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.