Monday, November 28, 2011

"ELL Emerging Literacy": Free Webinar by Dr. Robin Schwarz

For those of you who missed the free webinar conducted by Dr. Robin Lovrien Schwarz on teaching ELL Emerging Literacy, the link to watch the recorded webinar and to download the power point slides is available here.

In this webinar, you will learn what research tells us:
  • About adults who have never been to school.
  • How acquiring literacy changes the brain.
  • What this all means in thinking about how to teach these learners to read.

The webinar was very well-received with an impressive number of attendees. Following is some feedback from one of the attendees:

Wow!  This was by far the BEST training I have ever seen on the topic of how to teach ESOL low literacy students.  Robin gave very useful information that is practical and easy to implement.  The tips were eye-opening and so clear.  I kept saying, “Well, of course!”  “That is so obvious!”

I have taught this level of student, and throughout the presentation I remembered individual students who fit descriptions she gave.  The beauty of the presentation was that it gave ideas on how to work with the students.

I really appreciate that Reading Horizons has done this.  It is extremely helpful to the field that is so bereft of solid professional development on this topic.

(For a list of other free webinars on literacy, click here.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

On the Journey to Read

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I have the privilege of working with a gentleman in his sixties who has never learned how to read. As you can imagine, his illiteracy has affected his ability to find and keep a job, which has become quite a discouraging problem for him. There aren't a lot of jobs out there that don't require at least a minimal level of reading ability. And when you can't read AT ALL, which is this gentleman's case, your ability to compete for jobs that are available is definitely compromised.

Yesterday I worked with this gentleman for two hours on just five letters of the alphabet. I admit that I thought we would get through more content than we did. But that is where he's at right now, and he's comfortable with that. He was soaking it in. We practiced the names and sounds of the letters, practiced the concept of the slide, and began to sound out three-letter words. We would exchange high-fives to celebrate his successes, and we discussed vocabulary meaning and real-life application with each word as we went along. He is definitely motivated to learn, and he's already talking about what he will be able to do in another couple months after getting some more reading skills down. But I recognize that consistency and self-motivation will be a key to his success. He's committed himself to review and practice on his own at home (he offered to do that before I even had a chance to make that suggestion), and he will continue to do some independent work on the Reading Horizons software program to supplement our one-on-one instruction time.

As I think about the beginning of his journey to learn how to read--something he has never been able to do up to this point in his life--I think about some things I need to keep in mind as I continue to work with him that hopefully could be relevant to you in your particular educational and life-learning contexts. I'm sure you have your own list of ideas, as well, so feel free to share them.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How Do I Teach Literacy? (Part 2)

I just returned home from six back-to-back trips, most trips affording me just a couple days in between each trip to literally unpack and pack at the same time. As always, I am privileged to meet a variety of people in my travels. My work has provided me opportunities to interact with individuals who are passionate about improving the quality of life for those they serve. I am grateful to have opportunities to learn from so many dedicated individuals.

My most recent trip was to Southern California where I conducted a training for ESL teachers at a community college. I was impressed with their attentiveness and their teachable nature. At one point during the training, I saw an ESL student peering through the window into the classroom. She kept looking at me and at the board where I was writing. After this took place for several minutes, I finally opened the door and asked the student if there was something I could help her with. She replied in her broken English, "No, I just want to learn what you're teaching." She had seen what I was writing on the board and was intrigued by what she was learning.

The skill I was teaching was the soft sounds of c and g. The basic principles are as follows:

• When c is followed by the vowels e (ce) or i (ci) , the sound of c changes from /k/ to /s/ (e.g., cent; cite). C will have the /s/ sound about 99 percent of the time in this construction.
• When g is followed by the vowels e (ge) or i (gi), the sound of g changes from /g/ to /j/ (e.g., gem; gin). This new sound occurs about 85 percent of the time in this construction.
• When a consonant plus c or g comes between the first vowel and the silent e, the two consonants
will cause the first vowel to be short (e.g., dance, prince, plunge).
• English words never end in the letter j. When the sound /j/ is heard at the end of a word, it will always
be spelled -ge. Words with a long vowel sound will end with just the -ge spelling (e.g., cage). Words with a
short vowel sound will end with a -dge spelling (e.g., judge; bridge).