23. O.K. The students have handed in their work and it is in English. But I too can copy things in Spanish. This is not a good way for me to see if they understand. What do you suggest?

One of the most significant and enduring research findings I know has to do with the reading capabilities of students. In essence, NO STUDENT READS AT A LEVEL HIGHER THAN (S)HE SPEAKS. It follows then, that no student writes at a level higher than (s)he speaks since writing is nothing more than speech expressed through a system of arbitrary written symbols.

To improve both reading and writing, students MUST IMPROVE IN THE WAY THEY SPEAK. (To improve the way students speak they must understand the oral language presented to them as models of how to express themselves using the new language they are learning.) No amount or reading and writing instruction will serve to improve students’ reading and writing capabilities IF THEIR LEVEL OF SPEECH DOES NOT IMPROVE. So, for better reading and better writing, improve speaking (which is the result of improved listening)!!!!!

The question asked, then, addresses a key instructional practice. If you wish to measure student understanding through a writing assignment, BE SURE STUDENTS GIVE YOU EVIDENCE OF UNDERSTANDING THROUGH AN ORAL ASSIGNMENT FIRST.

Why do students copy from a textbook? ALL students tend to do that --copy from a textbook-- the English-only speakers as well as the non-English or limited-English speakers. WHY?

Because when students are learning some new concept, some new idea, some new knowledge for the FIRST TIME, they all become students at the Pre-Production stage of Language Acquisition. The English-only speakers do not know the English language of the content area. They do not know how to speak the English language needed to show understanding of the new concept, idea or knowledge in the content area. The non-English or limited-English speaker does not know the English language of the content area either. So, in trying to read and answer questions, they BOTH COPY from the textbook because they cannot express themselves using the English language of the content area.

Solution: Several solutions need to be implemented concurrently.

  1. Students, ALL students, must become very ACTIVE participants in the process of learning,

actively seeing, observing, perceiving what the teacher is talking about,

actively listening (and showing through actions or gestures they have listened correctly),

actively speaking using the language needed to demonstrate understanding of the new concept, idea or knowledge in the content area,

actively seeing, observing, perceiving and, thus, expressing themselves using the new vocabulary presented in the lesson.

Having observed, listened to, spoken and seeing the language needed to express themselves and to demonstrate understanding of the new concept, idea or knowledge, students can now go to the textbook and read with understanding. After that, they can read questions and answer questions in their own words.

  1. Students must be provided language development lessons where the new language of   the content areas is introduced and practiced BEFORE the content area lessons.   ALL students need help in developing the language of the content areas. For non-English speaking or limited-English speaking students, ESL (English-As-A-Second Language) or ELD (English Language Development) classes provide the opportunity to acquire, learn, develop and practice the language of the content areas BEFORE the content area lessons. English-only speakers rarely have an English class for language development fully integrated with the content area classes.

In essence, content area and ESL/ELD teachers MUST INTEGRATE their lessons.

  1. Vocabulary charts, vocabulary lists, all new words grouped into meaningful categories must be displayed in the classroom to encourage active language use by teacher and students alike. The students and the teacher must be constantly aware of the new language they must incorporate into their way of talking about the concepts, ideas or knowledge they are mastering. By posting all new words, teachers communicate the clear expectation that students are to begin to actively use the posted vocabulary. AND teachers will remember to use the new vocabulary, too. It is posted!!!

Teachers who incorporate these basic ideas about observing, listening, speaking, reading and writing will have students who need NOT copy from the book. Students will understand while observing and listening to the teacher, they will speak using the new language of the content areas, they will read, and they will write. Any disruption in the learning sequence of OBSERVING, LISTENING, SPEAKING, VOCABULARY DEVELOPMENT, READING AND WRITING will always impede learning.




For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:

1. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
2. Cross Cultural Diversity - Multicultural Strategies
3. Effective Instruction for English Learners (L.E.P. students) Parts 1, 2, 3, 4
4. Promoting Academic Success in Language Minority Students
5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
6. Oral Language / Literacy Skills / Higher Order Thinking Skills
7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
8. The Structure of English / The Structure of Spanish
9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

Web Site Programs for Teachers: Numbers 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.
Web Site Programs for
Paraprofessionals: Number 3.
Web Site Programs for
New Teachers:
Enhanced Cultural Sensitivity - The Challenge of Students Diversity
Identifying / Responding to Students' Language Needs
Phonemic Awareness: Teaching English phonics to L.E.P. students
Relationship Between Reading, Writing and Spelling
Improving Reading Performance -- Building Oral Language Skills)

Write and e-mail any additional questions you may have, and Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will establish with you, your school or district a Technical Assistance Service Contract. Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will answer all your questions promptly and to your satisfaction.


For information and credentials please click on the link below or contact directly:


Educational Consultant, Program Evaluator

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Certification (12/2006)

3113 Malcolm Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90034-3406

Phone and Fax: (310) 474-5605

E-mail:  csssadek@gte.net