Tuesday, June 29, 2010

An ESL/EFL Lesson Plan - Class Project Idea Using Film

In my travels, I have met amazing people with amazing stories. (See my post entitled, "Lessons Learned from Life.") I have dreamed of putting a book together that documents individuals whose life stories have taught me powerful lessons. That dream is a project for the future that I sincerely hope to engage in at some point. In the interim, I enjoy learning life stories of individuals I have not met, but whose voices are made available to me through text and video. I wanted to share one of my favorite resources that provides an opportunity to access the testimonies of a myriad of individuals from around the world. It is called "6 Milliards d'Autres," or "6 Billion Others," which documents 5,000 interviews filmed in 75 different countries, in which individuals were asked the same questions about life. As the website states, this project is "a perspective on humanity" which reveals "what separates us and what unites us." The link can be accessed here. (Click on the "6bO Testimonies" button at the bottom left of the screen, and then click "Portraits" from the drop-down menu. You can then click on any picture tile in the mosaic to view that individual's portrait. You can also search by topic, location, etc.)

On a teaching application note, I think it would be an interesting class project for an ESL/EFL class to participate in a similar film project. After introducing the website to students, teachers could invite the students to share their "testimonies," as well. Teachers could film students in the class answering a variety of questions. Students could speak in English to practice the target language, or they could be given the option to speak in their native languages, and then given the opportunity to translate their speech into English to be used as subtitles. Perhaps the class could even post their testimonies on the "6 Billion Others" website to provide a "publishing" opportunity. This project could also be done in conjunction with other ESL/EFL classrooms, and, if possible, each class involved could showcase their films as they watch them together.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Teaching Adult English Language Learners with Emerging Literacy Skills

I am part of a discussion group that discusses issues involving adult English language acquisition hosted by the National Institute for Literacy. I have been particularly interested in discussions surrounding literacy for English Language Learners (ELLs). The discussion thread is moderated by Miriam Burt of the Center for Applied Linguistics. She recently posted the summary/transcripts for the discussion on "Teaching Adult English Language Learners with Emerging Literacy Skills," compiled by Inge Siggelkow of the Center for Applied Linguistics. Guest facilitators included Patsy Vinogradov and Martha Bigelow. The link to the summary can be found here. I participated in the discussion, commenting on the positive effects I've seen using an integrated approach of top-down and bottom-up strategies for reading.
The topics discussed include:

  • Topic 1: Promoting an integrated approach to top-down and bottom-up instruction

  • Topic 2: Integrating phonics and decoding into a meaningful curriculum

  • Topic 3: Placing learner’s lives and stories as central to lesson planning

  • Topic 4: Connecting the real with the abstract

  • Topic 5: How long does it take to learn English?

  • Topic 6: Policy and limited formal schooling (LFS)

  • Topic 7: Emerging Literacy, sharing experiences with different groups of LFS learners

  • Topic 8: Questions to Martha on her oracy and literacy skills research

  • Topic 9: Resources to teach learners with emergent literacy skills

  • Topic 10: Finding suitable reading materials for low-literacy adult

  • Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    ESL Resources

    I just received word that a reader of my blog compiled a list of the top 25 ESL blogs for teachers and students, and my blog made the list! To see her list of other ESL blogs, click here.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    Phonics Research

    Over the past couple of years, I have posted several blog posts that discuss what the research says about using phonics, including what the research says about phonics for adolescents and adults, what the research says about phonics for English Language Learners (ELLs) and ESOL students, and what the research says about struggling ELL readers. I wanted to pass along an additional online resource I recently came across that addresses phonics research as it relates to the general population and its role and efficacy in teaching students how to read. I've included the link to this phonics research summary here. The text also includes several hyperlinks to additional sources, including a comprehensive phonics research bibliography at the end of the document, which I have found to be likewise helpful.

    Phonics for Arabic speakers

    I have been approached a few times in the last year or so with questions about the use of phonics by native Arabic-speaking students in the United States and in the Middle East learning English. I have received some very interesting anecdotal feedback on the topic that fascinates me, including the feedback that phonics has played a critical role in helping Arabic speakers improve their pronunciation, reading, and listening skills. I am interested in learning whether there is research that has been conducted on this topic that anyone could share with me. I'd love to hear it so I can pass it along.

    (See also my post on Reading Horizons in the Middle East here.)

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    Learning Strategies for Reading Faster and Speed Reading

    Learning strategies are always of interest to me, so when I came across this link that presents 70 strategies to improve speed reading, I thought I would pass it along. While I don't know the research backing of each strategy provided on this particular link, I do think there is relevance in presenting learners with specific strategies, teaching learners how to use them appropriately, allowing learners to try the strategies out themselves in context of a relevant learning situation, providing learners with opportunities to evaluate the effectiveness of each strategy, and then allowing learners to make their own decisions regarding the potential usefulness of the strategies in future learning situations. If a strategy worked well for them, learners should be encouraged to continue to use the strategy. If the strategy did not work well, learners should use a different approach. This process can be used in a classroom setting or by an independent learner. This approach develops strategic, self-directed learners.

    Following is the list of strategies on the link mentioned above:

    Selection & Timing

    Get better control of what you read and when you read it.
    1. Go for big fonts: Big fonts are easier to speed read because it’s harder to skip lines accidentally.
    2. Make it more interesting: Approach reading as something interesting instead of a dreaded task.
    3. Set a time goal: Decide how fast you’d like to read and keep on track to push yourself.
    4. Put together a reading schedule: Find out a time of day when you’re alert and ready to read.
    5. Don’t read unnecessary items: Delete joke emails, catalogs, and newsletters to reduce your pile of reading to get through.
    6. Read correspondence once: Read correspondence right away and decide what to do about it so that you don’t have to go back over it again.
    7. Squeeze reading in: Get reading done in tiny increments, taking advantage of opportunities like doctor’s appointments and carpooling.
    8. Practice frequently: The more you read, the faster you will read.

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    What Works for Adult ESL Students

    I came across a great online article that documents an interview with Heide Wrigley entitled "What Works for Adult ESL Students." Heide Wrigley was a principal researcher of a study funded by the US Department of Education in conjunction with American Institutes for Research and Aguirre International. In the documented interview, Heide discusses her findings and implications for curriculum development. The article can be accessed here, but I will highlight a few excerpts that illustrate some key points below. I think these are elements to keep in mind when creating reading and literacy curriculum for ESL students.