Volume XI- November 1, 2004

Welcome to the E-Comp!, a complimentary monthly newsletter for language educators brought to you by Prolinguistica.com.

For your reading pleasure…

Outrage of the day...
Punishment for speaking Spanish irks parents

HAMMOND | Spanish-speaking children in one Hammond school were punished recently for not speaking English in class, outraging parents trying to preserve their heritage.... About three weeks ago Claudia Garcia's fourth-grade son got in trouble at Lincoln Elementary School for speaking Spanish. When Garcia tried later to talk to him in Spanish at home, he said he would only talk in English because he wasn't allowed to speak Spanish. Garcia said numerous children in the district get punished for not speaking English. While students need to learn English, she said they should not be forced to abandon their heritage. In some cases, the children speak very little English. Yet they are made to put their faces against the wall as punishment for not speaking English, parents said.
To read the rest of the article go to:  http://www.thetimesonline.com/articles/2004/10/25/news/lake_county/f7152ac839d604f786256f3800038893.txt

No big surprise to YOU, of course...
Karaoke helps immigrant students learn the lingo

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Everybody wants a shot at that microphone.
Lined up two by two, the waiting singers fidget in line yet keep their eyes on the karaoke machine, watching for those first words to pop up. It's another crowd-pleaser: "The bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, to see what he could see." Karaoke, elementary-school style, is no doubt the loudest thing going on at New Chelsea School in Kansas City, Kan. But it's not just a fun diversion, a nightclub amusement geared for kids. Turns out karaoke is a great way to help young immigrants who have been thrust into a sea of English speakers at school, often just days after arriving in this country. It helps speed up their comprehension and speech.
To read more go to:  http://www.kctv5.com/Global/story.asp?S=2447128

Cable program picks up where schools leave off
By Gabrielle Gurley, Globe Correspondent 
''Como estas?" ''How are you?" Kiera Campbell, a former Arlington Spanish teacher, asked four Arlington elementary school students who were seated with her on the set of the local cable public access studio.
''Bien," said Ysabela Campbell-Breen, 6, Campbell's daughter, and a Bishop School first-grader. ''But I'm also hot!"
Despite the heat from the television lights, the young students didn't wilt during the recording of one of the first installments of ''Hola Arlington!" a new Spanish language instruction program premiering on Comcast community cable this month. In a segment filled with bilingual banter about ''La Familia," Campbell taught the Spanish words for relatives, including grandmother, ''la abuela," and grandfather, ''el abuelo." The children also sang songs, listened to a story, and drew pictures. Billed as a way to ''learn Spanish with your friends," the cable TV project aims to fill a void in Arlington's seven elementary schools. After a five-year run and serving more than 2,200 students, the Spanish language instruction program was cut by the cash-strapped school district this school year.
But that's not the end of the story -- read the rest at:

Adventure stories revive Inuit myths for modern kids
Bilingual book breathes life into ancient spook tales
Imagine Inuit kids gripping a copy of the latest book about evil, red-eyed shapeshifting spirits, instead of tales of American superheroes, like Spiderman or the Hulk. Sound far-fetched? That's the scenario that a dedicated bunch of artists and teachers are trying to make real, in their efforts to get Nunavut's youth excited about traditional Inuit stories. The group consists of a handful of volunteers based in Iqaluit called the Nunavut Bilingual Education Society, which has been making teaching material for the territory over the past three years. This year's release of Taiksumani ("Long ago"), an illustrated book of Inuit myths and legends, is their biggest coup in their quest to make learning "cool" with young Nunavummiut.
Read more about this at: http://www.nunatsiaq.com/news/nunavut/41015_12.html

Making a second language a first priority
Ellie Wen's honored website uses speech and literature to help people learn English.
By Michael Ordoña, Special to The Times
Ellie Wen is a juggernaut. Sure, she's only 17 and stands a mere 5 feet 5 inches, but just try to stop this Harvard-Westlake senior from doing what she sets out to do. She won an award for top overall achievement by a junior at her school last year, was the president of her class and is now co-president of the student body. She writes, acts, sings and studies French, Spanish and Chinese at high levels. She also fences and is, naturally, co-captain of the team. ...
Earlier this month, Ellie won the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, a national award for teens who have made lasting contributions to their communities. She was honored for creating RepeatAfterUs.com, a free website that matches respected English texts with sound files so that people learning the language around the world can hear it spoken as they read along. The site has had more than 89,000 hits, with around 2,500 a day in a recent observation. Read more about Ellie at:  

Bilingual brain bulge

By Patricia Reaney
LONDON (Reuters) - Being bilingual produces changes in the anatomy of the brain, scientists said on Wednesday in finding that could explain why children are so much better than adults at mastering a second language. They found that people who speak two languages have more grey matter in the language region of the brain. The earlier they learned the language, the larger the grey area.
"The grey matter in this region increases in bilinguals relative to monolinguals -- this is particularly true in early bilinguals who learned a second language early in life," said Andrea Mechelli, a neuroscientist at University College London.
Read more about the possible bulge in your brain at: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/041013/325/f4i9d.html

For your reading "displeasure
A very interesting - nay, disturbing - letter about the trials and tribulations of the Praxis exam can be viewed at Susan Ohanian's website. Not having taken the Praxis, but having heard similar stories from time to time, I found this letter heart rending. At the top of the page you'll find comments by Susan O. (who is not a foreign language or ESL teacher); you'll find the language teacher's letter towards the bottom of the page:  http://susanohanian.org/show_commentary.php?id=288

Follow up: Remember the story about Nushu, the secret language of Chinese women...?
Yang Huanyi, Last User of a Secret Code, Dies

Yang Huanyi, the last woman to communicate secretly with others in a rare script used exclusively by women, died Sept. 20 in her home in Hunan Province, China. She was believed to be in her late 90's. The New China News Agency reported her death, saying estimates of her age ranged from 95 to 98. The script, Nushu, represents the language spoken in Jiangyong Prefecture in
the rolling hills of southern Hunan Province. Women, who were denied education for many centuries in China, used it to share feminine feelings, including fears about arranged marriages, husbands and, of course, mothers-in-law.
Read the rest of the story at: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/06/international/asia/06yang.html?ex=1099195200&en=1ce458bd4ace7c7d&ei=5070

Resources you might be interested in….

New Bilingual TV Program on PBS

Maya & Miguel , a new television program in Spanish and English, premiered on October 11. The program aims to help children develop language skills and an understanding of Latino culture. I haven't seen it. Anyone care to submit a review?
Go to:  http://pbskids.org/mayaandmiguel/flash.html for more information about the program.

Learning Disabilities and ELLs

This month’s issue of Learning Disabilities Research and Practice includes the following articles:
• "Reading Risk and Intervention for Young English Learners: Evidence from Longitudinal Intervention Research. Introduction to Special Series" by Michael Gerber and Aydin Y. Durgunoglu
• "Literacy Instruction, SES, and Word-Reading Achievement in English-Language Learners and Children with English as a First Language: A Longitudinal Study" by Amedeo D'Angiulli, Linda S. Siegel, and Stefania Maggi
• "Development of Reading in Grades K-2 in Spanish-Speaking English-Language Learners" by Franklin R. Manis, Kim A. Lindsey, and Caroline E. Bailey
• "Do Phonological and Executive Processes in English Learners at Risk for Reading Disabilities in Grade 1 Predict Performance in Grade 2?" by H. Lee Swanson, Leilani Sáez, and Michael Gerber
• "English Reading Effects of Small-Group Intensive Intervention in Spanish for K-1 English Learners" by Michael Gerber, Terese Jimenez, Jill Leafstedt, Jessica Villaruz, Catherine Richards, and Judy English
• "Effectiveness of Explicit Phonological-Awareness Instruction for At-Risk English Learners" by Jill M. Leafstedt, Catherine R. Richards, and Michael M. Gerber
• "Literacy Instruction in Multiple-Language First-Grade Classrooms: Linking Student Outcomes to Observed Instructional Practice" by Anne W. Graves, Russell Gersten, and Diane Haager
For more information and ordering information,visit:  http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/links/toc/ldrp/19/4

2004 National Inclusive Schools Week (Dec. 6-10, 2004) Celebration Kit Now Available

The 2004 National Inclusive Schools Week Celebration Kit includes:
• celebration ideas, activities, and lesson plans for educators, families, and community leaders focusing on the theme "working together," disability issues, and diversity
• examples of how schools and communities across the country celebrated 2001-2003
• new planning forms designed to help organize activities that influence change in communities
• publications that speak to the benefits of building inclusive schools and communities
• a sample proclamation to help schools, school districts, and/or communities designate December 6-10 National Inclusive Schools Week
• tips for spreading the message about the benefits of inclusive schools via the media, and more
For more information about the Week, visit:  http://www.inclusiveschools.org
Or contact:  Bonnie Johnson Barry  Email: niusi@edc.org

International Education Week, November 15-19, 2004

International Education Week is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education is part of an effort to promote programs that prepare Americans for global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.
You'll find more information at:  http://exchanges.state.gov/iew/

Thinking about it…

Several years ago I was asked to observe a Russian fourth grader, whose American teacher couldn't figure out what was going on with her. Mondays the teacher gave out a spelling list, and Friday the class took a spelling test, which this otherwise seemingly bright child always failed miserably. The teacher knew that the child was required by the parents to study two hours nightly, so the teacher was certain it wasn't laziness. I watched the spelling test. Teacher read each spelling word out loud and students wrote them down.

One of the words was 'house.' The student spelled it "xayc."  Now, if you happen to know the Russian alphabet, you will immediately recognize that this is "house," spelled according to phonetic rules of the Cyrillic alphabet. The Cyrillic alphabet happens to have a number of letters in common with ours, but they don't necessarily represent the same sounds. Thus "x" is an "h" sound, "a" is pronounced "ah", "y" is an "oo" sound which when combined with an "a" gives you "ou", and "c" is the symbol for "s". 

The child had studied "house" all week in her bedroom, by herself. Her parents provided a dictionary and told her to look up the spelling words, so she knew what a "house" is. But no one provided her with any spoken model, and the child had no clear idea of what the word "house" sounds like. I bet you she memorized all the words on the list every week very efficiently. But the teacher didn't provide any practice that related the meaning of each word to how it was spelled, or pronounced because all of her American students already knew what a house was and what the word sounds like. Since the test only involved the teacher pronouncing words, this student simply wrote what she heard - probably all the while wondering when she'd EVER be tested on all those words she'd spent so much time memorizing up in her room...

I received this email recently:

Hi Laura... I'm working with a group of 5th and 6th grade students that need A LOT of help with their writing. They still write phonetically and sometimes it's hard to understand what they write. I'd like to help them with this- do you know of any sites or could you refer me to any practice books, lessons that I might try with these kids? Their oral language is OK and comprehension is OK also but writing is a BIG obstacle in their progress. Any suggestions?

This came from a former colleague of mine, a wonderful ESL teacher. I do have some suggestions, though they don't involve workbooks or web sites. I'm sure some of you have suggestions as well, and I’d love to publish some of them, so send ‘em in!

Spelling is not just an issue for ESL students, but all students. First of all rule out dyslexia, because that's a whole nuther issue that has to be dealt with in a very specific way. So let's assume dyslexia isn't an issue. I believe that the underlying problem with most spelling mistakes is that the student hasn't truly internalized the word. My own teaching experience reveals that when students have had enough input at the comprehension level, their spelling mistakes decrease dramatically, just as their grammar and syntax mistakes do. So above all, I want to make sure that my students have had enough input. How can we provide sufficient input - especially if we only see the child for a limited amount of time each day?

There are lots of ways to get at this, but here's a fun one: Word Bingo. This game gives LOTS of input as to the “look” of written words, and can be designed to focus on any vocabulary you choose.

Create a page of boxes and in each box write a word you want the students to be able to spell. Please make sure these are all words the students understand, even if they can't spell them! Photocopy, and give each student this sheet of 16 to 25 words, and a sheet of construction paper. Call out the words in random order, telling students to cut out each word as they hear it. Repeat often while students are cutting - it's all input. Make sure you randomize the order, so they have to search for the words. You should cut the words out at the same time, so you can show the class each word as you all move along. This allows students to verify that they are choosing the right words.

Once all word cards are cut out, call them again randomly, but this time have students glue the word cards to the construction paper, as you call them. When you've called them all, students will have a page of construction paper with all the word cards pasted onto it.

Lastly, call the words once more randomly, and this time have students cut out the word cards, now mounted on a construction paper backing. When this work is done, students will have a deck of reasonably sturdy little word cards. This sounds like a waste of time - but is it? The students have heard each word at least three times, searched and identified each word at least three times. Lots of listening input, immediately related to what the word looks like.

Now you're ready to play bingo. Your students arrange cards on their desks to form a little bingo pattern, a board, if you will. You can play with as few as 4 cards, though I find that 9 makes for an easy enough game for beginners. Since each student chooses which cards he’ll play with, everyone’s board is likely to be different. Then you or a selected student, call out the words. Players scan their cards for the word you've named. If they have the word you called, they turn its card face down. (Yay, no beans!) They win when they have a complete row of cards turned over. Do check by having them read back to you the cards they have turned over -- cheating, though infrequent, happens! Again, lots of input, and students are constantly looking at the words, constantly reading them, not as a study exercise, but for the meaningful purpose of WINNING the game!

Another way to play this is to make an overhead transparency of the sheet of words. Cut the transparency into word cards, and then, instead of orally calling the words for the game, place the cards one at a time on the overhead, so the students have to read them in order to mark their boards. This makes for a pretty silent game, until someone wins. And we all know there are days when a really quiet game is a blessing...

Students can keep these decks for ages, and as you create more and more of them, they will have a larger and larger stash. You can pool sets for more complex games. With enough cards, students can create more than one board to play simultaneously. Or you can have them play with much larger boards – though I don’t recommend playing this game with more than 36 cards. Some students will spontaneously begin to use these little cards like a dictionary – a fairly handy reference when they are writing.

You can also have students play other games with them – Go Fish, Old Maid, Concentration, to name a few. This is such a productive activity, there's no need to feel guilty about allowing students to "play games" at school. The point is that seeing the words often enough, in a relaxed, motivating context, increases the likelihood that students will internalize what they look like and spell them better when they need to use them in writing. And believe me, it’s not only an easier way for the students to learn, it’s a lot easier way to teach, and you will get a good result with less pain for all involved. Go on, give it a try. If you hate it, you never have to do it again! AND, if you have an activity you find works well to improve spelling, send it in and I'll publish it!


One more time...

Prolinguistica has a new address:

1621 Freeway Drive #208
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

We're located in the Tridex Building. Same phone (360-848-9792) and email address (laura@prolinguistica.com, e-comp@prolinguistica.com.)

And a new website:

Prolinguistica recently added a new service: dyslexia correction and has a new website as well. The new website is dedicated exclusively to our services in dyslexia correction. That URL is:


I encourage you to visit it, even if dyslexia is not a topic of burning interest to you. With from 5% to 15% of the population displaying symptoms of the dyslexic learnng style, chances are quite a number of your students show some of these symptoms. Perhaps there's some information at pdcc-read.com that may be of use to you.

And a new newsletter:

In addition to E-Comp! I am publishing a second monthly newsletter, "Singular Minds", on matters relating to dyslexia and the constellation of related learning difficulties. If any of you are interested in receiving "Singular Minds" just send an email to me at  dyslexia@prolinguistica.com and I'll put you on the mailing list.  And of course, if you know anyone who needs help with any of the areas mentioned above, I hope you'll refer them to the website.

Have a wonderful month!



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