Over this week, I’ll be sharing 5 posts-all of them focused on ideas for online learning with your BMLs. Since some teachers have limited access to their students and learning materials at this time, these ideas are quick-win strategies you can implement right away.This is blog post #2 out of 5. You can find the others in previous posts.
Regardless of the age of your students, it’s probably safe to say they like being read to. There’s just something magical about picturing the characters and story setting and watching the plot play out, step-by-step. From a language acquisition standpoint, stories allow students to actively listen and process information, build meaning, understand cause-and-effect and develop vocabulary. These are pretty powerful things! I should also mention that vocabulary-building is one of the single-most valuable benefits to students. A large vocabulary has been shown to be a great predictor of academic success.
Reading is so powerful that memories of stories, plots and characters can last a lifetime. They elicit strong emotions and can ignite a real spark for reading. During this difficult time in our history, reading good books can offer some escapism since they hold the power to add colour to what might be perceived as grey days in some of your students’ memories.
To get started, choose a book that’s likely to capture your learners’ interest but ensure that it’s still got some ‘meat and bones’ to generate a good discussion. Be sure the theme is a good fit for the students and your particular learning context.
If you don’t have access to any storybooks right now, there are so many offerings (cheap or free) that you can access online during this pandemic. Here’s just a few:
Be sure to check your local library. Many offer subscriptions to ebooks and provide you with information about content, reading levels and themes within the books. Usually, all you need is a library card to access their collections.
Kindle Books: If you’re working with older students and/or secondary students, you might want to select a chapter book for daily readings. Kindle books are quite reasonably-priced with an average cost around $3.99 USD. There’s literally millions to choose from but here is a list of the most popular Kindle books for young adults. **Please note: you might also want to search for books that represent diverse authors and themes based on the backgrounds of your students and what will be of interest (and have relevance) for them. Here is another ‘most popular’ list of kindle books that are from a multicultural perspective:
Storyline Online: This is a great site with videos of celebrities reading children’s books. It’s complete with audio effects and stunning visuals of the books. It’s mainly targeted to young learners from K-Grade 2 (Reception – Year 3). https://www.storylineonline.net/
Barnes & Noble: This is a great (American) Youtube channel from the famous New York bookstore. They offer read alouds by authors but those are mainly for young children. https://www.youtube.com/barnesandnoble
Magic Keys: Although a bit out-dated and simplistic, Magic Keys provides short stories you can read aloud for young children, older children and young adults. The books also offer some pictures. http://www.magickeys.com/books/#ya
Big Universe: This is a literacy solution for K-12 that provides free access to those affected by covid-19. It’s a subscription/membership service under normal conditions. It provides more than 17,000 leveled books from more than 40 publishers, including subject-related topics (e.g. science, social studies, etc.). https://start.k12.com/national.html?st=big-universe
Storybooks Canada: promotes bilingual and multilingual maintenance through 40 stories offered in different languages. Story levels are for beginning readers to approximately grade 3/year 4. Learners can access the text in their language, along with pictures and audio recordings. www.storybookscanada.ca
Reading stories can seem like a simple solution to engagement and motivation but don’t forget that it’s still a complex language task that will naturally create many benefits for students’ language development and learning. These are all very good reasons to start reading to your students today but probably the very best is that your students will be begging you not to put the book away!
Alison Schofield is an educator, consultant and co-founder of the Centre for Educators of BMLs. She loves sharing her expertise with teachers around the world. She’s especially passionate about literacy and learning approaches with BMLs. If you have any questions about this article or even an idea for an article, feel free to reach Alison at: email@example.com
In our very first Roundtable Interview, Francesca McGeary speaks to Angela Hollington, Primary Principal from CIS SIngapore and Emilijia Stojanovski, Literacy Specialist Teacher.
She learns how CIS’ recent whole-school initiative to strengthen BMLs’ literacy has led to outstanding results. First, they have appointed Emilija as their new Literacy Specialist teacher this year. She has gone on to focus on supporting and training colleagues who’ve been dedicated in carrying out the new plans. They’ve now tracked and analysed data for their Grade 1 students at the time of the interview and so happy with the first round of results.
At the Centre for Educators of BMLs, we help schools understand how to make actionable changes that help their BMLs thrive. We teach administrators and educators of all kinds how to get real results with their students and accelerate their progress in literacy and vocabulary – key indicators of school success. Click ‘play’ to listen to the Roundtable…
If “literacy” is the answer, then what’s the question?
It doesn’t matter if you’re a teacher, parent or principal, there’s no doubt you’ll have a good answer to this question…or question to this answer. In fact, there are probably hundreds of excellent questions we could ask that would qualify “literacy” as the right answer.
Here’s just a few:
What has been directly correlated to school success and student achievement over time?
What factor greatly contributes to students’ vocabulary development?
How can we increase student progress across all subject areas?
What could we focus on to build our students’ interest in learning?
What is one area of teacher development that will have a high return on investment?
How can we accelerate our BMLs’ learning, vocabulary and language development?
You see, reading and writing are critical keys to almostall our students’ success when it comes to academic achievement. As students become proficient readers and writers, they continue to gain from the benefits of literacy. This includes increased comprehension, language development and of course, vocabulary. Struggling students on the other hand, experience the reverse effects. While the “rich get richer (in literacy)”, these students actually get “poorer (in literacy).” In other words, their already-weak literacy skills form gaps that continue to widen over the years. We refer to this as the “Matthew Effect.”
So you can see now that “literacy” really is a powerful answer to so many of our complex questions about school success. How our students, especially BMLs, function independently with complex academic tasks is a direct reflection of their vocabulary and their literacy levels. The more schools create powerful literacy priorities and goals, the better their students will ultimately achieve. They’ll not only increase their reading and writing levels, they’ll be able to understand and use more advanced vocabulary. Their independence will also increase and you’ll see students better able to research, break down information and cope with their subject assignments.
How to Make Literacy a Priority Across the School for All Students (Not Only BMLs)
Ensure you know all students’ baseline literacy levels and make that information freely available to all teachers so they can consult the information for supporting and differentiating instruction. Use a shared drive or network.
If you’re interested in actually accelerating your students’ literacy levels, dedicate 20 minutes of independent reading and writing EACH DAY for EACH GRADE/YEAR. Make sure all students have access to books at their individual reading levels and ensure that BMLs are reading books that are at their “easy” or independent level when reading on their own. Consistency over time will yield excellent results.
Be sure that all your classroom and English teachers are trained to support students with literacy strategies. They should know how to help students build personal connections as they read and interpret inferences, for example. Students’ progress should be monitored at least once every 4-6 weeks, not just before report card time. Struggling students need to be supported quickly, so that their gaps can be closed rapidly. Schools need to have a plan of action to accomplish this and they should also have trained staff to do this.
Don’t waste BMLs’ valuable time with low-quality “ESL support.” Far too often, we see BMLs pulled out of class for grammar instruction or for “help” with no clear objective or understanding as to HOW the ESL staff can begin to make an impact. ESL Staff should focus on “enrichment” instead of remediation. They must place a heavy emphasis on literacy and on differentiation of grade/year-level learning. All staff require high-quality training to help them understand BMLs and their specific needs.
Focus on reading and writing DURING school time. Don’t make parents responsible for one of the most important learning skills. They’re not the experts. While students should always be encouraged to read at home, this should really be considered “extra” since many parents simply can’t follow through due to their work commitments or other priorities. Don’t leave your students’ literacy-learning to chance. Always plan and program for quality literacy instruction and practice within the school day.