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Volume 3 Number 5

Harry & Rosemary Wong urge, "If you are a teacher applying for a job, it is essential that you ask the question at the interview: Does this district have a new teacher induction program? "...
Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong $50,000 to Replace Each Teacher
Promoting Learning by Marv Marshall Using Breath Management for Better Listening And Voice Preservation
4 Blocks by Cheryl Sigmon It's All About Transfer!
Instant Ideas for Busy Teachers by Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber Eight Winning Ways to Wrap Up the Year
Ask the School Psychologist by Beth Bruno A Natural Ham
Online Classrooms by Leslie Bowman Virtual K-12 Schools
The Eclectic Teacher by Ginny Hoover The Life of a Teacher
The Busy Educator's Monthly Five (5 Sites for Busy Educators) by Marjan Glavac Theme Sites
Part 2
Ask the Literacy Teacher by Leigh Hall A Special Request & Writing Help for ESL Students
Visual Impairments by Dave Melanson Sight Impaired Child Benefiting From Change in Modern Schools
Index of Articles
Index of Regular Features
Index of Informational Items
Gazette Home Delivery:

About Leigh Hall...
Leigh Hall is a doctoral student at Michigan State University in the Department of Teacher Education where she specializes in Literacy. Before coming to Michigan, Leigh was a middle school language arts and social studies teacher in Houston, Texas. It was this experience that introduced her to working with students who had a variety of abilities and needs in the areas of reading and writing. Leigh has experience in working with children who have learning disabilities and who perform below grade level. She is also certified to work with students who do not speak English as their native language.

Upon completing her degree from Michigan State, Leigh hopes to start a career as an Assistant Professor and to do research that addresses students who struggle with reading. She hopes that what she learns both now and in the future can be passed on to teachers in a way that is useful to both them and their students.

Questions for this column that pertain to the teaching of reading and writing are welcomed. Questions in this area that deal with students performing below grade level, are not native speakers of English or who have learning disabilities are strongly encouraged. In addition, teachers from all subject areas and grade levels should feel free to submit their questions. This column is meant to help us all think about how we use reading and writing in our classrooms and is not meant to be exclusive to elementary teachers or to reading and language arts teachers.

Please submit your questions to:

Book Recommendations:

The Natural Approach : Language Acquisition in the Classroom
by Stephen D. Krashen

How Languages Are Learned

by Patsy M. Lightbown, Nina Spada

Myths and Realities : Best Practices for Language Minority Students

by Katharine Davies Samway, Denise McKeon

Ask the Literacy Teacher
by Leigh Hall
A Special Request

Please submit your questions to:

Dear Literacy Teacher,

Our district is adopting a new reading series. Would it be possible to get feedback from teachers through your column on the new Scott Foresman, McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, and Scholastic? It would be nice to hear from teachers who are actually using these texts.

Dear Readers,

If you have any experience using these materials could you please take a moment to drop me a line and tell me what you think of them? Please let me know if you like them or not and why. Also, please include any benefits and drawbacks to using these materials if at all possible. Responses need not be long. A paragraph or two should work. Responses will be printed in the next issue if possible. You need not include your name to have a response printed.


Writing Help for ESL Students

Please submit your questions to:

Dear Literacy Teacher,

We have a number of ESL children in our school. During writing assignments, these children frequently have trouble with noun-verb agreement. We understand that this is due to the change in language, but we would like to help them express themselves in writing correctly. What is the best way to address this need?


Dear Pat,

This is a common and valid concern shared by many teachers. We all realize that English language learners (ELL) need to write in standard English. Yet it is a struggle to get them to do so fluently. There are a couple of pieces missing in your letter that make it difficult for me to give you a specific response. It would be helpful to know what grade you are teaching and how long your students have been speaking English. Naturally we have different expectations for ELL students depending on a variety of things such as:

  1. How long they have been in the country,
  2. Where they are developmentally in the writing process,
  3. How fluent they are as speakers of English.

Since your students are probably on different levels, I would recommend you set up different goals for each of them. In the past I have taken writing samples and then analyzed them to see where students were in terms of grammar. I created a spreadsheet that listed the skills I wanted them to learn across the top and then I listed the names going down the side. These skills included such things as writing in complete sentences, subject-verb agreement, comma usage, and capitalization rules. If students had a mastery of the skills I checked it off. If not, I left it blank. Then I would form small groups comprised of students who were having similar difficulties.

This type of plan could be useful in addressing your problem. First, it could allow you to see other areas of writing that students might need to master first. For example, if students do not understand how to write a complete sentence in English then I would tackle that first. It may also allow you to identify students who are not ELL that have this same problem. This would allow both sets of students to work on this together.

No matter what you do though, it is unlikely that all your students will have solved this problem by the end of the school year. Students who are learning English can take up to eight years before they are functioning at the same level as their native English speaking peers. It becomes necessary then to have a great deal of patience and not be frustrated by having to reteach the same concept in multiple ways. They may not pick it up right away. Keep in mind that is your ELL students are at a low level of writing then you may not want to hold them to having to do everything correctly. Pick one or two things you would like to work on. As they master these you can continue to hold them accountable for them while adding new ones. Overall, the best piece of advice I can give is to take each student where they are at, develop individual goals, and work from there. The problems you are seeing should work themselves out in time -- though that time may not come until after they leave your room.

Past Gazette Articles by Leigh Hall