My English as a Second Language (ESL) for Beginners class is a period designed to serve newly arrived immigrant students who need to learn English as quickly as possible to be able to engage in content area courses.
You see, our newcomer students are held to the same accountability standards as native English speakers. These students not only are starting to develop their English proficiency but at the same time, they are studying core content areas.
In my opinion, the best thing that can help newcomers during their first few days is to gain power. Empowering students with what they CAN do. Empowering students with simple phrases to engage in social conversations. Empower students to set measurable language and academic goals.
After a wonderful week of getting to know one another and creating a great foundation where students feel comfortable in our classroom; we moved into content and language learning!
Understanding Our Language Proficiency Levels
First things first, students need to understand how their English language proficiency is measured. We talked about the 4 parts of the test and learned how each part of the domains is important because it helps us: 1) Receive information (listening and reading) & 2) Produce information (speaking and writing).
Each student received their WIDA ACCESS scores (or initial placement scores) and placed their scores on the language development continuum (left picture below). Some students quickly realized what their strength is and what are they need to improve.
They thought it was fun to share and compare scores among themselves. This was not something I encouraged but they felt comfortable to do so.
After analyzing our process; we moved to align our scores with the CAN DO Descriptors provided by WIDA. This was a great opportunity to encourage students to read words in English. I had students making a list of cognates and trying to decipher the statements.
In order to also develop our writing skills, students created a Google slide presentation with what they CAN do and the goals we set ourselves for the next time we take the test.
Here's an example of Jorge's presentation: I Can... I Will...
Survival English for Newcomers
We also spent a couple of days going over this great recommended survival English we need to master in order to engage in content classrooms. This is a great list but I do not recommend using it as a teaching guide. I told my students that this would be something they will be learning throughout the year and they can keep it to maybe mark off as they learn it.
Going through the list was interesting and was a great chance to clear up some misconceptions or confusions about the English language. Click on the image for a printable version of the list.
Students were having so much fun learning from each other. They were helping each other and encouraging each other to read and understand the list!
Check out this video! I caught students practicing how to spell their last name!
Teaching newcomers is not easy. I love having the advantage that I can speak their language so I can clarify something they don't understand.
Here is a great research I started reading about newcomer's programs. This study shows what's working and what doesn't from newcomer centers from around the nation. It's pretty long but interesting!
Thank you for reading!
Teaching is by far the most rewarding profession! What I love the most about our profession is the opportunity we have each and every day to make a difference in our students' lives.
However, the moment I experienced yesterday, taught me how much our students have to teach us...and their lessons are what ignite passion in our profession.
We are halfway through the school year and administrators are making their required observation rounds. So I was working with my 1st-grade pull-out class when our assistant principal, Mrs. Baker, walked in. I knew she was coming to see us sometime, so I was excited to show the awesome learning happening in our classroom.
However, as excited as I was to showcase our awesomeness; I was really nervous!
Anyway, I pulled out the book we had read during class the day before: “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña, and together we had a quick discussion about the characters and setting in the story.
I reminded students that just as important as naming the characters and the settings; it is also important to understand how the character is feeling throughout the story to be able to get the message the author wants for us.
Students had already started analyzing parts of the story and brainstorming what is happening as well as analyzing how the character is feeling based on illustrations and text.
I asked for volunteers to share their work with the class. I had several students who raised their hand and wanted to share their work.
I chose Jarett to share his part of the story because the day before he had done an excellent job and I knew he had the language to share his work.
What happened next, of course, took me by surprise...Jarett froze!
Jarett was holding his work and just looking around so confused and unable to say a word! So here am I thinking, "Come on, Jarett, you know the answer!"; "Just say what you told me yesterday!"; "How do I empower him to say something.?!"; "Do I give him more time, or should I call another student?!"
It was pretty awkward for a few minutes. All students, an assistant principal, and his teacher staring at him and expecting an answer. Now, I am a huge believer in wait-time! Please check out Valentina's illustration and post above; however, I also think that after a few minutes of waiting, students on the spotlight need some sort of empowerment to be successful with their response. And in that moment I really thought that this empowerment was supposed to come from me...his teacher!
The awesomeness I want to share is how the empowerment didn't actually come from me...but from whom I least expected it.
Carlos is struggling academically right now, so in my mind, answering a high order thinking question was not going to happen for him. Oh, boy, was I wrong!!!
When Carlos noticed that his partner was struggling to answer the questions, he began to side-whisper the answer they both had thought about the day before! When Jarett heard what Carlos had said, his face lit up and began telling us all about his work.
I had Carlos stand up and share along with Jerett, and between the two of them, we heard the best presentation ever!!
What a success and powerful moment for my students but more so for me! First of all, I learned a good lesson on NOT doubting my students' abilities. Just because they are below grade level does not mean I set up limitations to what they can do! Secondly, I learned that students have a powerful ability to empower and support each other. Empowerment does not always have to come from teachers...If we provide opportunities and a comfortable environment for students, they can help each other beyond our imagination!
Our API was able to snap a picture of our students smiling and sharing their work! She was very happy to see our students empowering each other and successfully share their learning!
Please do not underestimate what our English learners are capable of doing and knowing! Having the opportunities and the possibilities, our students, regardless of grade level, CAN and WILL learn and empower others to learn.
Thank you for reading!
CELEBRATING SUCCESS AND FAILURE
Blog originally published 05/12/17 on Teacher2Teacher
When I started going to school in the United States, I was embarrassed.
My age landed me in a ninth grade class, but the highest education I’d received in Guatemala was sixth. There was too much to worry about in Guatemala: watching my younger brother and sisters, helping my family buy food, staying safe in a tumultuous country.
We immigrated to New York City to be with my grandmother because my mom wanted a better life for us. So there I was, new to this massive city, experiencing all the shock and displacement that come with being foreign in a new home and placed in classes three years beyond any I’d taken before.
Still, I loved it. All of it. It was the first time I was able to embrace school and education. I went to school in the morning. I went to satellite classes in the evenings. I spent nights surrounded by dictionaries and thesauruses to do my homework.
And as hard as it was, I did well. I learned the language in a year and a half. I tested out of my ELL classes. I completed 42 credits.
But things came apart for me right at the end on a test I couldn’t pass. American history. Go figure. I was so disappointed. I’d given everything I could. I had worked so hard over such a short period of time. But I didn’t graduate. They said, “Come back next year and try again.” I didn’t. I was done with school. It wasn’t for me.
And that was the hardest part, that it wasn’t for me. Failing at school made me question everything I believed I knew about myself. Ever since I was a little girl, I’d wanted to be a teacher. Taking care of my brother and sisters, I worked with them on their numbers and the ABCs. It was always on my heart.
My grandmother was a preschool teacher who retired from New York. I remember her telling stories after school – not what she said or what happened to whom, but the passion and joy that spread across her face as she told them.
After I dropped out, I went to work as a cashier. I needed to help my family. I did that for several years, moving from New York to North Carolina. And that was fine for a while, but a time came when it just hit me: I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do with my life.
I got the bug for education again. I found a local community college and got my GED. My GED is framed on the wall of my classroom. It was passing that test that allowed me to keep going.
I went on from there to find success in college: I got my associate’s degree, my bachelor’s and then my master’s, but a test – another test – did me in. I couldn’t pass my Praxis to become an elementary school teacher.
When I think back on that American history test and the Praxis, I feel such empathy for my students. It never got easy for me. I’m not sure it ever does for ELL students. It’s hard to build confidence, and there’s so much failure.
It never got easy for me. I’m not sure it ever does for ELL students. It’s hard to build confidence, and there’s so much failure.
But if there’s one thing that’s been true for me, it’s that belief comes when you least expect it and most need it. I found my first job in a classroom as a teacher’s assistant in Angie Power’s first grade class. I spent eight years with Angie, and it was exactly where I was meant to be. Because of the time I spent under her wings, learning from her right alongside those first graders, I knew I could do it when it came time to walk out of her classroom and into my own.
After all my starts and stops, the ups and downs, I’d found a place to learn, and I’d found someone who believed in me. I walked out of Angie’s class ready, for the first time, to become what I was meant to be.
They made me the educator I am today, an educator who understands the fears and anxieties of my students and their parents. They made me an educator who will be for my students what I didn’t always have: someone to believe in them. They made me an educator who’s still got so much to give.
And I’m thankful to everyone who supported me. To my mom and my family, to my grandmother, to Angie for teaching me right alongside those first-graders, to my cooperating teacher Sarah Collins, to all who’ve shaped my path: Thank you. Let’s never stop believing in each other and in our profession, appreciating what we get to do and cherishing the opportunity we have to inspire our students to learn, dream and succeed.
Thank you for reading!