
         Provide access to word definitions while engaged in a reading task.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Online Articles about Phonics and Balanced Literacy for Adolescents

In some of the digging I've done in the literature about phonics, effective reading instruction, and literacy, I've come across some interesting articles that may be of interest to some of you. I've posted them here:

Whole-Language High Jinks: How to Tell When "Scientifically-Based Reading Instruction" Isn't (Louisa Moats)

Whole Language Lives On: The Illusion of "Balanced" Reading Instruction (Louisa Moats)

 Older Children Need Phonemic Awareness Instruction, Too (Susan Szabo)

What Content-Area Teachers Should Know About Adolescent Literacy (National Institute for Literacy)   

Phonics in ESL Literacy Instruction: Functional or Not? (Monica L. Jones)

Adolescents and Literacy: Reading for the 21st Century (Michael L. Kamil)

Decoding and Fluency: Foundation Skills for Struggling Older Readers (Anita L. Archer, Mary M. Gleason, and Vicky L. Vachon)

Comments? Reactions?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Direct and Indirect Quotations - ELL and ESL Grammar Lessons

This blog post provides a resource to teach ESL students/ELLs the use of direct and indirect quotations. Adapt the following information according to students' levels and needs. Note that the example sentences provided employ simple vocabulary and word constructions to accommodate low-level students. Example sentences can be modified to be more appropriate for your students' levels, interests, and content areas where this instruction will be applied.

The Difference Between Direct and Indirect Quotations
When you write a person’s exact words, it is called a direct quotation. You use quotation marks around a direct quotation. The verbs most often used with direct quotations are said and asked. The word said means that someone spoke words. It is used for imperative, declarative, and exclamatory sentences. The word asked means that someone presented a question. It is used for interrogative sentences.
Examples of direct quotations:
“Pam had a job,” said Dad.
“Is Mom sad?” asked Ned.

When you write what a person said but not his/her exact words, it is called an indirect quotation. For these quotations, you don’t use quotation marks. The phrase most-often used with indirect quotations is said that.

Examples of indirect quotations:
Dad said that Pam had a job.
Ned asked if Mom was sad.

Teacher's Note: Students should note that verb tenses can change in indirect quotations, but right now, they should focus on the quotation marks.

Using Direct and Indirect Quotations
Use quotation marks before and after a person's exact words.
"The dog ran on the sod," said Mom.

If a person's words are interrupted by other words in the sentence, use quotation marks only around the person's exact words.
"That sod," he said, "was a big job."

Capitalize the first word in a quotation, even if it's not the first word in the sentence.
Mom said, "The dog is in the den."

After an interruption, do not capitalize the next word unless it starts a new sentence.
"The dog," Mom said, "is in the den."
"That is good," Dad said. "He gets no ham."

Use a comma to divide the spoken words from the speaker. Always place the comma before the quotation marks.
Mom said, "He will beg."
"He will beg," Mom said.

If the spoken words end in a question or an exclamation mark, do not use a comma afterward to separate the words from the speaker.
"Is Jen in bed?" he asked.
"I am in the den!" she shouted.

Always put a period inside the end quotation mark. Put a question or an exclamation mark inside the quotation mark if the spoken words are themselves a question or an exclamation.
He said, "You have a job."
She asked, "What is it?"

Use a new paragraph, and indent each time the speaker changes.
     Dad said, "You and I will fix the sod. After
that, you can go to bed."
     Jen said, "That bad dog!" Dad led Jen to
the sod.
     "No ham for you!" Mom said to the dog.
"To bed!"

Student Practice
Make an activity page from the items below. Have students indicate if the following sentences are direct or indirect quotations by having them write the letter d for direct or the letters id for indirect on the blank before each sentence. Then have students add proper punctuation and quotation marks. The first two are done.

1. Dad said to come to the den.  _id_
2. “What is in the den?” asked Sam.  _d_
3. Your mother wants a map said Dad  ___
4. Dad said that Mom and Jan’s mom want to go to The Red Hen  ___
5. I put the map to The Red Hen in the den said Dad  ___
6. Jan said that Dad and Sam went to get the map  ___
7. Dad said get this map to Mom Is that OK  ___
8. Can I have Jan help me asked Sam  ___
9. Dad said it was OK for Jan and Sam to get the map to Mom  ___
10. Your mom will be so glad said Dad  ___

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Making a Difference Around the World

On this blog, I strive to provide helpful information that teachers can apply in the classroom and use to enhance their own scholarship. Once in awhile, I feel the urge to share information that inspires, which I hope motivates others--as it does me--to continue to do our best in our own corners of the world to educate and inspire.

Lately, my heart has been probed as I ponder one of my greatest passions in life: concern for the welfare of my fellowmen, both domestically and abroad. I have had my share of opportunities to travel the world and associate with my fellowmen and hopefully contribute in a small way to their well-being. But I realize that the world is a big place, and it requires the help of so many. I recognize that there are many individuals and organizations in the world who are engaged in great causes that help provide sustainability and individual empowerment.

With it being the week of Thanksgiving, I thought I would highlight just a few organizations I know about personally that I am grateful for. Their efforts to contribute to the well-being of their fellowmen serve as an inspiration to me and motivate me to continue to do my best to educate, serve, inspire, and love. (I've also included a link to a video of each organization so you can get a feel for the great work they do.)

Rising Star Outreach is a non-profit organization in India that has a three-fold mission to provide: 1) micro-lending; 2) medical care; and 3) complete education for children. (Watch a video on the organization here. And I'm warning you: you'll fall in love with the children at RSO if you click here.)

The Tipping Bucket strives to raise funds, $1 at a time, to help fund projects that promote self-reliance around the world. (Watch a video on their organization here.)

Brigham Young University and Empower Playgrounds, Inc. created a merry-go-round that generates electricity for a village in Ghana to light their schools and their homes. (Watch a video on the project here.)

Thank you to everyone who makes their own contributions to improve the well-being of others, no matter how simple. I realize that you don't have to leave your home country or home town to make a difference. I'm grateful for the millions of people who make a difference in their own classrooms, neighborhoods, and homes everyday. Your efforts are equally inspiring...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ideas for Teaching Sight Words for ELLs/ESL Students

Why Teach Sight Words?
One effective approach to teaching reading to low-level readers is to teach sight words. Sight words are words that occur so often in a text that readers should be able to read them by sight without having to decode them. Sight words also consist of words that cannot be decoded and must be memorized by sight. Knowing these high-frequency words and being able to recognize non-decodable words by sight are extremely important skills for developing reading fluency.

In order to read well, students need to read sight words very quickly. They need to memorize them. Students should memorize a few sight words at a time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Videos that Demonstrate the Need for Adult Literacy Training

My company (Reading Horizons) just launched a series of new videos that showcase individuals' first-hand experiences with reading difficulties. The video series is called "In Your Own Backyard," demonstrating that there are people all around us--"in our own backyard"--who struggle with reading. They could be our friends or our loved ones. I thought it would be worth sharing this link on this blog to remind us of the opportunities that surround us to help build literacy skills.

I also wanted to share another video that demonstrates the painful reality of illiteracy. I sometimes share this video at the beginning of my presentations at professional literacy conferences to establish commonality among those in attendance. I often observe attendees nodding their heads as they watch this video because of their familiarity with this reality. This video can be accessed below.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Handout for Five Free Technology Tools for ELL/ESL Teachers and Students

A couple posts ago, I shared some information about educational technology tools that can be used in the classroom. I received a link to a handout for the presentation that introduced these classroom technology tools, and I thought I'd share it here.

Thank you to Ben McMurry for his work on this handout and for delivering this presentation.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ten Consistent Spelling Patterns in English

Last weekend at the Intermountain TESOL Conference, I presented on "Ten Consistent Spelling Rules to Boost Your Students' Spelling." I thought I would include the information from my handout in this post since the information was well-received. It can be accessed on the pages link in the right margin of this blog entitled "Ten Consistent Spelling Rules to Boost Your Students' Spelling".

Friday, October 22, 2010

Five Free Technology Tools for ELL/ESL Teachers and Students

I am currently serving as the Past-President of the Intermountain TESOL affiliate, and I am always impressed with the quality of character and scholarship among our membership. I was reminded of this today as I participated in the first day of the two-day I-TESOL Fall Conference hosted at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. I attended some wonderful sessions, one of which discussed five free technology tools that have application both in and out of the classroom that I am very excited to use. I thought it would be worth passing these resources along. I attribute these ideas to Ben McMurry, a colleague from Brigham Young University.

Here are the five educational technology tools that were shared:
1) Do you ever have a YouTube video you want to show in class but you don't have internet access? Download YouTube Videos using "1 Click". Once you download this app, you can choose to save the file in FLV, MP4, 3GP, or HD formats. I like this tool over other YouTube downloaders because you can download the videos right from YouTube rather than having to copy and paste the URL in another website.
2) Google Voice is a great tool for those times when you want to give your students homework assignments involving leaving phone messages. Students call a phone number that Google Voice provides you with, and students call that number, leave a message, and you can access it from your Google account. This tool also allows you to receive voicemail messages and texts using this phone number rather than having to give out your personal phone number.
3) Translate.google.com translates typed text into several languages. This tool will also read English text in English using text to speech.
4) Google Forms allows you to create forms and access the information in a spreadsheet format. I love this tool for gathering information from students on a homework assignment, providing practice quizzes, etc. Google Forms can be accessed at Docs.Google.com.
5) Once you create a form or Google doc, the URL is usually quite long. If you're emailing it out and would prefer that it isn't so long, shorten the url using goo.gl.

I will be receiving more information about these tools soon and would be happy to pass it along if this is of interest to anyone.

(See also my post on other free technology tools here.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

RSS Feeds and Resources for ESL Teachers

A colleague of mine asked me the other day if I had ideas for resources (blogs and websites) that would be worth checking into. Here are a few resources I've come across recently that I check into regularly. If you have any additions, feel free to share them!

ASCD EDge is a professional networking community for teachers, primarily K-12 educators. (It's like Facebook for teachers.) Members create a profile page where they can post photos, videos, blogs, articles, comments, etc. to connect with colleagues in the ASCD EDge community. The membership is large, which provides great exposure to a large audience.

ASCD SmartBrief
ASCD SmartBrief is daily news for the education profession. ASCD identifies and compiles top stories for each day and compiles them into a newsletter format with links to the full articles. It's almost like an RSS feed already done for you.

Free Technology for Teachers
This blog provides free resources and lesson plans for teachers using technology. While this blog is not designed for ESOL teachers exclusively, I think there are many adaptations that can be made to fill these kinds of needs.

Randall's ESL Blog
This blog provides a venue for ESOL teachers and students to share thoughts, opinions, and ideas about learning English. A recently added feature to his blog includes English Voices, which allows students and teachers to share their thoughts via voice recording. Randall posts various topics, and visitors to the site respond using a microphone to record their thoughts.

What is on your RSS feed? Feel free to share additional resources that you think are valuable.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Free Literacy Games and Manipulatives

I wanted to share another free resource that you may find helpful for teaching low-level literacy students. On the Reading Horizons website, you will find some free resources for practicing the alphabet sounds, blends, and sight words (called "Most Common Words" in the Reading Horizons program). These resources include manipulatives that can be used to teach literacy skills. I thought I would share this link, along with a few games that could be used with these materials. If this post proves helpful, I will post additional games and activities on a page link on the right. So let me know what you think!

The manipulatives used in the following games can be found here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Free Phonemic Awareness Activities

I read an article the other day published by the International Dyslexia Association about spelling. In the article, the idea is stated that poor spellers often have underlying weaknesses in language issues, including the ability to recognize and segment individual sounds and syllables. I read another article recently about the strong influence of oral development on reading readiness, meaning that the more oral language someone has, the better prepared they are for reading.

Both spelling and reading require a solid foundation of phonemic awareness before reading and spelling instruction can take place. Phonemic awareness includes such language elements as phoneme (sound) identification, syllable identification, rhyme, and identifying words within sentences.

I conducted an ESL training recently for volunteers who work with refugees, and much of their time is spent on developing early literacy skills with their pre-literate and low-literate students. I thought it would be helpful to post the following information about phonemic awareness-building activities for these volunteers, and any others who are seeking free resources for phonemic awareness-building activities. This information was adapted from the Decoding Strategies for Literacy Development teacher's manual published by Reading Horizons, and is posted here with permission. See the page to the right entitled, "Free Phonemic Awareness Activities".

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Online ELL Pronunciation Tool

I was just made aware of a new link that was recently made available that offers a free ELL pronunciation resource. It shows an animated flash video of how to pronounce the sounds of English. It also shows a video of the front view of a human mouth pronouncing each sound. Students can record themselves saying the sound, and then compare their pronunciation to the native English speaker's. The link also includes an animation of correct letter formation for the alphabet letters. It's a great resource to use for focused practice of the segmentals (sounds) of English. This tool is especially helpful for English Language Learners. The pronunciation tool is available here on software format, or in mobile app form here. It's a great pronunciation resource that benefits both students and teachers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2010

This week (September 13-19, 2010) marks the Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, declared by the National Coalition for Literacy. As one of their campaign activities, they've "called all bloggers" to blog about adult education and family literacy and to discuss how literacy impacts areas that concern them. They have featured several of these blogs on their website that promote adult and family literacy.

One of the blog posts I found particularly interesting was by Deb Peterson. She lists several ways that people can get involved in literacy efforts. Her list includes:
A couple more of my own ideas to build upon her list include the following:
  • Check out volunteer tutoring opportunities in your local community. Two organizations I've been impressed with in my neck of the woods include Project Read in Provo, UT, and the ESL Center in Salt Lake City.
  • Learn how to teach someone to read. A helpful, free resource is found at http://www.phonicstraining.com/.
  • Join a book club or an online book-sharing group. I was invited today by a friend to join "goodreads," which allows you to see what your friends have read, keep track of what you've read and what you'd like to read, and get ideas for books to read.
  • Read a little more for pleasure. We often take for granted the fact that we can do that.
  • Write in a diary or journal.
  • Consider how your ability to read and write affects your life. Consider the privilege it is to be literate. I've documented some of my thoughts in the previous blog posts, "Lessons Learned from Life" and "The Value of Literacy."
There's a lot of need out there. But there's also a lot we can do in our personal lives to ensure that we are taking full advantage of the privilege of being literate. When we're reminded of how enriched our lives are by literacy, I think we're more likely to feel a desire to help others gain that same privilege, and then to actually do something about it.

See also my post Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2011: Teaching Struggling Readers.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Teaching ESL - Selecting ESL Texts

As ESOL teachers, we are often faced with the challenging decision of textbook selection. Following is a checklist that can be used for ESL Textbook Selection as found on the CAL website:



Checklist for ESL Textbook Selection

A. Program and Course
Does the textbook support the goals and curriculum of the program?
Is the textbook part of a series, and if so, would using the entire series be appropriate?
Are a sufficient number of the course objectives addressed by the textbook?
Was this textbook written for learners of this age group and background?
Does the textbook reflect learners’ preferences in terms of layout, design, and organization?
Is the textbook sensitive to the cultural background and interests of the students?

B. Skills
Are the skills presented in the textbook appropriate to the course?
Does the textbook provide learners with adequate guidance as they are acquiring these skills?
Do the skills that are presented in the textbook include a wide range of cognitive skills that will be challenging to learners?

C. Exercises and Activities
Do the exercises and activities in the textbook promote learners’ language development?
Is there a balance between controlled and free exercises?
Do the exercises and activities reinforce what students have already learned and represent a progression from simple to more complex?
Are the exercises and activities varied in format so that they will continually motivate and challenge learners?

D. Practical Concerns
Is the textbook available?
Can the textbook be obtained in a timely
Is the textbook cost-effective?

Are there other criteria not mentioned above that you have found to be important considerations? Feel free to share your comments.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Connection Between Oral Language and Literacy

I came across an article that talks about the connection (and interdependence) between oral language skills and literacy. An excerpt from the article explains this connection in a nutshell: "Strong oral language skills pave the way for the development of literacy in a second language...and literacy skills enhance oral language development." (The article can be accessed in full here.)

Something that stood out to me in the article was a section that discusses the importance of both top-down and bottom-up processes in reading. Relevant and interesting contexts are used to generate meaning (top-down processes), while also explicitly teaching sound patterns, syllables, and word families (bottom-up). A few of my previous posts discuss this concept, including the posts entitled "Teaching Reading to Beginning Level English Language Learners," "How do we 'Keep Language in the Teaching of Second Language Reading'?", "ESOL Instruction from the Bottom-Up," and "Why Phonics for ELLs/ESOL Students?"

An additional resource on the topic of oral language and literacy is a discussion on the LINCS adult education English language acquisition list. A summary of the discussion can be found here. (See also my blog post entitled, "Free Online Resource for Developing Oral Proficiency in Adult English Language Learners".)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Classrooms & Technology - Using TED Videos

I am often inspired by the words of visionary individuals who have innovative thought. A great resource to tap into some of this visionary thought is TED.com, which showcases "ideas worth spreading." The goal of TED is to "foster the spread of great ideas" on a variety of topics, including education. Two TED talks relating to education that I enjoy are as follows:

I recently watched a TED talk by Ken Robinson on his thoughts about how schools kill creativity. He asserts that creativity is as important as literacy, and it is our role as educators to ensure that we are not "educating people out of their creativity."

Another TED talk that I enjoy is Dave Eggers' "Once Upon a School", which showcases how a group of creative individuals instigated an opportunity to provide free tutoring for youth. Eggers also shares how this idea spread to colleagues across the nation, and he concludes by sharing his wish for listeners to use their innovation to get involved in public schools in their communities.

TED talks have teaching application in the classroom. (See Teaching with TED and click on a topic or talk on the right sidebar. For additional resources on Sir Ken Robinson's talk, click here. For more information on Dave Eggers' "Once Upon a School," click here.) In addition, administrators have used applicable TED videos for in-service training meetings with teachers and staff to inspire, educate, and instill vision.

To check out more TED videos on your own, go to ted.com and enter a topic in the search box, or peruse the categories on the left side of the home page. (To see Richard Byrnes' recommendation of fifteen TED talks for teachers to watch, visit his blog post here.)

(See another blog post that includes a TED talk here.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

ESL Lessons - Listening and Speaking Activities - Classwork and Homework

I was going through some old files and came across a handout I prepared for an ESL training I conducted in Hualien, Taiwan on Listening and Speaking activities. On the handout, I included different ESL lessons, activities and exercises that can be used both in class and for homework. I've included the table below:

Listening and Speaking Skills and Activities
Activity Types
Listen for:
  • the main idea
  • details
  • vocabulary in cloze activity
Classmates’ presentations:
  • take notes
  • selective listening
  • Activities on the chalkboard
Listen to English:
  • TV programs, the news, movies
  • radio, English songs
  • internet (i.e. radio stations, NPR)
Communicate in English:
  • Talk to native speakers, other English-speakers, classmates
Group work/Pair work:
  • Generate interview questions; interview classmates
Flashcards (vocabulary words, pictures of vocabulary words)
  • Categorize
  • Identify
  • Pronunciation practice
  • Games
Student presentations in class
Talk to native speakers:
  • Interview
  • Survey
  • Narrate/share experience
  • Picture prompts
  • Internet
  • Categorize by topic, parts of speech, etc.
  • Identify words you know and don’t know
  • Cloze
  • Categorize
  • Matching
  • Identify words you know and don’t know
Pronunciation points taken from context of listening activities:
  • Explicitly identify in listening samples
  • Explicitly integrate into speaking practice
  • Flashcards
Integrated into:
  • Speaking activities
  • Listening activities
Grammar points taken from context of phrases learned:
  • Explicitly identify in listening samples
  • Explicitly integrate into speaking practice
Phrasal verbs and idioms
Integrated into:
  • Vocabulary worksheets
  • Speaking activities
  • Listening activities
Phrasal verbs and idioms

In the presentation, I also presented a "process" or routine that could be followed in a listening/speaking lesson. The process in skeletal form is listed below:
1. Introduce the topic (such as "introducing yourself")
2. State the objectives
3. Provide listening practice (via sound/video recordings or in-class lecture/presentation)
4. Vocabulary/Phrases practice
5. Grammar review
6. Targeted pronunciation practice
7. Speaking practice (applying the skills just learned in a real-life context)
8. Listening review
9. Assign and discuss homework: vocabulary, speaking, and listening practice

Of course, this process can be adapted to meet the individual needs of students and teachers, but the process demonstrates the need to integrate the teaching of vocabulary and phrases, grammar, and pronunciation in an ESL listening/speaking lessons.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Improving ESOL Students' Pronunciation

There are quite a few ideas out there regarding how to improve ESOL students' pronunciation. I came across a few interesting resources in a discussion list I am a part of. One resource includes an article posted on the CAELA Network which discusses interesting points to consider when teaching English pronunciation. The article includes a couple of interesting tables, one of which provides a pronunciation checklist to identify ESOL students' areas of weakness which can then be used to help students set goals for improvement. (See Table 1 below.)

Another interesting resource is a document that lists core items of English pronunciation to teach as suggested by Tran Thi Lan, PhD, at Hanoi University of Foreign Studies. The information is specific to native Vietnamese speakers, but I would consider many of these aspects to be relevant and adaptable to teaching speakers of other languages, as well. The document can be found in full here.

The core items listed by Lan are as follows, with particular emphasis given to the first seven items:

1. The English alphabet. A focus should be put on the following letters which [Vietnamese] students confuse the sounds of: R, I, E, G , J, H, K, Q, W, X, Y

2. Familiarization with the English phonemic chart. Essential as it helps students to be able to know the pronunciation of words from dictionaries. Teachers should encourage students to use monolingual dictionaries made by reputable publishers.

3. Voiced and unvoiced sounds. Students should be taught this to help with the pronunciation of ‘s’ and ‘ed’ endings.

4. Long and short vowels. Students need to be able to confidently differentiate and produce these as they are both challenging and have an effect on meaning.

5. Word final consonants. Vietnamese students often neglect these and constant exercises on final endings should be done attentively during any course.

6. Consonant clusters. These are not a feature of Vietnamese and therefore are challenging. ‘sts’, ‘ts’, ‘str’, and ‘tr’ appear to be the most challenging for many students.

7. Suprasegmental level: Word stress, sentence stress, and intonation are essential items to address. Tonic intonation should be given special care as changes alters meaning. Sound linking is important, but not essential. When learners say the words correctly, they will link sounds naturally themselves.

8. English sounds not found in Vietnamese. For example, the interdentals /d/, /q/, can be mixed up with /f/ or Vietnamese /th/, though this may not influence comprehensibility.

9. /l/ and /n/ can be mixed up in the northern dialect (Hai Phong, Hai Duong, Hung Yen, Quang Ninh etc.).

10. Initial /j/ like in yes, young, yellow may be heard as in zes, zoung, zeallow. This sound can be a bigger problem for learners from the south or central provinces of the country.

11. /r/ The Hanoi accent does not distinguish between /r/, /z/, or /gi/. Some people in the central part of Vietnam, such as Nghe An, Quang Binh, Hue, or Danang, can say /zed/ instead of /red/.

12. The difference between aspirated and non-aspirated ‘t’. Initial ‘t’ in English is aspirated as in ten and tea. After ‘s’ as in stop and steel, ‘t’ is not aspirated and is more similar to its Vietnamese counterpart. This is advisable to teach, but not in a short course.

Table 1: Pronunciation Checklist
Pronunciation Always Sometimes Never
Mark “x” where applicable, according to frequency of error

th (e.g., thin—not[t])

th (e.g., then—not[d])

s & z (e.g., sue vs. zoo)

r (e.g., rice vs. lice)

l (e.g., parrot vs. palate)

Final consonants
Voiceless, voiced (e.g.,nip . nib; seat vs. seed; lock vs. log; larch vs. large)

final l (e.g., final, little, sell)

final s (e.g., pupils, writes, schools)

-ed suffix to mark past tense

Vowel variation
hill vs. heel

cut vs. cart

cot vs. caught

pull vs. pool

pen vs. pan

Use of rising intonation: yes/no questions (e.g., Are you coming?)

Use of falling intonation: statements (e.g., Yes, I am coming); wh questions (e.g., What are you doing?)

Mark “x” where applicable, according to frequency of error

Audibility level
Too loud

Too soft

Fading out at end of statements

Pitch and range

Other comments

Note: This checklist was designed by Nora Samosir & Low Ee Ling (2000) as a means to assess teachers’ oral English proficiency.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Educating Students in Underserved Communities

Occasionally with my job, I get to attend conferences either to present or exhibit. Yesterday, I attended the KIPP conference in Las Vegas as a vendor, which afforded me the opportunity to talk to some of the teachers and administrators of KIPP. KIPP is an organization that serves kids in underserved communities by educating them. The objective is to help these kids reach their full potential by getting these students to and through college. The individuals who I talked to from KIPP about the organization were very confident about the difference the schools make for these kids.

I always enjoy learning how organizations such as these begin. Without fail, it seems to start with a passion to make a difference. To see a video about how KIPP started, click here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Five Reasons Why English Language Learners Benefit from Systematic Phonics Instruction

In my last post, I mentioned that Dr. Neil J. Anderson, world-renowned second language reading expert, spoke at the Reading Horizons Distributor Seminar in Salt Lake City, Utah, on July 15, 2010. Since I work for Reading Horizons, and since I know Dr. Anderson personally, he asked me before the seminar my opinion on what topic he should address. As we discussed possible topics, I was reminded of the perpetual need to establish and promote the important role that systematic phonics instruction plays in an English Language Learner's education. Thus, his presentation was entitled, "The Five Reasons Why English Language Learners Benefit from Systematic Phonics Instruction." The five reasons he discussed, each supported by research, include:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reading Fluency: Optimal Silent and Oral Reading Rates

Neil J. Anderson, professor of Linguistics and English Language at Brigham Young University, recently presented at the Reading Horizons distributor seminar in Salt Lake City, Utah. He shared some interesting information about how English Language Learners (ELLs) benefit from systematic phonics instruction. Two of the reasons he cited include the following: 1) reading fluency increases as students learn to decode words; and 2) oral reading improves when students can decode words correctly.

Reading fluency, as defined by Neil Anderson, is "reading at an appropriate rate with adequate comprehension" (Anderson, 2008, p. 3). This definition of reading fluency is important as teachers consider what an "appropriate reading rate" is for their students. Remember that reading at a quick pace (an "appropriate rate") without comprehending what is being read is not fluent reading. Additionally, reading super slowly and understanding everything being read ("adequate comprehension") likewise is not fluent reading. The balance between the two--reading rate and comprehension--is important to fluency.

So what constitutes an "appropriate rate"? During the presentation, Anderson referenced national averages for optimal silent and oral reading rates by grade level (Hasbrouck & Tindal, 2006). I wanted to share this information below: 

Silent Reading Rates
1st grade: 80 wpm
2nd grade: 115 wpm
3rd grade: 138 wpm
4th grade: 158 wpm
5th grade: 173 wpm
6th grade: 185 wpm
7th grade: 195 wpm
8th grade: 204 wpm
9th grade: 214 wpm
10th grade: 224 wpm
11th grade: 237 wpm
12th grade: 250 wpm
College or University: 280 wpm

Oral Reading Rates
1st grade: 53 wpm
2nd grade: 89 wpm
3rd grade: 107 wpm
4th grade: 123 wpm
5th grade: 139 wpm
6th grade: 150 wpm
7th grade: 150 wpm
8th grade: 151 wpm

Notice that oral reading rates beyond the 8th grade level are not listed. This is due to the fact that when we read aloud, we generally do not read faster than what we can read at an 8th grade reading level.

These silent and oral reading rates can be used as a guideline when discerning appropriate reading rates for students. Adjustments to these reading rates could be made to accommodate English Language Learners and students with reading difficulties. 

Anderson, N. J. (2008). Practical English language teaching: Reading. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hasbrouck, J., & Tindal, G. A. (2006). Oral reading fluency norms: A valuable assessment tool for teaching teachers. The Reading Teacher, 59, 636-644.

See also my post about a free online speed reading tool here.