76. I have a student who speaks good, but not perfect, English. When he attempts to write simple sentences, he does poorly on grammar. What is the best way to teach written English?

The best way to teach written English is to help students SPEAK in English about the topic they wish to write. In ALL languages, GREAT WRITERS usually are GREAT SPEAKERS, too.

Now, a student may "speak" good English when (s)he speaks about familiar topics, when (s)he interacts in informal, conversational situations. A student who speaks "good English" in these types of every-day "polite / survival / common" situations is a speaker who has highly developed "BICS," that is, Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills.

Speaking:

about a school topic that requires high level thinking skills,

about a specialized topic from the content areas,

to describe or explain a content area concept or key idea,

about a topic that requires knowledge of a specialized vocabulary,

demands that the speaker develops "CALP," that is, Cognitive-Academic Language Proficiency. It is very difficult to develop CALP: The language proficiency needed to talk fluently about the key concepts, ideas, topics, issues, themes that form the academic core of the content areas. To WRITE about these key concepts, ideas, topics, issues and themes is extremely difficult, especially in the absence of the ORAL LANGUAGE SKILLS that serve as foundations to writing skills.

How can we help students: Here is a complete lesson plan, including extensions into content areas, from a second grade teacher. Observe how she develops writing skills in her lessons over a period of several days. How she builds the vocabulary for students to TALK about the chosen topic. And, most importantly, HOW SHE DEMONSTRATES, FIRST ORALLY AND THEN IN WRITING, HOW TO USE ALL THE INFORMATION AND VOCABULARY POSTED ON THE WALL CHART to write a paragraph.

Topic: My Favorite Pet

SUBJECT: Written language-vocabulary development and paragraph writing.

OVERALL OBJECTIVE: After thorough development of vocabulary about "My Favorite Pet", students will demonstrate understanding of vocabulary and concepts by writing a paragraph about their favorite animal or pet.

OBJECTIVE 1 (Day 1)

  1. Students will understand the concept of "animals as pets in the United States" and compare the concept of animals for a purpose in Mexico.
  2. Students will share what their pet is and where they got their pet. Teacher will chart each child's name, his/her pet(s) and where they got their pet.
  3. Teacher will introduce additional vocabulary of pets and places that were not mentioned by students. *It is important to introduce new vocabulary after known vocabulary has been named.

OBJECTIVE 2 (Day 2) (Continuation of chart -development of adjectives & verbs)

  1. Students will share descriptions of their pet. Teacher will chart descriptions according to color, texture and personality.
  2. Students will describe the sounds their pet makes, as teacher charts their responses. ( Development of verbs)
  3. Teacher will introduce and chart additional vocabulary not mentioned by the students.

OBJECTIVE 3 (Day 3) (Continuation of chart -development of nouns and verbs)

  1. Students will describe what he/she feeds his/her pet and the movements his/her pet makes as teacher charts his/her responses.
  2. Teacher will introduce and chart additional vocabulary not mentioned by the students.

OBJECTIVE 4 (Day 4) (Continuation of chart and teacher demonstration)

  1. Students will complete vocabulary development by sharing where they keep their pet, as teacher charts their responses.
  2. Teacher will demonstrate orally a paragraph about her favorite pet, using the chart as reference.
  3. Teacher will demonstrate by writing a paragraph about her favorite pet for students.

OBJECTIVE 5 (Day 5)

  1. Students will demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary and write a paragraph about their favorite pet using the categories developed on the chart.

 

CATEGORIES developed by the teacher on a wall chart over a period of 5 instructional days.

The teacher had written these vocabulary words --organized into categories-- in her lesson plans, as she prepared her lessons. During the lessons, the teacher charted the vocabulary words provided by the students. When the students, as she was charting their responses, did NOT mention the words she had in her lesson plans, then the teacher introduced them as NEW vocabulary.

MY FAVORITE PET

What kind of pet?
dog
fish
cat
bird
snake
turtle
guinea pig
hamster,
rabbit
horse
mouse

 

Where did you get your pet?
friend
relative (cousin, grandparentsaunt, uncle, sister, brother)
pet store
animal shelter
a present or gift
it was a stray

 

What sounds does your pet make?
purrs
barks
whimpers
chatters
chirps
meows
squeals
growls
shinny, neigh
snaps
scratches
thumps

 

Describe your pet.
What does it look like?
furry
soft
colors – brown, white, etc.
spotted
stripes
slimy
smooth shell
scales, scaly
fuzzy
patterns or markings
aloof
affectionate
timid
proud
spirited
clever
rough

What movements does your pet make?

gallops, jumps, flies, trots, slithers, soars, stalks, crawls, hops, moves slowly, scurries, scampers, glides, wiggles, etc.

 

Where would you keep your pet? -(The pet’s home)

in a box, basket

in a cage

dog house

stalls

pasture

in the house

in the backyard

on my bed

fishbowl

fish tank

kennel ( if on vacation)

in my room

 

What do you feed your pets?

dog food ( brand names?)

cat food

flies, insects,

mice

fish

eggs

meat

milk

lettuce

cilantro

carrot

pellets ( rabbit or guinea pig)

table scraps ( leftovers)

 

What is your animal covered with?

Example: A German Shepherd is covered with fur.

Panda bears are covered with fur.

fur

skin

scales

feathers

shell

 

Names Of pets
dogs birds
German Shepherd, Shin Tzu, cocktiel, cockateel
Cocker Spaniel parakeet
Poodle canary
Doberman finch
Bulldog parrot
Mutt (mixed breed) rooster
Dalmatian hen
Dachshund duck
Collie goose
Old English Sheep dog  
Yorkshire Terrier
cats
mixed breed
Siamese
Persian
fish
goldfish
guppies
turtles
box turtle
desert turtle
snakes
garter snake

After the fifth day of instruction, the teacher EXPANDS her lesson. Using the following drawing (on a transparency), the teacher BUILDS THE VOCABULARY –through meaningful CATEGORIES— before the students read the poem "BEAR IN THERE."

Here is the DRAWING:

bear.gif (38597 bytes)

And this is the poem the students will read AFTER the teacher builds the vocabulary through meaningful CATEGORIES.

BEAR IN THERE

There's a Polar Bear
In our Frigidaire-
He likes it 'cause it's cold in there.
With his seat in the meat
And his face in the fish
And his big hairy paws
In the buttery dish,
He's nibbling the noodles,
He's munching the rice,
He's slurping the soda,
He's licking the ice.
And he lets out a roar
If you open the door.
And it gives me a scare
To know he's in there-
That Polary Bear
In our Fridgitydaire.

By Shel Silverstein "A Light in the Attic"

Here are the teacher’s vocabulary CATEGORIES, prepared in her lesson plans:

Vocabulary Development for "Bear in There" by Shel Silverstein

Parts of a Body
(bears)--
Sounds you make with your mouth
seat nibble- nibbling
face munch -munching
paws slurp- slurping
FOOD in the Refrigerator lick- licking
meat "lets out a roar"
butter open
noodles "gives me a scare"
rice Contractions
soda it's- it is
ice there's -there is
Appliances he's -he is
Frigidaire 'cause -because

 

Changing nouns to adjectives

Polar -polary bear (play on words)

Frigidaire -Frigitydaire (play on words)

Hair -hairy

butter -buttery

 

Pronouns & Possessives

he -Polar bear

his face, his big hairy paws etc.

there- in the Frigidaire

that -Polar bear

you

it

 

The teacher now EXPANDS the lesson into the content areas, ALWAYS developing the new vocabulary FIRST. This is her last lesson plan:

EXPANDING ACTIVITIES:

  1. Development of animals that are domesticated or wild. (Science unit)
  2. Development of vocabulary – "What is your animal covered with?"
  3. Poems by Shel Silverstein. These poems may be developed into a chart using key vocabulary.

HOT DOG

I have a hot dog for a pet,
The only kind my folks would let me get.
He does 'smell sort of bad and yet,
He absolutely never gets the sofa wet.
We have a butcher for a vet,
The strangest vet you ever met.
Guess we're the weirdest family yet,
To have a hot dog for a pet. By Shel Silverstein "A Light in Attic"

DOUBLE-TAIL DOG

Would you like to buy a dog with a tail at either end?
He is quite the strangest dog there is in town.
Though he's not too good at knowing,
Just exactly where he's going,
He is very very good at sitting down.

He doesn't have a place to put a collar,
And I'll admit it's rather hard to lead him,
And he cannot hear you call.
For he has no ears at all,
But it doesn't cost a single cent to feed him.

He cannot bite, he'll never bark or growl,
Just scratch him on his tails, he'll find it pleasing.
But you'll have to take him out
For twice as many walks,
And I'll bet that you can quickly guess the reason. By Shel Silverstein "Where the Sidewalk Ends"

 

 


For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:

1. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
2. Cross Cultural Diversity - Multicultural Strategies
3. Effective Instruction for English Learners (L.E.P. students) Parts 1, 2, 3, 4
4. Promoting Academic Success in Language Minority Students
5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
6. Oral Language / Literacy Skills / Higher Order Thinking Skills
7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
8. The Structure of English / The Structure of Spanish
9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

Web Site Programs for Teachers: Numbers 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.
Web Site Programs for
Paraprofessionals: Number 3.
Web Site Programs for
New Teachers:
Enhanced Cultural Sensitivity - The Challenge of Students Diversity
Identifying / Responding to Students' Language Needs
Phonemic Awareness: Teaching English phonics to L.E.P. students
Relationship Between Reading, Writing and Spelling
Improving Reading Performance -- Building Oral Language Skills)

Write and e-mail any additional questions you may have, and Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will establish with you, your school or district a Technical Assistance Service Contract. Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will answer all your questions promptly and to your satisfaction.

 

For information and credentials please click on the link below or contact directly:

CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK, Ph.D.

Educational Consultant, Program Evaluator

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Certification (12/2006)

3113 Malcolm Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90034-3406

Phone and Fax: (310) 474-5605

E-mail:  csssadek@gte.net