In this module we studied some of the issues and concerns that are related to basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) and cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP), how to evaluate the speaking and listening skills of our students, some of the supports that can be given when working with subject-specific content, how to scaffold our lessons to make them more accessible for our ELL students, and different cooperative tasks that can be used in the classroom to encourage collaboration among our students. From this module there were a few items that stood for me for my learning/teaching of ELLs. The first one was the difference between the type of language that our students will be exposed to in their daily lives.
image source: http://www.witslanguageschool.com/Portals/0/Images/Bics_4.jpg
When learning a new language is studied, the learner will typically develop basic interpersonal communication (BIC) first since this is deeply rooted in the every day communication that we are exposed to. This type of communication is context based and uses many high frequency words. Typically people become fluent in BIC within a few years but it will take them much longer to develop cognitive academic language. Cognitive academic language proficiency requires the ELL to learn to talk, read and write about abstract concepts while using low frequency vocabulary that might be abstract to them. This will require them to not only develop a new type of vocabulary but it will require the ELL to think differently. As a high school teacher, it is important that I remember that I am expecting students to respond to questions that contain terms like “explain”, “discuss”, “hypothesize”, “generate”, “draw conclusions”, etc which are typically only used in an academic setting. If I am going to have these expectations, then it is important that I expose and model these types of processes for my students. Many of my fluent English speaking students have not mastered these expectation/vocabulary demands and it is even more abstract for our ELL students.
image source: https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/ell_02_bics_calp.jpg
The second artifact from this module is the type of learning goals that we have in our classrooms. In addition to learning the curriculum our ELL students are expected to be picking up the language at the same time. Therefore we should develop meaningful goals for them to support not only the curriculum content but also their progression in their language acquisition. These learning objectives should allow the ELL students to be exposed to, practice, and then be assessed on their language skills. These learning objectives should
Image source: http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/language-objectives-key-effective-content-area-instruction-english-learners
When developing these objectives it is key to consider the language functions that are related to the topic of the lesson. Consider what the students will be doing, will they be describing? explaining? comparing?. WIDA English Language Proficiency (ELP) standards is a great resource for helping develop these objectives. Here is a screen shot of a table that could be considered when making these language objectives.
The last artifact that I am taking away from this module is the importance of collaborative activities in the development of oral communication skills with our ELL students. Since many student go through a silent phase they may need additional supports when they are not ready to vocalize their thoughts or have not established a comfort level to speak in front of a large group of their peers. There are many different collaborative actives that you can include in your classroom including think-pair-share, round robins, talk moves, adaptive socratic seminars, and group brainstorming. One that I would like to use in my classroom is called 1-3-6 protocol since it has a built in gradual build of group size and collaboration. This protocol requires the students to develop their own ideas before sharing with their peers. After posing a question/discussion point students will develop their own ideas or responses (1 person). Next they share their work with 2 other peers (3 people in group). This promotes them to use their speaking and listening skills within a small group. This smaller group will result in a higher chance of language learner to practice their oral skills. When you are ready to move on to larger groups you can combine 2 groups (6 people in a group) to further the discussion and deepening the ideas of the students. Once this has been completed the student who may have not been comfortable with sharing their ideas or did not know how to formulate their ideas will have had multiple opportunities to build on their academic vocabulary.
Image from video titled "Collaborative Group Work with the 1-3-6 Protocol" (link https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/1-3-6-protocol)
In this section of the course we looked at how to properly welcome new students and their families to our school and classrooms, how we can structure our lessons and classroom to respect the needs of our students, and how we can support the learning of our English learners. There were several points throughout this unit that I felt I had been presented with useful information. I have included just a few of these pieces below.
I connected with this short story titled "Why are they laughing at me?", since a situation like this has happened in my classroom and I reacted just like the teacher. In the story Tony (a new immigrant student) has joined the math class and was not familiar with the expectations of the school and as a result he stood to give an answer to a posed question. As a teacher we must remember that each student that comes into our classroom brings their own culture, routines, expectations, language, and beliefs. It is our role to develop a community where they feel that they can express themselves in whatever manner they feel is appropriate and is respectful of everyone around them. When this occurred in my classroom, it caught me off guard but I encouraged the rest of the class to stand (if they wanted to) to answer any posed questions or add a comment to a discussion. Therefore the new student would not feel like their identity was being challenged.
The second artifact from this module that I connected with was the idea of identity texts. These are pieces of work that you can have your students complete individually or in a small group that will allow them to express themselves using their mother tongue. Later, the student(s) can work on translating their work into English. By doing this they will be able to clearly express their cognitive ability without added stress of trying to find the correct words or phrases to get their point across. A student who my not have any proficiency in English might feel empowered when his/her work is respected and acknowledged by his/her peers with constructive feedback. There are many examples of these works on the web but here are a few links to some:
Thornwood Public School: http://schools.peelschools.org/1363/Pages/default.aspx/Dual/
The Multiliteracy Project: http://www.multiliteracies.ca/
ELL Students Speak for Themselves: http://www.curriculum.org/secretariat/files/ELLidentityTexts.pdf
Empowering English Learners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zu-6V3N5RHI
Student Duel Language Books Exercise: http://www.rahatnaqvi.ca/wordpress/student-dual-language-books-exercise/
The last artifact that I would like to highlight from this module was created by one of my colleagues (Ashley Huggins) for one of her discussion posts titled "Graphic Organizer- Process for Assessing Language Skills in ELL".
Her graphic organizer does a wonderful job of outlining the initial assessments that we administer when a new student joins our school as outlined in the document "STEP (Steps to English Proficiency) Initial Language Assessment User Guide" developed by EduGains (link to document). It is our responsibility as educators to ensure that we respect the skills and identities of our students in everything we do. This includes identifying the student's language proficiency when they arrive at our school. Correctly identifying where the ELL student requires additional supports will assist us in structuring the best program to ensure that they are able to close the linguistic gap between themselves and their peers. Upon completing this initial assessment, regular check-ins can be completed to confirm that the student is progressing in their language acquisition.
ESL Part 1 is off to a good start and I have now completed my first full week in the course. Thus far we have discussed some of the theoretical foundations for working with English language learners. I have had many English learners in my classroom over the past few years, each with their own strengths and supports needed. I have done my best to support these learners with the skills that I have but I am not an expert nor do I expect to be at the end of this course. Now that I have finished the first module, I have a few things that I can take away as resources/reflections on my learning thus far. One of the major components to this first module was to produce a KWL table based on what we Know about ELL learners, Want to learn about ELL learners and have Learnt about ELL learners. I have included my chart (still a draft as it will change throughout the course) for you to take a look at. I have decided to share this table with you since it shows a snap shot of where I am at in my learning and how much I have learnt in only 1 week.
One aspect that I wanted to focus on during my readings for this module was how people of different ages pick up a language and how much a native language should be incorporated into the classroom learning. Other than the course readings, I found the article “Why is it Easier for a Child to Learn a New Language Than an Adult?” by Sharon Perkins ( Link to Article) to be a great summary to why younger children might pick up a language faster than an adolescent or adult. A few points to consider about this are that younger children are more willing to make mistakes and not worry as much about their self-esteem, their brains are still developing rather quickly, and they are able to mimic the correct sounds. Also younger children are exposed to a lot of feedback and repetition from their parents when learning this new language.
Also during this module I prepared as short animated video (Link to Video) to address some useful principles for teaching ELL learners.
Making this video was beneficial for my understanding of how to work with ELL students and my development as a teacher. It required me to slow down and think critically about what is important and what I would want to share with anyone trying to find out more about teaching ELL students. I am pleased with the outcome of this video.