Top 15 Reasons Why You Should Use Peer Mediated Learning in All Classes

In the past I have posted about one of my favorite education strategies to increase fluency and comprehension. Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) developed by researchers at Vanderbilt University ( is an educational strategy that was developed to support fluency and comprehension in grades K-12th (of course, it looks different across the grades). I have been supporting schools in the implementation of PALS and I know from the data and observation that is one of the most effective strategies with the most versatility to adopt and embed in regular education classrooms, dual language two way programs, and special education programs. Reading Rockets is non-profit organization that disseminates strategies in reading has just posted a great summary of one of the aspects of PALS and I wanted to share it with my readers. Here is the link to their summary and resources surrounding it. So click here If you are curious of the whole approach Vanderbilt university also has online professional development modules that are wonderful and provide you with all the research, how-to, resources and student handouts to adopt this strategy in English and Spanish.

Fro K and 1st grade click here
For 2nd to 6th grade click here
For Secondary grades click here

Here are the top 15 reasons as to why I feel is so highly effective!!!
1. It engages students in ACTIVE LEARNING vs passive learning.
2. It enriches your core or basic reading instruction.
3. It embeds differentiate instruction as a default of how the strategy is implemented.
4. It is a strategy that uses real books!
5. It is a strategy that can be used in dual language programs because the students can use the strategy in English and Spanish (or any another language).
6. It addresses the 6th area of effective literacy instruction – oral language development!! (August and Shannahan, 2006).
7. It can be used as a Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention if you are doing Response to Intervention (RTI) or Multi-tier System of Support (MTSS)
8. It is easy to monitor progress and complexity as the students use the strategy.
9. It can use fiction and non-fiction texts so that you can address Common Core State Standards in your classroom.
10. It requires students to use multiple modalities- oral, visual, tactile, kinesthetic,
11. It encourages students to work as teams!
12. It encourages social interaction for English language learners in the use of interpersonal and academic language.
13. Students Love it!!!
14. It encourages the teachers to facilitate learning rather than stand in the front of the classroom and lecture.
15. Allows teachers to capitalize on time and work with students who may need extra help while others are actively engaged in learning!!!
16. It uses principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Its a win-win for teachers and students!

Annenberg Institute’s Vue Journal- Issue on ELLs and Innovative Educational Programing

This great resource just came out this month (September 2013). The journal entitled “English Language Learners: Shifting to an Asset-Based Paradigm / Estudiantes del Idioma Inglés: Valorizando los Aportes Que Brindan” focuses on seeing the education of English language learners not as a problem, but an opportunity for innovation and valuing of biculturalism and bilingualism.
Three articles in particularly are worth reading:
1. Innovations in Educational Equity for English Language Learners
By Rosann Tung
Rather than view educating English language learners as a problem, the innovative practitioners, scholars, and policy analysts writing in this issue of VUE urge us to embrace and value ELLs as bicultural, bilingual leaders of the future.

2.Educación Bilingüe a Nivel de Escuela Secundaria / Dual-Language Education at the High School Level
By Dania Vazquez
A dual-language program at one high school aims to send the message: “We value all of who you are – both languages are equally important.”

Early Literacy, Family Engagement, and Cultural Competence: District Priorities in Clark County, Nevada
By Lucy Keaton
Engaged families and community members, along with culturally competent and data-savvy teachers and principals, are key goals in a district with a burgeoning English language learner population.

Feel free to share by forwarding the link

Teacher Blog– Her Journey in a Dual Language Classroom

Through SpanglishBaby once again, we get a great link to a teacher blog. LearningIn2 is a blog by a teacher who teaches in a dual language classroom. She shares information on reading in two languages and what she does in her Dual Language classroom. Would be fun to have her build a network of other teachers in Dual Language classrooms so that they can capitalize on:

Teaching experiences
Exchange in materials
Websites of interest
and many more issues during their very critical and important journey.


Dual Language Learning in Early Childhood is Best for Young Children- Study

IMG_20120515_093110EDWeek recently summarized the findings from a large research study out of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill that looked at the impact of dual language programs in early childhood. Once again the study found that dual language education and learning supports language development (in the child’s first and second language- i.e. English) and cognitive development in young children. In fact, the findings emphasize the potential impact of dual language education at this early schooling age as critical for better educational outcomes in bilinguals.

To read more click here

Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness Tool: Benefits of Bilingualism

The National Center of Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness and the Head Star Office has developed four practitioner or parent friendly briefs that discuss and celebrate cultural and linguistic diversity. The following is the title:

My youngest
1. The Benefits of Being Bilingual
Spanish version – Las Ventajas de Ser Bilingue
2. The Gift of Language
Spanish version- El Don del Lenguage
3. Language in the Home and the Community Part 1 and
Spanish version- El Lenguaje en el Hogar y en la Comunidad Parte 1
Parte 2

The briefs are also available in Spanish and can be easily disseminated!


Spanglish Baby- Great Article: When Bilingualism is Confused with a Language Disability

In this article on Spanglish Baby the author summarizes an article about a parent, who is a teacher, that discusses her experience when her child failed a screening for language delays at her son's school. This parent also learned that at her preschool all Spanish speakers had also failed it. When she went for a complete individualized evaluation she learned her son is developing just fine! She also found out that this is a common occurrence and that in fact the assessments used maybe inappropriate for bilingual children as they assume children are monolingual. The fact is that bilingual children know as much as monolinguals but they know it in two languages. If you use a monolingual test, children may look as they are lagging behind the norming sample of students they are being compared to
Is it s language disorder/disability or a typical development process of bilingual and trilinguals? How do you know?

Here are my research-based recommendations:
Require that they do a complete family, medical, and educational history of your child

Required that they use multiple assessment by multiple assessors that are trained in administering assessments in the language of your child

Require that a home and classroom observation be conducted that monitor language in the natural context

Require that teachers monitor orla language development in both languages

Require that teachers monitor reading development in the language or languages of instruction

Require that your child is compared to a “true peer” not a monolingual but a child who has a similar background, culture, educational experiences, etc as your own child

Require that if an cognitive or intelligence test is required that they give a nonverbal test rather than language based test

Require that an outside expert be consulted, visit Center for Applied Linguistics for some additional information

Require that they consider all programs that support native language instruction be provided and offered

Here is the link to the Spanglish Baby Website
Here is the link to the California Teacher Association Magazine

Here is a link for education professionals on the topic:
My response in the RTI Action Network on Services for English Language learners with and without disabilities.
English Language Learners with Disabilities
Do you have any additional ideas to share?



Websites that Support Reading Online in Spanish- Sitios en el Internet que Ayudan en la Lectura

Finally, after looking and looking for educational websites that support literacy in English and Spanish, I found it! My first review of this website is a good one with many literacy options for teachers,students, parents. I love that it has many books in English and Spanish including many informational texts as well as many other literacy activities.The website doesn't stop there is addresses all the content areas as well as K-12.

Here is their description of who they are: is a free, web-based K-12 learning platform designed for students, educators, and parents. With PowerMyLearning, you can easily find and use over 1,600 of the best free digital learning activities from across the web to propel student achievement in all major subjects including math, English, science, social studies, and more.”

En Español, aqui esta la descripcion:
“ es un país libre, basada en la web de K-12 plataforma de aprendizaje diseñado para estudiantes, educadores y padres. Con PowerMyLearning, usted puede fácilmente encontrar y utilizar más de 1.600 de las mejores actividades gratuitas aprendizaje digital en toda la web para impulsar estudiante logros en todas las materias más importantes, incluyendo las matemáticas, Inglés, ciencias, estudios sociales, y más. ”


What do you do if a student who is still acquiring English is not making progress?

Do you have this question–
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We have a student who is a formerly Limited English Proficient (FLEP) and is now failing. He has already been retained. Looking at his data, we are concerned that there may be issues that are beyond language with which he is struggling. In the mean time, as we transition to the WIDA MODEL and have no assessment program here at the school, what do I use and where do I get it?
I understand the challenge you are having and it seems as though you are going down a checklist of what would be an appropriate referral to special education. I am assuming this student is not a student receiving special education services right now.

Here are a few questions that can help guiden your problem solving process

If you can help me answer a few questions:

What grade is the student?
What is his/her background?
How long has he been in the US?
What is the family composition? Which language is spoken at home?
Has the child received interventions with fidelity (as intended for two cycles of 4-6 weeks?)
Does the student, as a FLEP, have average and age appropriate vocabulary in social situations? In academic situations?
Has there been a traumatic experience recently (i.e. Death in the family, shooting, family violence, divorce, loss of shelter, etc)?
What is the students reading level? Is there a history of DIBELS scores and what are they?
Was the child showing growth academically as he gained English and now he is not or has he/she been brought up for special education evaluation before and been denied?
Are there records of the assessments from previous years?
Is the SEI classroom, if in one, using category strategies consistently?


Continued Support for Students to be Bilingual….

It looks like in the last few months, the media has been continually reporting the benefits of bilingualism for all students. Here a recent post from today's Huffington Post

Lobbying is needed to continue this momentum- please forward to those you think will share and support it
Below is a paragraph they reported on the benefits of being bilingual
“The results generally show the more language kids get, the more striking the results are,” Rivers said. “They score better on all sorts of standardized measures, whether it’s first language literacy, mathematics and more. And there’s lots of other data on socio-economic outcome. People who speak a foreign language tend to make more money. Something like 3 percent on average regardless of the field, assuming they also speak English.”
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