Friday, May 31, 2013

Informal And Formal Assessment With Multi-Ability Classes

by Richard D Boyce

Formal assessment often creates fear within the student such that it prevents them from performing at their best.

Therefore, it is important for the teacher to give students practice assessment items to allow them to gain experience in doing assessment under exam conditions to ease that fear.

This informal assessment helps both the teacher and student gauge how they are progressing and what they need do to prepare for the real thing.

In classes with a wide range of ability, there are strategies you can use to help prepare all your students to do well in formal assessment by using your informal assessment as preparation.

Below are ideas to consider as part of your informal assessment:

  1. It is important to find out what understanding of each new topic your class has as a starting point for your teaching.
  2. Use frequent, quick, short tests to consolidate the basics.
  3. Practice any new assessment task before you use it formally.
  4. Make sure the format of your informal assessment reflects the formal assessment format.
  5. If you divide your class into ability groups, set tests to reflect their progress.
  6. You might read the questions aloud to the lower ability groups to help them understand what has to be done.
  7. If you set a common test for the class, you could set different starting points for each ability group. This would allow all students to gain some success and the more able to progress to the more challenging questions.
  8. Alternatively, consider testing each ability group separately with their own test or section of the main test.

When it comes to formal testing, consider the following. If you are responsible for your class's total assessment program, then some of the ideas below will give you more flexibility than you would have if the assessment program incorporated many classes.

  1. In formal testing, separate the testing of the basics from problem solving. This reduces stress on students allowing them to perform at a higher level more confidently.
  2. Make sure each unit of the test begins with an easy example and progress through a range of difficulties. This means most students will get a start.
  3. If you are prepared to be adventurous, you might set a test, graded in difficulty, to allow the students to choose where they start and finish.
  4. With some less able students in your class, you might decide to give them a clue to get them started. You should record this on their paper and make adjustments to the marking scheme.
  5. All of the above may need to be tempered to the rules set up by the formal testing procedures mandated by outside authorities in upper high school year levels.
  6. Give separate skills and problem solving tests. The skills test would have a set time while the problem solving test might be more time flexible.
  7. Remind students that the basic skills are paramount to gaining a pass mark and are the essential basis for problem solving.
  8. Your assessment tasks should always reflect your teaching pedagogue.

Overarching these ideas are two important strategies that the teacher must engage in with their classes.

No student will do well in any assessment program, no matter how hard they work, unless they have an effective examination technique. Teachers need to teach their students how to do an examination and constantly review those techniques before each assessment task.

In addition, when reviewing the assessment task with their students, they must point out where students have made errors due to poor examination technique.

Finally, it is important for the teacher to model for students how to actually do each different type of assessment by using one of each and discussing how they would go about doing that type of assessment task. This should not be a one-off.

This article is one of many written by our author who had over 40 years' experience in the classroom. In his final years of permanent teaching, as Head of Mathematics, he was responsible for the total assessment program in his school.

All of his experience on many examination and assessment topics can be found in his eBook, "The Exam Book" on the website

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6 Steps That You Can Take To Improve Your Child's Performance In School

by Mkamba M Juke

Every time that a child comes home after the end of a study period, one of the first things a parent looks at is the child's performance.

If the child's report card shows poor grades, a bad remark from the teacher or anything that does not indicate excellence on the part of the child, it often becomes difficult for the parent to keep calm.

However, here are some basic steps that a parent can use to shape his or her child's performance in school, to ensure excellence.

a) Manage your reaction

Your child may seek for assistance from you, but once he or she notices that you have a bitter reaction, he or she may end up being scared. Therefore, even though you might be angry, it is advisable that you cool down and try to device ways that you can make him or her improve.

Using a calm approach towards any problem concerning your child's performance is one of the best ways you can use to solve the problem.

b) Assist your child

Peruse through his or her performance on the report form and identify what exactly happened. Seek to know from your child the reasons that led to him or her attaining the grades that he or she has. This will assist you to come up with steps that will improve his or her performance.

c) Talk to his or her teacher face-to-face

This is vital, as you will be able to know the teacher's views concerning your child's level of learning, also, seek to get specific tips from the teacher on how you can assist your child improve his or her grades.

d) Schedule extra hours to assist your child

This has also helped many poor performing children improve. If necessary, you can also hire a tutor as well. If poor performance is all where your concern is, then spending extra hours with him after his normal daytime lessons at school in form of home tuition can be very important.

e) Motivate your child by praising him or her

Each time your child registers a significant improvement in his or her grades, celebrate him or her through offering rewards to make him or her feel appreciated. This boosts the morale of your child thus making him or her work even harder.

f) Monitor your child's performance

This will avoid the rise of problems again. Encourage him or her to tell you everything concerning school, teachers and assignments as well. Let your child understand that you have a great interest in his or her education and that his or her performance matters a lot to you.

We provide the best info about home tuition. For further details please visit the provided links.

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Getting The Most Out Of Professional Development: Suggestions For The Teacher

by Richard D Boyce

Education is in constant flux. Gone are the days when a teacher learnt all that is needed to know at teachers' college.

Teachers need to be constantly upgrading their qualifications or enhancing their teaching skills by attending regular professional development.

This was made plain to me when I became a Head of Mathematics. One of my most important duties was the professional development of my staff.

However, that also meant that I had to embark on constant professional development before I could fulfill my responsibility to develop my staff.

Often, the professional development I attended was mandated by the educational authority and I had to pass it down the line. I had to develop a strategy to get the most out of these opportunities so that I could give good feedback to my staff.

Here is how I went about it. Obviously, I would need to take notes in the workshop but they needed to be focused on how I needed to pass the information on.

Therefore, I would divide my note pad down the middle. The left side was headed "New Information" and the right side "What Action Shall I Take". On the left hand side, I would note the new idea/instruction in blue. On the right hand side, I would write in red what action I needed to take.

The next day I would develop an action plan. That would include what I needed to do to get the ideas across to my staff. One essential part of this action plan was to write a report that went to all. Often, it led to my giving the staff a short workshop.

This eventually led me to present professional development workshops to teachers from other schools. In those workshops, I challenged my audience to leave the workshop with an action plan.

In fact, in the workshop booklet, I included a model action plan Proforma as an example of how I went about making the most, personally, out of professional development.

One thing I always did was to decide on an idea that I would implement in my classes the next day. I knew that I needed to 'strike while the iron is hot' or the professional development would just become a 'nice' day away from my classes.

Below is an example of the action plan I put in my workshop booklets. The action plan was in the form of a series of questions teachers would ask themselves.


What new Teaching Strategies can I trial?
What can I Trial In My Classroom now?
What Resources should I buy?
What Resources should I trial?
What New Skills do I need?
How can I get these New Skills?
What further Inservice do I need?
How do I get it?
What New Assessment ideals might I trial or use?
Are there any Other Useful Ideas I should consider?

Our author has written over 30 eBooks designed to help the new or inexperienced teacher develop their skills in the classroom.

These eBooks provide practical solutions to classroom challenges that trainee teachers don't receive during their university training. You can find these eBooks at

The members of his group have incorporated over 120 years' practical experience in the classroom in these eBooks.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Simple Reading Strategies For Language Learners

English as a Second Language favorite things o...
ESL (Newton Free Library)
by Erin N O'Reilly, PhD

Reading in another language is a wonderfully rewarding experience.

Developing your second language literacy skills involves time and persistence, however, as you work through piecing together vocabulary, grammar, and meaning.

Here are some tips to help you navigate foreign language texts.

1. Pick material that's at or just above your level

Reading texts that are too advanced will soon frustrate you. A good rule of thumb is to quickly scan the first few paragraphs for new and unknown vocabulary. If you count 5 or more unknown words, then it's above your level. Skip it and move on.

2. Get out a pen or pencil and take notes in the margins while you read

When you finish reading a complex sentence or when you arrive at the end of a paragraph, take a moment to summarize what you have just read. Often times learners will go through a passage reading word-for-word.

By the time they reach the end of the page, they've no idea what the text was actually about. Use this easy summary strategy to force yourself to make sense of the text as you read.

3. Connect to the text on a personal level to make it more memorable

When you're learning a language, you're learning to read, not necessarily reading to learn. As such, when you're done with a passage or chapter, try to connect the ideas and concepts back to your life, personalizing the story as much as possible. Here are some great questions to connect to reading:

  • Have I read this story or something like it in my first language?
  • What would I have done in this situation?
  • How is this story similar to what happens in my own country/culture?

Again, when you take a moment at the end of a reading session to connect the story to your own life, it makes it easier to remember the vocabulary later on. This is as much a memory strategy as it is a reading strategy.

4. Read when you're feeling alert

When you are struggling through a text in your second language, you're giving your brain a massive workout. I always find that even after a single page of a difficult text in Spanish that I'm ready for a siesta.

Choose a time when you have extra brain cells alert and ready to focus all of your attention on the task of reading. If you find yourself yawning and rubbing your eyes, then it's time to get up and take a break.

In summary, these are easy strategies all language learners can incorporate to read strategically. Try them the next time you read. When you go back to review the article or vocabulary, you'll be amazed at how much you're able to remember!

Interested in learning more? Erin N. O'Reilly is a language coach specializing in second and foreign language learning strategies, helping learners at all levels reach their potential. You can learn everything about how to learn another language here:

Article Source:'Reilly,_PhD

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Student Skills: Getting a Handle on Homework

Mathematics homework
Mathematics homework (Wikipedia)
by John Steely

In my experience as an instructor, I have seen students handle many different activities.

While each student is different, some things show up again and again.

Difficulties with homework is one of those common characteristics, and it can hold a student back from earning the deserved grade.

Handling homework is something that should be approached with planning and understanding.

On Class Day

Whenever I arrive to teach a class, one thing that I see often is students sitting outside the room doing the homework from the last class.

Usually they are trying desperately to complete the assignment in the few minutes that are left before class starts, and almost never get it done. Why do they put it off? This is a question that I ask myself every time I see this, and one I hope to answer here.

When a student does the work immediately before the class, there are several negatives happening.

First, the student, as I said, almost never completes the assignment. Second, what is done is rushed and incomplete, again having a negative impact on the grade. Third, there is little or no understanding of the content of the homework, given the lack of time for reflection.

So doing the homework immediately prior to class provides minimal benefit. Yet the costs are high: the student feels rushed, the understanding achieved is minimal, and there is a sense that the homework is simply there to justify the power of the instructor.

Homework Has a Purpose

An instructor assigns homework for several reasons, and none of them are about establishing a domination over the student.

Remember, whatever the student turns in needs to be graded, so by assigning homework the instructor has increased his or her workload between classes.

Grading homework is not something most instructors like to do; we prefer to focus on the classroom activities and the interaction with the students, not the process of grading.

So what is the purpose of homework? There are two primary reasons why an instructor assigns homework. Before I list those reasons, let me eliminate one: knowledge evaluation.

Homework is one of the worst ways to evaluate how well a student has learned the material because of the delay. If we want to know if a student has learned something, we want to know relatively soon.

But homework is delayed, both by the time needed for the student to perform the homework and by the time needed to grade it. This delay makes homework almost useless as an evaluation tool.

Homework is assigned for the benefit of the student. First, the homework forces the student to practice what has been done in class.

Seeing something, even doing something in a class is not enough, usually; a student needs to exercise the techniques more than once or twice to learn what has been taught. Second, homework is designed to force the student to go beyond the class.

Seldom can every aspect of a subject be covered in a class; there is simply not enough time or energy to cover everything. So instructors assign homework to encourage, entice, and even force the student to see more than what happened in the class.

Implications For The Student

If these are the reasons for the homework assignments, it is clear that doing the homework either immediately after the class or immediately before the class basically negates any benefit of the homework.

Since the benefits have been negated, the homework simply becomes a chore that has to be done, and an unpleasant chore at that. How should a student do the homework to get the benefits the instructor believes are there?

There are two keys here. First the homework should be done at a time separated from the class. If a class meets twice a week, the homework should be done on days between the classes. If a class meets five times a week, make sure some time has elapsed.

Second the homework should be done over multiple, short periods. Do not try to get the homework done in a single effort. Short bursts of effort are a more effective learning effort that one long burst.

The Best Tool

What I am getting at, in a roundabout way, is that to get the most from the homework, and the get the best results, a student needs to practice time management.

Depending on the level of the class, a student should plan on a hour to three hours of homework for a class, and that time should be divided into at least two time periods, if not more.

Create a habit of working on one part of the assignment and then leaving the rest for a later time. This will have several benefits: better learning, more energy, and a more positive perspective.

And most likely better grades.

John Steely has been teaching mathematics, study skills, and habits of success for over 25 years. You can access a number of free resources he has found and made at Steely Services

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Buyer Beware: Are You Really Purchasing a ‘Better’ Education?

English: The Quadrangle and weeping elm at Sco...
Scotch College Melbourne (2009) (Wikipedia)
by Catherine Scott, University of Melbourne

Australian parents are increasingly choosing to spend more money on their children’s education.

A report released last week showed parents who chose private education for their child were paying an average of A$216 in fees per week.

But are these parents getting what they pay for?

Both the National Assessment Program, Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests and the MySchool website have been met with some harsh criticism - particularly in allowing for leagues tables and putting pressure on schools.

But for all its faults, this system of testing and public information on schools can be something of a truth meter when it comes to the real value of paying for education.

A tale of two schools

Take the example of one school on the Mornington Peninsula. The perception by some in the wider community was that the school was lower down the quality scale.

One woman told me that the “preps at the school should all be made to repeat. They aren’t ready for school. They come from those sorts of families, you know, Dad’s in jail, that type of thing”.

Later, I looked at the school’s MySchool page. The statistics painted a very different picture. The school community’s Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) ranking was above the national average, with fewer than expected families in the lowest quartile.

There were also fewer in the upper quartile, meaning the community was clustered in the centre of the distribution.

The children were also achieving educationally as would be predicted by their families’ level of advantage. In other words, this was middle Australia being portrayed as under-achieving “riff raff” of the lowest order.

Meanwhile take the example of another school I suspect my acquaintance would approve of. Notionally, parents of children with learning disabilities were choosing the school because of its reputation for “good teaching”.

In the NAPLAN data, the students enrolling at the school are actually well above the national average on academic achievement. But the rate at which they improved showed at least some cohorts are failing to achieve the expected rate of growth.

In other words, students do not end where their beginning score suggests they should, calling into question both a student body beset by disabilities and any claim to uniformly superior teaching.

Worth the cost?

People are persuaded to pay sometimes hefty private school fees because they believe the teaching will be superior.

To test the extent to which parents’ perceptions are correct I spent time looking at comparisons between rates of student growth and the national average (for students with the same starting score) in a randomly selected sample of 40 schools.

I discovered, among other wonders, that the children at my former primary school, where 81% families come from non-English speaking backgrounds and the ICSEA ranking is well below average, have a steeper growth curve in mathematics between years 3 and 5 than do the children at one of Australia’s wealthiest private schools (where most families come from the top income quartile).

Rather than being universally excellent, the achievement at non-government schools is - from a statistical perspective - pretty much what you would expect.

Some do better than the national average for some cohorts in some subjects, some do worse, while most students’ growth is close to the national average.

Worryingly however, in some non-government schools students’ growth was considerably below the national average. This was particularly the case for in maths at some independent girls’ schools.

At these particular schools students started out above the national average for maths attainment but in a few short years had, in the most extreme cases, fallen back below it.

Buying a ‘good education’

Parents are paying for more than a good education understood in academic terms when they shell out for independent school fees. But I suspect that many take it for granted that their money will also be buying superior teaching.

They might be shocked to learn that on average the schools are turning out what they took in: children who were already well placed educationally but have not become more so.

At the same time many government schools in the same locations are achieving above the national average rates of student growth.

It is probably the case that many parents are also attempting to “protect” their children from people they have been persuaded are “riff raff”, that is, middle Australia.

And there’s no doubt that paying out hefty school fees buys a better class of old school tie networking opportunities.

I have not however, in all the debate about the Gonski review, heard much mention of the government’s subsidising the children of the well-to-do to receive an average education while maintaining their membership of the well-connected privileged.

Wandering a little beyond what the data shows I did also wonder to what extent Australia’s decline in Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings might be explained by the social trends I am discussing here.

Australia’s decline has been fuelled most strongly by a dip in performance of students in the top band.

If more of the higher achieving students are being sent to independent schools that do not maintain their academic growth at the level of its potential might this explain why Australia is failing at the top?

Just a thought.

Catherine Scott does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
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Monday, May 27, 2013

Online Learning: The Latest Pedagogy

English: Some APEX youth getting homework help
APEX youth getting homework help (Wikipedia)
by Kylie Taylor

If you are an educator, a tutor, a business trainer, or even a qualified expert in your field - regardless of what it might be, doing work as an online tutor is an opportunity that just might be worth seriously exploring.

In both school and business environments, there has been an incredible growth explosion in online education learning of all forms.

And of course, worldwide access to tutoring has broken down many of the geographical boundaries of the past.

With globalization has come the need for cross-cultural training, and with that the internet has provided a very useful opportunity for removing many of the previous physical limitations of education.

Tutoring can cover anything from covering the basics such as mathematics, English, foreign languages, and sciences all the way to very specific niche subjects like statistical interpretations of finance in today's global market.

Who is a good candidate to work as an online tutor? You could be an elementary school teacher, a college professor, or a doctor; many educators in traditional teaching positions also teach and tutor online, especially in the summer since many do not teach summer sessions in their usual positions.

But bear in mind, you needn't be a formal educator to make an excellent online tutor. In fact, sometimes having current practical experience is not only accepted, but also desirable.

Maybe you're a semi-retired fire code official or an auto mechanic, an engineer, or perhaps you are an expert in sewing, creative writing, or even astrology.

There is education, training and tutoring being done online for practically every subject and at every level of competency from beginner, to expert, to specialists, and everything in between.

With online tutoring, one of the major advantages is that you don't have to be in class, or even online, at a specific time. Most classes aren't administered live.

As an instructor or tutor, depending on the course structure, your role is to simply to keep an eye on progress, provide pertinent feedback, administer assignments and grade them.

Some of the more advanced courses might require you to hold webinars occasionally, which would normally just require you to log onto their system and deliver a class via a webcam, but that option is more prevalent when doing online business training as opposed to general education or tutoring.

Of course one of the most attractive perks of online learning resources and tutoring jobs is that they are usually done from the comfort and convenience of your own home, making it easy to align your need for an income with the hours you have available to do the work.

To get started, start applying to all of the companies you are qualified for, and be sure to follow their instructions to the letter.

They get hundreds of inquiries and, just like when applying in person, sloppy applications are likely to be ignored, put at the bottom of the 'pile', or simply deleted.

In order to build up your skills and get some practical experience, it can also help to provide free online tutoring as a volunteer before looking for a job. There are agencies, such as 'Homework', that can match you up with students who are in need of a tutor.

Getting some experience under your belt will not only help you to hone your skills, but also help you to assess whether or not you indeed enjoy the work, and want to pursue it further.

It can also help you define your skill set and help you to develop a niche. This is useful if subject specialization is the direction you see your career going in.

Online learning support may be just the money making opportunity you need, while still providing challenges and career fulfillment. Explore the possibilities today!

Kylie Taylor is an avid reader and passionate writer who love to write for online learning resources. She is actively involved in blogging about the latest trends in online learning support in the country.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Let Your Child Excel With Online Tutorial Portals

English: Online Learning
Online Learning (Wikipedia)
by Kylie Taylor

If your child is having a difficult time at school, you may be concerned about their learning, their performance, even whether or not they'll overtake or be detained.

The first thing to do is assess the situation, and the earlier you do this, the better.

The effects of being behind in school work is cumulative, and only will get worse with time if the student is not able to keep up with the class.

Before you lose too much sleep over it, there are a few simple things you can carry out to help bring your child's grades up - and one very useful tool available to parents today includes education online tutoring.

In this article, we'll explore whether or not online tutoring is a good choice for you and your child and what the potential benefits are.

The one element that immediately gets put in the "pros" column is the fact that it can be done at the convenience of the student.

Among kids so involved these days playing games, clubs, other extracurricular activities, and of course homework, fitting in a genuine teacher can be very challenging.

Grades reflecting a complete understanding of the material are the most important thing in education, but it is the other activities that help to sculpt a well-rounded individual.

Just because a student may be behind it doesn't necessarily mean it is for lack of trying. That is why it's a good idea to keep them involved in their extracurricular activities even if the grades could be better.

Treating participation in activities as 'rewards' may be sending the wrong message. Ideally one will want to learn for it's own sake not to assure permission to be on the football team or cheering squad, as this might devalue the importance of learning.

Each individual is different; sometimes a talk with the teacher will bring things into focus quickly and help you figure out how to proceed.

So with time being an important factor, it's a perk of online tutoring that there are essentially no schedules to work around. The tutoring can be accessed when it's convenient for you.

Do bear in mind that education online learning situation typically does require at least some parental communication.

At the same time your student can get the profit of help from live online learning on his or her own, they will learn even more efficiently when a parent's support is accessible to assist them realize certain subjects and concepts.

From a psychological perspective, the support of at least one parent is highly beneficial.

One of the best elements of in person, one-to-one tutoring is the immediate feedback your kid receives while they do stuff properly or imperfectly. Many parents imagine this communication isn't accessible with online tutoring services, but it is, although in a diverse form.

It doesn't matter whether your child is receiving help from an actual teacher online or an electronic tutoring service, either way they can still receive instantaneous response on answers, troubles and subjects.

This assists your kid correct mistakes instantaneously, so as to they can comprehend the topic more with no trouble and more rapidly.

When mistakes are left uncorrected, a snowball effect happens making things increasingly difficult for a child. That's why online tutoring can help, even if used in tandem with a face-to-face tutor.

There are also cases in which a child may just need a little extra help with a little amount, even if they don't require sufficient help to guarantee the assurance and expense you will require to place out for a visiting trainer.

In cases like these, online tutoring services can supply the additional boost required with no excess expenditure of hiring a tutor. Students can skirmish up on complicated subjects or areas in a little quantity of time every day.

In addition, online tutoring can be used to get in some extra studying for a predominantly complex test that's coming up or for a subject that is creating them difficulty.

Can your child get advantage from online tutoring services? When approached realistically and with forethought, the answer is a resounding yes.

With a bit of parental administration and guidance, online tutoring services may be a deciding factor determining whether the student passes or fails. And it can, at very least, make learning easier and more pleasant for your child.

Kylie Taylor is an avid reader and passionate writer who love to write for education online learning. She is actively involved in blogging about the latest trends in education online tutoring in the country.

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Learning Should Be Fun

English: learn
Learn (Wikipedia)
by Valdi Ivancic

What's the secret of learning? How do we learn much faster, easier and still have fun?

There are three main reasons we actually learn the things we learn and keep remembering what we learned!

It is not the traditional way of repetitive learning that goes on and on and hardly stays in your mind for a longer period than a week or two - if you're lucky that means.

Most of us adults learn things for a test and right after the test, only a few hours later or a day or so, we totally forget what we learned. Kids, on the other hand, they learn best when they are eager to know, when they are having fun and while challenging themselves.

Many teachers and politicians believe that children learn best when they repeat after a person or from a text book. They couldn't be more wrong! Children are not parrots. Parrots learn to repeat sounds. Children learn to find the key of the knowledge.

You see, knowledge isn't something we get from repeating after one another. Knowledge is a way we structure what we have learned and structure information that can become new knowledge.

The best ways of learning is by challenging yourself and your own thoughts or former knowledge. It is called to put yourself through a cognitive conflict.

A conflict is normally seen as something negative. But when we use our former knowledge, we see it is not enough to explain a state or solve a mission, then we have to find new information that can help us get through a task.

Here are some examples:

A) A person who likes gardening is usually a person who likes to use their hands and body to grow plants or to organize a garden. When some plants die the person goes to find out more information about the plant through another person or using books or the Internet.

No one had to tell that person he or she must repeat and do exactly the same as the neighbor. Perhaps they share different experiences with each other but the reasons for a plant to die could be so many and so various that it would be no use to imitate one another.

B) A person who likes exotic animals has a hard time to find information about them in the original language since these animals cannot be found in that country.

But searching for information about these animals in other languages, such as English or for an example Portuguese (one of the biggest countries with most exotic animals is Brazil, where the spoken language is Portuguese).

Without even thinking about it, the animal loving person starts learning words and phrases in a totally foreign language just because the information couldn't be found for an example in Danish or German languages.

C) On your way to Australia the flight had to do an emergency landing in a small country where hardly anyone speaks your language. You are hungry, starving, and the airport crew does not understand you.

You try to make yourself understood, but soon enough you recognize some gestures and words that might result in some food for you. There is no dictionary, no translator and you have no clue what language on Google translator you can use to get some food.

But using your phone and record the voices of the restaurant crew, you find out that Google or Bing has a voice recognition software that searches the Internet for similar phrases and sounds and all of a sudden you learn how to use advanced technology when you never have thought you'd need it.

Now is the perfect moment to learn about how useful the technology is. You wouldn't want to learn about this if you had to a month earlier when all you wanted to do was playing your acoustic guitar.

What can be learned from these examples? Well, first of all we never end up in the same situation as we were drilled to learn in school. Second, there is not one identical situation where you learn something and the answer always will be the same.

What we have to admit to ourselves is, that no matter what people say, we have to start using our previous knowledge to construct new solutions. There is no better time to invent things as when you are starving!

Learning things about the things you love gives you pleasure and won't bore you to death. Learning things while having fun will let you remember the things forever. Cognitive conflicts in our minds are good and makes us want to learn more.

That is the real reason kids learn, not because they are just repeating words or actions. For, had the stone age kids repeated after their parents, we would still be living in the stone age!

So get out there, have fun and learn a million things! Life will never get better than this!

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Token Economies: Should Students Be Paid To Behave?

Student teachers practice teaching kindergarte...
A disciplined classroom? (Wikipedia)
by Dr. Genola Johnson

I struggled with my behavior intervention plan in my last year of teaching.

It was not that I could not manage the behaviors in the classroom.

I was able to manage the behaviors, but my struggle was with the token economy part of the behavior management system.

This was my dilemma.

I was furloughed for 3 days that school year.

Normally I taught 190 days a school year; that year I taught 187. I know 3 days may not seem like much. But, when your spouse is also an educator and is furloughed, that is a total of 6 days worth of income not coming in.

The total amount of furlough days were about $250.00/day that was not coming into my household budget. That being said, my struggle was, "Do I want to 'PAY' students to behave in my class?" Do I want to purchase candy, ice cream, pizza, etc. for exchange for their "good" behavior so I could teach?

I believe behavior should be intrinsic. A student should want to behave in class so they can learn. Learning is their job. My job was to teach.

I do agree, however, that it is also my responsibility to make my lessons fun and engaging. It is the student's responsibility to want to learn to become better citizens of society. I do understand, also, that is often not the case.

Behavior intervention plans are created to encourage a student to behave properly in school. These plans are used to intervene/change a student's bad behavior.

A team of teachers, the parent and the student usually create the plan. There are rules for the student; consequences if the rules are broken and consequences if the rules are followed, such as a token economy.

A token economy is sometimes used in behavior intervention plans. The token economy is used to try to alter misbehavior actions by the student. For example, if the student does not yell out in class for a particular time period, the student receives a reward.

The reward is usually a sticker, special privilege, or food, i.e., candy, chips, ice cream, etc. The token economy system often requires the teacher to purchase items for the exchange for the appropriate behavior in class. Purchased items from teachers household budget.

I did not want to "BUY" my student's good behavior. Again I state, the student should WANT to behave in order to learn. And, from my experience, this management system did not last long and made my classroom management more difficult.

These behavior modification plans do not provide the student with self-efficacy and a sense of accomplishments.

According to, "The Psycho-Educational Teacher: Helping Students With Recurrent Behavior Problems, " the student believes, "I can do ____, so that I can get ___," as a control of their behavior outwardly and not controlling the behavior inwardly. This makes the intrinsic motivation to behave devalued.

Students should have a say in what motivates them. Children should follow good behavior rules in making appropriate behavior choices.

Good behavior should be its own reward. The student's feeling of belonging to a classroom to learn and feeling appreciated is the self-efficacy the student should bring to the table. This behavior management technique will last longer than a day.

Dr. Genola Johnson has 21 years in education and has tried behavior contracts to token economies. For more information on behavior management, visit,

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Advice for College Grads from Two Sociologists

Gwen Sharp and Lisa Wade
by Lisa Wade PhD and Gwen Sharp PhD, Cross-posted at The Huffington Post and PolicyMic (with gifs!): The Society Pages:
Happy Graduation, Seniors! Congratulations! What’s next?

Below is some sociologically-inspired, out-of-the-box advice on work, love, family, friendship, and the meaning of life. For new grads from the two of us!

1. Don’t Worry About Making Your Dreams Come True

College graduates are often told: “follow your passion,” do “what you love,” what you were “meant to do,” or “make your dreams come true.”

Two-thirds think they’re going find a job that allows them to change the world, half within five years. Yikes.

This sets young people up to fail. The truth is that the vast majority of us will not be employed in a job that is both our lifelong passion and a world-changer; that’s just not the way our global economy is.

So it’s ok to set your sights just a tad below occupational ecstasy. Just find a job that you like. Use that job to help you have a full life with lots of good things and pleasure and helping others and stuff. A great life is pretty good, even if it’s not perfect.

2. Make Friends

Americans put far too much emphasis on finding Mr. or Ms. Right and getting married. We think this will bring us happiness. In fact, however, both psychological well-being and health are more strongly related to friendship.

If you have good friends, you’ll be less likely to get the common cold, less likely to die from cancer, recover better from the loss of a spouse, and keep your mental acuity as you age.

You’ll also feel more capable of facing life’s challenges, be less likely to feed depressed or commit suicide, and be happier in old age. Having happy friends increases your chance of being happy as much as an extra $145,500 a year does. So, make friends!

3. Don’t Worry about Being Single

Single people, especially women, are stigmatized in our society: we’re all familiar with the image of a sad, lonely woman eating ice cream with her cats in her pajamas on Saturday night. But about 45% of U.S. adults aren’t married and around 1 in 7 lives alone.

This might be you. Research shows that young people’s expectations about their marital status (e.g., the desire to be married by 30 and have kids by 32) have little or no relationship to what actually happens to people. So, go with the flow.

And, if you’re single, you’re in good company. Single people spend more time with friends, volunteer more, and are more involved in their communities than married people.

Never-married and divorced women are happier, on average, than married women. So, don’t buy into the myth of the miserable singleton.

4. Don’t Take Your Ideas about Gender and Marriage Too Seriously

If you do get married, keep going with the flow. Relationship satisfaction, financial security, and happy kids are more strongly related to flexibility in the face of life’s challenges than any particular way of organizing families.

The most functional families are ones that can bend. So partnering with someone who thinks that one partner should support their families and the other should take responsibility for the house and children is a recipe for disaster.

So is being equally rigid about non-traditional divisions of labor. It’s okay to have ideas about how to organize your family - and, for the love of god, please talk about both your ideals and fallback positions on this - but your best bet for happiness is to be flexible.

5. Think Hard About Whether to Buy a House

Our current image of the American Dream revolves around homeownership, and buying a home is often taken for granted as a stage on the path to full-fledge adulthood. But the ideal of universal home ownership was born in the 1950s. It’s a rather new idea.

With such a short history, it’s funny that people often insist that buying a house is a fool-proof investment and the best way to secure retirement. In fact, buying a house may not be the best choice for you.

The mortgage may be less than rent, but there are also taxes, insurance, and the increasingly common Home Owners Association (HOA) fees. You may someday sell the house for more than you bought it but, if you paid interest on a mortgage, you also paid far more than the sale price.

You have freedom from a landlord, but may discover your HOA is just as controlling, or worse. And then there’s the headache: renting relieves you from the stress of being responsible for repairs. It also offers a freedom of movement that you might cherish.

So, think carefully about whether buying or renting is a better fit for your finances, lifestyle, and future goals. This New York Times rent vs. buy calculator is a good start.

6. Think Even Harder about Having Kids

One father had this to say about children: “They’re a huge source of joy, but they turn every other source of joy to shit.” In fact, having children correlates with both an increased sense of purpose in life and a long-lasting decrease in individual and marital happiness.

Having kids means spending a lot of your short life and limited income on one source of joy. It’s not a bad decision. But it’s also not the only good decision you can make.

We want to think we can “have it all” but, in fact, it’s a zero sum game. You have only so much time and money and there are lots of ways to find satisfaction, pleasure, and meaning in this life. Consider all your options.

7. Remember: If You Change Your Mind, You’re Still Right!

For some reason Americans feel ashamed when they discover they’re wrong. So much so that we often refuse to admit it or go on the counter-attack.

Being told we’re wrong, though, is really great!  It means we have a good chance of not making that mistake in quite that way again.

That doesn’t mean it feels good, but it is a very good thing to learn how to accept that we’re wrong - and, trust us, you will be, lots and lots of times, about many different things - without treating every correction as a threat to our very identity.

So next time someone corrects your facts, logic, or point of view. Say, “Hey thanks!”

8. Listen When People Point Out Your Privilege

One of the hardest ways to be wrong involves saying something that is inadvertently prejudicial. When someone points out that something we said or did was racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, classist or otherwise, we often feel attacked.

Remember, though, that if someone bothers to engage with you on this kind of issue, it means they think you’re worth it. It’s really easy to write someone off as racist; it’s much harder to start a dialogue on the issue.

If they do the latter, it’s because they’ve decided that you’re a good person who’s worth their time and energy. So instead of launching into an explanation for why and how you can’t possibly be prejudiced, ask “Can you tell me what you mean?” and listen listen listen.

9. Make Allies and, Yes, Change the World

C. Wright Mills one said that sociology was both terrifying and magnificent. It is terrifying because it teaches us that our lives are not ours to determine, but are subject to cultural norms and institutional forces over which we have very little control.

It’s magnificent, however, because once we can see the system for what it is, we can agree to change it. In other words, we’re stuck in a system not of our own making, but we’re in it together.

So, when you come across an unfair workplace, an unjust law, a biased educational practice, or some other injustice, know that - with the right allies, hard work, and a little luck - you may just have the power to change it.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.  

Gwen Sharp is a professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Coping With The Rising Number Of EAL Pupils In Primary Schools

English: Barton C of E Primary School Accordin...
Barton C of E Primary School (Wikipedia)
by Hannah McCarthy

The number of children entering UK schools who have limited English or who can't speak it at all is increasing.

This means that language barriers in classrooms are becoming an ever more common problem, one which head teachers and staff will have to work hard to address to keep their school's standards high and avoid criticism from OFSTED.

The growing number of pupils whose first language is not English has seen some schools in certain regions come to comprise of more non-native English speakers than English-speaking children.

In schools where there are such statistics teachers are likely to find it a struggle to get their pupils to the required standards especially as sometimes children who can't speak English may have limited opportunities to speak with fluent peers.

In February, the papers were all talking about the first discovered primary school to have an entire student base made up of pupils learning English as an additional language (EAL), which, despite the hurdles and challenges it faced, managed to achieve a 'good' rating from OFTSED.

If Gladstone Primary, with 450 pupils speaking 20 different languages managed to overcome its previous 'inadequate' OFSTED rating after just over a year, then surely there are some practices schools can employ to make sure all their pupils, whatever their mother tongue, can do their best?

Methods for helping EAL pupils

Some practices which Gladstone Primary and other primary schools with a diverse student body have used to good effect include buddy systems and mentoring.

Gladstone's buddy system partners pupils with English speaking pupils from other schools so that they can play and learn together in each other's schools once a fortnight.

For the English speaker, this helps them to learn about other cultures while the non-English speaker benefits from learning English from a peer in a casual and fun environment where they are less shy.

Schools which have a mixture of English speakers and non-English speakers can do this within their own school to encourage integration.

In Cambridge, the Bell Foundation has launched an initiative to have sixth formers from local private secondary schools trained to act as special mentors.

Other outside help some schools use are teaching assistants.

Some primary schools have employed people from the community who speak one or more foreign languages to assist in classes and help children having any difficulty with the English so that they can follow and keep up with the lesson.

Teachers themselves can also do a lot to help their students with limited English. Aside from being encouraging and approachable, there are various techniques teachers can use to lighten the environment so that children aren't afraid to ask questions.

Running through the English vocabulary for a new topic at the start of the lesson suggests to children that they are not expected to know every word so they don't have to worry if they stumble across something new.

Equally, providing a running commentary through lessons ensures that teachers help students to match objects to words.

Lastly, the schools which are really successful when it comes to integrating their EAL pupils and helping them with their English are those which reach out to the parents.

Having a good website, language help for parent's evenings and parent workshops encourages foreign parents to take an interest in their child's learning without feeling intimidated.

Hannah McCarthy works for Education City which offers curriculum-based modules in maths, science, English and foreign languages. Education City's website offers resources for teachers and materials for learning English as an additional language.

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Tools That Work And Why We Abandon Them

On Human Nature
On Human Nature (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Lee W Reed

Some years ago I tried my hand at insurance sales.

I had to learn the hard way that I am not very good at selling, though I really liked the guys I worked with, especially the boss, who was a prince of a man.

He used to tell me on a regular basis that he would find a tool that was really effective and he would work it for all it was worth for several months.

Later, he would find his sales were falling off and he would wonder why.

On closer inspection he would find that for some strange reason he had stopped using the tool that had been so effective.

It's a strange quirk of human nature that we do this; we find something that works and use it effectively, then we feel like we have graduated past needing it and stop using it - to our detriment.

Strange as that may seem, I have found the same to be true of teaching.

Several months ago I discovered the effectiveness of bending down to talk to a disruptive student and whispering in their ear (this is a stage whisper that can usually be heard by curious students three aisles over) "You are a bright student and I like having you in my class. However, I cannot tolerate these continuous disruptions. The next time you do that I will have to ask you to leave."

This strategy works for several reasons:

1) most students are terribly self absorbed and a bit insecure, so a complement serves them well
2) it is completely devoid of drama and rarely provokes a haughty reply
3) it puts the onus of responsibility squarely where it belongs - on the student

There is no mystery about what is going to happen; the next time they disrupt you calmly take action. Period.

One of the things I like most about this strategy is that I stay friends with the student being disciplined. There is no anger or drama, so I can see the student later in the day or on a following day and speak to them as if this incident never happened.

I could not do that if I berated the student, told them how bad they were and then made a show of removing them from class as I saw someone else do today. I hate that ... or at least, I did.

Yesterday, someone told me they thought I was mean. "What happened," they said, "You used to be so nice!"

I brushed the statement off at first since the one saying it had just been disciplined, but on further consideration I realized I had got away from quietly instructing students who misbehaved before pulling the trigger on discipline.

I know, some behavior does not warrant this approach. Yesterday I heard a girl call out and turned just in time to see her strike her neighbor. I immediately sent her out of the room without a warning.

Students should know that striking another student is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. But other things, like talking out of turn, deserve a bit more finesse. That's where the quiet description of what is going to happen works particularly well.

I promised myself today that I would go back to what I knew would work, and sure enough, it did work, just as it had in the past.

Why do we move away from things we know are effective? I don't know. Some strange quirk of human nature, I suppose. But we can overcome that tendency if we try.

Make careful note of what is working for you and review those notes religiously. Look for the things you may have drifted away from that could be serving you well now.

Most of us know what we need to do, we just wander away from it after a time. Get back to basics and make things work for you again.

Lee Reed loves to write of his first hand experiences in the trenches as a substitute teacher. You can learn more about his adventures at his website:

Better still, check out his new book written to help new subs avoid many of the mistakes he made his first year here:

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Bloom's Taxonomy: Conceptual Learning and Questioning

Categories in the cognitive domain of Bloom's ...
Cognitive domain of Bloom's Taxonomy (Wikipedia)
by Dr. Genola Johnson

Benjamin Bloom's Levels of Taxonomy was created for educators to plan effective instruction.

Using the levels during lesson planning and creating assessments assists the teacher in reaching all modalities of learning.

Using Bloom's Taxonomy's helped me understand how thinking was classified.

There were certain areas I wanted to reach when teaching a concept and the classifications or taxonomy helped direct my questioning techniques.

To direct the questioning of my lessons, I created questions from the verbs in the taxonomy classifications. If I wanted high, complex questioning I would use words from the analysis, synthesis and evaluation areas.

I always wanted my students to think deeper, use problem solving skills, discuss with peers and seek further information on the concept to be learned.

In my opinion, the foundational idea would be for students to learn a concept using Bloom Taxonomy's and transfer that knowledge to other concepts.

- Understand - Explain ideas/concepts
- Remember - Recall information
- Analysis - Break down into parts
- Evaluation - Justify thinking
- Create - New ways, ideas, products of thinking

When creating lesson plans, I would often have the taxonomy close by to ensure I am reaching all levels. Using the assigned curriculum, I would develop my lesson objectives, identify the skills the student needed to learn, and align my objective to the assessment.

All of my lessons contained critical thinking questioning. Sometimes I would build from the knowledge level with questions that were just recall.

For example, list the steps in the writing process. If the student can identify the steps, they can begin the process of designing a writing piece.

Today, students need to be able to understand why the need to know a concept.

Having the factual knowledge of 2 x 2=4 is essential when you need to import this factual knowledge into an algebraic or geometrical formula when calculating the area of land to build a greenhouse to build a neighborhood garden.

I would often say, "You need to know this information, in order to create or develop, this product." Letting the students know where they are going is essential in getting them to learn the curriculum you are to teach.

Teaching synthesis (creating and evaluating) after teaching the knowledge and comprehension of a concept helps the student put the recall and understanding into a whole part. Students should be able to develop or create something new with the new information they have been taught.

Using the Bloom's Taxonomy to develop your lessons, questioning and assessments helps students and the teacher focus on deeper conceptual learning.

Dr. Genola Johnson has been an educator for 21 years. She uses Bloom's Taxonomy during lesson planning and assessments. For more information about Dr. Genola Johnson, and a list of the Bloom's Taxonomy List of Verbs, visit

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

How Do Outstanding Teachers Create Outstanding Learning Experiences?

Betonwerksteinskulptur "Lehrer-Student&qu...
Teacher-Student, Rostock (Wikipedia)
by Jesvir Mahil

When you ask yourself the question "How am I an outstanding teacher?" what is your first response?

Is it "passion", "character", "expertise", "skills", or something entirely different?

As a consultant for Further Education Colleges in the UK, I have observed and judged hundreds of lessons.

Judgements are based on the quality of learning that takes place in the lesson and there are a number of contributory factors that create this learning experience.

The teacher is only one of these factors.

This article will focus on how outstanding teachers consistently use their passion, character, expertise and skills to create outstanding, transformational learning experiences.


Outstanding teachers stimulate passion for their subject through inspirational lessons so that learners feel motivated and challenged to learn.


Outstanding teachers are fair to each individual learner in their care and they express this fairness wisely with a deep level of awareness so that each learner feels valued and supported to progress.


Outstanding teachers are willing to continuously learn and refresh their knowledge so that they are presenting their learners with the most up to date, current thinking around the subject they are teaching.


Outstanding teachers have excellent communication skills and excellent management skills that they use to create learning environments where there is trust, respect and collaboration, resulting in creative innovative productivity.

Many teachers preparing for an observed lesson will nervously begin by looking for resources. They will complain about the limited resources available to them.

The outstanding ones will confidently begin, with a smile on their face, reflecting on aspects of their course they feel most passionate about. They will have too many to choose from.

Even with so much training in Equality & Diversity issues, many teachers believe they are being fair to their students by "treating them all the same". They assume that what is good for one must be good for all.

Moreover, they assume that what was useful to themselves when they were doing similar courses (decades previously) will be useful to their learners.

On the other hand, outstanding teachers understand that they can only be fair when they are aware of the individual needs of their learners and strive to meet these needs effectively.

These teachers have easily adapted to life with modern lifestyles that have made an impact on the way we learn and synthesise new information.

Whereas so many teachers are still fighting against the tide of mobile phones and Facebook, outstanding teachers have already embraced these technological advances and integrated them creatively to enhance learning.

Perhaps there are still teachers that believe they know enough about the subject they are teaching because they completed a degree in it. Outstanding teachers, passionate about the subject they are teaching, have often learnt more about their subject after they completed their initial degree.

Traditionally, only university professors are expected to continuously research their subject area and submit articles for publication.

Nevertheless, outstanding teachers in Further Education Colleges in the UK are engaged in Action Research (classroom based research used to experiment with new teaching strategies and approaches) and they share their findings without being formally required to do so.

This tendency to exceed expectations is of course a key indicator of "outstanding".

As consultants, we develop an intuitive awareness of learning experiences that exceed expectations and when we observe 'tried and tested showcase lessons' with all the refined features of a "Good" lesson, we have to be skilful in pinpointing what was missing that would have made it an 'Outstanding' lesson; it is always easier to describe the presence of transformational learning taking place, than to hypothesise about why it did not take place.

Outstanding teachers create outstanding learning experiences and the evidence of this is visible to all.

Whereas many teachers feel successful if they have managed to keep the class quiet and busy with a wide range of activities, outstanding teachers are focused on what the class is learning rather than doing.

The distinction between learning and doing is not always clear. Outstanding teachers keep checking to ensure that a deep level of learning is taking place whereas many of their colleagues rely on assumptions they have made based on successful completion of activities.

Outstanding teachers create outstanding learners. Together they create outstanding learning experiences.

As a consultant, I would expect to see the majority of lessons I observe to be "Good" as it is the professional duty of any trained teacher to be able to create a good learning environment in which good learning can take place.

I would also expect to see a handful of outstanding teachers that are leading the team, either officially or unofficially, in creating outstanding learning experiences, not within the walls of their own classrooms, not restricted even to the college environment, but using the community in which the learning will ultimately make a productive impact.

Outstanding teachers ultimately create outstanding citizens and as consultants it is a privilege to observe this creative life enhancing process. I have never walked out of an outstanding lesson without a great big smile on my face!

Author of: Learn to be Luckier,
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4 Strategies For Raising Bilingual Children, Even If You're Monolingual

Welsh language
Bilingual sign Welsh/English (Wikipedia)
by Erin N O'Reilly, PhD

If you're parenting young children, you may be aware of the benefits of raising them to be bilingual.

Bilinguals are better at complex problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Bilinguals also have an edge in the job market for high-paying careers that demand bilingual and bicultural skills sets.

We all know that learning another language as a child is easier than struggling to conjugate verbs into the preterite form as an adult. If you are not bilingual, there are still ways to give the gift of another language to your children.

Here are 4 strategies to get you started.

1. Watch dubbed television

If your children watch television, the chances are good that you can get dubbed DVDs or shows with subtitles. Your kids might balk at first at the idea of having to watch in another language.

As the parent, you can negotiate with them. They can watch 15 minutes in English (or their native language) or they can watch 1 hour in Spanish. This is an easy choice for most kids!

2. Non-native childcare

If you need a babysitter or nanny, opt for a non-native English speaker, one whose native language is the one you'd like your child to learn. For very young children, even being exposed to the language early on can have lasting effects into adulthood.

This is because the neural networks in young minds are busy imprinting the sounds of any language surrounding the child. You're laying the groundwork for a future bilingual!

3. Language camps

Language camps offer children the traditional summer camp experience, but in an immersion environment. These are a great way to get them excited about learning a foreign language. Some even offer family camps, where the entire family can attend!

4. Dual language immersion schools

Increasingly, public school systems are offering dual language immersion schools. These programs typically offer instruction in two languages, where 50% of each school day is spent in each language.

By the end of elementary school, children emerge bilingual and biliterate. These are free public schools! Check to see if your school district has one in your area.

Keep in mind that if you start to raise your child in a bilingual environment when they are very young babies, that this can delay the onset of spoken language.

This is perfectly normal as the baby's brain works out the syntax (structure and word order) and sounds of each language. Rest assured that when your baby does start speaking, it will be amazing!

Interested in learning more? Erin N. O'Reilly is a language coach specializing in second and foreign language learning strategies, helping learners at all levels reach their potential. You can learn everything about how to learn another language here:

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