On Saturday morning, a group of us from the Membership Portal met via Zoom. I was so excited to see people! The group of us, from various parts of the country, first just took some time to check in and see how everyone is doing after the first week of distance teaching for most of us. Three themes arose from that conversation.
1. We are all still trying to track down all of our students and figure out what distance learning means for students without internet and with a very different kind of ESL support.
2. We are all valuing relationships and communication with students, families, and each other over everything else.
3. We are proud of our schools and how quickly everyone came together to make the most of a very difficult situation. Forced innovation is HARD and our schools are rising to the occasion.
With that being said, we then shared ideas for how we are trying to engage our beginning English learners in this process. While...
Years ago (1993-2001), I taught in an innovative school that was K-3 and multi-age with 80% of the students in the ESL program and 100% within the school system's designation of poverty level. I loved my school and I especially loved my teaching team (many of whom are still my friends today). Our principal encouraged us to think outside the box. We had so much freedom and the students thrived. One of the creative solutions from that school was the creation of a teacher position called the "Teacher Without Walls". See, we had funding for more teachers, but no space to create more classrooms. The Teachers Without Walls joined forces with the large ESL team and we traveled from classroom to classroom, pushing in, setting up small group rotations, coordinating efforts.
Our current times reminded me of this experience. We always said, there's opportunity in chaos. We are all now teachers without walls. So, how do we make the...
The other day, I was going through some old flash drives trying to find a file about "look fors" (future blog) and I came across this video I used for my National Board Early Childhood Generalist renewal. This is a video from around 2006 with me teaching a lesson on using visualization as a reading comprehension strategy in second grade.
This class had some English learners that were all intermediate to advanced English proficiency. Most of the class was reading "on grade level" but struggling a bit to get deeper in comprehension of what they read.
What jumped out to me, watching this video 14 years later, was how some of what we teach today about making content accessible and comprehensible to ALL students hasn't changed much. What HAS changed is my understanding of how critical interaction and discourse are in the classroom. This was a wonderful class, but looking back I can see how this lesson could have been much more engaging for all...
I know I have been focused on newcomers and beginning English learners for a while now. There is so much to consider. So many conversations we need to have. So little time. Teaching English learners is HUGE. This week, I stay with the theme and I promise next week I will get back to best practices with something you can do with vocabulary (word level) at any age level.
Last week I wrote about grading and the idea that students with beginning English proficiency can only reasonably access a portion of the lesson content with supports. I know, it's interesting in theory, but what does it look like in a classroom? Today I will share one example of what I would do on any given day and my thinking behind it. I don't claim that my way is the best or only way, because honestly it's a day to day dance of how much students can handle based on many factors such as time, background knowledge, the complexity of the content, and....well....the...
**WARNING: This blog is chock full of my own (pretty confident) opinions. :-) I welcome any and all conversation and varying opinions on this topic.**
Since returning to a classroom environment on a more regular basis, I've been reminded how fast the content is delivered and the pace of new terms, new concepts, and new activities. Having not spoken Spanish, biology, geometry, or theater in quite some time, I know my brain's tired at the end of the day!
Last week's blog about newcomers prompted a flurry of follow-up questions about grading. This topic comes up a lot!
Last week I talked about newcomers getting about 20% of what happens in the classroom and a bit more with supports and a slower pace. This isn't a research based number. This is what I've seen...
As we settle into second semester, a new batch of content teachers are working with groups of beginning English learners in their classes. It's an uncomfortable feeling for both teachers and the students. What are the expectations? What are the processes in this class? What's most important?
Research and experience tells us that our beginning English learners need time, exposure, experiences, and direct language instruction. BUT....the reality is we don't have extended time. We have one semester to conquer this content. All of these students need something a little different, yet there is only one you. Where do you start??
While I have no magic bullet, here's where I recommend all content teachers begin their quest to make their content accessible and their students successful.
1. Relationships - Smile. Let your students know you care. Be honest. Tell them you aren't exactly sure what's best but, together you...