"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Blended Learning: A Strategy for Remedial Classes

In 2006, a teacher in Quinale Elementary School (QES) in Paete, Laguna wrote the following:
Currently, QES is now conducting remedial classes every afternoon at 4:00 pm using the internet resources. It is really a great help for our pupils to remedy the class specifically in reading. These links are very suited because they have exact sites wherein we teach the pupils in a very easy way.
The teacher was referring to the links that I provided (Amazingly, the links are still working):
Children's Books Online
http://www.childrensbooksonline.org/library.htm

Kid's Place - Houghton Mifflin
http://www.eduplace.com/kids/hmr05/

Gamequarium
http://www.gamequarium.com/

Word Puppies from Chateau MeddyBemps
http://www.meddybemps.com/letterary/index.html

Children's Storybooks from MagicKeys
http://www.magickeys.com/books/index.html#books

ReadWriteThink.org
http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/construct/index.html

http://www.storyplace.org/

http://www.starfall.com/

Reading Planet
http://www.rif.org/kids/readingplanet/bookzone/read_aloud_stories.htm

BBC Words and Pictures
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/wordsandpictures/index.shtml
A year after posting the above links for QES teachers, the University of Chicago published the following paper:

University of Chicago Press Journals 

With right lessons, non-native kindergarteners learn vocabulary faster than native English-speakers 

An important study from The Elementary School Journal explores vocabulary development at the kindergarten level among English-only students (EOs) and English-language-learning students (ELLs) who speak another language at home. Analyzing rates of target word acquisition and overall vocabulary development, the study found that students learning English as a second language picked up general vocabulary more quickly and target vocabulary words at the same rate as native English-speaking kindergarteners.  
"This study contributes to knowledge about vocabulary instruction by investigating the effects of a vocabulary intervention with children from a variety of backgrounds," writes Rebecca Deffes Silverman, who conducted the research while at Harvard University and is now at the University of Maryland. Past studies have identified vocabulary as the "single most encountered obstacle" for English-language-learning students, Silverman points out, and vocabulary is also the primary determinant of future reading comprehension.  
Taking into account that kindergarteners comprehend oral language instruction at a much higher rate than they can read, Silverman developed and implemented a multidimensional vocabulary program incorporating storybook reading and opportunities to say vocabulary words aloud in five kindergarten classrooms. Three of the classrooms were mainstream English, in which both English-only kindergarteners and English-language learners were enrolled. One was structured immersion, in which only ELLs were enrolled. The last classroom was bilingual Spanish-English, attended by both EO and ELL children.  
After fourteen weeks, English-language-learning students knew 19 more words on a picture vocabulary assessment than they knew before the program, while native English-speaking students knew 14 more words than before. Similarly, on an oral vocabulary test, English-language-learning kindergarteners could provide definitions for 21 more words than they could before the program, compared to 17 more definitions for the native English-speaking kindergarteners.  
Also, though native English-speaking kindergarteners knew more of the target words before the program, there was no difference in knowledge of target words between the English-learning and English-only kindergarteners either immediately after the program or during follow-up six weeks later.  
"My study shows that ELLs can grow in general vocabulary at a faster rate than EOs," writes Silverman. "This may indicate that ELLs can eventually catch up to EOs in overall vocabulary knowledge, and it may also suggest that the structure of vocabulary intervention could provide the instructional focus that leads to narrowing the language gap between ELLs and EOs." 
### For more than one-hundred years, The Elementary School Journal has served researchers, teacher educators, and practitioners in the elementary and middle school education. ESJ publishes articles dealing with both education theory and research and their implications for teaching practice. In addition, ESJ presents articles that relate the latest research in child development, cognitive psychology, and sociology to school learning and teaching.  
Rebecca Deffes Silverman. "Vocabulary Development of English-Language and English-Only Learners in Kindergarten," Elementary School Journal, 107(4), 365-383 (2007).
The importance of vocabulary is highlighted in a recent post on this blog, "Vocabulary and Learning".

Recently, Jill Barshay published an article in the Hechinger Report, "In New Jersey, Teachers Union Fights Blended Learning". The New Jersey Education Association is apparently wary that computers maybe replacing teachers in schools. They are also particularly worried that such blended instruction (the use of online tools and resources combined with teaching practices) has not been evaluated and approved by the state legislature:
“Should we be experimenting with students during their academic experience?” asks Steve Wollmer, the union’s communications director. “They only get one trip through the public schools.”
With all of apprehension and optimism, what is worth pointing out, however, is an opinion (also cited in the above Hechinger report) raised by one of the technology advocates in education, Doug Levin:
Even some technology advocates like Doug Levin of the State Educational Technology Directors Association doubt that this model will ever appeal to middle- and upper-income families whose children are not struggling below grade level. 
Levin says that’s because those children don’t need as much extra drilling and can use more of the school day for analysis and inquiry. 
“I think this approach works much better for elementary school aged children who are really struggling to build their vocabulary, to understand basic math facts and operations,” says Levin. “I think as kids get into middle and high school, what the computer can offer in that regard is less.” 
Levin predicts the computer drilling will succeed in raising the test scores of the low-income sixth graders of Merit Prep. 
But until those results are in, this school is still an experiment.
Interestingly, this opinion sounds similar to what the teacher in Quinale Elementary School stated seven years ago. I should also cite that the QES principal noted after a year of using internet resources for remedial classes:
"Thank you for all the lessons in English, Science and Math, which are of great help to my teachers and especially to my pupils here in QES. The opportunity to enjoy internet access in all the sent subject matter resulted to the improved academic performance. We got a descriptive remarks "moving towards mastery" in the recent National Achievement Test (NAT) as other schools got "average mastery." Though we need to strive more ...( as you know, not all our pupils came from literate families neither from the well-to-do) so these are the pupils who are pulling down our MPS. But of course, still we care for them, public schools are open to all kind of children... mahirap, mayaman, matalino o di matalino, o anupaman. I'm proud of my teachers' enthusiasm and patience in teaching and caring for them."
Oftentimes when we think of technology inside the classroom, we imagine complicated applications. The irony is: When we read about stories of how technology does help inside the classroom we find that its most useful application is to address the needs of students who are falling behind in basic reading and math. Seven years ago, teachers at Quinale Elementary School knew that technology could help improve the learning of all students. Technology in the classroom to these teachers was not a reward provided only to the gifted students. Technology inside the classroom was meant to be a tool for "education for all".



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