Practice Makes Fluent

practice makes fluentMelissa Bowen, Administrator and Certified Secondary CM Presenter, Salinas Union High School District
Guest blogger

Multiple and consistent opportunities for our English learners to practice the target language – not just with writing and reading but with speaking, too – are so important. This year our instructional coaching team decided to shadow an English learner student for the entire school day, and it was one of the saddest things I have ever witnessed.

The student I shadowed, along with many others, literally only had seconds of structured student talk time for the entire day.

Our English learners were literally sitting in each classroom in complete silence!

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Assets-Based Introduction to Language Acquisition

Jan Bautista, District Coach TSA and Certified Elementary ELD Presenter,
San Francisco Unified School District
Guest bloggerGA 3 6 BEI W4 L2a

When we meet some of our multilingual learners in the 6th grade, they have had a few years with the stigma of being an English learner and being "stuck" in an ELD class. At San Francisco Unified, we have been embracing the work of Zaretta Hammond's Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain and strive to spend the first two weeks of the school year building relationships with our students and getting to know them to help them become unstuck.

The Art of Getting Along Elementary Systematic ELD Instructional Unit is definitely a great way to start this. We also make plenty of time for community circles, using translation support from peers and Google to allow students the safety of expressing themselves as they are.

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Reading Students' Invisible Subtitles

pencil poemOften, English learners disappear in their classrooms and don't feel connected to their peers or teachers. Sometimes they are mislabeled as being disengaged or uncaring. Frequently, they are carrying burdens and hurt we don't know about. These barriers can be crippling – but with skillful teaching strategies, they can be transformed.

As a new high school teacher, Grace Dearborn found out that when she reacted to challenging situations with frustration or anger, it rarely helped. A few years into teaching, she realized that using compassion to teach her high school students school-appropriate behavior created a major shift in classroom dynamics. She started to see happier and more engaged students.   

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220 Hits

Spark A-ha Moments: Teaching Context Clues to ELs

Confident and engaged readers manage a bunch of strategies as they read. We contribute to English learners’ reading comprehension and vocabulary growth by explicitly talking about these strategies and modeling what they look like in action. We model how to make connections between the text and our previous knowledge, explain how we visualize events as we read, and explain how to use evidence from the text to predict what is to come. We identify when we are confused by the text and show how rereading helps us revise our understanding. We model how to draw on language knowledge to determine the meaning of words within a phrase, sentence, and passage. And the focus of this blog: we model how to recognize and interpret context clues.

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647 Hits

Paraprofessionals Serving English Learners: Optimizing Our System of Support

Paraprofessional Training 2018For a district fortunate enough to have paraprofessionals on its team, they can have a crucial influence in the success of English learners. Because they often meet with students in small groups or one on one, paraprofessionals have a unique opportunity to focus their attention on specific students. They can pinpoint challenges, dig into places where students need help, and build caring relationships that bolster student confidence and increase a sense of belonging. 

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823 Hits

Incremental Revolution: A Constructing Meaning Success Story

Donna Doherty blog author photoDonna Doherty, Eureka City Schools
guest blogger

Three years ago ... I did not know how to write a simple essay. It would take me about two weeks, and now I can write an essay without really needing any help. This progress was achieved by practicing a lot and writing big essays to prepare me for college. I realized that it’s not as bad as what I thought it would be, to be writing essays all the time. –Mayra 

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1490 Hits

Learning Walks: A Portal to Strengthening Practice

Refining instructional practice is hard work. It requires a positive learning environment – a safe place to take risks. It also requires real-time models to mark, watch, and study how others operate in the classroom, coupled with opportunities to investigate our professional practices and move us closer to instruction that promotes a thriving and productive learning environment for students.

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1652 Hits

Secondary Systematic ELD Instructional Units: A Teacher’s Perspective

SysELDSecUnit1Cover 72dpi 1To engage successfully in coursework taught in English, secondary English learners must operate from a competent second-language base. Many adolescent ELs are LTELs, or long-term English learners. They have spent most or all of their educational careers in American schools and are comfortable using English in most settings. On the surface, these students do not seem to need specific language instruction. However, their verbal fluency often masks their need to gain a deeper understanding of English.

This is where the Secondary Systematic ELD Instructional Units come into play. They have been carefully designed to offer language instruction that is interactive, student centered, standards aligned, and specific to students’ identified proficiency level.

Six units are planned for three proficiency levels – New to English/Beginning, Expanding/Intermediate, and Bridging/Advanced. The goal of Unit 1: Pathways to Success is to learn language to interpret a range of concepts related to success. English learners learn about and explain habits of success, discuss challenges that prevent people from meeting goals, and observe ways to develop habits of success.

I was fortunate to have the chance to talk with Duyen My Tong, a Secondary Systematic ELD teacher who taught the unit last fall, about her work, the classroom, and how students responded to the new unit. 

Welcome, Duyen! Today we are going to talk about the SysELD Pathways to Success Expanding Unit.

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1674 Hits

Increasing English Learners’ Academic Language: Gradual release in content-area classes

How long do English learners need extensive language support? When should you reduce the language support?

Teachers who include explicit language support in their content instruction may grapple with when and how to reduce scaffolds and foster independence. Our goal is for students to accurately, flexibly, and confidently express their content understanding. Therefore, to begin to answer these questions, we must first identify the reasons for providing explicit language instruction and how we create effective language support. 

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English Learners and the Department of Education: Equity, access, and advocacy

"Every child should be able to receive the very best that our country has to offer, regardless of his or her circumstances of birth." - Kevin Kumashiro, 2017

What is the role of the U.S. Department of Education in ensuring equity? 

While public education is largely guided by state and local agencies, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) plays an undeniable role in influencing public education. We have an obligation to understand how federal policies impact our student populations.

blog doe chart.FINAL

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1785 Hits

Refining English Language Development: A district's journey

wilmaWilma Kozai, Director; former assistant superintendent, Grandview School District
guest blogger

 Every school district faces daunting challenges in meeting diverse students’ needs. Some of these struggles are unique, but many are shared by multiple districts. Telling our stories of implementing new initiatives is a way for us to build our collective understanding of the practices and systems that help or hinder our progress towards achieving our goals.

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2057 Hits

English Language Development Materials: Five questions to answer before adopting

ccssAccording to Title III requirements, regardless of the type of program in which English learners are enrolled, they must receive instruction in English at their level of English proficiency, as well as meaningful access to grade-level academic content (Castañeda v. Pickard, 1981). School systems are compelled to structure the day to ensure English learners receive explicit language instruction for these two related, but distinct, purposes:

  • Integrated ELD to provide meaningful access to language arts (and other content) instruction. Grade-level content learning is in the foreground; it is the purpose for instruction – and while students’ language development needs must inform planning, the instructional goal is achieving the demands of grade-level content.
  • Dedicated ELD to grow students’ proficiency in English. Proficiency-level language learning is in the foreground; it is the purpose for instruction – and while grade-level literacy needs must inform planning, the instructional goal is developing English language.
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2963 Hits

Artful Questioning: Crafting inquiry for powerful collaboration

Collaboration has become a buzzword in education. Like many educational innovations, collaboration can be a vague concept that does not conjure up specific practices or actions. Yet when clearly understood and purposefully implemented, collaboration is a powerful aspect of ongoing, site-based professional development. So what are the key components of effective collaboration?

Clear purpose – People understand the reason for each specific meeting, what the outcome will be, and their role and responsibility within the group. Reasons for meeting can include planning for the next week or unit, or even outlining the next semester. The purpose can be analyzing student work for trends that will inform instructional next steps. Or it can be focused on solving a complex problem, such as: What are we doing to serve this particular group of students? Is this the right intervention and how do we know? How can team (or site) assets be leveraged to make the best use of resources for meeting student needs?

Trust  The collaborative team has a safe place for honest conversation to grapple with ideas and share struggles and successes without fear of judgment.

Reflective practices  Successful collaboration rests on a group’s investment in continual improvement. This depends on owning our own viewpoints and actions. We use self-reflection – both individual and collective – to assess our success and learning, and to own our role in the outcomes we are getting. When done well, collaboration results in positive forward movement.

One way to lead collaborative meetings while encouraging reflective practice is through the art of questioning. How we frame questions can bolster – or hinder – forward movement. That is, artful questioning leads to constructive reflection on our practice.

blog artful questioning chart1

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2119 Hits

Teaching ELD: What every educator ought to know

There’s an exciting convergence moving our collective thinking forward. With new ELD standards expanding on and building from the work of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and other content standards, we are encouraged – obligated! – to think about how we equip English learners with the language they need for all aspects of their academic day.

We are evolving beyond the limited notion of ‘sheltering’ instruction to considering how we integrate ELD into content instruction so students learn the language needed for subject-matter demands. And rather than thinking of ELD as a time to teach basic vocabulary and grammar – or relying solely on integrated ELD to teach English – the field is acknowledging that English learners deserve a daily designated ELD block that builds foundational knowledge of English into and through the content.

blueprint graphicThis refined approach to providing language support for English learners aligns beautifully with E.L. Achieve’s Blueprint for Serving English Learners Throughout the School Day. Our research-based and federally compliant model illustrates how school systems can structure the school day to ensure English learners receive explicit language instruction for these two related, but distinct, purposes:

  • Integrated English language development within content instruction (Constructing Meaning), and
  • Designated ELD (Systematic ELD) to grow students’ proficiency in English.
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9252 Hits

Explicit Language Instruction: Why does it matter if students understand how English works?

While the Common Core English Language Arts Standards do not prescribe specific instructional approaches, there are several key shifts that have significant implications for classroom practice. 

  • With a focus on reading increasingly complex texts, students must learn to respond to questions based not on factual recall, but rather on the relationships among ideas and between different texts, and on their interpretation of those texts.
  • Learning to use evidence from text and their own experiences, students must articulate their thinking to demonstrate a depth of understanding, research skills, and analysis.
  • The emphasis on gaining knowledge through higher-order thinking skills means that providing a brief written response or selecting a correct answer from a list of options is no longer sufficient to demonstrate learning.

Each of these shifts has a critical point in common: a lot of language is needed to accomplish the work. To successfully meet academic demands, English learners need an internalized knowledge of written and spoken English – the ability to confidently and adroitly make skillful language choices to express their thinking.

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3011 Hits

Growing English Proficiency, Pt. 1

What's practice got to do with it? structured interaction

In this series, we discuss Student Interaction Routines, which are task-based strategies that help ensure each student has abundant strategic practice using new language for meaningful purposes. Developing a robust wheelhouse of interaction routines enhances student engagement and increases productive talk time.

To become confident and agile English language users, English learners need an abundance of oral practice to process new learning, think through their ideas, clarify concepts, and use newly taught academic language to express their understanding.

Unfortunately, research has shown that English learners are often passive classroom observers (Ramirez, 1992; Foster and Ohta, 2005). When they do contribute, their comments are typically limited to brief utterances in response to teacher questions. The teacher asks a question, the student responds with a single word or short phrase, and the teacher moves on to the next student. Lingard, Hayes, and Mills (2003) found that in classrooms with higher numbers of students living in poverty, teachers talk more and students talk less. English language learners in many classrooms are asked easier questions or no questions at all and thus rarely have to talk in the classroom (Guan Eng Ho, 2005). 

That leaves little opportunity for English learners to internalize newly taught language and concepts, deepen understanding, express thinking, and grow ideas.

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2821 Hits

Growing English Proficiency, Pt. 2

In this series, we discuss Student Interaction Routines, which are task-based strategies that help ensure each student has abundant strategic practice using new language for meaningful purposes. Developing a robust wheelhouse of interaction routines enhances student engagement and increases productive talk time.

Lines of Communication 

lines of communicationThis a whole-class routine that provides multiple opportunities for language production with a variety of partner combinations. It can be structured to practice asking and answering questions, building on each other’s ideas, or reviewing tricky language patterns. Students of all ages enjoy the opportunity to talk to multiple classmates about interesting topics. It is perfect for the You Do Together portion of the lesson.

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1777 Hits

Growing English Proficiency: Talking Stick

 

In this series, we discuss Student Interaction Routines, which are task-based strategies that help ensure each student has abundant strategic practice using new language for meaningful purposes. Developing a robust wheelhouse of interaction routines enhances student engagement and increases productive talk time. 

English learners build their skill and adroitness with language when they have lots of “mileage on the tongue.” Talking Stick is a structured routine that provides ample opportunities for students to develop interaction skills while using the target language numerous times in a session. This is a great choice when students need to build fluency or are struggling with high leverage language. Straightforward, easy to set up, and effective at any grade level, this routine ensures that all students actively speak and listen – so every voice is heard.

In the simplest version of this routine, students sit in groups of 3–4 and are ready to practice taught language together. The guidelines are: 

  • Speak only when holding the talking stick.
  • Listen to the person with the talking stick.
  • Take turns by passing the talking stick in a clockwise direction.
  • Signal as a group when done.

Discuss and model how to be a good listener, and hold students accountable for using appropriate body language to demonstrate they are really listening. Develop routines for distributing and collecting the talking sticks and for forming groups.

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Growing English Proficiency: Numbered Heads Together

 

In this series, we discuss Student Interaction Routines, which are task-based strategies that help ensure each student has abundant strategic practice using new language for meaningful purposes. Developing a robust wheelhouse of interaction routines enhances student engagement and increases productive talk time.

Numbered Heads Together is a small-group interaction routine in which students practice negotiating language by generating multiple responses to a prompt. In their groups, students share ideas, listen to one another’s ideas, and share out what they talked about. This activity can be used to generate multiple responses or to collaboratively agree on a common response.

The beauty of this routine is that it increases accountability for all students. They feel positive peer pressure to participate and represent their team’s best thinking. This motivates students to listen closely, ask questions, and explain their reasoning clearly. 

As with other interaction routines, model the activity and language structures. Consider using Discussion Cards for Pose a Question, Build on an Idea, and/or Challenge an Idea to support students as they collaborate on their responses.  

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1856 Hits

English Learner Achievement: It's not just what you do, but also what you believe

elizabeth raquelElizabeth Macías, Director of Secondary Services
Raquel Núñez, Director of Elementary Services

 

There is little disagreement about some of the challenges English learners face in meeting the content and language demands of grade-level standards.

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