From the category archives:

Language

EL Reform for Large Urban Districts

by Jennifer Kobrin October 13, 2011
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The two districts with the largest numbers of English learners, Los Angeles and New York City, are both receiving pressure to substantially reform services for these students. In New York, the state commissioner on education held a video conference yesterday, calling for more qualified bilingual teachers and pointing out the city’s alarming 7% graduation rate for ELs.

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Mother Tongue, or another Tongue?

by Jennifer Kobrin September 22, 2011
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For years, would-be cheesesteak patrons at Geno’s Steaks in South Philadelphia have been confronted with a simple message: “This is America. When ordering, please speak English.” (We’ll forget for a moment that ordering cheesesteaks in Philadelphia has its own language, with phrases like “wit wiz,” etymology unknown). There is a photo of owner Joey Vento pointing to the sign on Geno’s website.

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Hungarians Reject English, But Why?

by Jennifer Kobrin August 31, 2011

In a story reported by the Wall Street Journal last week, the Hungarian government plans to discourage teaching English in schools. Officials believe it is too easy to learn and can lead to frustrations when children eventually start learning additional, harder, languages. As a former ESOL teacher, I’m curious about how people form values around languages. Learning even a few words in an additional language can resonate emotionally and evoke strong opinions.

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STEM and English Learners Continues to be Focus of Feds

by Jennifer Kobrin August 11, 2011
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I’m back from the Dakotas, where I presented last week at a statewide conference for 21st Century Community Learning Center grantees. After a brief game of chicken with a buffalo standing in the road, I was reminded that rural afterschool programs face many of the same challenges as their urban counterparts (except I guess how to move 1,000 pounds of Bison). It’s really about being able to leverage that spark of curiosity all young people possess into authentic, academic learning opportunities. Which brings me to this week’s topic—STEM and English learners!

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Omit Needless Words

by Jennifer Kobrin July 27, 2011
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Christopher Johnson’s new book, “Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little,” reviewed yesterday in the New York Times, is a “guide to verbal strategies that make very short messages effective, interesting, and memorable.” ‘Big Style,’ (a term the author uses that roughly equates to what my father calls ‘the grammar police’) confounds the set of necessary rules that allow readers to make sense of written language with an insecurity about prescriptive grammatical principles. Traditional style guides are mostly a set of guidelines about not what to do.

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Action Brief on English Learners in PreK to 3rd Grade

by Jennifer Kobrin July 21, 2011
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Back in November, the state of Illinois drew national attention to English Learners in early childhood by being the first state to mandate that preschool programs offer bilingual instruction, as I reported in this blog. The Foundation for Child Development is now building awareness on this worthy issue, partially by releasing a PreK-3rd action brief about raising the educational performance of ELs.

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Spanish Lessons

by Jennifer Kobrin June 29, 2011
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For me, the connection between language, food and sustainability is obvious. In 2006, I spent a year living on a farm in rural Costa Rica. After numerous stints trying to learn Spanish, this is where it stuck. I learned the word for the sweet pancakes we used to eat with peanut butter (arepas), the herb my adoptive mother Miriam used to tear off a bush outside her window and throw into the cooking pot in one quick motion (culantro), and the fruits we plucked from trees, bushes, vines and the roof (guanabana, mandarinos, naranjas, mangos, pejivalle, papaya, piña, platanos, bananos) .

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The Best Answer is a Question: Using Inquiry to Guide Learning

by Jennifer Kobrin June 8, 2011
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Earlier this week I heard a radio segment on NPR’s All Things Considered about Sam Fuller, a sixteen year-old that is part of a small section of the home-schooling movement called un-schooling. Learning for an un-schooled child is driven entirely by his or her interests and motivations. For example, Sam did not learn to read until he began playing the card game Magic at the age of 10, which required being able to understand text written on the cards.

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TESOL 2011 Convention: Resources and Links on Teaching Vocabulary and Innovative New Media to Engage ELLs

by Jennifer Kobrin March 23, 2011
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At the annual TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) convention in New Orleans last week, the theme was “examining the E in TESOL.” It’s hard to describe the TESOL experience unless you’ve been there—over 8,000 teachers, linguists, principals, researchers, and administrators from Mongolia to Alabama and everywhere in between, all rushing to hundreds of sessions.

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Using Shared Experiences to Spark Creative Writing for Language Learners (and it’s Testing Time in PA!)

by Jennifer Kobrin March 16, 2011
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Rather than elaborate on my opinions about standardized testing (which I’m sure you’ve heard before), I’d like to spend a little time this week reflecting on the kinds of activities that are not directly tied to test prep, but can still create powerful learning experiences for students. Dance clubs, poetry slams, creative writing and journaling, school gardens and farms, community service projects, just to name a few. If done right, all of these can help kids learn academics while building skills like collaboration and teamwork.

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