In this podcast for MyEdExpert, Suzy Pepper Rollins interviews me about some basic ELL issues including questions about the stages of language acquisition, the difference between social and academic language, and ways that teachers can support ELLs at different stages in their classrooms. You can download this podcast onto your Smartphone and listen while you drive to work! Enjoy!
Finding the right balance between freedom and constraints is a challenge for all teachers. Deciding how much to model, what project elements to require, and what to leave open to student choice can be daunting for teachers. In my personal experience, some limitations really do lead to more freedom. Constraints can actually spur creativity.
In the past few years, I have had the opportunity to provide professional development for many English as a Second Language (ESL)1 teachers. These specialists are now expected to take on more and more roles and be skilled in areas well beyond the classroom.
Finding the focal point for language and content instruction requires teachers to conduct ongoing experiments and closely observe how students are using language. When students struggle to explain a concept, teachers have to discern if they actually understand the concept but need language support, or if they still need support with the concept itself.
Last week I participated in a marimba camp with David Alderdice and Arlyn Deva of Embodying Rhythm. What I learned during the week of afternoon marimba lessons was much broader than the melody and chord lines to each of the three songs we worked on; I learned the importance of listening, following the pulse, and playing within the musical framework or grid,
Sometimes when I walk into a classroom, students have such a sense of focus and purpose, that they don’t even look up or notice me. I recently had the opportunity to observe a second grade science class that epitomized that kind of classroom. Located in a small, rural school district in a Title One school with over 80% English Language Learners, this room buzzed with excitement and interest. Students were working at round tables asking each other questions, sharing information, or writing and reading independently. At first, I didn’t even notice the teacher in the room. When I found her, she was kneeling next to a student discussing his research and asking probing questions about his next steps.
When I returned to the U.S. in 2013 after teaching ESL for three years at the Bavarian International School in Germany, I began to hear the term close reading in every school I consulted with. I noticed many new books with close reading in the title; I heard teachers tell students, “Let’s do a close reading of this text”; and I saw sessions about close reading at every conference I attended. I felt completely out of the loop and wondered what I’d missed while I was out of the country. So I began to read about close reading, talk to my colleagues about the process, analyze the Common Core State Standards, and attend workshops on the topic.
“Mom, I got a 96 on the math test. What does that mean?” I had to laugh at my daughter’s innocent reaction to traditional grades and percentages after 11 years of schooling with alternative forms of feedback. Entering a traditional U.S. public school in Grade 10 gave her a bit of culture shock. Traditional quizzes, end of unit tests, homework for points, and percentage based grading policies were completely foreign to her.
I’m not a gamer. I’ve seen kids and peers play Nintendo, X-box, and Candy Crush, but these electronic games have never enticed me. I’d much rather play a board game like Clue, a word game like Scrabble, or a card game like Rummy. I spend enough time using the computer and my phone for work and personal connections that I’ve never wanted to add another reason to be in front of a screen.
Laughter echoed through the halls of the school as I walked toward the Fluency Fast Advanced Spanish class in Denver, Colorado earlier this month. My excitement for participating in this class grew with each step, as did my concerns that my intermediate Spanish level would not be sufficient. I knew the class was designed to give non-native Spanish teachers more confidence and fluency, as well as experience with the TPRS® language teaching method. Although I am not a Spanish teacher, I trusted the instructor, Jason Fritze, and the method enough to take on the challenge.
Teacher effectiveness rubrics, teacher evaluation systems, multiple books and many professional development workshops attempt to answer the question: What makes an effective teacher? The recent push in the US to evaluate teachers based on strict rubrics and students’ results on standardized test scores has challenged me to think differently about the answers to this question.
Reviewing the table of questions and answers inspired the teacher to make changes in his class that will hopefully make a significant positive impact on students’ ability to express their ideas clearly and justify their thinking. What do the questions and answers in your classroom reveal about students’ thinking and understanding?