Category talk:ESL for Primary School

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Don’t Tell Learners To Turn Off TV

Ask Families To Turn On TV Captions To Let Kids Practice Reading

How TV Captions Help Learning to Read TV captions create an unrivalled opportunity for a learner to connect the sound of the spoken word with the sight of the printed word in the context of the picture and action unfolding on the screen to explain and reinforce the meaning of the words. It’s like having a story read aloud. Not every child may benefit, but over time, TV captions can benefit a great many,

Federal Legislation Is In Place, The Research Has Been Done After decades of lobbying by organizations for the deaf, federal mandates since January 2006 require TV captions to be available 20 out of 24 hours a day (generally not between 2am and 6am) on virtually all programs on almost all stations. For a recent summary of the value of TV captions by the National Center for Technology Innovation, see Captioned Media: Literacy Support for Diverse Learners, available on line at Unfortunately, most research studies languished in academic journals of limited and specialized circulation while television has become a major conduit of our culture and daily information for over fifty years.

Free TV Captions For Reading Practice But TV captions are not just for the deaf or for airports and bars. TV captions can provide practice at home for anyone learning to read or needing to read better. TV captions can have a profound impact on English language learners.

Children & Classrooms Need Help In Reading Last year’s National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) report found that nationally a third of 4th grade students fail to read at a basic level. When NAEP figures are analyzed by race or ethnicity, over 50% of both black and Hispanic students fail to read at the basic level by the 4th grade. Schools need innovative help for such students. The recently released the report of Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) show that children in Finland lead in international reading skills while the United States is 12th. How do the Finns do it? One factor is that TV captions are on most Finnish television programs in Finnish homes.

Many Parents Need Help Too We have many literacy organizations dedicated to the invaluable work of asking families to read to their children. This is most useful when there is a dedicated and literate family to call upon. But where there is only a single parent with two jobs and little free time or where a foreign language is spoken at home or where the reading skills of the family are shaky, other sources of help are badly needed. TV captions can provide that help tirelessly and free for viewers.

Using TV Captions Is Easily Scalable Of course free TV captions are not a substitute for credentialed classroom instructors or for family members who read to their children. But when the average child watches television 5 to 7 hours a day, opening TV captions presents a chance, for thousands of hours every year, for students to practice reading at home. With television sets in 97% of US households, the use of free TV captions is easily scalable and sustainable. It’s much easier to ask families to turn on the TV captions than it is to tell kids to turn off the television. It’s tragic to waste the educational TV potential of TV captions while so many students fail to learn to read well enough in school.

Selecting Appropriate Television Programs There have been many objections that children watch too much television, usually without reference to the content. However, more recently the pediatrician Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, and professor Frederick J. Zimmerman, PhD, in their book, The Elephant in the Living Room (2006), analyze television content and context in depth, concluding “Television viewing can be beneficial. It can be entertaining, broadening and educational. It just has to be used properly.” In other words, use those great, age-appropriate programs from PBS, the Discovery channel and the History channel.

How To Open TV Captions TV captions can be turned on with a click of the CC button on the remote control. If your remote control doesn’t have a CC button, use the television’s menu. Yes, using the television’s menu may need a person who can read to plow through the choices.

Give TV captions a try yourself.

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