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A game-changing teaching technique you might not be using

There's no secret formula to ensuring all your students succeed. Each student learns in a different way and benefits from different teaching strategies. But what if there were one thing you could do to significantly improve comprehension for all your struggling students, including English learners? In 2009's Quality Counts, David Francis of the University of Texas identified "mastery of academic language" as "arguably the single most important determinant of academic success for individual students." He went on to say that its importance "cannot be overstated." Why all the fuss?
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How to bully-proof your struggling students

During the move to our new building, our office plant broke in half. I was heartbroken, but I put the broken half of the plant into a container of water with the hope that the plant would grow new roots. For the first few snowy months, nothing happened. No roots. Then, spring came and the weather started warming up. Seemingly overnight, my struggling plant was thriving, and all because the conditions were finally right. My plant had to be comfortable before he could really start to grow. So what does a plant have to do with bullying? Like plants, students need the right conditions to really send out their roots and start growing. Unfortunately, many students hold back because they don't feel comfortable in the classroom. One of the big reasons for this is bullying. Bullying can happen to any student, but English learners, struggling readers, and students with disabilities can be especially vulnerable because they may feel out of place or have low self-esteem. Luckily, you don't have to wait for a weather change to banish bullies and strengthen your struggling student.
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Late night karaoke, a magic microphone, and your English learners

My wife (an English learner from the Philippines) loves karaoke. And with it, she taught me a valuable lesson on creating an environment where English learners can thrive. In her home country, baseball isn’t the national pastime. Instead, belting out Gloria Gaynor or Bee Gees tunes is the entertainment of choice. So it wasn’t long after we were married that she dragged me to karaoke night at a local Filipino restaurant. It was a new experience for me. But I did manage to get onstage and warble a fair rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly with Me.” (However, I never did hear back from the Grammy committee…) A few minutes later, my wife took the stage to begin the Whitney Houston song she had chosen. My wife has a wonderful voice and she started singing sweetly. But then, things took an unexpected turn.
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Five strategies for motivating your struggling reader

We all have our likes and dislikes, even when it comes to things that are good for us. One of my children has always liked vegetables, while another loathes them. My wife craves physical activity, and I think of exercise as more of a chore. I’m always reading three or four books at once; my brother can’t remember the last time he read a book. As parents, I’m sure we all have our favorite tactics for encouraging our children to eat healthy foods and stay physically active. But do we have strategies for motivating them to read? I recently came across some great ideas for helping kids to become more successful readers. Ann Lodgson, a school psychologist who specializes in helping parents and teachers help struggling students, offers the following five strategies for motivating reluctant readers with reading activities they will enjoy.
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Ten books to read along with your kids this summer

You’ve been to story time at the library. You’ve been to the pool. You’ve been to the zoo, had a campout, and even gone to the museum—twice! But now that those first weeks of summer are over, the excitement of the break is wearing off and you’re running out of ways to keep your struggling reader from spending hours in front of the television or video game screen. Instead of asking your child to read another book or listen to you read aloud to the whole family, try a different approach: Find a great book that both you and your child will enjoy reading and read it together. Not out loud, but on your own at the same time—sort of like a book club.
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How technology can increase conversational fluency

Video Courtesy of KSL.com Imagine Learning English was recently highlighted as a program that works to help students gain reading skills as part of Utah news organization KSL's Read Today initiative. KSL reported on an elementary school in Utah’s Granite School District that uses Imagine Learning English as a reading solution for their English Learners (ELs). In addition to helping ELs read more fluently, the school’s principal, Ernie Broderick, reported that using Imagine Learning English yielded the greatest conversational gains he had ever seen during his 15 years as a principal, claiming it cut in half the time it takes for his ELs to achieve conversational fluency (read the full article here).
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Increasing awareness of language diversity

Did you know that English learners are the most rapidly growing student population in U.S. schools? (See this report.) As this population continues to grow, it’s important to be aware of other languages and realize the impact language diversity can have on our schools and lives. Yet sometimes it can be easy to feel that the language we speak is the only language out there. What can we do to be more aware that not all students speak the same language?
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3 ways to build a community for struggling readers

Sometimes all a struggling reader needs is a support group. But with all your students out of school, where can they get the support they need to keep reading? It's time to build a community.
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Revealed: what a hard-working English learner taught her well-intentioned but nitwit husband

Teachers of English learners face many decisions. They must decide not only how to teach these children but also how to interact with them throughout the day. So what happens when a student’s pronunciation or grammar is a bit “rough around the edges”? Should the teacher correct it? Or move on as if nothing happened? Lesson learned: as someone who married a sweet EL from the Philippines, I have a few suggestions based on fifteen years of happy marriage.
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Summer reading: Helping young readers find a "just right" book

Over the summer months, you may find yourself making a few extra trips to the library. Though your children will enjoy finding their own books, they are bound to choose some titles that are beyond their reading levels. Attempting to read beyond their levels may be fun for awhile, but can also become discouraging. You may be tempted to help choose the books they read in order to avoid this problem. However, allowing them to select their own books is extremely important.
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