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2015 WA State Literacy Leader Award
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Citation: Akhavan, Nancy. (2006). Help! My Kids Don't All Speak English.


Title: Help! My Kids Don't All Speak English
ISBN:
ISBN-13:
Edition:
Year: 2006
Publisher: Heinemann
City: Portsmouth, NH
Medium: Book
Author(s): Akhavan, Nancy
Grades: Kindergarten to Eighth Grade
Categories: Modifying the Classroom Environment for English Language Learners
Annotation: As Elaine Garan states in the introduction, this book “connects the dots between the why and the down-to-earth how of meeting the challenges so many of us face in linguistically diverse classrooms” (p. x). This would be a perfect book study for classroom teachers interested in exploring how to better meet the needs of ELL students within a workshop model. The seven Core Beliefs listed on the inside cover of the book (and on pages 6-7) would provide a solid framework for building a school-wide philosophy on how to effectively meet the needs of your linguistically different students. As a former principal in a diverse school in California, Nancy Akhavan addresses three traits of collaborative language classrooms: context, culture, and content, all of which are important factors to consider in designing classrooms in which all students will flourish. Chapter Four provides a helpful overview of language acquisition, exploring the difference between "conversational fluency" (usually acquired in two to three years) and "academic fluency" which takes far longer to acquire. Nancy outlines three specific ways to build vocabulary: 1. free reading; 2. concept instruction; and 3. three to four week units of study.

Next, Nancy presents a language workshop model in which students think, talk, read and write together. She describes in very specific detail how providing thirty minutes a day for language workshop (in addition to reading and writing workshop) can help close the achievement gap for English language learners. Much like the workshop structure for reading and writing, language workshop begins with a minilesson (five to ten minutes), followed by guided practice during a read-aloud (twenty to thirty minutes) in which students talk or write about the text, followed by a quick sharing and closure. As you read this book, you’ll find yourself thinking, “This is do-able.” Nancy offers helpful tips on conferring and working with ELLs during reading/writing workshop, as well as how to integrate language study with content area study. Charts include lists of minilessons, along with the teaching focus and lists of books and resources.