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!

Free Webinar- Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) and English Learners

Are you curious about the link between Response to Intervention (RTI) and MTSS? Do you want to know how to do it when you have large numbers of English learners. Join Julie and I at our next webinar:

Bridge Webinar
Multi-Tiered Systems of Support: Toward a Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Model for English Learners

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support that deliver high-quality, research-based instruction and interventions can support the growing English language learner population in general and in special education. On this Bridge Webinar, Claudia Rinaldi, Assistant Director of the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative at EDC, and Julie Esparza-Brown, Assistant Professor and Project Director for Portland State University’s Bilingual/Special Education Program, present research on a culturally and linguistically appropriate model for MTSS and provide examples of instructional planning, assessment, and intervention across the tiers. Rinaldi and Esparza-Brown will present concrete examples of preventive assessment measures, collaboration structures, data-informed problem solving, and instruction and intervention planning and delivery to support ELLs. The presenters will highlight the importance of collaboration and joint responsibility among ELL, special education, and general education educators in meeting the needs of all English language learners, including those with disabilities. Practical application and identifying first steps will be presented.

Who Should Attend?

District-level ELL, special education, and response to intervention (RTI) directors and coordinators, as well as teachers with English language learners in their classrooms.
For more information go to

What are we missing when we look at data to improve instruction?

Great visual report from the Data Quality Control Campaign on “Data: the Missing Piece to Improve Student Achievement“– this report provides guidance on how to use data for student improvement. The visual present how things were done in the past and what the future should look like guided by the questions:
What is data?
How will it help?
What do we do now?

The visual chart address how this process directly relates school administrators, teachers, parents and families, business and philanthropic leaders, state policy makers.

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

English Language Learners with Disabilities? A Great Resource for Districts, Schools, and Families

IMPACT Newsletter, a new resource from the University of Minnesota. The newsletter presents 18 short practitioner/teacher friendly articles focused on the needs of English Language Learners with disabilities. Articles include critical issues like ELLs with disabilities in a Response to Intervention framework by our own Dr. Julie Esparza Brown, issues related to Common Core State Standards (CCSS), resources for parents and professionals from a variety of fields including regular education, speech and language therapists, teachers of hearing impairments and the deaf, transition planning into adulthood, collaboration and school transformation efforts, accommodations and differentiation, and of course a great definition of who are English Language Learners with disabilities.
English language learners with disabilities latest newsletter IMPACT– excellence guide for districts. For the University of Minnesota link to the website click here.

Great Free E-Book – The IEP Planner

The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) is providing a free e-book on how parents can prepare for their child’s Individualized Educational PLan (IEP) meeting. This is a great, free resource for what to do – What do you need to do to prepare before the meeting, during the meeting, and after the meeting. I would also recommend this resource for teachers and school leaders. This will help guide the conversation and create a true partnership and an individualize educational plan for their child!

Click here to download the free resource

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?