I know...it's about to be summer. You're probably thinking why are we talking about parent-teacher conferences? Well, this is actually a great time to set a plan that will make the most of your time with parents of ELs. Building a team to support your students is like building a foundation. It's either going to be sturdy and strong or it's going to be weak and easily broken. Which do you prefer?
If you're like me, you want the strong foundation. Here are my tried and true suggestions for amping up your parent-teacher conferences.
advocating for English Learners
When I first began my role as an ESL teacher, I have to admit, I didn't know much about ELLs other than my own experiences. My experience growing up as an English learner helped me form my beliefs about language learning and helped me as I worked with ELs in my general education classroom.
But the year I left the general education classroom and moved into the role of an ESL teacher who supported all grades, co-taught, and pulled newcomer students out for intense English instruction, I realized that I needed to learn more and do more. I was seen as the ESL/ELL specialist on my campus. And that meant a lot to me. The students were counting on me to support their language development and to support their teachers. I had to step up my game and FAST!
How to handle resistance from teachers
This topic has been rolling around in my mind for quite some time. I hear about the problem from EL teachers around the nation. Not to mention that as an EL teacher myself, I encountered this struggle too many times.
I remember vividly having a meeting with a gen ed teacher. One of our students was struggling in her class. He hadn't been in the US very long, only a bit over a year. So I asked that we meet to discuss how I could help to plan with her and accommodate instruction. I was met with resistance from the moment I walked in the room. The teacher explained that she felt that this student (along with all the other ELs) should not have anything different than everyone in the class. She explained that she has heard him speak and that he is capable of doing the work. She went on to tell me that the grades were reflective of defiance and not ability.
I listened. Quietly. But it was difficult. And then when she finished, I carefully shared with her his language levels in each domain explaining the difference between social and academic language. We took a look at the types of accommodations that were appropriate for a learner at his language proficiency. In the end, it took a while for this teacher to come around. It took support, scaffolding, and leading the teacher to find the best way to make progress with the student. And to begin with, rebuilding their relationship came first. This student needed to know that the teacher genuinely cared about his education and growth.
So what can you do if you are faced with a similar dilemma? Here are a few tips I've learned along the way:
1. Build a caring relationship with the teacher.
The teacher will not trust you unless a solid foundation is there. Begin by casual conversations that have nothing to do with school. Get to know the teacher beyond work. Ask personal questions (but not too personal). Then start talking about content. Discuss the learning that's happening in the classroom. Finally talk about specific students, how they are doing, what they need to succeed, etc. This will not happen in one day, not in a week...it will take time.
2. Scaffold the teacher's learning.
Model for the teacher (if you can) what you would like for him/her to do with students. If the teacher would benefit from understanding language development. Scaffold that instruction for him/her. Introduce it in small chunks or provide visuals.
3. Model lessons.
The best professional development is learning from other educators or our peers. Model lessons for the teacher that highlight accommodations. If you are a co-teacher, then this will work out great. If this is not possible, set up a time when the teacher observe another educator to see a lesson. This is great because it not only helps your teacher who is struggling but also builds capacity for the other teacher.
4. Suggest professional learning opportunities.
When the teacher is open to learning more, suggest professional development that will help to build on his/her practice. This can be in-district PD, out of district PD, online learning, professional books, twitter chats, etc. Each teacher will have his/her own learning style. Some like face to face while others prefer to read on their own or learn on line. The good news is that there are many options available these days.
Being culturally aware and responsive to our students' needs is critical to their success. The more we support them during their learning, the better they will perform when it counts. I have found it helpful to share this cultural proficiency continuum (shared with me at a training) with educators and let them self-reflect.
As teachers, we've probably heard of "book tastings" for students. But have you every held one of these for your colleagues?
This is a unique type of professional learning that can promote more learning and individual growth.
Here's how I recently held one with my colleagues:
Reflecting back on my own years in elementary school, I bet my parents may have seemed like they were not very involved with my education. We were new immigrants. And they spoke very little English. Adding to that, the cultural norms for school interaction were different where we came from. It may have seemed to my teachers that my parents were absent from my education. In fact, they were extremely present (at home). But maybe not they way that my teachers expected them to be. Not in the traditional American sense.
My parents didn't come to parent teacher conferences. Well, that would have been a challenge. My dad worked every minute of overtime that he possibly could just to keep a roof over our heads. We had one vehicle so that meant my mom was at home without transportation. And even if she could come up to the school, she had my baby sister to care for. Oh and my mom's English speaking skills were the least developed.
Picture your classroom...What is it like? What are students doing? What does it sound like? How does it feel to be a kid in there?
Recently I watched this awesome TEDtalk and it resonated with me. It made think about what we are asking of our students each day, and it made me reflect on whether or not our beliefs align with our practices.
English language structures can be confusing for a student who is learning English as a second or other language. Language structures may differ and cause
English learners to struggle with language structures in English. Enter...The Sentence Patterning CHART.
The Sentence Patterning Chart is an excellent method for exposing learners to English language structures while teaching content. The benefits of this technique are amazing:
18 ways to Support English Learners in your classroom in 2018 (or EVER!)
2018 is going to be a year where your English Learners thrive! Your ELs need some extra scaffolds and supports to level the playing field. They are learning a new language while navigating content at the same time.
Here are 18 ways that you can help support them with their journey. Not every EL will need all of these scaffolds. Some will need more than others. And once they no longer need the scaffold, remember to release it and let them soar!
Why is that when we teach our students about numbers, we show them the number one visually. We hold up one finger and maybe place one object in front of them. But when we teach them new vocabulary, we rarely start with the visual--instead we begin with the written word and then move to the visual...maybe. In math we move from concrete to abstract but we rarely do that with other content areas.
Research indicates that our brains process visuals 60,000X faster than text. Why are we reluctant to tap into that and use it to our advantage in the classroom?
As tradition has it, at the start of a new year, many of us reflect on the year that passed and begin to set goals for the year ahead.
This serves as an ideal time for us to help our students set learning goals too!
English language learners (ELLs) may feel like they have a lot on their plate. Some are learning about a new country, culture, content and language all at the same time. We can help our ELLs by setting a few language goals so they have a clear view in mind and a path to follow in order to get there.
States have varying ways to help us determine the language levels of our ELLs. In Texas, where I live, we have adopted the English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS) and we use Proficiency Level Descriptors (PLDs) to guide and assess instruction. Many other states have adopted the WIDA English Language Development Standards. States that use WIDA have access to CAN DO Descriptors. These are excellent for goal setting with students and really personalizing instruction.
YEARS ago (and I mean YEARS), I was introduced to a book that was practical and served all students. This book was not meant solely for teachers of English Language Learners but for teachers of students-all students. At the same time, the techniques supported ELLs.
The book is 7 Steps to a Language-Rich Interactive Classroom by John Seidlitz and Bill Perryman. Not only is the layout of this book super reader-friendly but it is also filled will practical, research-based instructional moves that are applicable to all content areas k-12. Some are obvious and when I read them I felt validated. Others were new for me and helped me to make my classroom room accessible to all students.
Honestly, I believe all students are gifted and those who speak more than one language have a unique gift! Right?!
Unfortunately, the education system forces us to label students when they meet qualifications in a certain area. Your district probably has set certain criteria for how to designate if a child is “GIFTED”. (If you ask me, they all are…we just may not have found their gift yet.) And every state defines “GIFTED” in its own way. Check here to see your state’s definition of “GIFTED.”
Whether you are a campus lead teacher, ELL specialist, instructional coach, or administrator, you can benefit from conducting a learning walk on your campus.
Learning walks are arguably of the greatest forms of job embedded professional development. I'm a huge believer in the power of learning from colleagues. As a campus ESL Instructional Specialist for five years, I traveled to various classrooms on a daily basis and co-taught with teachers in k-5th grades. This was an amazing experience for me. It allowed me to see some powerful instructional practices and also some that needed support.
(Daily Oral Language)
Do any of you have a morning warm up where students have to look at a sentence that has mistakes in it and they have to correct it? We used to have our students "edit" a couple of sentences each morning. The sentences were riddled with errors and the kids were asked to find the errors and rewrite the sentence correctly. This was called DOL or Daily Oral Language. I'm not sure why...It was DAILY. That's the only thing correct about the title. It was not oral and it was a terrible example of language.
This November 2017, I had the honor of being a featured speaker at our state conference, TexTESOL 2017. The event was a huge success- overall due to the hard work that the TESOL IV board put into organizing such a massive conference. The keynote speakers included THE Stephen Krashen and John Seidlitz, both heroes for me in the ELL world. If you've read any of my other posts, you know that I read and recommend several of John's books. And who in the ESL world doesn't love Krashen?
In 3 Easy Steps
Planning is an essential part of all instruction no matter if you serve ELs or not. We have to have a plan if we want to meet a desired outcome. For our ELs this is even more important. Below you will uncover 3 easy steps to help you begin planning instruction for ELs in your classroom. To learn more about scaffolding instruction for ELs, click here or browse the categories on the right side bar.
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. -Benjamin Franklin
GLAD Strategy: Cooperative Strip Paragraph
What is the cooperative strip paragraph?
The Cooperative Strip Paragraph is by far one of my favorite GLAD (Guided Language Acquisition Design) strategies because it promotes cooperative learning, reading and writing in all content areas. BAM!
I first learned about it several years ago when I went through GLAD training. I used to be a certified GLAD trainer for my district (but we let our certification expire). The great thing is that even if your certification expires, the knowledge you've gained never does!
Anyhow, I instantly fell in love with Cooperative Strip Paragraphs after using them with my own students. What I love most about CSP is that it allows my students to process their learning while they write in cooperative groups, practice reading at their own readability level, and go through the steps of revising and editing in an authentic way using a shared piece of work. And the fact that CSP can be used in any content area K-12 is an additional BONUS!
The Power of 3 Seconds
How can something so simple have such an incredible impact? Wait time...it can make or break a lesson. It's the difference between a student fully being engaged and participating and a student becoming frustrated and checking out.
Teachers wear so many hats in a given day. We are counselors, mothers/fathers, referees, coaches, guides, facilitators, listeners, mediators, and so much more. Having diverse students in our classrooms adds a new layer to our responsibilities. And by diverse, I mean all types of diversity:
Back in the day, not too long ago, the only way to receive professional development was to attend a training or workshop. No longer is that the case. Now, there are many options for us. So, with Twitter, online learning, and newer opportunities out there, is face-to-face professional development a thing of the past? As a professional development specialist, I find this an interesting question to ponder.
A huge part of balanced literacy and a workshop setting is conferring with students. Conferring allows for maximum differentiation to meet specific instructional needs for students. But when we serve students who are also learning English, there is a need to accommodate the way we confer. After years of conferring with ELLs and tons of reading in the field, here are my tips for conferring with ELLs.
Enhancing memory retention for all students would be awesome! But how? How can we help kids in our rooms absorb what they are exposed to on a daily basis? I know from my own experience with my two children, if I ask them what they learned today, they usually say, "nothing" or they don't elaborate much.
Advances in brain research have taught us there are specific techniques we can easily employ that will enhance memory retention! What we want to do is help our kids move learned information from working memory into long-term memory. But the problem is if we don't do it in about 20 minutes, the information could be lost! Time is crucial.
By identifying what effective readers and effective mathematicians do, we can use the strengths from one content area to capitalize on the other.
After attending the Title III Symposium in Austin this July, I began to reflect on one session I saw in particular. The presenter was Alex Kajitani, California Teacher of the Year, and his session was titled, How to Connect Math and Literacy: Get Students Reading, Writing, and Speaking in Math Class. Now, I don't claim to be an expert in the area of math, but I know a thing or two about students, reading, writing, and language development. I was immediately taken in because he connected my knowledge of those things with math (something more new to me).
You know that list...that list of all the things you want to get done before the first day of school. We could really make it easier on ourselves as teachers AND better for our students if we eliminated 4 tasks!
1. Decorating the walls with posters, charts, etc.
There are many ways to unlock the potential of our English language learners (ELLs). In this post, I will share with you my favorite 4 instructional techniques. These are the KEYS to unlocking the potential of all students. At first glance, you may say, "I do all of these." But take a close look. Examine how to maximize these 4 techniques so they create an environment where all students THRIVE!