Friday, April 25, 2014

So You Want to Teach English Learners in Colorado?

A overview on how to identify, assess and assist English learners in Colorado

Thursday, April 24th, 2014
Kristal Goodell

Why Have Programs for English Learners?

In 2001, the federal government passed the No Child Left Behind (NCLB), an act which requires accountability on the assessment and instruction of English learners (Els). However, the act gives autonomy to the states to each implement their own their own programs as long as they meet basic requirements.

What does this mean for you as a teacher of Els? Your job can vary dramatically depending on where you teach. For those of you interested in teaching in Colorado, this article will serve as a brief overview to get you familiar with the required services Colorado offers Els.

Identification, Assessment and Assistance of Els in Colorado
There are steps that the federal government and the Colorado Department of Education require districts to follow when working with Els.

Step 1: Primary or Home Language Other than English (PHLOTE) Survey

During the registration process, ALL students at the school must fill out a PHLOTE survey (click here to see samples from the Colorado Department of Education). This survey will determine if the students speak a language other than English and need further assessment.

According to the Colorado Department of Education, “If any response on the home language questionnaire indicates the use of a language other than English by the student or another person in the home, further investigation must be conducted to determine the student’s English language proficiency.”

Step 2: WIDA-ACCESS Placement Tests (W-APT) and Body of Evidence (BOE)

After the school has received the PHLOTE surveys, the W-APT  must be administered to all new-to-district students identified as PHLOTE, within first 30 days of school or upon the first two weeks of arrival.

The cut scores for the W-APT are:

• Not English Proficient (NEP): < 3
• Limited English Proficiency (LEP): 3.0 to < 5.0
• May not be EL: 5 or higher, and score of 5 in each domain

In addition to the test, schools will determine the students’ proficiency levels with a BOE. The BOE must include state and district standardized test scores. It can also include student samples, assignments and teacher recommendations.

Step 3: Program Placement

In contrast to other states, there are a variety of El programs the school districts may use in Colorado to assist Els. In Colorado, districts can use bilingual, sheltered instruction (that only instructs in English, pull out, co-teacher, language development and transitional programs programs.

Before a student can be placed in a program, the district must notify the student’s parents or legal guardians in writing. The notification must be written in the parent or guardian's first language and received within the first 30 days of the start of the school year, or the first two weeks that the student has been in the district.

The notification must include the following information:

  • The reasons for identifying the child in need of English language instruction.
  • The child’s level of English proficiency, how such level was assessed and the status of the child’s academic achievement.
  • How the English language instruction program specifically will help the child acquire English and meet age appropriate standards for grade promotion and graduation.
  • The specific exit criteria for the program.
  • The expected rate of transition from the program into a classroom that is not tailored for LEP children.
  • The expected graduation rate for children in the program in secondary schools.

As mentioned earlier, Colorado gives schools and districts the unique freedom to select a program for their students that best fits the schools’ population and needs. However, it is essential that regardless of the program, the students are taught using the Colorado English Language Proficiency Standards (CELP) and the Colorado Assessment Standards (CAS) which are aligned to the Common Core Standards. In addition to using these standards throughout the year, the school must monitor and assess the students. Also, the school must communicate with the teachers and parents of the Els.

Step 4: Follow up Assessment

Each year, Els must take the ACCESS test. This test is aligned to the well known and research based WIDA standards. The ACCESS test determines student growth and school accountability. Districts administer this test in April and receive the results in July of each year.

Below is an accountability chart the Colorado Department of Education uses to determine the effectiveness of a school's Els program.

If a district does not “meet” or “exceed” in student growth, the following consequences occur:

  • A letter must be sent out to all the parents of Els to inform them that the school did not meet adequate growth within 30 days of receiving scores.
  • If the school or district fails to meet adequate growth for two years, the school must develop an improvement plan.
  • If the school or district fails to meet adequate growth for four years, the state can intervene and take additional action.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Where is the Thesis in an American Essay?

In the article, "Cultural Thought Patterns in Intercultural Discourse," Robert B. Kaplan explains that rhetoric and logic varies from culture to culture creating diverse discourse patterns.

What does that mean?
It means someone growing up in an Asian country might write a paper, paragraph or story with a different style of discourse than someone raised in the United States. Take a second and check out these depictions of discourse patterns according to Kaplan.

Why Does it Matter?
In academic and professional settings we need to analyze our audience so that we can provide them information that is useful. If we understand the discourse pattern of other cultures, we can better influence, inform and entertain our audiences.

Keep in mind that these are general explanations of cultural discourse. It does not mean that every American you speak to will be direct and economical.

Cultural Discourse Patterns

English Language Pattern
    • Linear and sequential
    • Direct
    • Economical
      • Straight to the point
      • Few adjectives, anecdotes, and extended metaphors
    • American paragraphs and essays can be characterized by:
      • Their simplistic structure
        • Main ideas- body text- conclusion
      • Opinions and purpose stated in the beginning
      • Conclusion at the end that restates the main idea
    • Other cultures may view American discourse as oversimplified, impolite, redundant and brash
    • The British discourse pattern is:
      •  Similar to the American pattern, yet it is less direct with more implied meaning
      • The thesis statements and topic sentences usually come at the end of the paragraph or the essay, not at the start
Asian Discourse Pattern
    • Characterized by not being direct.
    • Clues are given, and the reader/listener draws their own conclusions
    • This mode of discourse shows how the topic relates on a larger scale to other connecting topics.
    • American sometimes refer to this discourse pattern as "talking in circles."
Russian Discourse Pattern
    • Similar to Latin
    • Digressive and long sentences
    • Frequent use of metaphors
    • The main idea is stated at the end of the paragraph, essay or story.
Arabic- Semantic Pattern
    • Uses parallels, comparisons and contrasts to illustrate a point
    • Long sentences combined by conjunctions
Latin or Romance Language Patterns
    • Allows for digression
    • Flowery, rich, illustrative and symbolic structures
    • Similar to the Asian discourse, outside information and anecdotes are used to expound upon meaning
    • Americans view this discourse as lengthy, over the top and overwhelming at times

The Ins and Outs of Business Emails

Are you nervous about writing a business email to a coworker or boss? In the United States, many employers have the mentality "time is money." Follow these tips to ensure success:

  • Use a subject heading that is straight to the point. Your reader does not want to decipher what your purpose.
  • Start your email with a greeting such as "Good afternoon."
  • Type in smaller paragraphs so you do not overwhelm your reader with large bodies of text.
  • Put all of the essential information in the first paragraph, and expound upon the information with more details in the following paragraphs.
  • If you attach an item, mention the item you attached in the email and briefly explain what it is that you attached.
  • Pay attention to the filename of the attached item. You may appear unprofessional or add work onto your co worker/employer without a specific title. 
    • If you are submitting a proposal to a boss, how does it look if the file name appears "DA PROPOSAL" or "Document 1099." 
    • If you have sent multiple volumes, include the volume number in the filename.
  • Avoid typing in colors other than black and use a standard font that is not ornate (detailed). 
  • When applying for a job or sending out a resume, make sure that you only include one visible recipient. You do not want it to look like you are sending a mass email.
  • Be professional. Avoid forwarding mass emails with long stories or jokes. Keep those emails for personal contacts. You do not want to fill up your employer's inbox with junk.
  • Most importantly, be concise and if possible, include a call for action.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

To Count or Not to Count?

In your English education, many of you were probably introduced to count and noncount nouns. 

If not, or if you forgot, a count noun is one that can be counted (surprise) and can be made plural. A noncount noun does not change spelling regardless of the amount because it is thought of as a whole, or an something that can not be separated into parts.

Non-count nouns never have “a” or “the” in front of them, and the verbs and pronouns used with these nouns are conjugated as though the noun was singular.
Example of a count noun in a sentence with business vocabulary:

  • I took the checks to the bank. 
    • In this sentence, check is a count noun and is made plural by adding an "s" to the end of check.

    • He gave her plenty of poor business advice when she sought out a loan and started her company.
      • In this sentence, advice is the the noun, and it is non count noun because we do not make it plural regardless of how much advice was offered. We think of this noun as a whole.
    Noncount nouns commonly found in the professional world:
    • Information
    • Equipment
    • Attire
    • Money
    • Advice
    • Software
    • Research
    • Insurance
    Still feel rusty? Try this quiz!

    Curriculum Vitae vs. Resume

    Do you know the difference?

    Most job postings in the United States request a resume when applying for a position. Many of you might be familiar a curriculum vitae which is most commonly used in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. 

    The main difference in a resume and a curriculum vitae is the length. To best illustrate the difference, we can take a look at the meaning of each word. The French word resume means summary. On the other hand, the phrase curriculum vitae in Latin means course of one's life.

    Take a moment to look over the essential elements of a resume vs. a curriculum vitae so that you know what to submit on the next application.

    Key Elements of a Resume
    • Uses active verbs
    • Uses plain language
    • Consists of one to two pages
    • Includes
      • contact information
      • professional goal
      • work experience
      • education history
      • skills
      • achievements
    • Formatted in reverse chronological order in most instances

    Key Elements of a Curriculum Vitae
    • Consists of two pages or more in most instances
    • Includes
      • work experience
      • education
      • publications and presentations
      • teaching experience
      • awards
      • honors 
      • affiliations
      • references