78. What materials are most useful, effective, and efficient?

As an Independent Consultant I do not represent any publishing house or company. Thus, I make sure I do NOT recommend specific instructional materials from any company or publisher. In fact, I very strongly believe that the TEACHER, at all times, should have access to a wide variety of instructional materials to achieve specific instructional goals.

I can suggest, however, that the most useful, effective and efficient instructional materials are those that promote ORAL LANGUAGE SKILLS through lots of VISUALS and listening / speaking activities in ALL content areas of the curriculum.

The most useful, effective and efficient instructional materials, then, are those that help ALL students –English-ONLY speakers and English Learners-- acquire

  1. the understanding or the meaning of the words,
  2. the listening comprehension skills, and
  3. the oral fluency

to be able to read with 95 – 100% accuracy the words the students will encounter in the reading selections provided in the instructional materials or in the textbook.

Indeed, the most useful, effective and efficient instructional materials –for any and for ALL content areas-- are those that provide for the teacher the meaningful categories –or the graphic organizers—which help classify all the words in a reading selection or in the textbook so that students can, BEFORE READING,

  1. understand the meaning of the words,
  2. listen with understanding as the teacher uses the words during the lesson,
  3. speak with fluency, giving evidence of full understanding of the words

in the reading selection or textbook that the students are about to BEGIN reading.

If the instructional materials provide:

  1. the VISULAS for understanding the meaning of the words,
  2. the listening activities for students to recognize the words and understand what the teacher is saying during the lesson,
  3. the oral language development activities for students to demonstrate, through fluent speech, that they understand the meaning of the words they are speaking,
  4. the words in the reading selection organized into meaningful categories or graphic organizers,
  5. the reading selections in which students can read all words with 95-100% accuracy level,
  6. the writing activities that help students utilize the words in the readings and in the categories to write their own compositions,
  7. the thinking activities that promote –orally and through writing-- high levels of critical thinking skills,
  8. the multicultural perspective through the inclusion of multicultural themes, pictures, reading selections, etc.,

then those instructional materials are highly useful, effective and efficient.

Probably, the teacher will not find –in ONLY one set of instructional materials—all the attributes or features listed above. Thus, teachers must rely on a very extensive variety of instructional materials to be able to achieve specific goals.

This is exactly what was done in the Los Angeles Unified School District some years back, with very successful results –and an expensive price tag: In the "Reading Task Force Program," groups of teachers helped identify specific reading goals and objectives. Each goal, and each objective, was cataloged and numbered by broad reading skills.

Other teachers, then, identified instructional materials that would serve to achieve each reading goal or objective. All instructional materials were then classified and numbered according to the relevant reading goals.

At the end of each day, as the teacher planned (h)is/er reading lesson, the teacher would list the reading goals s(he) would work on the following day. This list would be left at the classroom door. In the evening, library and media specialists would identify, for each reading goal, the specific instructional materials and place them at the teacher’s classroom door for the next day’s lesson.

Today, in spite of "standards" and "frameworks," replete with "goals" and "objectives," teachers have, in many school districts, become "implementers" of fully designed and detailed-by-the-second lesson plans under the very strict supervision of the publisher’s "coaches." These lesson plans were NOT designed or developed with each individual teacher’s specific students’ needs, interests, difficulties, or talents in mind. These lesson plans supposedly "work" with English-Only speakers:

  1. from the inner city of Jackson, Mississippi,
  2. from the inner city of Boston, Massachusetts,
  3. from the countryside in Land O’Lakes, Minnesota,
  4. from the Hopi Reservation in Arizona, or
  5. from East Los Angeles, California, as well as English-Only speakers:
  6. from the wealthiest suburbs in those same states.

Anyone who believes that any one set of "rigid, identical, unvarying, invariant, totally structured" instructional materials can be "useful, effective and efficient" with all types of students, I am sure also believes in Santa Claus. For those who prefer "implementers" instead of "real teachers" --who design their own instructional plans according to their students’ needs-- I offer the following real story:

I had the opportunity to observe a wonderful teacher in a rural county in North Carolina implementing one of those "rigid, identical, unvarying, invariant, and totally structured" lesson plans in a first grade reading lesson. The lesson was on "rhyming" words. The teacher had written on the board some rhyming words that the children had provided. At the end of the lesson I admitted to the teacher that the words on the board did not rhyme for me, a Spanish-native speakers who had learned English-As-A-Second language in Florida and had lived for almost 35 years in Los Angeles, California. In the unique, beautiful, totally delightful way in which North Carolinians tend to speak –regardless of racial affiliation--, Miss J. explained that "Words rhyme in North Carolina that rhyme no where else!" Of course, the unique, beautiful, totally delightful way of speaking of teachers and students in North Carolina rendered the "rigid, identical, unvarying, invariant, and totally structured" lesson plan NOT very useful, NOT very effective and NOT very efficient for the pupils in this first grade reading class.


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