“Now You’re Speaking My Language”: Teaching English as a Second Language in the U.S. and Abroad

January 31, 2014

Teaching-American-English-wordleThe English language, according to Wikipedia, is the third-most-common native language in the world after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish and is the most widely learned second language. Not only is it widely used in technology and entertainment, it is also an official language of the European Union, many British Commonwealth countries and the United Nations, as well as in many international organizations.

The U.S. Department of State recognizes that promoting the learning and teaching of English as a foreign or second language both within the United States and around the world is an essential step towards increasing cultural understanding between the people of the U.S. and other countries.  The Department of State created the Office of English Language Programs, under the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, to encourage English language education for non-native English speakers.

As a former Business English professor for Spanish Masters of Marketing graduate students in Spain and a volunteer tutor for young Hispanic ESL (English as a Second Language) students in the United States, I had a hard time finding resources for my students or connecting with other teachers with whom I could exchange best practices and ideas for lesson plans that took into account the cultural differences of non-native speakers,” says Michele Bartram, Government Book Talk Editor and Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s U.S. Government Online Bookstore.

English Teaching Forum, the quarterly journal for professionals teaching ESL or EFL English as a Foreign or Second Language, published by the U.S. State Department's Office of English Language ProgramsFortunately, the State Department’s Office of English Language Programs publishes the English Teaching Forum, a quarterly journal that serves as a resource for professionals teaching English as a foreign or second language all over the globe. This publication connects teachers of English as a second language across the many countries in which they are teaching by allowing them to submit articles and share their experiences working towards their common goal of helping others learn the English language worldwide. In fact, the majority of articles featured in the English Teaching Forum are authored by English language classroom teachers. Each new issue of the journal has a distribution of over 85,000 copies across more than 130 countries!

Teachers of English as a second language will find a number of useful articles in the pages of the English Teaching Forum. Topics covered in this quarterly publication include classroom language learning activities, teaching methods and tools, informational articles on potential teaching topics related to American culture, and understanding the needs of the diverse group of students that these teachers encounter.

In the most recent issue of the English Teaching Forum (Volume 51, Number 4, 2013), “Raising Cultural Awareness in the English Language Classroom” tackles the question of how to introduce American sociocultural elements into the language curriculum to enhance the students’ ability to grasp the cultural nuances of the language. It has been said that students cannot master a foreign language without understanding the cultural context in which the language is spoken, and in this article, author Jerrold Frank explores this theory and suggests methods of introducing cultural lessons to language students.

Another particularly interesting feature from English Teaching Forum can be found in Volume 50, Number 1, 2012, in the article “A Call to Service”  by William P. Ancker, which introduces an interview with Dr. James Alatis, a leader in the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) community. The interview with Dr. Alatis, originally conducted in 2004 but reprinted in this issue in honor of the English Teaching Forum’s 50th anniversary, follows this introduction.

The journal even includes classroom exercises and printables, such as this fun quiz displaying the confusion caused by English-language homophones–words that are spelled differently but are pronounced similarly (like there and their).

ETF_Lighter-Side_Homophones-QuizImage: Speak and Spell Quiz from English Teaching Forum 2012, Volume 50, Number 3. See answers at bottom of the post.

If you are a teacher or a student of English as a foreign or second language, or even if you just find language and learning to be topics of interest to you, US-State-Department-American-English-Mobile-Appthe English Teaching Forum is a worthwhile publication to explore!

For more resources for teachers of American English, visit the State Department’s American English website, including downloading their new American English Mobile App for both teachers and students.

How do I subscribe to English Teaching Forum: A Journal for the Teacher of English Outside the United States?

About the Authors: Stephanie Jaeger is Sales & Marketing Coordinator for GPO’s Sales & Marketing Division that markets GPO’s publishing services to the Federal sector. Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.

Answers to The Lighter Side “Speak and Spell” homophones quiz from above:

Answers-to-Homophones-Quiz 


Get Sunwise and Block the Sun, Not the Fun

June 3, 2013

School’s out and the sun’s out, too, so it is time to teach kids about sun safety, particularly as June 2-8 is National Sun Safety Week. With children playing in the backyard, at the park, or in the pool or at the beach, it is important for parents to be aware of sun safety and for kids to be responsible for their own well-being when it comes to the sun.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has two great resources as part of their SunWise program. The Mission: Sunwise Activity Book 2013 is an educational, hands-on way for kids to learn about sun safety, and the companion website – SunWise – provides parents, teachers, and babysitters with additional resources for teaching children about the harmful effects of the sun.

Fulfill the Mission to Get “Sunwise”

mission_sunwise_activity_book_Page_01The Mission: SunWise Activity Book 2013 targets children in kindergarten through 8th grade and takes a more thorough approach to sun safety. Children learn about the ozone layer, ultraviolet rays, the UV Index, thermometers and preventative actions to protect themselves from the harmful effects of the sun.

There are more than a dozen activities including drawing and coloring, matching, word scrambles and fill in the blanks to engage children in sun safety lessons. The activity book doesn’t just tell kids to wear sun screen and play in the shade, but explains what causes sunburns and why it is important to be “sunwise.” [Says GovBookTalk Editor Michele Bartram: "My favorite page is the "Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap, Check, Play" page!"]

Parent and Teacher Sun Safety Resources

The EPA’s Sunwise sun safety website, http://www2.epa.gov/sunwise, has endless resources for adults and children. Teachers can download suggested lesson plans with PowerPoint presentations and sign-up for the SunWise Program to receive free toolkits that have age appropriate content and activities for their classrooms. Children can play interactive sun safety games, take quizzes and become “Sun Safety Certified.”

Together, adults and children can learn about the UV Index scale and the suggested precautions that go with each category and the health effects of overexposure to UV rays.  It even has Skin Cancer Fact Sheets by state showing the skin cancer rates and Action Steps for Sun Safety.

The website’s content is well-organized and can be translated into Spanish to reach a greater audience.

EPA-Sunwise-WebsiteAnother useful site is from the not-for-profit Sun Safety Alliance, (también en español) which offers its “Block the Sun, Not the Fun” program in addition to sponsoring National Sun Safety Week. 

Graphic-Skin-cancer-video-Sun-Safety-AllianceThe website includes resources for Educators, including this Teacher’s Guide; Healthcare Professionals; Parents and Early Childcare personnel; and a Kids site. It also has activities for children from infants and toddlerspre-school age, and kindergarten to 2nd grade, to grades 3 to 5, middle school,and  all the way through high school.

Image: From a video on the Sun Safety Alliance home page, showing the effects of skin cancer on a former suntan addict. She says, “I wish I knew then what I can see now!”

It is not fun to avoid the sun and sit inside all summer. So be proactive and start the summer out right by taking preventative actions to avoid sunburns. Keep in mind that there is more to sun safety than just putting on sun screen.

HOW DO I OBTAIN the “Mission: SunWise Activity Book 2013”?

  • Buy it online 24/7 on GPO’s U.S. Government Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s main retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a a federal depository library.

About the Authors: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs. Additional content was provided by Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram, Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division.


Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax Inspires Kids to Hug a Tree

April 23, 2013

Two publications show us the way… to care for trees this Arbor Day!

Lorax-Forest-Service-LaunchWith Earth Day yesterday and Arbor Day this Friday, April 26, and all week as National Parks Week, this is the perfect time to do something to help a tree grow or plant something new to celebrate the miracle of spring. If there are little ones in your life—children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or friends of kids that you love—it’s a good time to teach them to love trees, plants, and flowers, too.

Image: The head of the Forest Service with the Lorax for the launch of the U.S. Forest Service’s Discover the Forest program which aims to inspire tweens (aged 8-12) and their parents to re-connect with nature, experiencing it first-hand. The campaign brings to life the joy and excitement kids have when they discover the wonders of nature, helping create interest in their environment and a lifelong relationship with it. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

The best way to get kids to appreciate nature, according to Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax Curriculum Guide, is to take them outdoors—and “according to the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, children in the U.S. spend 50% less time outdoors than they did 20 years ago.” To counter the initial cries of “I want TV”, however, it helps to give kids directed activities when they go outside.

The U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council have developed a partnership with Project Learning Tree and Universal Pictures to create an educational curriculum plan based on “The Lorax” film and story. The curriculum supports the Forest Service’s “Discover the Forest” campaign (See image caption above).

Lorax-Classroom-Guide_Plant-a-Tree

Image: “Plant a Tree” page 21 from the Lorax Classroom Guide.

Teachers can download for FREE the complete classroom guide of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax Curriculum Guide as a PDF, or can download the individual activities to use in class (as long as it is for educational, and not commercial, purposes). There’s an interactive map of places you can go in the United States that have campgrounds, national forests, state campgrounds, etc. There’s a page of games and activities such as how to use a compass, take a virtual hike, create a leaf rubbing or become a Jr. Forest Ranger on the Web site.

The printed teacher’s guide has tests, bibliographies for the students, labs (plant a tree with the Lorax), and student pages for various grade levels (I saw K-4 and 6-8). Families are encouraged to use these activities, too.

 

Why would Anyone Cut a Tree Down? continues the ecological and conservation-minded discussion you might want to pursue with your kids or students this week.

However, this volume approaches conservation from a silvicultural perspective, rather than the Lorax’ perspective of promoting a child’s approach of nature generally. The age range for the publication is 8 and up, and the material might be a bit young for older middle school children—so its material is more directed to a specific age range. The Forest Service published this document also, and the authors are a writer/ editor / educator with the Forest Service and an illustrator with previous experience illustrating tree guides.

The book shows children the life cycle of trees, the need to remove sick trees, the uses for wood from cut trees, and types of trees that are dangerous, all so beautifully illustrated by Juliette Watts that they make the lessons come alive.

Purchase a copy from the GPO U.S. Government Online Bookstore, and flop under a tree canopy to read the story and appreciate all the gifts that nature has to give us.

As Dr. Seuss wrote, “Now that you’re here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear. UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”  It’s up to us (and the Forest Service and its partners) to encourage children to care a whole awful lot about our trees and forests. Using these publications is good a way to make that happen!


How can I find these publications?

1) Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax Curriculum Guide

  • You can find it via our PURL (Permanent URL)
  • Locate it through GPO’s Catalog of Government Publications CGP catalog record. GPO has cataloged both the print and the electronic versions to make things “a whole awful lot better” for the Federal Depository libraries that got it in the April 2013 record load.
  • Find it in a federal depository library near you.

2) Why would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?

  • Purchase it on GPO’s U.S. Government Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s Main (retail) Bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 8:30am to 4pm Eastern Time, except Federal holidays. Call (202) 512-0132 for information.
  • Find it in a Federal Depository library.

About the Author(s):

Adapted by Government Book Talk Editor and U.S. Government Online Bookstore Manager Michele Bartram from a post written for the FDLP Community Blog by guest blogger Jennifer Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP).


Owlie Skywarn helps us all prepare for bad weather

October 26, 2012

With the threat of an unusual “Frankenstorm” pre-Halloween hurricane possibly combined with a blizzard about to hit the East Coast in the next few days, I found myself with a dozen others at the store last night buying batteries, flashlights and bottled water. Next to me was a mother with two small children, one of whom asked loudly, “Mommy, why is everybody buying batteries and water?” I chuckled to myself as I looked at the frazzled adults and wondered how she’d explain what the fuss was about. With the rise in severe weather events in the United States and the related rise in media coverage about these creating anxiety in both young and old, parents and teachers have a lot of “‘splaining” to do to children.

NOAA Owlie Skywarn's Weather BookFortunately, NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in conjunction with FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Association) and the American Red Cross, have prepared a terrific new booklet, Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book, to explain different types of severe weather and how to prepare for each.

Although formatted to appeal to children, with “Owlie Skywarn” the cartoon weather owl introducing topics on most pages, this booklet is valuable for all ages.

The book covers the gamut of severe weather, from hurricanes and tornadoes to lightning, floods and winter storms.

For each type of weather, Owlie explains what it is, what kind of alerts or warnings may be issued and by whom, how to prepare in advance (if possible), and how to react while it is happening. For example, a great page illustrates a car safety kit every driver should have if he or she lives in places that get deep snow. Still other pages tell you where to go and how to protect yourself when a tornado warning is issued by NOAA’s National Weather Service, or over the Emergency Alert System, whether at home, school, office, store, outdoors or in a car.

Sprinkled throughout are anecdotes from real people and towns that make the advice come alive. One is the story of a retired National Park Ranger who has been struck by lightning seven times and lived to tell the tale (albeit now with lightning rods all over his home). Yikes! Fascinating (and intimidating) weather facts are included like the fact that the most snow in one month in the United States actually fell in Tamarack, California, in 1911: a whopping 32.5 feet or 390 inches (or 10 meters for our non-US readers)!

At the end of the book are quizzes and activities that can be used by a family at home or teachers in school with children to help ensure the lessons get through that severe weather is not to be played with.

My recommendation to parents, teachers, well, really everyone is get a copy of Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book, read it, prepare, and keep it with your other extreme weather supplies. These are lessons worth repeating often. I’ve got my copy with my spare batteries and my NOAA weather emergency radio.

P.S. And to that mother in the flashlight and batteries aisle preparing for Hurricane Sandy: You will be happy to know that the answer to your daughter’s question about why everyone is buying batteries and water can be found on page 6.

HOW DO I OBTAIN Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book”?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.

Find this and other books about Weather and Climate on our new online bookstore.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


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