CEP812: Defining Problems of Practice

The problem of practice I chose to write about was students who speak English as a second language. One important point Gayle Buck made in her article, Teaching Science to English-as-Second-Language Learners: Teaching, learning, and assessment strategies for elementary ESL students, is that just because a student is identified as ESL, “it does not make a statement about their cognitive ability,” (2000, p.38). Last year, 40% of my class spoke English as a second language. The population of students who speak English as a second language is growing in the United States, more specifically, “…the number of students who speak languages other than English at home increased by 68 percent in the past 10 years,” (Buck, 2000, p.38). Due to this increase, it is important to address the needs of these students and find solutions to common problems of practice associated with students speaking English as a second language.

The students who spoke English as a second language in my classroom varied from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced. This was a challenge and I was constantly changing my teaching style, student learning style, and assessment strategies to best fit the needs of all of my students. I had such a diverse group of students and I found that technology was a great aid particularly for my students who spoke English as a second language. One piece of technology that I found the most helpful was a website called Raz Kids.

Raz Kids is an online program that provides leveled, interactive books for students. The program is accessible from school or home, so parents can easily monitor their child’s progress. This program also allows the teacher to level and pace each student based on his or her academic needs. The teacher may choose to allow students to read any level book, or the teacher may set the student at their academic level where they can only move one once they have successfully read all of the books at their current level. This ensures that students are always reading a just-right book.

One strategy Buck says helps students who are learning to speak English is to “make connections to students’ out-of-school experiences,” (2000, p.40). Raz Kids provides a wide variety of topics in both the fiction and non-fiction genre. This allows each student to find books that interest him or her. If a student is learning the English language and culture, they will better understand a book that is about a familiar topic to them.

Once students gain access to a library of books at their level, they are able to read the books on their own, listen to the books read to them while they follow along, and take a comprehension quiz after each book. These different options cater to students at each level language acquisition (beginning, intermediate, advanced). For example, students at the beginning level “have very limited or no understanding of the English language,” (Buck, 2000, p.38). These students benefit most from listening to an English speaker read to them fluently and with expression. Raz Kids highlights each word as the speaker reads it, and provides a picture or sound to go with the word to allow students to make a connection to the meaning of the word. Students can also go back and click on words and Raz Kids will read the word again.

Repetition is important for students learning English, so allowing the students read the same books multiple times will help build their vocabulary and fluency.

I used Screencast-O-Matic to create my screencast, you can see it here!


Buck, Gayle A. (2000). Teaching science to english-as-second-language learners: Teaching, learning, and assessment strategies for elementary ESL students. Science and Children, 38.3, 38-41.


One thought on “CEP812: Defining Problems of Practice

  1. Kristy,

    I thought that you chose an awesome tool to help ESL students in and out of the classroom. You did such a good job succinctly explaining the benefits of Raz Kids, both in your blog and in your screencast! Your screencast did an excellent job of showing exactly how Raz Kids works and how students and teachers can use it effectively. Highlighting, pausing, and having the words read aloud would be such a benefit. What a neat thing! Also, I really like that teachers can set up the program and track progress and make sure their students are always reading a book that meets them at the levels they are at.

    At the school I am at, we do not have a very high population of ESL learners – I am impressed at all you do with such a high percentage in your room. It is clear that you are finding good programs to differentiate. Thank you so much for sharing this with me and I look forward to sharing it with others where I teach and exploring it myself. You rock!

    -Tara Guysky

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