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

elizabeth scottElizabeth Macias, Director of Secondary Services

Scott Townsend, Associate – Secondary Services

 

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

laura donnaDonna Smith, Director of Research and Communications

Laura Jasso, Associate – Elementary Services

"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

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.

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

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Refining English Language Development: A district's journey

wilmaWilma Kozai, Director, District Support Lead

 

 

 

Before joining E.L. Achieve, I was assistant superintendent for Grandview School District. Here, I share the story of Grandview’s journey to improve its services for English learners.

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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English Language Development Materials: Five questions to answer before adopting

susana raquelSusana Dutro, Co-founder and CEO
Raquel Núñez, Director of Elementary Services

 

 

According 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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Artful Questioning: Crafting inquiry for powerful collaboration

debbi donnaDebbi Puente, Director of District Support
Donna Smith, Director of Research and Communications

 

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.

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Teaching ELD: What every educator ought to know

SusanaSusana Dutro, Co-founder and CEO

 

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.

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

SusanaSusana Dutro, Co-founder and CEO

 

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. 

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Growing English Proficiency:

structured interactionWhat's Practice Got to Do with It? 

 

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.

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Growing English Proficiency: Lines of Communication

 

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 is a whole-class routine that provides multiple opportunities for language production with a variety of partner combinations. This routine 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.

 Thoughtful planning is critical to success. The basic guidelines for this routine are: 

Make sure you have plenty of space for the class to form two lines facing each other, with some personal space on either side.Name the lines “A” and “B.”Establish a start/stop signal – a bell, musical cue, chimes, etc.Present a prompt or question and provide a model for students.                                               Line A responds to the prompt or question. Line B listens and responds to Line A appropriately (asks a question, builds on the idea, or repeats the language pattern).Signal for the students to stop talking. Present and model a prompt or question (this may be a new prompt or the same one given to Line A).Line B responds to the prompt or question. Line A listens and responds to Line B appropriately (asks a question, builds on the idea, or repeats the language pattern).Signal for students to stop talking. Direct everyone in Line A to move one person to the left. The student at the front of Line A, who is now left without a partner, moves down the center aisle, high-fiving or dancing to the opposite end of the line. New partners greet each other.Continue with as many rounds as possible, considering the amount of practice you want students to have. Consider attention span, too. Keep it snappy!

Change it up!As students gain experience with this routine, there are lots of exciting ways to change it up!

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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.  

Students form small groups by numbering off, 1–4.The teacher provides think/talk/write time for students to discuss a prompt. Depending on the performance task, they generate multiple credible responses or come to agreement on a response. Students may chart their ideas, log their summaries, etc.Using a spinner, drawing a number card, or rolling a die, the teacher randomly calls a number from 1 to 4.All students with the selected number must stand and share their group’s thinking using a public speaking voice.Mix it up! Once a number has shared, rearrange groups. Call twos together, number that group 1–4, and have them respond to another prompt. The shuffling keeps students moving and working with more classmates, which makes the routine feel like a game. 

Find more details on Numbered Heads Together and other interaction routines in the Cue Card Booklet.  

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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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Explicit English Language Instruction: A key to reading comprehension

raquelRaquel Núñez, Director of Elementary Services

 

The Lower Yukon region is an isolated area of Alaska that serves native Yupik families. Children in the villages acquire English from their elders, who are English learners themselves and speak a variation of the languag. 

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Long-term English Learners: Improving equitable access and academic rigor

paulPaul R. Hanson, Science Teacher and Department Coordinator, Liberty High School, Hillsboro, Oregon

 

“A school with high academic optimism is a collectivity in which the faculty believes it can make a difference, that students can learn, and that high academic performance can be achieved.”

 – Hoy, Tarter, & Hoy, 2006

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English Language Development: Selected readings for teachers and administrators

Debbi Puente, Director of District Support
Raquel Núñez, Director of Elementary Services 

 

Teachers and administrators are always learning – so it's always a good time to curl up with a good book, especially one that deepens your knowledge base and pedagogy.

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Building English Learners' Metalinguistic Awareness: To know about knowing

aide raquel

Aidé Vásquez-Yepez, Elementary Associate
Raquel Núñez, Director of Elementary Services

 

During language arts time, a usually quiet first-grade English learner offered his teacher a writing suggestion: “We can use ‘and’ to put those two sentences together. It would sound better.”

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Quality ELD in Dual Language Programs

elizabethElizabeth Macias, Director of Secondary Services and Bilingual Support 

 

"Researchers found that students who received focused second-language instruction made more than five times the gains of students who did not." – Goldenberg, 2013

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ELD in Dual Language Programs? Making the Case for Explicit Language Instruction

elizabethElizabeth Macias, Director of Secondary Services and Bilingual Support

 

It has long been the premise of Dual Language Education that language learning happens during meaningful interactions of different language groups within well-scaffolded lessons. 

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Constructing Meaning in the Arts

scott townsendScott Townsend, Secondary Services Team

 

“I am so glad that the arts community has gotten the message that the arts have a central and essential role in achieving the finest aspects of the common core.”

– David Coleman, president of The College Board and Common Core State Standards (CCSS) author

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Systematic ELD or Constructing Meaning: Principal tips for successful implementation

debbiDebbi Puente, Director of District Support

 

"A positive school culture is the bedrock upon which a strong school is built, and the school leader is pivotal in achieving this environment."
– How Leadership Influences Student Learning

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