Part III - Accelerating Language Development
Ever since I began taking TESOL courses I have been intrigued with the concept of Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Promoting Academic Success for ESL Students: Understanding Second Language Acquisition for School was the first book, I read (and still own) about this topic. In this book I learned that "SLA is best developed through contextual, meaningful activities that focus on language use combined with guidance along the way from teachers." Even though linguistic experts have been sharing this theory for several years, I am shocked at the misunderstanding and misconceptions among educators regarding SLA. As educators, we must have a clear understanding of how our language learners acquire language. Boosting Achievement calls this understanding, "Best practices" - Foundation of lessons we plan to provide effective opportunities for language development. Read more about this topic and learn about using the Prism Model.
Factors in Second Language Acquisition
Boosting Achievement targets two very important factors I see needing improvement in our schools. In my opinion, if we improve in these two areas, we could see achievement gaps closing among our language learners.
The reason these two factors are important is that they can make a good teacher into a GREAT teacher. This goes back to the questions in the image above; "Does your classroom cover content or cultivate curiosity?"
A Good Teacher:
The Washington Post shared an article providing a pretty accurate list of qualities great teachers share. However, it doesn't highlight some of the teaching strategies and methods good teachers use. For example sight word list drills, amazing anchor charts, and content.
I do believe sight words are important; “sight words account for up to 75% of the words used in beginning children’s printed material”, read this post on Why are Sight Words Important.
I also believe how imperative anchor charts are in the classroom! Read more about why in this article: Anchor Charts: Making Thinking Visible. I also understand that as an educator, you are responsible for teaching "CONTENT". Believe me, I get it. I even use the High Noon Intervention program that provides word lists and word patterns for students to learn in my class.
However, what I don't get is the need to kill students with word drills and memorizing a ton of words in isolation. What I don't get is the need to post gorgeous anchor charts already pre-made when students can't even read them. What I don't get is how we can just be happy sharing the content we are excited and knowledgeable about without engaging students' curiosity. If you do all this...GOOD! You are a GOOD teacher. You are doing your job. You are helping students "learn". However, when it comes to supporting English language learners, students need more than just "learn". Students need to acquire language. Students need YOU to be GREAT!
A Great Teacher:
A great teacher gains understanding regarding the concepts mentioned above, AND will also apply them as a foundation for lesson planning to provide language learners with the opportunities they need to acquire the targeted language. A great teacher will have all the qualities mentioned above and will also do the strategies mention above; however, "Comprehensible Input" and "Affective Filter" are visible. A great teacher understands that in order for students to acquire the language there needs to have "a focus on providing many opportunities for oral and written interaction rather than intensely focusing on vocabulary lists and finer points of grammar." (pg. 50)
Great teachers also make it possible to provide a safe and comfortable environment where students feel free to make mistakes while learning the language.
A great teacher also allows students to engage in creating anchor charts to they CAN read it when they need to refer to it. Remember, anchor charts are resources for students, not pretty wall paper for your classrooms. Here is a great post by Valentina Gonzalez about strategies to support ELs. One of her strategies is the proper use of anchor charts with our language learners.
Here are some examples of my students engaging in text and word-work and you be the judge; Am I a good teacher or a great teacher?!? Then, reflect on your profession. Are you a good or a GREAT teacher?!?
I am so grateful to see Boosting Achievement setting the expectation needed of all language and content teachers. Just like we have high expectations for our students, we need to have high expectations of ourselves. Let's continue learning and improving our pedagogy to better serve our language learners.
Thank you for reading!
If you know me, you'd know how much I LOVE my job. Teaching, is to me, more than a job, or a profession...teaching to me is a calling...my passion! That's why every summer for the past four years, I've signed up to work in my county's Summer Reading Camp.
This camp is only 3-4 weeks long and it's right in between summer break so it's just perfect. I get a break right after the end of the school year and a break before the beginning of the next school year.
Families receive an invitation to register for Summer Reading Camp after EOG. Not all students are invited and/or admitted to camp. Our camp is mainly to support students who are not far below grade level in reading. Also for 3rd-grade students who did not pass the End of Grade Testing and did not meet the targeted reading level. Transportation and meals are provided to all students. Here's an idea of what their day looks like:
So basically students have rotation centers: Art integration, Science, Reading Rotation, and Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI). Each rotation is about 45 minutes. We take our group to lunch and recess. We also have a block for read-aloud, iReady (computer time), and brain breaks/bathroom breaks. It sounds confusing, but I promise it works out perfectly!
My assignment has always been LLI. Leveled Literacy Intervention system is an intensive, small-group, supplementary literacy intervention for students who find reading and writing difficult.
I find this system fascinating because it provides a teachers guide and teaching ideas to make reading and writing very interactive promoting student engagement. Not to mention it also provides strong support for English language learning students.
Small group instruction for reading and writing is by far my strength! So, even though I appreciate having a guided lesson plan for each book we read, I always end up adding my own twist.
Learning about each other: In order to establish a safe and comfortable environment for all my students, we started with an activity where students learned about each other's likes. I placed a poster board sheet in the middle of the table and explained how we are different and similar in many ways. I wrote our group number in the middle and our names branching out from the center. I modeled writing around my name things I like doing or anything I like about me. I modeled sounding out words how it was ok if words were misspelled. Students immediately started brainstorming ideas and adding them to their name. The ending results were amazing!
Why do this activity?!?
Of course, first things first, I wanted to get to know my new students! But this activity turned out to be a great formative assessment. My intentions were to grasp an idea of their writing, reading, speaking, and listening skills. This was a very low anxiety activity where students felt comfortable making mistakes and taking risks in using English.
Without my students knowing I was proving them with a scaffolding approach to write complete sentences about themselves. The Writing Process: A Scaffolding Approach is a process to organize writing to meet the needs of your struggling readers and writers.
Vowel Sounds, Word Patterns, and Word-List:
For students who are struggling with vowel sound discrimination, reading grade level text is a torture. Being able to recognize the sound a vowel or a team vowel makes is foundational for readers. Kindergarten through 2nd grade are the grades where students need to master recognizing team vowels sounds and their patterns for written purposes. A student in 3rd grade on should be reading to learn and not having to struggle with phonic foundations.
Now for ELL students to achieve high levels of fluency in English, they need to receive sufficient amounts of oral and written input as well as opportunities to express themselves orally and/or in writing.
After reading a story, students get a list of random words taken from the story read and they are to use all of the words to make sentences. The sentences are about what happened in the text so they are familiar with the vocabulary. They are also allowed to look in the text to make sentences. These students here made 5 different sentences! They take turns circling the words needed for each sentence. The final product looks very colorful and they feel very accomplished!
Writing about text:
Here is a great link for tips for using prewriting strategies.
Here is another document with great ideas for prewriting strategies.
I had such a great time this summer learning along with my students. I am already looking forward to next summer camp!
Thank you for reading!