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 a 3 Seconds
How can something so simply 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!
This is a post I wrote for Tan's Blog. It was shared on EmpoweringELLs in May 2017.
When I stop to reflect on what is BEST practice for my elementary ELLs in reading, writing, listening, and speaking, the answer comes to me quite clearly…the workshop model. Why? What I know about the needs of my ELLs is that they require explicit instruction, modeling, guidance, routine, and practice. Here’s how the reading and writing workshop models promote progress for ELLs in listening, speaking, reading and writing.
I asked Tan Huynh, secondary ELT (English Language Arts Teacher) and educational blogger, to share with us how he engages his ELs at the secondary level. Here's what he said.
Middle and high school students need a good reason to learn. Raging with pubescent hormones, they want to fluff their feathers and display their prowess, while at the same time living in fear about doing it. Nothing engages them more than an opportunity to express their uniqueness to make a real difference. So, as teachers, we need to find a way to give them one. We need to use problem-based learning (PBL).
What does it mean to make content comprehensible?
Imagine for a moment that you are sitting in a classroom in a foreign country surrounded by new classmates and a teacher speaking a language that you don't speak. Keep in mind, you have to stay all day and you are expected to follow directions, do the work, and understand the language.
How would you do? Would you become frustrated? Would you get off task? Maybe begin to fidget, doodle, or get mad? Sometimes when our ELLs experience this, they react in ways that we may not understand. Learning a new language, culture, and content is not an easy task by any means. It's important that we respect the job they are doing and support them through it.
The best way to support their content needs is to make content comprehensible.
What kind of word wall is on your walls? Does it support your learners or is it just there as part of the wall paper creating wall pollution?
Let me tell you first hand...I used to have a traditional word wall and I wholeheartedly thought I was doing what was best for my students. It was alphabetical and I put words on it that were Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III (thinking that I was supporting everyone). I tried playing games with my students using the word wall and I even let them add their own words to it so they could take ownership of the wall.
But as a lifelong learner I embrace new information and when I find something that is better for students, I recognize it. Recently I learned about Interactive Word Walls from Dr. Julie Jackson. She is a professor at Texas State University and travels to deliver professional development regarding these amazing word walls. Her expertise is in the field of science but I think the word walls can work in any content area.
Let's back up a little and break it down. What is culture? Culture has many meanings and it depends on who you ask or which source you use. If you review most definitions, they all have somethings in common. Zion and Kozleski describe culture as the "shared beliefs, views, values, customs, behaviors and artifacts that the members of society use to interact with their world and with one another (as cited in Fenner & Snyder, 2017).
From this definition, I know we can gather that everyone has a culture. We all have beliefs and views. We all carry values and customs. We all have certain behaviors and artifacts related to our own society that we use to interact with the world and with others. This leads me to the conclusion that being culturally responsive is not only going to benefit my English Learners, it will benefit every child in my classroom.
Create a Welcoming Environment
1. The BEST ESL teachers know how to make their students feel safe and valued. They are able to break down the walls of anxiety and fear so students feel ready and eager to learn. These teachers do this by using verbal and nonverbal cues. The way they speak with their students tells them that they are wanted, valued, and loved. These teachers make room for all students.
Have you ever sat through a lecture bored out of your mind? Sometimes our students face the same doom when we don't allow them time to interact with the information that we are trying to input into their minds. Eventually, they tune out and nothing is gained. It becomes a giant waste of time.
Interactive lectures are lectures that allow for student participation and active engagement with information.
Here's what won't happen when you employ INTERACTIVE LECTURES in your classrooms and why:
These supporting documents have been in high demand and are in various blog posts on this blog. So I decided to put them all in one post for easy access. This is a one stop shop where you can find the supporting documents to shelter instruction in the content areas. Please feel free to share them with your teacher colleagues as they are meant to help all educators and students. These supports are not just for English Language Learners. ALL learners who need extra help will benefit!
Have you heard of escape rooms? They are pretty popular lately. Kind of an innovative way to build relationships while engaging a group of people in a real life puzzle.
Breakout EDU brings a similar experience to the classroom. And if you haven't hear of it, you need to check it out! Students work in heterogeneous groups to solve a series of puzzles related to a unit of study. Students must work together in order to reveal the codes which unlock several locks in a set amount of time (usually 30-45 minutes). Teachers can create Breakout EDU games that address the curriculum and state standards for the grade level they teach.
Does Breakout EDU support ELLs?
Building a relationship takes time as well as tons of effort. Being intentional about building a relationship is important. Mindfully going into co-teaching will benefit both teachers and the students. Some people are not naturally comfortable with having another person in their classroom, so easing into co-teaching may be necessary.
To begin with, meet ahead of the year and get to know as much as possible about one another. In my experience, there have been teachers who are more open to sharing and others who are less. That's okay! As long as your co-teacher knows you care and you are interested, that's a start.
Do you remember when you were in school and your teacher said it was time for read aloud? I don't know about you, but for me, that was a joyous time. It was a time for my imagination to soar. I could take the words that were flowing so eloquently from her mouth and create a movie in my mind. I love it.
As a classroom teacher, reading aloud to my own students became my favorite thing to do (maybe because it was magical for me as a child). I wanted to share that experience with them. But I also wanted to lift the level of learning a notch. Rather than this time being only for input, I was hoping to create some opportunities for output as well.
ENTER Interactive Read Alouds!
In a traditional read aloud, the experience is a one way street. The teacher reads and the students listen. There is no interaction, discussion, or time for students to express themselves during the read aloud. It's probably what I disliked most about read aloud when I was a kid. No one was allowed to talk while the teacher read.
On the contrary, during an Interactive Read Aloud, the teacher provides ample opportunities for students to interact with the text. Students talk with a partner, act out parts of the book, draw a picture related to the reading, or respond in writing. The best Interactive Read Alouds are carefully pre-planned by the teacher. The teacher can stop to ask questions or have students respond at critical parts of the book when the planning is done ahead of time.
The term interactive refers to the active learning that occurs while reading aloud high-quality literature. It characterizes the teacher and students having a conversation as they process the text together. It provides students an opportunity to extend their understandings through talk. This talk provides evidence of their thinking. (Fountas & Pinnell, 2001, 2011)
In both cases, whether traditional read aloud or interactive, the teacher models proficient reading so students can hear what an expert reader sounds like and how a reader engages with text. The teacher also models thinking about the text. What is happening? What is the character doing and why? What am thinking now? Basically, students get to hear what happens in the reader's head. They are also able to experience a text that is at a higher level than they are capable of reading on their own.
Steps to creating your own Interactive Read Aloud:
•Select a book and a focus
•Preread the book and think about your thinking
•Select 3-7 vocabulary words or phrases to highlight
•Make purposeful stopping points and note them in your book with a sticky note
•Use gestures, eye contact, visuals and expression to support ELLs
In this video, Linda Hoyt explicitly demonstrates with students how to talk to your Thinking Partner while she shares an Interactive Read Aloud on a nonfiction book. (5 minute clip)
The value of a read aloud, whether it be interactive or not, cannot be underestimated. Children of all ages benefit from being read to regularly. I'm an advocate for daily! This TED Talk by Rebecca Bellingham speaks volumes about the benefit of reading aloud. If you have 9 1/2 minutes to spare, watch it and then share it with teachers and parents! We all need a reminder every now and then.
Research has demonstrated that the most effective read-alouds are those in which children are actively involved asking and answering questions and making predictions rather than passively listening (Dickinson, 2001).
Calkins, L. (2015). Units of study for teaching reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Hoyt, L. (2007). Interactive read-alouds. linking standards, fluency, and comprehension. Portsmouth, NH: First Hand Heinemann.
Social studies is a content area filled with domain specific vocabulary. It is generally content that is specific to the area or region where we live/teach. For example, in Texas, students learn a lot about Texas. They learn about the geography and history, economics, etc. Yes, of course they also learn about the United States too. But in Italy or Columbia, they may not be learning all about Texas or even too much about the United States. They learn about their country's geography, history and economics, etc. They explore historical figures that are important to their country. So when a student (especially in older grades) comes to America, they may be missing key parts of social studies that we expect our students to have.