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Why Teach Academic Language?

Every day in American schools, teachers welcome more students whose first language is something other than English. According to the Pew Research Center, this demographic trend will only grow exponentially in coming years. In fact, Pew estimates up to 93% of our population will come from immigrant populations and their children by the year 2050. What do these numbers mean for schools? Here's the short answer: schools will need better ways to teach language generally, and academic language in particular. Why the importance? When students don't master academic language, they're at greater risk for falling behind or even dropping out of school. The Language of Textbooks Learning to speak, read, and write in English can be challenging enough. But without knowing academic language (e.g., general-instruction words like "summarize," math words like "times" as another way to say "multiplied by," or science words like "hypothesis"), English language learners can quickly fall behind in their progress.
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Meeting the Needs of Secondary Newcomer ELLs Through A Rigorous Curriculum

A guest post  Teresa Vignaroli, ELL Supervisor, Loudoun County Public Schools, Virginia; Julie Baye, ELL School Improvement and Accountability Specialist, Loudoun County Public Schools, Virginia; Giuliana Jahnsen Lewis, ELL Staff Development Trainer, Loudoun County Public Schools, Virginia Imagine Learning now publishes monthly guest posts in order to stimulate conversations about K12 education across the country. Opinions expressed herein are those of the individual author(s) and may not necessarily reflect the official opinion of Imagine Learning.   Like many other districts in the nation, Loudoun County Public Schools has experienced an influx of older English Language Learners (ELLs). Currently, nearly twenty-seven percent of our high school ELLs are proficiency level 1 students; forty-five percent are combined proficiency levels 1 and 2 students. These students bring a myriad of situations and challenges that include varying ethnic backgrounds, low socioeconomic status, differing levels of formal education, and special needs status. The varying language learner types and their unique needs indicate that there is no one-size-fits-all service delivery model nor one intervention that addresses, in its entirety, the best practices in service delivery models for high school ELLs. Research, however, indicates that ELLs must have access to standards-aligned curriculum that is rigorous and grade-level appropriate.
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A simple trick for accelerating language acquisition

Can a big yellow pencil, a small blue pencil, and a red rubber pencil help your students accelerate their language acquisition? According to a recent study by University of Iowa, children who are exposed to similar but distinct objects like these three pencils can master new vocabulary twice as fast as children who only see similar objects. The study found that 18-month-old children who were allowed to play with similar but distinct objects (a red cereal bowl, a metal mixing bowl, and a tiny plush toy bowl) learned an average of about 10 new words a week. Those who only played with similar objects (a matched set of cereal bowls, for example) learned an average of only 4 new words a week.
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Should your class jump on the blogwagon?

When a friend of mine first invited me to participate in her group blog about eight years ago, I was a little baffled about how to use it. And I couldn’t decide if I liked the format. The Bookity Book Book Club would hold online discussions of—yep, you got it—books. Even though I love reading and discussing books, my participation was minimal because I just didn’t get how to use the program, and, sadly, I was scared to learn something new. But then my husband and I started having children while living far from our families, and suddenly blogging took on a new importance. It was a way to stay connected—to show parents and grandparents what was happening in the lives of our daughters. And it was a way for me to share my feelings and ideas with a broader audience than just “dear diary.” There are other ways to use blogs beyond family life, and teachers around the world have discovered the value of classroom blogging as not only “an avenue for their communications, but also as a tool for giving voice to what their students are learning and how they are learning.” Have you considered the idea of starting a class blog? Maybe you’re not quite sure if it’s the right thing for your class, or how to start, or if it will be worth the effort when so many projects already tug at your time. To help out, I’ve done a little research for you. Here are ten reasons to have your class start blogging:
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Hitting high notes with English learners

Have you ever noticed how the perfect song can make a bad day good or a good day great? It’s funny how powerful music can be when it comes to giving us a boost of energy or helping us relax. But the power of music goes deeper than energizing or setting a mood.  Music has been proven to have incredible benefits as a teaching tool, especially for struggling students.
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