April 24, 2008
John Gilbert, head of a new program at Morningside College that helps veteran educators learn to teach English as a Second Language (ESL), has written three articles that have been published recently in national and international journals.
“I + J: How the Butler Can Do It” appeared in “The International Journal of Foreign Language”; “Reading First: What is there to Comprehend?” appeared in “Language Magazine”; and “Reading Between the Lines: Gender May Matter” appeared in “ESL Magazine.”
In the first article, “I+J: How the Butler Can Do It,” Gilbert recommends sheltered literature courses, rather than traditional language classes, to teach a second language to upper-level students. Gilbert says the traditional focus on vocabulary and grammar can make students bored or stressed, both of which inhibit learning. He says students have more fun reading stories in a literature course, and they still learn vocabulary and grammar subconsciously as they read, discuss and write about the stories for class.
In “Reading First: What is there to Comprehend?” Gilbert takes issue with the federal law that requires schools to use phonics to teach reading. He contends that the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 doesn’t allow teachers the flexibility they need because different strategies work best with different students. He says a sound-based approach like phonics was OK back when children spent a lot of time listening to the radio, but in today’s visual society, which is full of computers and video games, many students would do best with a sight-based approach to reading.
In the third article, “Reading Between the Lines: Gender May Matter,” Gilbert provides research indicating that girls generally are able to learn languages more quickly than boys, for one thing, because 20-30 percent more of the female brain is devoted to language development. He says this does not mean that boys cannot or will not learn languages as well as girls; teachers just need to be aware that it may take boys a little more time. Gilbert also provides information in this article indicating that boys may be more prone to dyslexia than girls.
Gilbert is project manager for Project Unlimited Proficiency, a new program at Morningside College that prepares educators to acquire ESL endorsement from the Iowa Department of Education. Morningside has been awarded a $1.2-million federal grant for this program, which will allow 60 area teachers to receive scholarships for ESL courses over the next five years.
Gilbert has come to Morningside College from LADO International College in Arlington, Va., where he taught English. He has a master’s degree from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., and he is working on his doctorate.