Keith’s Blog

NYT: Iran Bans English in Primary Schools to Block 'Cultural Invasion'

Ooo…spicy headline New York Times! (I totally clicked it!)
According to this article, a senior education official in Iran told state television that the teaching of English in primary schools as part of the official curriculum in both government and nongovernment schools is against the law.
I would love to get a focus group of Americans together to elicit their reactions to this. Iran is often played as the villain in U.S. politics and media, and I am sure many would have strong opinions on the issue.
I would equally be interested to hear from Iranians and their thoughts. I have some classmates from Iran, so I plan to ask them their perspectives (Hopefully, they will comment below).
Where do I stand? I agree to a certain extent with the Iranian government, but with some caveats.

Continue reading “NYT: Iran Bans English in Primary Schools to Block 'Cultural Invasion'”

The Mindset Needed to Balance Language and Content

I’ve discussed in previous posts (this one in particular) that balancing language and content is one of the biggest challenges faced by teachers in a content-based language classroom.
But why?
As I read and reflect more on Content-Based Language Teaching (CBLT), I believe a lot of it has to do with mindset.
Specifically, I will share three mindsets in this post that I believe need to be resolved by a teacher before a proper balance between content and language. Continue reading “The Mindset Needed to Balance Language and Content”

FREE BOOK: Becoming a Reflective Teacher

Hey Blog Readers,
You can call me Santa Clause because this Christmas I’m giving away a free book to one lucky reader.
The book is Becoming a Reflective Teacher by Robert J. Marzano & Tina Boogren.
This is one of my favorite books for teachers (Confession: I have a lot of favorites).
Why? Because it has practical tips that you could use today to significantly improve your teaching.
Want a chance to win?
Head over to my book giveaway page:
But hurry! There’s just under 3 days left!
P.S. You will get a confirmation email after you sign up. 1) Make sure you confirm your entry. 2) Share the link in the email with your friends to get more chances to win. =)

What kind of Content-Based Instruction Do You Do?

As I read more and more of the literature on content-based language teaching (CBLT), I am becoming increasingly frustrated.
Why you might ask?
Because the field has done an incredibly poor job of defining what CBLT actually is.
I get it! There are many variations of CBLT around the world, but the fact that after a few decades we continue to fail to be consistent with terminology is just disheartening.
Before my teacher-readers stop reading (maybe you already have), I promise this matters a lot to you. (Really?) Really!
By clearly understanding the variations of CBLT, you can identify whether your program fits you and your students.
In this post, I will discuss three types of CBLT and which are appropriate for students and teachers.
Continue reading “What kind of Content-Based Instruction Do You Do?”

How to Write Great Content and Language Objectives

Far too many teachers ask themselves 5 minutes before class, “What am I going to teach today?”
I believe the vast majority of teachers want to be great and know they should have learning objectives.
But the truth is…writing learning objectives are hard.
Although learning objectives are usually the starting point for course reform, Wieman (2017) discovered that faculty often struggled with writing learning objectives and that beginning with teaching strategies was often an easier place to start.
Given its difficulty, it is no wonder teachers often default to “winging it” rather than writing learning objectives.
This difficulty is compounded for teachers who teach in content-based language teaching (CBLT) settings, which requires both content and language objectives.
In this post, I will demystify the writing of learning objectives step by step, giving you an easy to follow list for creating content and language objectives for your classroom. Continue reading “How to Write Great Content and Language Objectives”

The Connection Between Math and Language

This morning I was reading an article titled “How to make math a key part of your ELL curriculum.” In the article the author writes,

It also helps that numbers are numbers, and working with them is natural to speakers of any language.

It is a common assumption that math will be easier for English language learners. It’s just numbers, right?
While it seems on the surface that math would be transferable between languages because of numbers, it is actually a lot more complicated than that.
In this post, I will discuss some of the research that addresses the issue of language and math.
Continue reading “The Connection Between Math and Language”

Examining Identity & Culture as a Teacher

Our identity and culture have great influence over our teaching.
But how often do we think about these influences?
It’s quite normal to sit in workshops about a new pedagogical technique or attend meetings about the latest curriculum, but rarely do we take the time to reflect on how our teaching practices have been formed.
In this video, I talk about the influences of identity and culture on us as professionals and present an exercise that you can do either individually or as a grade level team.
I encourage you to take 5 minutes out of your day to do this exercise. I think you’ll be surprised what you discover about yourself.
Don’t forget to share your insights in the comments!

The Work of Dr. Marguerite Ann Snow

One of the top scholars in the area of content-based language teaching (CBLT) is Dr. Marguerite Ann Snow.
For decades, Dr. Snow has published on how to better integrate language and content in the classroom.
As such integration is one of the major struggles for CBLT teachers, especially in foreign contexts, I thought it would be helpful to post a little about Dr. Snow’s work and discuss a few takeaways for my CBLT readers.
Continue reading “The Work of Dr. Marguerite Ann Snow”

Is This Text Comprehensible for my ELLs? Let the Vocabulary Profiler Help!

Using authentic texts with English learners is great…
…unless, of course, they are way too hard for the students.
This is actually one of the top challenges for teachers in content-based language teaching (CBLT) systems, finding texts that are both authentic and comprehensible.
In a study on CBLT teachers, Cammarata (2010) commented, “The difficulty for the teachers was to find the right equilibrium between authenticity and complexity as they struggled to find a way to simplify the content in order to make it comprehensible for the students while keeping it interesting, cognitively engaging, and within the realm of the proficiency level of the learners (Cammarata, 2010, pp. 102-103).
But how do we know if the text we have chosen will be appropriate? That’s where the vocabulary profiler on can help.
Continue reading “Is This Text Comprehensible for my ELLs? Let the Vocabulary Profiler Help!”

Encouraging Students to Read

How does a student get better at reading?
Simply put…by reading.
Plenty of research supports the idea that extensive reading leads to better reading and language growth, but many kids just aren’t doing enough reading.
It’s our jobs as teachers to encourage our students to read. But the big question is how?
In this post, I will offer a few ideas to help create a community of avid readers in your classroom.
Continue reading “Encouraging Students to Read”