West Point Case Study on Transparent Language

West Point Case Study Concludes Transparent Language Measures Up with Rosetta Stone
To download and view the entire case study PDF, CLICK HERE.

June, 2010 marked the 27th annual CALICO conference, (Computer Assisted Language
Instruction Consortium). The conference was hosted by Amherst College, and like previous CALICO events, it offered a forum for discussing cutting-edge educational technologies. The three-day conference explored new ways in which educational technology can be leveraged to support effective language teaching and learning.

Researchers and instructors from the United States Military Academy at West Point were in attendance at CALICO 2010. They presented a case study on student attitudes and performance using CALL (Computer-Assisted Language Learning) programs built by Transparent Language—which can be purchased through Recorded Books K–12—and Rosetta Stone.

The Study’s Conclusions:
Both programs made instruction time more efficient, since students could demonstrate
progress and maintain language skills outside of class [but] … the Rosetta Stone one-size-fits-all approach was insufficiently flexible for instructors’ unique needs.


Guest Post: Audiobooks and Comprehension

Recently, we featured audiobook reviews from guest blogger Jana Warnell, an elementary school librarian in Montana. You can read her reviews of Clementine, The Thief, and The Ranger’s Apprentice: Ruins of Gorlan. She also shared with us how to hook reluctant readers with audio and on audiobooks and fluency. Check out more reviews and librarian insights from Jana at her blog, http://janasbooklist.blogspot.com/.

Today, Jana shares with us how audiobooks can assist students with reading comprehension.


I have covered hooking reluctant readers and increasing fluency using audio books. Now I am going to cover how audio books improve comprehension.

When I was in high school I was assigned a lot of “classics” to read. I really dislike classics. I disliked them back then and I dislike them today. We had to read a Shakespeare play. Ugh. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. So I started reading it aloud to my mom, and she took turns reading it to me. It was like a light bulb clicked on for me. When I heard the story I understood the story. I am an auditory learner.

The school I am a librarian at uses the Accelerated Reader program. It is a very hard program for some kids because reading is not a strong point for them. So, even when they read some of the lower level books they have a hard time with comprehension. Luckily, I had some Playaways available. I asked the teachers to allow some of the lower students to use those. Wow. The scores for the students that used the Playaways increased dramatically. When they heard the story it made more sense to them.

I also used this method for my older son. He was assigned a book in class (Number the Stars) that was giving him problems. Our read aloud time was limited due to activities so I checked out the audio book. He was able to listen and read along, pass his tests and turn in a great final project. He wouldn’t have been as excited about any of the assignments that went along with the book if he didn’t understand what he was reading.

Audio books can also be a great way to bridge a gap between reading levels for kids. Sometimes they want to read a book leveled higher than they are ready for. Rather than tell them they cannot read it, provide the audio book for them. They will be able to follow along and understand what they are reading. This will also help them firmly move up into that reading level.

You need to remember that the first way you get kids interested in books is by reading aloud to them. Over and over and over. When they are older that doesn’t change. Their interest is peaked when they hear a book out loud. And their interest can be heightened even more with the use of professionally done audio books. Don’t stop because they are older!

What do you do to help your students’ comprehension? Have you seen gains since using audiobooks? Share your story here or at http://www.facebook.com/recordedbooksk12.

Guest Post: Audiobooks and Fluency

Recently, we featured audiobook reviews from guest blogger Jana Warnell, an elementary school librarian in Montana. You can read her reviews of Clementine, The Thief, and The Ranger’s Apprentice: Ruins of Gorlan. She also shared with us how to hook reluctant readers with audio. Check out more reviews and librarian insights from Jana at her blog, http://janasbooklist.blogspot.com/.

Today, Jana shares with us how audiobooks can help to increase fluency and expression.


One of the biggest benefits I have heard in using audio books with my children and students I work with is the increase in fluency in their own reading aloud. I first noticed this with my oldest son. We had listened to a few shorter audio books while driving around our town when he was in the fifth grade Later that school year he had a book he was enjoying and wanted to read a section to me. I was amazed the first time he read aloud to me. His fluency and cadence were so much stronger! I credit it fully to audio books because he hadn’t been reading too many print books during that whole time, maybe one, possibly two.

When a child hears a book read well they are treated to expression, smoothness, dramatic pauses, and confidence. Teachers provide this when they read aloud, but their time is limited. If you could add another half hour of quality listening to your students’ (or childrens’) day, think how much that would benefit them!

Even using audio books for picture books in early elementary classrooms is a bonus. Sometimes when a teacher reads a picture book out loud it is their first time, or the first time in a year. They can forget the cadence that is needed to read a book, especially rhyming books. Using audio books with a professional narrator who has practiced the book plenty of times before it is recorded would make it one of the favorites of the classroom! I bet they would request that listening experience over and over.

Remember that kids don’t need to be drilled in skills for them to be effective. Sometimes just being exposed to a desired skill helps them pick it up and they don’t even realize they are improving. Audio books are a way to help them increase the fluency of their reading, inside the classroom and out.

Have you had success using audiobooks to increase fluency? Share your story here or on our Facebook page!

ELL and ESL Resources

Looking for free and inexpensive resources for your ELL/ESL students, or grants and funding options for your ELL/ESL classroom? Check out the Big Deal eBook for Educators of English Language Learners!

Here’s just a sampling of the great links you’ll find inside:
• View the free demo DVD of the Parent/Teacher Kon-ver-SAY-shun Kit: Conversation Starters in English and Spanish, a color-coded flip chart with bilingual scripts on school issues. http://www.bentiva.com
• Provide opportunities for your English learners to interact with environmental print, such as street signs. In this free lesson from ReadWriteThink, students read words found on everyday objects and use them to identify individual letters. They then create captions for an electronic book with preselected logos and illustrations. Finally, they create an original little book choosing their own logos, captions and images. http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/stop-signs-mcdonald-cheerios-949.html
• Make phonics fun for your ESL students with free phonics games, phonics worksheets, and reading and spelling games from Fun Fonix. The resources are organized into an introduction (hard consonants and short vowels) and three printable books: short vowels, digraphs and long vowels with silent e. The ebooks are supplemented with a worksheet maker. http://www.funfonix.com


Students Look to Byki for Language Learning Success

Recently, our consultant Paula Roman held several demo sessions for our language leaning product Byki in local public libraries. Byki is an online language learning tool available for purchase from Recorded Books for public libraries and K-12 schools. It can be incorporated into a foreign language or ESL curriculum, or simply made available so students can practice skills on their own.

In the Palm Beach County library, Paula was greeted by a flock of students looking for something to do after the middle school across the street let out. Several of the students happened to be learning Arabic and quickly set up an account with Byki, which offers an Arabic course. One student, the 11-year-old son of Arabic-speaking immigrants, was especially excited to have Byki around.

byki-palm beach

Palm Beach County middle school students practice Arabic with Byki

Paula spoke with many others interested in Byki’s services, including:

  • A 74 year-old woman in West Boynton who was getting ready to take a barge trip in France and wanted to brush up on her French
  • Two very energetic mature women who just loved the sound of Italian and wanted to learn more
  • A man with both Finnish and Irish roots who wanted to have a basic understanding of both languages
  • At least 4 home-schooling moms who registered their children to learn everything from Spanish to German to Portuguese-Brazilian
  • A young woman who was about to go to Haiti to help with the rebuilding

After visiting five Palm Beach County branches, Paula got requests for almost 50% of the languages BYKI offers, including Malay, Urdu, Czech, Finnish, Greek, Korean, Tagalog, and Afrikaans! 

If you’d like more information on any of our language learning products, including versions for ESL students, please contact us.

Affordable, Effective Strategies with Audio

With the budget constraints imposed on so many educators today, it can be hard to get administrators to approve more costly items. Though audiobooks and Playaways may seem to fall under that category, there are many reasons why audio is an affordable and effective solution for your school. Do you have any tricks for fitting audio into your budget? If so, share!

  • Audiobooks are very versatile and are easy to incorporate into all kinds of classroom instruction and reading practice situations. Whole-class listening, small groups, or individual listening are all effective methods. Many titles are also a natural gateway to social studies, science, or history instruction. A multi-use product!
  • Compare a $30 audiobook or a $300 audiobook collection or even a huge audio collection to the cost of implementing any of the large-scale reading intervention/instruction programs that are out there. Tens of thousands of dollars are needed just to set them up. Plus you need computers, classroom re-wiring, training, etc. For additional instructional ideas with Recorded Books audiobooks, try a Homework Pack or buy a Teacher’s Guide (TGs are only $1.25!)
  • Little equipment is needed to use audiobooks. One boombox for a classroom. One listening center for small groups. Students can even bring in their own old CD players for solo listening.
  • Playaways need no equipment at all! Easy to handle, easy to maintain, and no equipment.
  • The listen and read method is proven effective, and is beneficial in some way to all readers—be it letting them really sink in and enjoy a book, read something they would have had trouble with otherwise, helping them learn English, or helping them comprehend what the rest of the class is working on more easily.
  • The listen and read method lets the teacher apply a precise solution to a particular problem or issue, based on his or her own judgment and experience. Teachers can help students move at their own pace.

If you’d like to try an audiobook in your classroom or library for free, keep checking the blog for our contests and giveaways, or check out our free audio and lesson plans for great ideas that can be used with our audiobooks.

Help for ESL and ELL

Hello, visitors from ESL Magazine! If you’re looking for information on how audiobooks can benefit your ESL learners, check out our resources at the Recorded Books website or peruse this article from former ESL instructor Shari Quan-Rios. Audiobooks are an invaluable way to help students learn the English language while improving their English reading skills. Students will easily be able to connect print to sound by using the listen and read method. If you’re an ESL teacher, share how you use audiobooks in your classroom! Do you have any favorite titles?

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