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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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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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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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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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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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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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 language. 

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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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4188 Hits

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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3546 Hits

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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English Language Instruction: Improving expertise through focused reflection

karinaKarina Bruzzese, Associate – District Support Lead

 

Growth and improvement are what schools are about, for both students and teachers.

  

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English Learner Instruction: The power of acceleration

ellenEllen Levy, Lead Associate for Secondary Constructing Meaning

 

For many years, at least fifteen percent of freshmen at Liberty High School in Hillsboro, Oregon, failed their science class. An alarming and predictable number of students did not receive credit for a required course, year in and year out – until 2010.

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How Systematic ELD Nurtures Success: Growing critical skills

aideAidé Vásquez Yepez, Elementary Services

 

I had the opportunity to visit a classroom as the teacher and students were just delving into the first of the SysELD Instructional Units, and again as they were wrapping up the second one.

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2419 Hits

Explicit English Language Support for CCSS Tasks

ellenEllen Levy, Lead Associate for Secondary Constructing Meaning

 

With the arrival of the Common Core State Standards comes a new generation of assessments. For years, multiple-choice questions have dominated the landscape of standardized tests. In the new CCSS paradigm, students will be required to produce complex written performance tasks to demonstrate understanding. 

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