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!
I believe without a doubt that the core of my students’ success relies on parent engagement and parent-teacher partnerships. So, in order to foster this success, I gather my students’ families quarterly and share relevant information with them in order to keep them engaged and well informed about their children’s success. I create a culture in my school that fosters an environment where parents feel welcomed and valued.
However, this year I started a new approach with our ESL families; I started our school year providing our parents the opportunity and the platform to have their voices heard. Our students' parents know our students best! They know their weaknesses and strengths much better than we do. Their dreams and aspirations for their children should be what drives our desire to do what is best for our students.
I made this simple "My Wish..." poster and gave each parent a sticky-note. We asked parents to write down their wish and desire for their children's school year and/future. Our focus was not necessarily with an academic approach, parents were also encouraged to think about their personal and social desires for their children.
These are some of our parents' wishes for their children:
In January, we met with our parents again...this time our focus was mid-year grades. I asked our parents to bring with them their children's report card and any intervention documentation they had received from their teacher. As we discussed the grading process and the desired academic target at each grade level, I could sense that our parents were feeling discouraged due to their child's current level and grades.
I didn't want our parents to leave our meeting discouraged so we switched gears and started talking about students' strengths. I gave then the mantra I stand for, "highlighting strengths to make weaknesses disappear". I reassured parents that even though we had some work to do...we could work together to support students to get where they need to get. They are not there YET...but then can be!
Each parent received a sentence strip to write their child's strengths. I asked them to think about what they love doing, what they like spending their time doing, what their favorite subject is, what they want to be when they grow up...etc.
These are some of our students' strengths highlighted by their parents
This was an amazing opportunity for parents to turn and talk with their children and ask them about what they love doing (if they didn't know). Students were excited to share their likes and what they were very good at. Parents' reactions were priceless! They realized there are was so much good and strength in their child. Once they started focusing on strengths, they realized that their weaknesses (academic, that is) were slowly disappearing.
We took every sentence strip and attached them together to create a chain. We talked about how we need to focus on strengths and make them stronger like a chain to strengthen our students' future! Our parents were excited and more receptive to ways they can support their children at home to help them achieve the required grade level.
Again, in order to support our students' success, we need to foster an environment where our parents feel part of the process and have an opportunity to voice their opinion about the children WE are educating at school. And don't forget Jimmy Casas' wise words: "UNLEASHING TRUE POTENTIAL BEGINS BY REMOVING THE LABELS THAT HOLD CHILDREN HOSTAGE."
Thank you for reading!