Register for the pre-conference institute on March 12th, Planning for the Success of ELLs in Academic Content Classes: What Works? Dive into the "how" of designing engaging lessons for English learners at all levels of proficiency. Walk away with ready- to- use materials and resources for your own learning or for coaching others. See you there!
Q: How do you turn around an out- of- control class?
Strategy #1: Get to know your students
It's never too late. In my experience, getting to know my students has helped me to both avoid classroom management issues as well as deal with them better because I understood the root of the behavior. In my early years as a teacher, my mentor told me that kids don't care what you know until they know that you care. Most teachers have heard this at some point in their careers, but it's an important reminder. So, what are some ways to connect with students? Here are some ideas:
- Greet students at the door every day.
- Ask students about their family, pets, soccer game, chess tournament, etc...
- Use icebreakers and journals
- Take note of changes in student behavior and ask them about it.
Visit the article, Getting to Know Your ELLs: Six Steps for Success on the Colorín Colorado website for more ideas.
Strategy #2: Avoid power struggles
The old adage, "Pick your battles," holds true when it comes to both raising my own children as well as classroom management. Reacting to every situation will result in focusing too much on negative behavior. When you do need to address a disruption or negative behavior, be strategic in your approach. Choose the best time and place. Calling a student out in front of peers will, most often, result in a power struggle. After school, the end of class, or an open office are more private but open places to have a conversation. Provide students with a way to save face. Embarrassing a student in front of peers will surely result in a power struggle.
Strategy #3: Harness the power of peer influence
When students realize that collectively, students in the class prefer order and clear expectations, teachers can begin to take back control of an out- of- control class. Danny Uyechi, math teacher , and I used this strategy at the start of the school year and revisited it often throughout the year. This is a word cloud that our students created based on their responses to these questions.
Q: How do you promote speaking with English language learners?
Creating intentional, structured interactions where students use language purposefully and in meaningful ways engages students and increases students' academic and language proficiency.
Make participation an expectation and honor every language. When I co-taught a math class and had a student who was reluctant to speak, we worked diligently to create a supportive environment where all student voices were important and everyone had the opportunity to share their voice. During one lesson, students were asked to look at a graph and describe it. We knew that every student could do this, but for some, it would be a struggle to do this in English. My co-teacher and I wanted to model the expectation that all voices must be honored-- no matter which language is used. So, we told students that they were going to describe the graph in any language they chose. Some students were taking a world language class while others were monolingual and some were emerging bilinguals. Students described the graph in Russian while others described in English and Spanish. Emerging bilingual students felt honored and monolingual or world language students appreciated what their classmates were able to do. It set the stage for appreciating what all kids can do, modeled expectations for participation and gave every student a voice.
Even though we had set the expectations and begun creating a supportive environment, I had a student who was still reluctant to take risks. So, we worked with his team to support and reward him when he participated. I gave him and his team this sheet so that we could tally every time he spoke in class. I recommend also translating the categories and some of the phrases into the student's home language as well. When he used a phrase, either I or a teammate gave him a tally. Initially, I gave him the goal of speaking once per class period. As he gained more confidence, we increased the expectation. He quickly found using English a rewarding experience and built the confidence to take risks.
Asking critical thinking questions gets to stretch their thinking and apply the language they are using. To support for students at different language proficiency levels, consider providing a word bank and tiered sentence frames. I used Larry Ferlazzo's and Katie Hull Sypnieski's Navigating the Common Core with English Language Learners and adapted their sentence frames resource for math. Download the original resource here. Find the math sentence frames I adapted here.
Providing students with tools to support and extend their learning allows teachers to hold high expectations for the participation of all students. Creating an environment where taking risks is supported accelerates the academic achievement and language learning for students.
Q: How can you best differentiate instruction for an English learner in a "mainstream" class?
Getting to know your students and their interests is a great way to begin differentiating for your students. I love to use this student profile template. I ask my students to complete it and share it with me. Feel free to download and use it. Here are some additional templates and resources. They are for students with a disability, but I like them because there are several languages and you can adapt them for English learners.
You're off to a good start by getting to know your students. Next, think about what students CAN DO! By getting to know your students and knowing their language levels, you're on the right track. This Colorín Colorado interview with Sean Pang explains a little more.
When planning lessons that involve reading, there are a few strategies that can work well:
1. Use visuals. Add context to the lesson by providing graphic organizers, photos, and pictures.
2. The Say Something Strategy is excellent for getting students to use oral language, check comprehension and interact with the text. Find a complete description of the activity along with ready- to- use templates here.
3. Use technology. There are several Google Chrome extensions that can assist students with text- to-speech. Text- to- speech will read text on any website. TLDR will shorten and summarize text. When used appropriately, it can be a useful and helpful tool. Read and Write for Chrome provides in-text dictionaries and text-to-speech. Finally, Announcify reads any website. When using these technological tools, just be sure that they are in addition to and alongside of instructional strategies to make content comprehensible.
When planning lessons that require students to listen to academic language, here are some strategies to consider:
1. Use visuals. I can't stress it enough. Incorporate visuals and real objects wherever you can. Google Images is a wonderful tool for this. Just make sure that you preview first and search with safe search on.
2. Get students listening to each other more than the teacher. When students are actively listening to their classmates, as well as asking and answering questions, they hear the content in multiple ways and are exposed to the academic vocabulary repeatedly.
3. Identify and highlight key concepts and vocabulary. This helps students to focus their listening.
4. Providing guided or cloze notes, and anticipation guides for some students can be helpful with reading and listening. This is a support that students may need to varying degrees. It is important to remove scaffolds as students gain proficiency; however, when the language task is beyond a student's current proficiency level, this strategy helps by providing the necessary support for equitable access to rigorous content.
The CAL Go-To Strategies are a comprehensive guide to strategies for English learners. It can be overwhelming at first. Start with the matrix on page 19 and locate strategies from there. Locate the language domain and student proficiency level. The matrix will suggest strategies for students at each level in each domain. As always, remember that the purpose of the strategies is to provide equitable access to rigorous content. It is important to challenge students' higher order thinking skills while providing just the right language load and facilitating deep understanding of the content through oral language development.
Q: What is the best advice for co-teaching arrangements?
Laying the groundwork for co-teaching is the most important steps you can take to keep a healthy, successful co-teaching partnership. I created these critical conversations for co-teachers with questions for discussion for use in Douglas County Schools in Colorado. I found that starting my co-teaching relationships out with an open and honest conversation set us on the right path. I've seen these questions explored through agreements as well. I've seen it created as a 3- column table with the questions on the left and teacher responses in two separate columns. This way, it becomes more of an agreement document. No matter what, it is important to learn everything from each others' pet peeves to teaching styles.
I currently work in a district where it was the norm to have just one ELD/ ESL teacher per school. Now that our population is growing, we are adding ELD/ ESL teachers to schools and where our teachers were working solo they now find themselves having to coordinate with another ELD/ ESL teacher. Some of our teachers had taught solo for twenty years before adding another teacher to their programming. A few years ago, I joined a (fabulously talented, good friend) teacher who had run her own solo program for a long time. When she invited me to join her team, I jumped at the chance. One of the first things she did for our partnership ,makes me thankful to this day. She opened the conversation with me by being vulnerable, open and honest. By opening the conversation and setting norms for collaboration, we have been able to maintain our friendship and collaboration. I'm thankful that she was so willing to put herself out there. Of course, I had to create another tool for ELD/ ESL teachers who are working together to have a conversation and set norms. Check it out here!
Q: What is resilience and how can teachers promote it in the classroom?
Welcome, EdWeek blog readers! Below, you'll find practical resources mentioned in Larry Ferlazzo's blog.
Discuss resilience with parents and students alike. Using communication tools such as Talking Points are very helpful because you can communicate in multiple languages with just one message. Here are my go-to books and resources for teaching resilience, building a growth mindset and teaching about neuroplasticity.
Thanks for stopping by and I hope that you've found some useful resources and ideas for partnering with parents and teaching about resilience.
Our Preconvention Institute (PK-12 English Language Learners 101- What Works?) is designed to engage both new and veteran teachers. Come see us on Tuesday and walk away with practical strategies for yourself and your colleagues. You will leave feeling energized and ready to advocate for your English learners. Click here to register!