Characteristics of Adolescents

April 16, 2007 at 7:04 pm (all, blogging, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, personal, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, thoughts, Uncategorized)

Sometimes it is difficult for us to remember what being an adolescent was like.  Today’s tip is a reminder of the characteristics of adolescents.  The more you understand them, the greater the likelihood of dealing with them in a sane, positive manner!  If you keep these characteristics in mind while designing your instruction, you can provide an atmosphere conducive to learning for all of your students.

Characteristics of Young AdolescentsYouth between the ages of 10 to 15 are characterized by their diversity as they move through the puberty growth cycle at varying times and rates. Yet as a group they reflect important developmental characteristics that have major implications for those agencies that seek to serve them.

In the area of Intellectual Development, young adolescents:

bullet Display a wide range of individual intellectual development
bullet Are in a transition period from concrete thinking to abstract thinking
bullet Are intensely curious and have a wide range of intellectual pursuits, few of which are sustained
bullet Prefer active over passive learning experiences
bullet Prefer interaction with peers during learning activities
bullet Respond positively to opportunities to participate in real life situations
bullet Are often preoccupied with self
bullet Have a strong need for approval and may be easily discouraged
bullet Develop an increasingly better understanding of personal abilities
bullet Are inquisitive about adults, often challenging their authority, and always observing them
bullet May show disinterest in conventional academic subjects but are intellectually curious about the world and themselves
bullet Are developing a capacity to understand higher levels of humor

In the area of Moral Development, young adolescents:

bullet Are generally idealistic, desiring to make the world a better place and to become socially useful
bullet Are in transition from moral reasoning which focuses on “what’s in it for me” to that which considers the feelings and rights of others
bullet Often show compassion for those who are downtrodden or suffering and have special concern for animals and the environmental problems that our world faces
bullet Are moving from acceptance of adult moral judgments to development of their own personal values; nevertheless, they tend to embrace values consonant with those of their parents
bullet Rely on parents and significant adults for advice when facing major decisions
bullet Increasingly assess moral matters in shades of grey as opposed to viewing them in black and white terms characteristic of younger children
bullet At times are quick to see flaws in others but slow to acknowledge their own faults
bullet Owing to their lack of experience are often impatient with the pace of change, underestimating the difficulties in making desired social changes
bullet Are capable of and value direct experience in participatory democracy
bullet Greatly need and are influenced by adult role models who will listen to them and affirm their moral consciousness and actions as being trustworthy role models
bullet Are increasingly aware of and concerned about inconsistencies between values exhibited by adults and the conditions they see in society

In the area of Physical Development, young adolescents:

bullet Experience rapid, irregular physical growth
bullet Undergo bodily changes that may cause awkward, uncoordinated movements
bullet Have varying maturity rates, with girls tending to mature one and one-half to two years earlier than boys
bullet May be at a disadvantage because of varied rates of maturity that may require the understanding of caring adults
bullet Experience restlessness and fatigue due to hormonal changes
bullet Need daily physical activity because of increased energy
bullet Develop sexual awareness that increases as secondary sex characteristics begin to appear
bullet Are concerned with bodily changes that accompany sexual maturation and changes resulting in an increase in nose size, protruding ears, long arms, and awkward posture
bullet Have preference for junk foods but need good nutrition
bullet Often lack physical fitness, with poor levels of endurance, strength, and flexibility
bullet Are physically vulnerable because they may adopt poor health habits or engage in risky experimentation with drugs and sex

In the area of Emotional/Psychological Development, young adolescents:

bullet Experience mood swings often with peaks of intensity and unpredictability
bullet Need to release energy, often resulting in sudden, apparently meaningless outbursts of activity
bullet Seek to become increasingly independent, searching for adult identity and acceptance
bullet Are increasingly concerned about peer acceptance
bullet Tend to be self-conscious, lacking in self-esteem, and highly sensitive to personal criticism
bullet Exhibit intense concern about physical growth and maturity as profound physical changes occur
bullet Increasingly behave in ways associated with their sex as sex role identification strengthens
bullet Are concerned with many major societal issues as personal value systems develop
bullet Believe that personal problems, feelings, and experiences are unique to themselves
bullet Are psychologically vulnerable, because at no other stage in development are they more likely to encounter so many differences between themselves and others.

In the area of Social Development, young adolescents:

bullet Have a strong need to belong to a group, with peer approval becoming more important as adult approval decreases in importance
bullet In their search for self, model behavior after older, esteemed students or non-parent adults
bullet May exhibit immature behavior because their social skills frequently lag behind their mental and physical maturity
bullet Experiment with new slang and behaviors as they search for a social position within their group, often discarding these “new identities” at a later date
bullet Must adjust to the social acceptance of early maturing girls and the athletic successes of early maturing boys, especially if they themselves are maturing at a slower rate
bullet Are dependent on parental beliefs and values but seek to make their own decisions
bullet Are often intimidated and frightened by their first middle level school experience because of the large numbers of students and teachers and the size of the building
bullet Desire recognition for their efforts and achievements
bullet Like fads, especially those shunned by adults
bullet Often overreact to ridicule, embarrassment, and rejection
bullet Are socially vulnerable because, as they develop their beliefs, attitudes, and values, the influence of media and negative experiences with adults and peers may compromise their ideals and values


Permalink Leave a Comment

Teaching the Story of Movies

April 6, 2007 at 5:48 pm (all, art, blogging, children, culture, drama, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, High School, kids, Middle School, movies, music, Parents, principals, school, school administration, teachers, technology, Thornebrooke, Uncategorized, video)


We’re classic movie buffs here at MiddleWeb, so when we saw several middle school teachers talking about this program on the Turner Classic Movies channel, we perked up! The Story of Movies is an interdisciplinary curriculum introducing middle school students to classic cinema and the cultural, historical and artistic significance of film. Created by The Film Foundation in partnership with IBM and TCM, the program offers three films for in-depth study: To Kill a Mockingbird, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and The Day the Earth Stood Still. The Foundation provides free DVDs, a Teacher’s Guide, and a Student Activities Booklet–plus online resources, including a professional development area for teachers. Teachers don’t have to be film experts. “Because of the interdisciplinary approach, much of the content will be familiar to educators–methods of characterization, the link between history and culture, the function of music, and principles of composition. The online teacher’s guides for each classic film provide overviews and background information to assist educators in facilitating discussions and presentations.” Visit the site, examine the resources, and find out how to engage your students in some higher-order thinking about the movies. Popcorn optional.

Permalink 1 Comment

Teacher/Parent Tools

April 6, 2007 at 5:39 pm (all, blogging, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, High School, history, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, personal, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, thoughts, Uncategorized)

Are you looking for forms to help manage your classroom and day-to-day tasks?  If so, then check out  This site has tons of downloadable forms for:

  • discipline
  • lesson plans
  • grade sheets
  • attendance
  • wish lists
  • tardies
  • material check-out
  • student recognition
  • and more!

Check it out today

Permalink Leave a Comment

Helping English Language Learners

March 27, 2007 at 6:36 pm (all, blogging, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, High School, kids, Middle School, Parents, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke)

Quick Tips
Helping English Language Learners

Be an active listener!
When listening to your newcomers as they learn to speak, give feedback, nods, encouragement, and praise. Give your whole attention when trying to understand the communication. Demonstrate your patience through your body language.

Help ELLs negotiate meaning
Provide ELLS with opportunities for negotiating meaning. Comprehensible input is not enough to guarantee comprehension. Your students need the opportunity to interact in a meaningful way with peers who speak English.

Explain BICS and CALP
Do the mainstream teachers in your school know the difference between BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) and CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency)? Explain that BICS may take up to 2 years to develop and CALP may take 5-10 years. Ability to speak English does not mean the student is able to work academically in English.

Communicative competency does not equal academic success
Your ELLs may interact well with classmates but be floundering academically. BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication skills) may be learned quickly. However, CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiencies) may take 5 to 10 years to acquire. If your students are unable to understand your language arts or social studies lessons, they have acquired BIC skills but lack CALP.

Encourage the development of native language literacy
Encourage the parents of your students to develop literacy skills in native language. Whatever your students learn in their home languages will eventually be transferred to English.

Help students develop cognitive skills
Encourage the parents of your English language learners to use their native languages at home. Explain to them that cognitive growth in native language helps their children develop English academic language. It is easier to teach the water cycle, for example, if the student has already learned it in their own language.

Comprehensible output
Comprehensible output is crucial for students learning English. ELLs need to negotiate meaning through interactions with fluent English speakers. This exchange provides second language learners with corrective feedback and knowledge about how to communicate their ideas.

Make lessons visual and kinesthetic
Two methods of helping your English language learners (ELLs) acquire content knowledge are: Provide plenty of visual clues to meaning and assign “hands-on” tasks. Visuals include pictures, photographs, realia, maps, graphic organizers and charts. Hands-on activities that help ELLs are collaborative projects such as mobiles, murals, demonstrations, science experiments, timelines, and pictures with labels.

Use diversity as a resource
Students with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds bring a wealth of experiences from their families and homes to school. They have unique experiences to share. Teachers should take advantage of the natural resource in their classrooms and use this diversity as a starting point for all children to value the many distinct cultures of the world.

Provide a positive educational experience
The first months are key to the academic success of newcomers. If you want your new students to become an integral part of the school community, you will need to assure that students with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds have a positive educational and social experience while in you school

Cooperative learning fosters social interaction.
ELLs need opportunities to practice language at their level of English language competency. Cooperative learning groups are one way for new language learners to practice English. A small group setting allows for more comprehensible input because the teacher or classmates modify or adapt the message to the listener’s needs.

Be aware of culture shock
The newcomers in your classroom are probably suffering from culture shock. Being in a strange place and losing the power to communicate can be quite painful. Creating an environment where the newcomer feels secure will lessen the intensity and duration of culture shock.

Develop background knowledge
Teachers need to develop background knowledge, deliver content that is contextualized, and use gestures, pictures and realia to make input comprehensible. When newcomers are assigned to a mainstream classroom and spend most of their day in this environment it is especially critical for them to receive comprehensible input from their teachers and classmates. If that teacher lectures in the front of a classroom, the English language learner will not be receiving this input.

Try to learn a few new words
Join with the your mainstream students to learn a few words in your newcomer’s native language. When you show your good humor about making mistakes and risking smiles and laughter, your newcomer will be more willing to risk speaking in English.

Anxiety impedes learning
A good relationship with the classroom teacher and classmates can help newcomers cope with the challenges they face. If ELLs do not feel secure in school, their learning will be hindered. Conversely, the more positive the newcomers’ experience in school, the more rapid their acquisition of language.

Create an effective learning environment
Classroom teachers who create an effective learning environment for ELLs set a classroom atmosphere that promotes the rapid integration of newly arrived students into the life of the school. They provide an environment that is non-threatening and have a good understanding of the needs of their newcomers.

Foster social interaction
Provide a variety of activities for newcomers. Set limits on the amount of time English language learners listen to tapes or work on a computer. They need to interact with real speakers of English. Social acceptance is a powerful motivator for learning a new language.

Provide ELLs with a source of natural communication
Children acquire language through a subconscious process during which they are unaware of grammatical rules. This is similar to the way they acquire their first language. They get a feel for what is and what isn’t correct. In order to acquire language, the learner needs a source of natural communication.

Support home language development
Promote the maintenance of home languages. Encourage the parents of your ELLS to develop literacy skills in native language. Whatever your students learn in their home languages will eventually be transferred to English.

Assessing ELLs for learning disabilities
The referral of an English Language Learner (ELL) by the Child Study Team should not be taken lightly. All avenues must be explored before a second language learner is identified for special education. It is important when evaluating ELLs to throw away the traditional testing model and to collect data in a portfolio. Input from the ESL/Bilingual teacher, the classroom teacher, and the parents should all be considered during the assessment process. Students should be tested in native language unless they speak a language for which there is no test. At this time, a trained interpreter can be used.

Respect newcomers “silent period”
Don’t force your newcomers to speak before they are ready. ELLs will acquire language when they have comprehensible input and their affective filter is low. Allow students a “silent period” during which they acquire language by listening and understanding English.

Reading strategies are universal
Students who are already literate in native language learn to read at a higher level in English than those who are not. Literacy related skills are transferred from one language to another even if the writing systems are quite different. However, only concepts that are completely learned will make that transfer. Building native language literacy is important.

Teach about fire drills
Schools in many countries do not conduct fire drills and the noise made by the bell can be frightening for a newcomer. Ask a bilingual person to explain what a fire drill is before your newcomers start school.

Give simple directions
Give clear, simple directions to ESL students. Break complex directions down into simple steps. Ask students to retell, in their own words, what you are asking them to do before they attempt a task.

Tie culture to your curriculum
Tie the cultures of your second language learners to your curriculum. Children with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds have stories and experiences that are unique. Teachers should build on the background knowledge and cultures their students bring from their home countries.

Develop pride in cultures
Help your students develop pride in their cultures. Display pictures in your classroom from your students’ home counties. Have newcomers write in a home-language diary, read books in their home language, draw pictures of people and places in their home countries, and listen to native language music.

Teach the text backwards
It is very difficult for ELLs to understand a textbook if it is taught in the traditional sequence: Read text, answer questions, discuss, apply information. When teaching the text backwards you do an application such as a science experiment first. Then you discuss the material in class, and answer the questions at the end of the chapter. Reading the text is the last thing you have students do.

Emphasize key words
Write the key words of a lesson on the chalkboard so that students have visual as well as auditory input. Emphasize these key words. Print clearly and legibly. Many of your students will not be able to read cursive writing. When writing notes home to parents, print your message and use a pen with black or blue ink. In some cultures red is the color of death.

Encourage participation in class
Help students to participate in your class by letting them know which question you are going to ask in advance. This will give your students the time to prepare a response. This is most effective if your ELL feels secure in the content area. For example, a good math student should be asked to participate in math class.

Make language input comprehensible
In order to acquire English, ELLs need to understand what is said to them. The message should be appropriate to their language level. This language should be just beyond the learners’ current proficiency but easy enough for them to understand. Develop ELLs’ background knowledge through the use of gestures, pictures and realia to make input comprehensible.

Check for comprehension
Check comprehension frequently. If you ask “Do you understand?” you will not receive a reliable response. Many students will answer “yes” when they do not understand. Your question should be more specific. Allow a response in the form of drawing, pointing, gestures, and mime. Students can also respond using a word bank that you have provided.

Comprehensible input
Students do not acquire language in a vacuum. It does not seep into their brains when they sit in a classroom. Comprehensible Input is an essential part of Stephen Krashen’s Input Hypothesis. This hypothesis maintains that in order to acquire a second language, the learner must understand what is said to him. Learners should receive input that is appropriate to their age and language level. This language should be just beyond the learner’s current proficiency but easy enough for them to understand. Teachers need to develop background knowledge, deliver content that is contextualized, and use gestures, pictures and realia to make input comprehensible.When newcomers are assigned to a mainstream classroom and spend most of their day in this environment it is especially critical for them to receive comprehensible input from their teachers and classmates. If that teacher lectures in the front of a classroom, the English language learner will not be receiving this input.

Focus on the positive
The more comfortable ESL newcomers feel in your classroom, the quicker they will be able to learn. Focus on the positive. Give lots of encouragement and praise for what the student can do. Don’t dwell on all that they can’t yet do. Create frequent opportunities for their success in your class.

Allow translation time
Newcomers are translating the language they hear back to their native language, formulating a response and then translating that response into English. Allow extra time for this translation.

Assign a buddy!
A buddy or cross-grade tutor who speaks the newcomer’s language is a wonderful asset at the beginning of the school year. During the adjustment phase, the buddy or cross-grade tutor can explain what’s going on. You may want to rotate buddies so that the bilingual buddy does not miss too much work.

Use manuscript writing
Your newcomers and their parents may know the Roman alphabet but will probably not be able to read cursive writing. Either write in manuscript or ask a mainstream student to copy homework in manuscript.

Make an I.D. card for newcomers
More than one newly arrived student has become lost during their first few days of school and this is a terrifying experience. Write the newcomer’s name, home address, telephone number and school address on an index card. The student should keep this card in his/her pocket.

Provide time-outs
Provide frequent “time-out from English” periods for newcomers. Allow the newcomer to spend time each day during those first weeks speaking with others of the same native language. He or she needs to ask someone “What’s going on here?”

Teach to your newcomer’s learning mode
Most newcomers learn best kinesthetically. Don’t expect them to sit and listen to incomprehensible auditory input for long periods of time. Use gestures, drawings, sketches, drama, or other visual support. Give students hands-on activities to complete.

Learn that name correctly!
Determine which part of a newcomer’s name is the given name and which is the family name. Two-part first names are common in many cultures, and may appear to be a first name and a middle name. Ask. Use both parts of a two-part name.(Asian names are given in reverse order from ours; this may or may not have been reversed in the office.) Hispanic family names may also be two-part. Saying the name right isn’t always easy, but it’s important.

Pronounce that name correctly!
Don’t let your new student lose his/her name. Write it on the board with a phonetic translation. Practice until you can say it correctly. Don’t Americanize a student’s name unless requested by parents.

Be generous with thanks
Thanks and praise will go a long way with your English-speaking buddies and cross-age tutors.Let them know that you appreciate their efforts. Acknowledge their contributions frequently and point out the progress newcomers in your class have made.

Where should newcomers sit?
Give advance thought to where you will seat an incoming student so the decision doesn’t have to be made on the spot. Put a new student near your desk so you can provide help or near a student who has been trained as a buddy. Avoid front-row center. If your class sits in groups, place newcomers with sociable English speakers.

Avoid drawing unwanted attention to newcomer
If you have something important to convey, speak one-on-one to the newcomer rather than in front of the class. The anxiety of being in the spotlight interferes with comprehension.

Keep a list of translators
Keep a list of the people in your building who speak the languages of your students so that classroom teachers have a resource when they need someone to translate important instructions. Make sure that the main office and the school nurse have a copy of these lists.

Enlist parent volunteers
If possible, have parent volunteers or older students who speak the newcomers’ languages take your new students on a tour of the important places in your school. Have a bilingual student or parent show newcomers immediately where the bathrooms are and explain what the rules are for leaving the classroom.

Permalink 2 Comments

Resources for Vocabulary Instruction

March 27, 2007 at 6:34 pm (all, blogging, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, Middle School, Parents, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke)

On-Line Expanding Vocabulary Resources

Florida Literacy and Reading Excellence (FLaRE) Professional Paper: Vocabulary

This reproducible paper from the FLaRE Professional Paper series discusses the why and what of vocabulary and includes a research review and instructional practices that support vocabulary.

FOR-PD Reading Strategy of the Month

The Florida Online Reading Professional Development’s Reading Strategy of the Month archive includes several strategies devoted to vocabulary development.

FCRR Student Center Activities – Vocabulary

During the Spring 2004 Florida Reading First school site visits, staff from the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) determined that teachers may benefit from classroom materials that would be immediately useful in implementing independent student center activities. This booklet includes activity plans and activity masters ready for immediate use in classrooms.

Best Practices in Vocabulary Instruction

Scott-Foresman provides this article from Camille L. Z. Blachowicz,

Instructional Resources Database: Instructional Activities

Southwest Educational Development Laboratory provides a database of instructional activities that can be searched by cognitive element, reader types, and language.

A Focus on Vocabulary

A Focus on Vocabulary is the second booklet in the Research-Based Practices in Early Reading series published by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) at Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL). This booklet explores vocabulary development as a component of reading comprehension. The text examines research results on students’ vocabulary acquisition and instruction that helps them develop the kind of vocabulary knowledge that will contribute to their reading success. The document is available online only and can be accessed in HTML or color PDF. Users are asked to complete a survey to access the online document.


Color PDF:


Introduction to Vocabulary

Strategies provided by the Wisconsin Literary Education And Reading Network Source.

Promoting Vocabulary Development: Components of Effective Vocabulary Instruction

This booklet available from the Texas Reading Initiative was developed to help educators and administrators make vocabulary development an important part of instruction.

Teaching Vocabulary to Adolescents to Improve Comprehension

This article describes a 16-week intervention in which the comprehension of middle and high school students reading below grade level was improved significantly by instruction that developed their vocabularies through listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Guiding principles for the intervention are discussed and sample activities are provided.

A free site that assists students at high-elementary, junior high and high school levels, teachers, and lifelong learners in acquiring and retaining vocabulary. Each free session has three levels. Each level has 3 puzzles with 12 words each (36 total words in a session) and contains seven (7) additional activities/exercises that help develop vocabulary.

Vocabulary Instruction

The Partnership for Reading provides a searchable database (by author, publication year, and key phrase) detailing evidence-based research on vocabulary instruction.

Vocabulary Instruction and Reading Comprehension

ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and Communication Digest #126 discusses the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension and reviews some instructional strategies.

Permalink 1 Comment

Fun in the Classroom – Pt 3

March 27, 2007 at 6:31 pm (all, blogging, children, culture, drama, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, humor, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke)

Can you believe it?  This is the last tip from Jonathan Erwin’s Classroom of Choice.  I hope that you have found this series to be useful.

The following are fun activities that can be used for transitions, tension-busting, or camaraderie building.

Who Is the Leader?

This game starts out with the students sitting in a circle in chairs or at desks.  One person leaves the room.  Another person is chosen to be leader.  The leader stays in his place and gestures, makes faces, and fidgets.  The rest of the class follow along with the leader’s actions.  The student who left the room returns, joins the circle, and tries to guess who the leader is by carefully observing the group.

I’m Going to California

Everyone sits in a circle.  Someone begins by saying, “I’m going to California, and when I go, I’m taking      .”  The first player fills in the blank with anything: “my favorite CD” or something else.  Player 2 must say “I’m going to California, and when I go, I’m taking – and list Player 1’s object and a new one.  This is a great game to stress focus. 

Zip Zap Boing

This game helps students learn to focus and concentrate.  It begins with students standing or sitting in a circle.  One player starts by turning his head sharply to the right, and exclaiming, “zip!” with energy and enthusiasm.  The player to his right keeps it going, snapping her head to the right and saying “zip!”  This continues around the circle until a player shouts “boing!” as he turns back to the person to his left.  This person snaps his head to the left and says, “zap!”  Now the wave of zaps continues to the left around the group until another player says, “boing!”  The object of the game is to create a fast continuous flowing sound and movement around the circle.  It takes practice to get to that point, but the practice is lots of fun!

Permalink Leave a Comment

Vocabulary Development and English Language Learners

March 24, 2007 at 8:35 am (all, blogging, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, kids, Middle School, Parents, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke)

Vocabulary Development and English Language Learners

A significant increase has been noted in the number of English Language Learners enrolled in Florida schools and the trend is expected to continue. According to the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE), more than 230,000 English Language Learners (ELL) attend Florida public schools (A. Ginger, personal communication, February 28, 2007). The state of Florida’s ELLs come from 252 different countries and 288 languages are spoken by Florida students. Fradd (1998) noted that the language instruction process is not simple. However, it is essential in ensuring that students learning English have opportunities to acquire the language proficiency of their English proficient peers. As teachers are asked to teach more diverse classrooms with students from multilingual backgrounds, they often need to employ innovative strategies to make content accessible to all students.  Teachers may assume that a student who demonstrates proficiency in social communication should be able to handle English as used for academic work. Cummins (1981) distinguishes between basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) and cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP). In other words, Cummins differentiates between social language and academic language. While students may acquire BICS and be able to communicate in English to ask and answer simple questions, this is not the same as having the level of language proficiency necessary to benefit fully from academic instruction, CALP, without additional support. Contextual clues such as gestures, intonation and concrete referents help ELLs function on a social and pragmatic level; however, unless they master language skills necessary for learning academic content, they will find it difficult to meet grade level requirements. To succeed in school programs, students learning English as a second language must master not only English vocabulary, but also the way English is used in core content classes.  Rothenberg and Fisher (2007) observe that if teachers analyze the text for language use, and know their students well, they might determine that ELLs do not know the words and that this is an opportunity to teach vocabulary that crosses disciplines, vocabulary that students are likely to encounter in a variety of subjects.  Given the notion that learning a word requires multiple exposures over time, and given the limited amount of time teachers have with students, one might ask, “Which of the words will be of most value?” How do teachers decide which words to teach without overwhelming the student? Beck, McKeown, and Kucan (2002) recommend choosing vocabulary words by determining their usefulness, frequency, and the ease with which students can restate the meaning in their own words. The authors characterize three types of words:

1. Tier One words are basic sight words (e.g., baby, clock, and walk).

2. Tier Two words are words that a student will see frequently, but are difficult and may require explicit instruction (e.g., prosperous, assert, and coincidence).

3. Tier Three words occur infrequently and are typically specific to certain content areas (e.g., flashback, colonize, and molecule).

In a particular text, words to pull out for special vocabulary instruction are Tier Two words, as well as any Tier Three words necessary to comprehend the text.

Likewise, Blachowicz and Fisher (2005) suggest choosing the following kinds of words:

• Comprehension words (necessary for comprehending the subject or content)

• Useful words (practical across several fields)

• Academic words and phrases (such as “essential message” , “in contrast to”)

• Generative words (prefixes, suffixes, and roots that can be identified and applied to other words)

When beginning vocabulary instruction, teachers may take a brief passage and choose four or five words that students may not know, but that they will run across frequently in other assignments. This introduction will provide students with a manageable number of words that are essential core vocabulary words for the lesson.  Explicit vocabulary instruction may support all students, including ELLs.  Extensive listening, speaking, reading, and writing practice strengthen the ELLs accuracy as well as fluency.

Canton-Harvey (1987) recommends ample time for purposeful reading and writing and for the oral interactions that clarify each task and relate it to conceptual knowledge. Abundant oral practice needs to be made available to students in order to afford them the steps to create with language. Teachers benefit students by modeling English with clear pronunciation and diction. Ells rely on both verbal and nonverbal cues. They watch the words being formed by the speaker’s lips as well as the speaker’s face for other nonverbal cues for meaning.  Therefore, speaking while facing away from the student could be an obstacle to comprehensible input. Slowing down the rate of speech slightly, and pausing between key vocabulary words gives ELLs time to process what they have heard and time to catch up.

Second language acquisition is a gradual process based on receiving and understanding messages, building a listening (receptive) vocabulary, and slowly attempting verbal production of the language in a highly supportive, nonstressful situation. ELL students acquire more new vocabulary items when they are engaged in an activity in which they do not feel pressured. In 1985, Krashen found that when students feel anxious, defensive, frightened, and nervous, their affective filter is high and acts like a mental block to additional language acquisition. When their affective filter is low, they feel motivated, respected, and free to take risks.  Teachers will (a) facilitate vocabulary comprehension by using relevant visuals, gestures, concrete referents, and paraphrasing, and (b) promote vocabulary fluency by encouraging interaction in small peer groups with activities that integrate the learning of academic content and language. By incorporating a variety of strategic activities, accommodating instructional delivery, and motivating students to learn, teachers will find communicative activities that promote the natural acquisition of language as well as the purposeful learning of content and thus help ELLs reach their goals of becoming competent and productive communicators in English.

Finally, a smile is international. Smiles help to assuage fears and doubts. A smile from the teacher is priceless.


Beck, I., McKeown, M., & Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction. N.Y: Guilford.

Blachowicz, C., & Fisher, P. (2005). Teaching vocabulary in all classrooms. Columbus, Ohio: Merrill –Prentice Hall.

Canton-Harvey, G. (1987). Content area language instruction: Approaches and strategies. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.

Cummins, J. (1981). The role of primary language development in promoting educational success for language minority students. In Schooling and language minority students. Los Angeles: California State University, NEDAC.

Fradd, S. H., (1998). Literacy development for language enriched pupils through English language arts instruction. In S. F. Fradd & O. Lee (Eds.), Creating Florida’s multilingual global work force: Educational policies and practices for students learning English as a new language (pp. III-1-9).

Tallahassee, FL: Florida Department of Education.

Krashen, S. D. (1985). The input hypothesis: Issues and implications. New York: Longman.

Rothenberg, R. & Fisher, D., (2007). Teaching English language learners: A differentiated approach. Columbus, Ohio: Merrill – Prentice Hall.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Discipline Ideas

March 21, 2007 at 5:07 pm (blogging, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, principals, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke)

Where You Discipline a Student Makes A Difference
Where we choose to discipline students can make a crucial difference in whether we are effective.

Choosing to confront a student in front of his or her peers can actually escalate the situation because the student may feel the need to “save face” with classmates. You may also find that the student becomes so embarrassed and humiliated that he or she acts worse.

Regardless of the behavior, your immediate objective should be to limit the interruption and distraction caused by the misbehavior. Once you have achieved this objective, choose the time and place best suited to addressing the problem and teach appropriate behavior.

Source: Master Teacher

Tips for Student Discipline

Here are some specific tips for the classroom, many of which can be used on the school bus, the playground or any other place where school employees supervise students.

BE SURE TO: Greet students as they enter your classroom.

BECAUSE: This not only models the kind of courteous behavior you want to instill in your students, but it also gives you an opportunity for “early targeting” of potential troublemakers. You may pick up early warning signs of potential trouble, e.g., anger, illness, arguments, fights, trouble on the way to school, inappropriate attire or paraphernalia, homework not done, etc. Without early targeting or intervention, small problems can escalate to major disruption or violence.

BE SURE TO: Make “Before-Class-Starts” activities available in the classroom to engage students in positive and productive interactions. Such activities could include board games, a five-minute “free conversation” period or simple calisthenics.

BECAUSE: The “dead time” before the bell can be “deadly” if students don’t have a way to channel their energies.

BE SURE TO: Have a designated place within your view for students to turn in homework assignments as they enter.

BECAUSE: The failure of students to turn in homework on time can be a major disruption to the class. When asked why they have not completed their assignments, students will often engage in denials and excuses, resulting in a waste of learning time. With a homework box, or other designated place for students to turn in work, the teacher or paraprofessional can watch the students as they enter to see who has completed their assignments and who has not.

BE SURE TO: Have a few (three to five) basic overarching rules in place to help govern student behavior in the classroom or on the school bus.

BECAUSE: Overarching rules provide parameters within which each student can function in the group and identify his or her own appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. This promotes individual ownership of the rules and encourages responsibility. (Examples of four good overarching rules–be prompt, be polite, be prepared, be productive. Examples of bad rules–do not chew gum, do not talk). Recite the rules often at the beginning of the school year and make sure to explain why these rules are necessary.

BE SURE THAT: Your students know and understand the rules. Teach and reinforce the rules as if they were curriculum, repeating them often as needed.

BECAUSE: Many school employees believe that a read-through and quick review of classroom or school bus rules are enough to ensure student understanding and buy-in. This is a dangerous misconception. Researchers have discovered that many young students really don’t understand the meaning of words in the rules, such as “courteous.” Also, don’t assume that students have been taught proper behavior at home. Learning how to respect one’s self and others is something that must be taught and reinforced.

BE SURE TO: Develop expectations for behavior that are backed up by a set of fair, workable, enforceable and hierarchical consequences. Do not promise a consequence you cannot deliver.

BECAUSE: Consequences are an important link to the effectiveness of your discipline code. If the consequences fall apart, or are not there to begin with, the whole thing collapses. If they are not enforced, the teacher’s credibility is damaged. Negative consequences should increase in severity (hierarchical). Rule breaking and the punishment should be documented so that you can prove that those students whom you disciplined exhibited unacceptable behavior. This is very important when dealing with parents. Proper documentation can also help to ensure that administrators give you the support you need to enforce your discipline plan.

BE SURE THAT: Parents know and understand your rules, including the consequences. Make several different attempts to contact them. Phone calls and mailing letters to the home are the most effective means of contacting parents. Do not depend on students’ hand-delivering the rules to parents.

BECAUSE: Parents who are not aware of or are not well-versed in discipline policies are prone to side with their children and might feel that the school employee’s actions (especially suspension or expulsion) are arbitrary or biased.

BE SURE THAT: School administrators are aware of your rules and consequences and the roles that they, as school leaders, may have to play in supporting your efforts.

BECAUSE: While you cannot always count on getting the support you need from the school administration, you still should try to elicit their help. The worst thing that can happen to dismantle a classroom discipline plan is to have “no supportive action” or “counterenforcement action” from building administrators. This sends a message to students that nothing is going to happen no matter what the infraction. By the same token, don’t set rules you know won’t be supported by administrators.

BE SURE TO: Plan out the arrangement of furniture, desks and supplies in your classroom for ease of traffic flow, access and visibility. Design seating charts that keep all students within eye contact. Do not put all troublemakers together and do not place them in the back of the room! Avoid, to the best of your ability, congested aisles and stumbling blocks to easy access of supplies. (Appoint class monitors.)

BECAUSE: Classrooms are places where there is constant traffic. The ease of flow can prevent “traffic jams.” Often, when students are placed in close and uncomfortable contact, flare-ups become common. Moreover, teachers should be able to see each student, and each student should be able to see the teacher. This provides opportunities for what is called “early desists” of potentially disruptive behaviors.

BE SURE TO: Learn all students’ names as soon as possible–within the first three days of school.

BECAUSE: Knowing students’ names helps to develop a personal relationship between you and your students. It also helps with early targeting and early intervention by accurately identifying troublemakers. When you don’t know names and try other forms of identification (boy-in-blue-shirt), students can play games of avoidance, denial and trickery.

BE SURE TO: Figure out ways of scheduling routine classroom procedures smoothly and with the least possible disruption (e.g., taking attendance, tardiness, leaving the room, bulletin boards, grades, make-up work). Teach your classroom procedures as if they were curriculum.

BECAUSE: Student disruption and dissatisfaction can result from student anxiety and uncertainty about how to do things in the classroom. Procedures change from class to class, based on teacher style. Students should know how to function in each class.

BE SURE TO: Look for and try to understand differences between ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) behaviors and general misbehavior. Your school should already be supplying training and policy information about this, especially in view of current increases in mainstreaming and inclusion.

BECAUSE: It is difficult to identify those students who are affected by ADD and those who are not. Issues of fairness or legal problems can arise with the teacher caught in the middle.

BE SURE TO: Educate yourself on the rules and policies concerning disruptive and violent behavior by special education students.

BECAUSE: Rules governing what you can or cannot do to discipline special education students who have committed the same infractions as regular education students can be different. This can cause havoc in the classroom or on the school bus. If you are unsure of your authority or the rights of your students, ask your school’s administration for clarification.

More Tips

· Prominently display copies of the discipline codes and let students and parents know where it is kept.

· Maintain dated personal documentation of individual cases and what actions you took.

· Avoid public verbal confrontations with students. When a discussion is headed in that direction, cut it off immediately. Arrange a private talk.

· Avoid physical confrontations with students. Have a contingency plan in place to get help if a fight erupts.

Source: AFT

Permalink 1 Comment

Brain Breaks

March 20, 2007 at 4:47 pm (all, blogging, children, culture, drama, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, humor, kids, Middle School, Parents, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers)

Working Smarter With Brain Breaks

From a selection of teaching tips by Clinton Lamprecht.

Clinton Lamprecht founded the School of Accelerated Learning and since then has trained thousands of teaching and training professionals in brain-compatible learning strategies worldwide. A degree in psychology, a thesis in accelerated learning, an NLP Trainer and over 10 years’ experience in training and learning confirms he brings with him a rich perspective and experience in accelerated learning that will rarely be matched.

Working Smarter with Brain Breaks
Regular breaks improve learning because they give students time to make sense of information. In the classroom, children need breaks approximately every 20 minutes for learning to be effective. During these breaks, the brain becomes more relaxed and this helps new information sink in on a deeper level because the child is integrating what has been learnt on a non-conscious level. The rule of thumb is to have more beginnings and more endings to boost memory.

Action Steps

Stop after 20 minutes and get students to stand up and talk to a partner for 1 minute about the most valuable thing they have learnt, Then change chairs. Three brain friendly learning outcomes are achieved with this exercise:

Students get time to download and make sense of the information.
Learners’ emotional state changes with the movement to a new seat.
More primacies (beginnings) and regencies (endings) help boost memory.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Fun in the Classroom – Drama Games

March 19, 2007 at 5:52 pm (all, blogging, children, culture, drama, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, humor, kids, Middle School, Parents, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers)


Can you believe it?  We are almost at the end of the school year – and this series of Monday tips based on the book “The Classroom of Choice” by Jonathan Erwin.  We have been discussing how to meet your students’ need for fun in the classroom.  Today – drama games.

As a child, some of your favorite games probably involved imagination and role-playing.  As we age, the demands of daily life can erode our imagination.  Drama games can help exercise the imagination, and thus help retain the creative potential that we had as children.  Drama games can also help students develop key skills such as listening, self-expression, articulation, concentration, focus, self-control, spontaneity, and confidence.  Finally, drama games give students a chance to move, to interact, and to enjoy the two kinds of freedom (freedom to and freedom from) that we discussed previously.

Games for verbal expression

Tongue twisters – This verbal game provides good exercise for clear articulation and can be a good transition between classroom activities.  They also help develop focus and concentration.

Quacking up – This warm-up can be used to get people laughing and bonding.  

1.    Give each student a card with the name of an animal on it or whisper to each student the name of an animal.  Choose animals whose sounds are easy to imitate.

2.    Have the class stand in a circle.

3.    Ask them to close their eyes, and tell them when you say, “Go!”, they are to make their animal sound and see how many others of their kind they can find and stand together using the sense of hearing. 

You can also use this to form cooperative groups. 

One-minute please – Pick a student’s name from a hat.  The student must pick a 3 x 5 card from a deck that the teacher has prepared.  On the card is a subject that the student must talk about for one whole minute.  This activity can be used to review and helps students learn presentation skills and how to think on their feet.

Games for physical expression 

Walk this way – Students stand in a circle, each person a couple of paces behind the person in front of her, and begin walking around and around the circle.  The teacher calls out, “Walk as if       ,” filling in the blank with a descriptor (You weigh 2000 pounds, you are in pain, you are on the moon, you are on a hot sidewalk with bare feet, you are getting yelled at, you are angry,…).  For the next few moments, everyone pantomimes walking as if they weighed a ton. 

Musical statues – The teacher plays a dance tune.  When the music stops, everyone freezes absolutely still, like statues.  Anyone who moves is out.  The judging becomes stricter until only one person is left. 

Improvisation games

Three props on a box – The teacher selects three props (possibly from the unit) and places them on a box.  A student selected at random has to come up and tell a story involving all three props.  The more incongruous the props, the more fun and challenging the game is for everyone.

First lines – Each pair of students is handed a card with the first line to an improvised skit on it, and they take it from there.  Let the action continue until they need to be rescued. 

Permalink Leave a Comment

« Previous page · Next page »