This school year, my English for Beginners class is quite different than last year's class. This year I have a lot more newcomers <1 year in the USA than I did last school year.
Just in case you didn't know, this is only my second year teaching HS ESL and I'm loving it!
One of the challenges I am facing this school year is having so many different levels of English proficiency in one class. This is a challenge when planning one whole group lessons and not all your students are at the same level on the proficiency continuum.
My biggest group is in the entering stages of the continuum (Level 1), a couple in the beginning stages (Level 2), and another group of 5 students are in the developing stages (Level 3).
Of course providing whole group instruction would not provide all with the needed support to grow linguistically. I've tried a couple of lessons but I still had to end up diving students in the corresponding groups to work with students at their level.
So what I started doing is working in small groups! I started assigning them readings and projects as groups and they work with peers completing the assignment if they are not in a group with me. These assignments could be assigned by language domain or a project of choice.
I created this Wakelet with resources they can use to help them practice each language domain.
"Before planning any academic content, it is important to get to know our students and try to put ourselves in their shoes." - Sarah Ottow
August 26th, 2019 was the first day of school for students in my county. What an exciting day to finally meet all our new freshman students and to see returning students. I was more so thrilled to finally meet our 2019-2020 newcomer students who enrolled in the USA school system for the very first time.
I am not sure how a high school schedule is set up in other counties/states, but at our school, we offer only one period class strictly for English as a Second Language (ESL) services. The rest of our period classes are inclusion classes where our ESL services are provided at the same time core instruction is provided. This means that for one period students come to my classroom and for the other three periods you'll find me in different classrooms throughout the building supporting English learners. The only class period we offer in our ESL classroom is the English for Beginners course.
This course is designed with newcomer English learners in mind. In this class period, newcomers receive the foundations of the English language as well as any cultural views and lessons students may need to begin a successful and strong year in the United States.
To get an idea of what my day looks like, check out my daily schedule here!
Grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals.
When I went through high school as a newcomer student, my mother was there. When I put myself through college, my mother was also there. She witnessed my struggles, my failures, and hardships. So every time we talk about my accomplishments, she asks: "But how did you do it?" "Where did you get the strength from to finish your goal?" My answer was always: "I don't know, I just felt like I had to keep going." Today I know that it was because of grit!
Character Lab has a great post on grit that states that "Grit is a critical strength of most people who are successful."
It also gives some examples of what grit looks like:
In Boosting Achievement we learn that SIFE and refugee students, "embody grit and perseverance." We know this to be true because their experiences and hardships required them to be strong and committed to surviving in their environment.
"Many SIFE come to America with enough pain to fill a lifetime of sadness and despair." ~ Tan Huynh
Our responsibility as their educator is to guide them in using that strength found within them and apply it toward school and life goals.
Dr. Duckworth reminds us that grit "requires deep interest" - This means that our students need to be engaged in what they are interested in even if they fail. We have to provide opportunities for them to take risk and try.
Carol provides us with a great lesson she learned with her student, Hamsa. Watch this video where he shows perseverance in doing what he knows he can do and is interested about.
Ideas for Encouraging Curiosity, Creativity, and Global Thinking
Boosting Achievement provides a great list of ideas and opportunities to encourage our SIFE students to engage in topics of interest:
For more ideas and for details about given ideas on page #43 and #44, please visit bit.ly/SalvaBLog
Great video about meeting the needs of refugee students:
Older SIFE students may appear to have a wider educational gap, but FEAR NOT. According to Boosting Achievement, SIFE students come with a sense of urgency, and often have a deeper appreciation for educational OPPORTUNITIES!!
They already have the most important predictor for success: PASSION. PERSISTENCE. MOTIVATION. Just provide the opportunities and watch them soar!!
Thank you for reading!
Part One: Working with Students Who are SIFE
I don't know about you, but I want my students to remember me as their teacher for a life time. However, in order for this to happen, I need to make sure I strengthen my relationship with each and every one of my students. And relationship building starts by learning students background.
Let me start by emphasizing how important it is to know our students' background because each category of language learners is different and each requires a unique level of support. Here is an article I found very relevant to this topic: Good Teachers Embrace Their Students' Cultural Background. Here I learned that as teachers, we tend to use our own experiences when planning the lessons we teach, but then students cannot create connections because is not relevant for them. However, when we know students' background, their story, their struggles, their past, we would lean toward activities and materials that will support students in making connections.
Boosting Achievement does a fantastic job highlighting and providing awareness of the many different categories our language learners' background. Just take a close look at the chart below.
The point I want to bring up with this chart is that not all language learners in your class fall under one category. Our students come to us with a story, with a personal and unique background, and in order for them to be successful, they must receive the appropriate support.
Take my experience as a language learner high school student for example. When I first came to the United States my teacher needed to know that I was a 'Newcomer/Recent Immigrant' and a 'SIFE' student. Not only was I learning the language but I had also missed a lot of school years in my country which put me far behind classmates my age. When interested in supporting L1 (native language) it is imperative for teachers to know the student's educational background. And to find this information could be as simple as asking the parent. Build a relationship with parents and students to provide what is best for the student to be successful in school and in life.
I believe that ALL students need our support. However, I want you to think about English language learners who are struggling academically. Why? The answer is simple: Achievement Gap! I strongly believe that the achievement gap exists among our ELs because we are not targeting and/or providing the appropriate support.
Tips to support newcomers/SIFE students:
Boosting achievement does the following recommendations for SIFEs' needs:
I also have a few recommendations for newcomer students: here.
Watch the video below by Teaching Channel to see how newcomers and SIFE students interact through the use centers to accelerate reading development. This video clearly shows that our newcomers/SIFEs have the ability and "know how to" when the opportunities as presented.
Part I has a heavy focus on Cultural Responsive Teaching. This is super important and a very hot topic in education right now. I believe is due to the growing diversity found among students in our classrooms. Part of being culturally responsive is building a relationship with our students, so last week, our focus was on getting to know our students and building strong relationships by valuing our students' stories. However, I see it as taking a step further...When we know our students' background and care about who they are, it'll reflect in what our classrooms look like. What I mean is that knowing your students will make you want to provide a place where they feel safe, comfortable, and familiar to them. Making sure our classroom decor mirrors our students' culture and background.
Boosting achievement provides great tips such as desk arrangements, and labeling school items in multiple languages. Here is another article I found helpful on providing classroom setup strategies. It's imperative to consider these tips that facilitate learning ultimately optimizing language learning and academic achievement.
Carol shares a fascinating story of a SIFE student who had to advocate for himself when he noticed he was not getting what he needed. I believe it is necessary for our students, Kindergarten - 12th grade, be able to advocate for themselves. Students will at one point in their education encounter educators or school personnel who will instead of supporting students are obstacles for students' success. That is the point when students need to stand for what they believe it is best for themselves. I found this link very helpful on tips and steps to follow on teaching students to self- advocate.
Osama is now my hero! He taught me that as an educator, there should be a level of 'shame' when I don't take the time to listen to students' needs and advocate on their behalf.
You see, as an educator, you can't be both; You either are supportive or an obstacle. Which are you? If you are reading this, is because you care about your students and want to support them. Thank you, #eduHero!
Accessing SIFEs' English Proficiency and Background Knowledge
This section really made think about ways I can gather my newcomers' background information to better serve them. In Cabarrus County, we are very fortunate to have the ELLevation platform that houses our ELs' demographic information as well as their language proficiency levels. This is a system with easily accessible data as well as targeted instructional language and content strategies.
However, I noticed that there is no place for us to flag if our student is a refugee student. While discussing his topic with our county's ESL counselor, I realized that the only way for teachers to know if a student is SIFE is to share it with the teacher. But what if the student moves to another school? Shouldn't this information be available as part of their demographic information for new teachers' easy access?
This thought is just one of the thoughts Boosting Achievement is making me realize as a read through.
Another idea I have after reading the "Refugee-Focused Intake Process" is to create a spreadsheet with some of the components Texas uses for their "Intake/Pre - Assessment Form".
I am fascinated with the three focused components: Affective, Linguistic, and Cognitive.
As an ESL teacher, my focused needs to go beyond whether students speak English or not. But also know their cognitive skills levels in math and reading, and/or issues that could affect them psychologically, mentally or emotionally.
I can't wait to see what else I learn in the coming chapters. I am definitely betting my teaching pedagogy with Boosting Achievement!!
If you are interested in reading my previous blogs on Boosting Achievement book club notes, just follow this link!
Don't forget to check you Carol's blog. Here is her blog for Boosting Achievement Week 2
Thank you for reading!
“...their hardships, like any challenges, bring perspective. Their personal stories may impact them with certain strength for learning as well.”
This quote is core of what I am about. A personal story, especially a story filled with struggles and hardships beyond our imagination, can be the foundation for our students’ success.
As educators, we must be open-minded about the possibilities for SIFE students and begin to see their culture and language as an asset not as a deficit. Being SIFE doesn’t make them any inferior.
Now, Carol advised and modeled that just being aware of students’ stories and previous hardships, is not enough; we must also act, and to me, acting is finding ways to provide SIFE students the opportunities they need to be successful.
This thought led me to gather a few resources I found helpful on this topic:
The Immigrant Learning Center offered two wonderful webinars on July 11th and 12th. Follow this link to access presentations and other resources.
Access Newcomer Tool Kit provided by the U.S. Department of Education: Who are our newcomers;
Welcoming newcomers to a safe and thriving school environment; How do we support newcomers’ social and emotional needs; Establishing partnerships with parents.
Education Connection also offered interactive 3-part webinar series and provided resources on supporting newcomers: You must sign up to access their resources but its totally FREE!
We are learning so much from this book club already. Many of us have been challenged to do some things we never thought we would do. I, for example, learned how to create a 3D avatar and posted a bookSnap! Check it out!
Don't forget to check out Carol Salva's blog for more resources: Boosting Achievement Week 1
If you have the book and would like to go over the questions we used during week one for discussion, here they are! Thanks to Katie Toppel (@Toppel_ELD) for providing the questions.
All tweets under #ELLchat_BKclub are here so you haven't missed any:
Thank you for reading!
Notes and reflections posted here are about the newly released book;
Boosting Achievement: Reaching Students with Interrupted or Minimal Education by:
Carol Salva (@MsSalvaC) and Anna Matis (@AnnaTeachesELLs).
There are several reasons why I am interested in this book:
Now, I started this post because I felt like I had to do more than just read this fabulous book. I needed a place to log and share my thoughts and notes about all the wonderful points gained from reading. Besides, the tweet below not only spoke volumes to me but it gave me the conviction I needed to find ways to better interact with my reading.
Carol Salva has a great blog that provides all the resources that go along with the 5 week virtual book study. Please check it out for weekly updates!
There is also a @bookSnapsREAL Gallery through Padlet to curate all the #ELLchat_BKclub #bookSnaps and a Flipgrid (platform where videos with responses are archived) created by Carlota Holder (@Carlota_Holder)
Blog Post: Boosting Achievement Book Study - Week 1
Blog Post: Boosting Achievement Book Study - Week 2
Blog Post: Boosting Achievement Book Study - Week 3
Blog Post: Boosting Achievement Book Study - Week 4
Blog Post: Boosting Achievement Book Study - Week 5
Thank you for reading!