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an eye opener

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Yesterday I heard a presentation by educator Marla Rea about students in Texas who are learning English; she spoke of the many obstacles for these youngsters.  Her talk was definitely an eye-opener (an expression that would be difficult for a non-English speaking person to define) regarding education for those who speak little or no English.

Ms. Rea is a doctoral student in bi-lingual education and is dean of instruction for English language learners in Bryan, Texas.

My interest in Marla’s  talk increased when she mentioned a book I read a few years ago about a boy named Enrique who came to America to find his mother.  Enrique’s mother left her family in Honduras when she came to the United States to  have  a better life for herself and for her family in Honduras.  Although Enrique’s mother regularly sent money to provide for her family, Enrique missed a mother – he missed his mother.

Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazari left an indelible impression on me.  Ms. Rea’s talk left an impression on me.  Her knowledge and excellent teaching skills, combined with her passion for these children in our country who obviously need to have good English skills, was inspiring.

Marla Rea
Ms. Rea conducted research at two literacy programs in Texas on the acquisition of English literacy among U.S. immigrants in Texas. The purpose of her study was to explore the journey to English language literacy, the challenges parents and the children face during the process, and the role reversals that happen during the process and its impact on the children. During the year, Marla participated in several scholarly and academic activities. Overall, Marla continues to make excellent progress towards her doctoral studies, and she is using the knowledge and experiences acquired during the fellowship program to expand literacy programs in the community in her professional role as the director of English Language Literacy Programs with the local independent school district. [Source: Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning] In 2008-2009, Ms. Rea was one of three recipients of the Barbara Bush Family Literary Fellowship.

According to the 2000 census,  the main languages by number of speakers older than five are:

  1. English- 215 million
  2. Spanish- 28 million
  3. Chinese Languages – 2.0 million + (mostly Cantonese speakers, with a growing group of Mandarin speakers)
  4. French- 1.6 million
  5. German- 1.4 million (High German) + German dialects like Hutterite German,Texas German, Pennsylvanian German, Plautdietsch
  6. Tagalog – 1.2 million + (Most Filipinos may also know other Philippine languages,e.g. Ilokano, Pangasinan, Bikol languages,and Visayan languages)
  7. Vietnamese – 1.01 million
  8. Italian- 1.01 million
  9. Korean- 890,000
  10. Russian- 710,000
  11. Polish – 670,000
  12. Arabic- 610,000
  13. Portuguese- 560,000
  14. Japanese – 480,000
  15. French reole – 450,000 (mostly Louisiana Creole French  – 334,500)
  16. Greek – 370,000
  17. Hindi – 320,000
  18. Persian- 310,000
  19. Urdu- 260,000
  20. Gujarata- 240,000
  21. Armenian- 200,000

“Children who speak English as their first language

are now a minority in inner-city London primary schools . . .”

“There are over 600,000 nonEnglish speaking students

in the Texas education system.

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School Matters

Brainology proposes to transform students’ motivation to learn.  This program is new to me and the little I’ve read about it sounds very commonsensical.

ABC Eyewitness News had a short video in the New York metro area.

Brainology is an e-learning and personal development company that helps students and adults cultivate a growth mindset to pursue their full potential.

Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck and her colleagues published research on how children can be taught to “feed their own brains” through understanding that their brains and intelligence can be grown and how this mind-set actually improves their academic performance.  In an interview, Dweck recommended the following strategies for teachers and parents:

  • Teach students to think of their brain as a muscle that strengthens with use, and have them visualize the brain forming new connections every time they learn.
  • When they teach study skills, convey to students that using these methods will help their brains learn better.
  • Discourage use of labels (“smart,” “dumb,” and so on) that convey intelligence as a fixed entity.
  • Praise students’ effort, strategies, and progress, not their intelligence. Praising intelligence leads to students to fear challenges and makes them feel stupid and discouraged when they have difficulty.
  • Give students challenging work. Teach them that challenging activities are fun and that mistakes help them learn.

Commenting on the role of technology in helping children express their intelligences: “Because our workshop was so successful,” Dweck says, “we obtained funding to develop a computer-based version called Brainology. It consists of six modules teaching study skills and teaching about the brain. In the module on the brain, students visited a brain lab and did virtual experiments.”

[excerpt from article by Milton Chen, Eudopia, The George Lucas Educational Foundation]

This research has been around for almost a decade and is now gaining press and momentum.  Interesting – and I repeat: it makes sense.