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My Top Resources

1. INTERACTIVE WHITEBOARDS / DATA PROJECTORS Interactive whiteboards are usually fixed to a classroom wall and connected to a computer. The image from your computer is displayed on the whiteboard which in turn can control the computer via its touchsensitive surface. Students respond by touching the board, writing on it, or by moving text and images around. A bit scary when we first used them, these are now a familiar and useful resource. In collaboration with the teacher you can make activities to support the language of the curriculum that are visual (using images, subject to copyright), attractive, interactive and engaging for the whole class. A data projector and screen also work well to provide the visual support for learning that seems to benefit many of our students with language difficulties. Where the interactive element is not required, PowerPoint with a data projector is very useful for making classroom-friendly language supportive resources across a range of subjects. 2. STARSPELL SOFTWARE Starspell is designed to help spelling. It is also a database which allows you to provide targeted work on curriculum vocabulary by entering your own list of words for an individual or class and associating these words with a short definition or key fact. One of the games (StarPick) helps students associate the definition with the orthography. As the student has to click on each letter required one at a time, it also engages them with the phonological representation of the word (particularly when words are spelled regularly) because they probably have to segment the word into phonological units to identify the letters. This game has error free learning, while others correct errors to promote spelling. With the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence promoting literacy as every teachers responsibility, Starspell is useful to engage teachers in promoting the language and literacy of their subject. 3. CLOZEPRO SOFTWARE ClozePro has a different interface from Starspell but is useful to either reinforce vocabulary using a different task, or to provide additional information or a context for a word that has been introduced in Starspell. It allows you to create sentences that either provide a definition or a context for a word that you can then remove to a grid at the bottom. When the activity includes a few sentences, the students task is to identify the word that best fits each sentence. You can reproduce the activity as a printable worksheet. 4. BRINGING WORDS TO LIFE: ROBUST VOCABULARY INSTRUCTION Beck, I.L., Kucan, L. & McKeown, M.G. (2002) ISBN 978-1572307537 Guilford Publications This well-thumbed volume is particularly useful when working on explicit teaching of words that are not terminology. It has really alerted us to the complexity of knowing a word and to the depth of instruction required to give students useful and productive knowledge of a word. You can easily take the text (book, poem or play) a class is working with then use Beck et al.s criteria to select words for robust instruction. Vocabulary learning does not come easily to many of the young people we deal with and this book reinforces the need to provide multiple repetitions of words and also rich in-depth teaching. There are plenty ideas for how to do this and we look forward to the authors forthcoming volume, Creating Robust Vocabulary: Frequently Asked Questions and Extended Examples. 5. COLLINS COBUILD ADVANCED LEARNERS ENGLISH DICTIONARY 5th edn (2006) ISBN 978-0-00-721013-8 Cengage ELT This dictionary is intended for people learning English and comes in several versions. We use the advanced learners dictionary, the most comprehensive. As it provides definitions written in natural sounding sentences, the meanings are much more accessible than in traditional dictionaries. This makes it easier for teachers, therapists and learning assistants to explain word meanings and make resources and to define important vocabulary for students in easy to understand language. The accompanying CD ROM is a real bonus. It allows teachers and therapists to look up words very quickly. It also means that students do not need sophisticated alphabetic skills to navigate a big dictionary - they simply type in the word they wish to access and the entry appears on screen. 6. CHILDRENS WRITING AND READING: ANALYSING CLASSROOM LANGUAGE Perera, K. (1984) ISBN 978-0631136545 WileyBlackwell I heard Katherine Perera more than 20 years ago describe the linguistic features that make textbooks and worksheets difficult for children. Her lecture stayed with me! We now refer to her book when helping teachers differentiate materials to take account of the fact that our students may understand less complex grammar than their peers and be poorer readers, and may thus find learning information from written materials challenging. Although very old now this book is still an important university course text. 7. E-MAIL While we all moan about clogged in-boxes, the beauty of e-mail is the access it gives to people who might be almost impossible to phone. With it we can compose and carefully formulate a question and address it to some of the most famous academics and clinicians in the world. I am always surprised by the grace and generosity of colleagues who, in spite of extremely busy schedules, take time to bring their expertise to my computer screen with helpful replies, examples of their work or references. 8. INTERACTIVE REMOTE RESPONSE / ELECTRONIC VOTING SYSTEMS eg. (Quizdom); (Promoethean Activote) We have just started using these little hand-held voting handsets with students and are already seeing the benefits.

Used with an interactive whiteboard or data projector, the teacher or therapist devises a presentation in the form of questions, usually with a multiple choice format, and each student chooses by pushing a button on their handset. At a basic level this can really engage students and ensure they all respond. As the response is anonymous to the rest of the class, those with language difficulties are encouraged to have a go. The teacher or therapist can show the class the correct response and display the percentage who responded correctly. Away from the students, the software provides valuable information about what an individual student understands of a topic or text, and how students with language difficulties are coping compared to their peers. We have also begun using it to monitor students progress towards Individual Education Plan targets. For example for a student who had a target to learn 40 Tier 2 words (Beck et al., 2002) from their English texts, we created activities that allowed us to see how close they were. 9. STRATEGIC LEARNING: READING COMPREHENSION LEVELS 1 AND 2 Difficulties with reading comprehension are common in secondary students who have oral language comprehension difficulties. Given that reading comprehension is a very important skill both to access the curriculum and for real life, we try to address this in collaboration with teaching colleagues. It is a complex and challenging task and there is still much we have to learn. These volumes, with accompanying CDs, are useful for identifying and targeting a number of the subskills important for reading comprehension, including the use of referring words, inferencing skills and predicting. The worksheets can be printed off for student use and, although some of the material is quite American, there is still plenty that is useful. The programme also gives you ideas of activities you can devise for other texts. 10. HUMOUR See Croker, C. (2006) Lost in Translation: Misadventures in English Abroad. ISBN 1-84317-208-6 Michael OMara Books Where would we be without humour? In lectures and when providing continuing professional development, humour makes information more memorable and provides light relief, especially when information is new or challenging. Humour about language is particularly helpful and I have a few favourite malapropisms that I use when talking about vocabulary learning as well as some very funny examples from Croker (2006) of the many ways in which language can come unstuck!