How It's Done: Speaking Their Language

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What do you do when 56 percent of your students are English-language learners, 80 percent come from low-income families, your students speak 14 different languages at home, and 215 new students arrive in the first three months of the school year? Bring in the tech. "Technology

has helped us create individualized learning portfolios," says Erick Naumann, principal of Parlin Elementary in Everett, Massachusetts. "From the gifted and talented to ELL, we can educate the entire spectrum."

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In the past year, Parlin Elementary has gone from being the lowest-scoring school in the district for English-language acquisition and mathematics to the highest and was recognized as one of the five fastest-growing schools in the state. "We use Diigo, a Web-based technology that enables effective collaborative research," says Naumann. "An ELL-based project team, class, or club can create a group on Diigo to pool relevant resources, findings, and thoughts. The students post book reviews, share ideas about class work, and help each other with homework when absent.

"We use video to record and play student projects and podcasts to share with fellow classmates," he continues. "Skype and Google Earth enhance the teaching of English-language acquisition, and Fast ForWord has helped our ELL population learn to speak English in a nonthreatening environment where the students are encouraged to make mistakes and learn, without being penalized or embarrassed in front of their peers."

"So often, student feedback on performance requires a paper to be graded or report card to be filed," says Gerhard Grotke, principal of James Madison Elementary in San Leandro, California. …