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 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: