Graduate School

Nancy Cloud: Differentiating Learning for Language and Concept Development

Posted by Johanna Pyun on March 12, 2012

Nancy CloudThe guest speaker for the second workshop of the 12th Annual Language Series was Nancy Cloud, who is a distinguished author of literacy and dual language instruction, as well as a Graduate Professor of Education at Rhode Island College. 

Beginning with thought-provoking questions such as, “What is language?” and “How does it operate in classrooms?”, Dr. Cloud jumped right into a discussion of the differences in receptive and expressive language skills for every language learner.

She presented strategies for selecting texts for ELL’s (English Language Learners) and showed purposeful ways to have one’s students engage in literacy in a substantial matter. Having the workshop participants break out into groups of two or three, the exchanging of one’s experiences, ideas, and insights were just as fruitful as the lecture itself.

Language Series AudienceAfter reviewing and reporting on appropriate texts for beginner, intermediate, and advanced reading levels, everyone was given an example text taken from a National Geographic Theme Set called Extreme Weather, to examine and assess according to the posed questions: “What literacy level could handle your book? Are there enough text features and visuals to help the learner understand the main concepts? How can you use this knowledge when selecting other texts?”

Benchmark Science BooksUnderstanding how to support the needs of second language learners through well-selected texts comes with being able to assess the students’ reading level. This is where leveled texts like “benchmark books” come in handy. By taking running records and miscue analyses, measuring fluency, as well as taking individual evaluations using these books, teachers can determine how best to provide appropriate reading material for their students. 

Millmark ConceptbooksOther effective leveled texts Nancy recommended were National Geographic Theme Sets, as mentioned earlier, McGraw-Hill’s ACCESS Science & Social Studies collections, Pearson’s Language Central Textbooks, and Steck Vaughn’s PAIR IT BOOKS that combine the narrative and expository studies.

After purposefully selecting appropriate texts, determining language targets by closely analyzing the chosen content area texts would be the next step. Language objectives concerning nouns, verbs, adjectives, AWL (Academic Word List) words, and prepositions are some objectives the participants brainstormed. Utilizing activities, graphic organizers, and multimedia resources (such as Del Sol books, Sesame Street video clips, etc.) help to foster and grow students’ English literacy skills by providing diverse mediums in which the student can experience and process the information.

An effective teaching technique that Nancy touched upon was using mentor texts to model language use. Reading aloud multicultural literature such as, Alma Flor Ada’s A Magical Encounter, Frances Ann Day’s Latino and Latina Voices in Literature, or Jorge Argueta’s children’s books, and bilingual texts such as Diane Gonzales Bertrand’s “The Last Doll”, would be a way for Spanish speaking students to connect to the material.

The impression Nancy left the participants with was there is always something you can do for students. In Nancy’s own words “The time you spend is going to yield results. It’s really worth it.”