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Intrigued by the vocabulary program we wrote about today? Here is some more food for thought:
• We focused mainly on why vocabulary is a problem for poorer children. Unsurprisingly, it’s also a problem for English learners who don’t hear English at home at all. Schools sometimes aggravate it by focusing too much on conversational English for new speakers, instead of the more academic language they need to understand textbooks and tests, said Patricia Gandara, a University of California Los Angeles education professor.
“If kids don’t get the language of the classroom, they don’t understand the lesson,” Gandara said.
Gandara believes it can also be problematic when English learners are relabeled as fluent speakers in the early grades, because while they may seem to speak English well, they don’t have the kinds of classroom words they’ll need later on. That ends up coming back to hurt them.
• Because schools usually don’t have a consistent way to teach vocabulary, teachers are left to figure out how to do it on their own. Teachers I spoke to about the Harvard program said not having to search out and copy lessons was a big perk. The program we wrote about does it all for them.
That might seem like a small detail, but if a program is cumbersome or requires a lot of work from teachers who already have a lot on their plates, that can doom it to never really being used.
• Finally, the nice folks at the public radio program A Way with Words highlighted our article on their Facebook page. It’s generating some interesting discussion there.
— EMILY ALPERT