Teaching Channel and the San Francisco Unified School District have partnered to share practices for engaging and supporting all students, especially English Language Learners (ELLs). In the first part of this series, we visited two elementary classrooms to watch teachers put the district’s recommended five essential practices into action (For more on these practices, read Lisa Kwong’s blog post).
In the second part of the series, we visit San Francisco International High School, a small school that serves recently arrived immigrant youth and is a member of the Internationals Network for Public Schools. There is so much to learn about teaching ELLs, especially newcomers, from stepping inside the classrooms in this high school.
Teaching English Language Learners (ELLs) is important, rewarding, and often challenging work. In fact, teaching in general is all three of those things as well! So, while it’s true that teaching practices that are great for ELLs are great for all students, many educators and districts with growing numbers of ELLs are focusing their professional learning and resource creation on supporting ELLs. In that spirit, Teaching Channel is bringing you new a set of interactive videos in Tch Video Lounge, developed in partnership with Oakland Unified School District, so that you and your colleagues can hone in on key shifts, practices, and strategies for teaching and learning with ELLs.
The footage for these new videos comes from a series we produced with Oakland last year, Content Conversations: Strategies for ELLs. In that series, we visited the classrooms of elementary and high school teachers taking on the challenge of integrating language instruction for their ELLs during content instruction. There was so much to learn from these educators and so much amazing footage that was left on the cutting room floor! Now, you get to see and discuss some of that unedited footage in these eight new interactive videos. Here are the topics we can explore together.
Co-teaching has recently become a hot new buzzword in education; something at which veteran teachers might normally roll their eyes as they wait for the pendulum of best practices to swing back the other way.
After spending more than a decade serving English Language Learners, it’s a bandwagon that I’ve wholeheartedly jumped on. I’ve spent the last six years co-teaching my ELL students in a variety of settings — from self-contained and sheltered classrooms with push-in support, to a resource role where I pushed into several K-2 grade level classrooms.
My push-in support typically was scheduled during a balanced literacy block for an hour each day. As a resource teacher, I collaborated with my K-2 classroom teachers to provide literacy and language support during guided reading and Writer’s Workshop. As we became more comfortable as co-teaching partners, we expanded our work to include Problem Based Learning units in science and social studies, and technology integration with in-flipping and Google Tools.
It may feel a little unusual to think that the more your students talk in class, the more they might learn. But that is just what we, researchers and professors at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, have found to be true. Constructive conversation and meaningful interaction throughout a lesson not only develop students’ crucial communication skills, but also give them a richer understanding of the content.
Although new education standards in college and career readiness highlight collaboration and communication as critical skills, this type of peer-to-peer interaction is actually quite rare in the classroom. While common activities such as whole class discussions, jigsaws, and think-pair-shares can produce the appearance of constructive interactions, they often don’t provide enough substantial opportunities for students to engage in back-and-forth dialog, especially for ESL students.
So what can we do to make sure our students are getting the opportunities to learn deeply about a specific topic AND hone their communication skills?
The life of an instructional coach is a balancing act. On the one hand, you are still a teacher. You still plan lessons, they’re just called agendas. You still assess the effectiveness of your instruction, but now refer to the process as follow-up professional development sessions. On the other hand, you are a part of the instructional leadership team with the assistant principals and principal of the school. You have “crossed over” to the other side, to use teacher parlance.
This straddling of two perspectives can help you craft initiatives for great teaching that work for both teachers and the instructional leadership team. The beauty of this duality is that it allows teachers and leaders to work together to determine what the initiatives will be. The improvement of teaching is best realized when teachers are involved in the conversation, rather than summoned to the table. Here are four ways I’ve worked with teachers and administrators to create room for teacher voice and collaboration:
Being able to talk and express your thoughts clearly is vital in life. Yet, too many students are graduating without sufficient experience with group discussions, or arguing their ideas effectively, and they are finding themselves unprepared for the communication demands of college and their careers.
How can we prepare our students for these rigors?
To lay a better foundation for this learning, we can do a few things: we can value oral language development, we can value communication of ideas over grammatical correctness, and we can value oral language as a powerful way to learn and remember content.
In this new series, created in partnership with Oakland Unified School District, we delve into three classrooms where English Language Learners (ELLs) are engaged in academic conversations. From talk moves to participation protocols, these teachers share clear structures that encourage students to talk and learn from each other.
Inspired by Jeff Zweirs and Marie Crawford’s book Academic Conversations, teachers at OUSD are working on building the oral language skills of all students.
It’s clear that academic discussions benefit all students, with particular benefits for ELLs. As Nicole Knight, OUSD’s Executive Director of the English Language Learner and Multilingual Achievement Office says in her blog, “Academic discussion helps all students to develop their reasoning, understand multiple perspectives, and deepen understanding of content.”
Watching students engage in academic conversations can seem mystifying: how did the students get to the point where they could independently hold these types of conversations? By hearing the teachers break down their structures and routines, the process becomes much more understandable.
One of the many things I love about working for Oakland, California schools is serving a community rich in diversity of culture and language. At the same time, it is no easy task ensuring that our English Language Learners (ELLs) are meeting grade-level content standards while mastering a second language.
Much of ELL instruction has been focused on 30-60 minutes of English Language Development (ELD) each day. Taken alone, this daily block of language instruction, isolated from any grade-level content, is not going to get us the results our students need and deserve. Rather, we need to see language-rich instruction throughout the day, embedded in and woven through the content areas.