Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Here Comes SUMMER!!

There are 12 academic days remaining in the school year at Frontier Regional School. How could that be? It seems like just yesterday we were trudging through knee-deep snow and ice, dealing with temperatures below zero, and seeing nothing but white all around. Magically, June is here--and that means that our long-awaited summer break is right around the corner. As an ESL teacher, my thoughts turn to the "summer slide." No, not the pool slide, or the slip-n-slide, but the regression of reading, writing and other literacy skills that tends to happen when kids are not engaged in academic structure. That's something I work hard to prevent, or at least lessen, as I get ready to send my students off into summer break.

Thankfully, Frontier ESL will continue over the summer in tutoring mode. Each of my students will be scheduled for small group or one-on-one tutoring during the month of July. Awesome! But for those hours outside of tutoring time, and for much of August, we still need to keep our English in tune.

Two online literacy resources that I've used with students throughout the year are Duolingo and Raz-Kids. Duolingo is a great site that allows people to learn a new language anywhere, anytime, and it's free. It incorporates all four language domains (reading, writing, listening and speaking) and it provides individualized instruction. I happen to have my own Duolingo account for learning Spanish. It offers iPad and iPhone compatibility, but it also works great on a desktop computer. Students (as well as their parents and other family members) can use it and even compete with one another to motivate learning. One of my students currently has Duolingo on his smartphone, and he reports that he uses it regularly at home. Based on his steady progress over the past six months, I do not doubt his word.

Raz-Kids, a component of Reading A-Z, offers leveled e-books as well as assessments. Although it's not a free resource, for a yearly $99 fee, Raz-Kids can be added to a Reading A-Z license and used to expand a classroom library. The books available through Raz-Kids are talking books, meaning the text is both read and heard. Audio support is particularly valuable for ESL students as it cements letter-sound connections and improves pronunciation and automaticity. From the teacher's perspective, progress monitoring is made easy both for running records and high frequency word knowledge. Like Duolingo, Raz-Kids is available on iPad and iPhone. I am thrilled that my district offers this valuable literacy resource, and even more pleased at how my students have responded to it.

I plan to stay connected to my students over the summer during those times when we won't be in class together. Duolingo and Raz-Kids will make it easy. If any readers have other suggestions for great technology/literacy sites or apps, please share!

Happy summer,

Mrs. Blair
Frontier ESL Teacher

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