We walk through our classroom doors and want to relate to our students. We want to understand their challenges, thought processes, motivations, and fears.
But how do we develop empathy for our students who may struggle with challenges we never experienced?
How can we understand their reactions, fears, and priorities if their childhood or adolescence is so incredibly different from our own or the one we’re creating for our children?
Good teachers understand that practicing and growing empathy makes us great teachers.
As a teacher-librarian, I spend most of my days answering questions, teaching research, and helping students find good books. It’s the best job in the world.
Last spring, it seemed not a day went by when I wasn’t asked about the book Thirteen Reasons Why. With the premiere of the Netflix series, parents and teachers wanted to talk about their concerns with the show. Students wanted to get their hands on the book on which the series was based. Jay Asher’s book was not the first, nor would it be the last, to address bullying and the effects it can have on victims, bystanders, and the bullies themselves.
The beauty of books, more so than television shows, is that they can help us develop empathy or allow us to see inside a character’s head for awhile. Kids who are bullied may feel a little less alone if they read about a character being bullied in a book. Kids who are bystanders or bullies may be motivated to change, even just a little, if they see themselves mirrored in a paragraph or two.
Whether this is your first, tenth, or maybe even your last year of teaching, you’re probably still settling into your classroom and getting to know your learners. Each year, a new set of students brings new challenges and opportunities. Most likely, your class has at least one English Language Learner (ELL). In fact, one out of every ten students in public schools is an English Language Learner. And, in reality, all of your students are learners of language!
Teaching Channel is here to support you by adding more new video series about teaching and learning with ELLs to our library and our ELL Deep Dive. In this first series, we take you to Banting Elementary in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where Jessica Hegg and Kris Carey co-teach in a fifth grade, dual language classroom. They open up the walls between their two rooms and share the teaching of 45 students in a class where 75% are ELLs. Watching Jessica and Kris in action, we not only see effective strategies for bridging content and language, but also a model for how two teachers collaborate and share their strengths to create an amazing learning environment.
Courtesy of the American Library Association
Banned Books Week (Sept. 24 – Sept. 30) was founded in 1982 by the American Library Association and Amnesty International to celebrate the freedom to read through highlighting banned or challenged works, and the authors who have been persecuted for writing them.
For school librarians, Banned Books Week has evolved into an awareness campaign that provides information about attempts to prevent students from accessing a variety of books and websites that could have a meaningful impact on their education.
Books featured during Banned Books Week have been scrutinized for a variety of reasons, including racist or offensive language, sexual content, or political views that challenge the establishment of the time.
- The Harry Potter series, a staple of many school classrooms and a favorite of even the most reluctant readers, offended some Christians because of its use of sorcery and witchcraft.
- Classic children’s author Roald Dahl has faced international bans of The Witches over claims of misogyny.
- Controversy stirs around William Stieg’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble for the depiction of animals wearing clothing, including pigs dressed as policemen.
The list of challenged books, and the reasons for their status, is as long and varied as the number of communities in which these books appear. Defenders of these works, including school librarians, provide several reasons why access to these books should not be restricted for our students.
50,000 words by high school graduation.
That’s the challenge English Language Learners (ELLs) face if they want to catch up to their native English-speaking classmates. That’s almost 4,000 new words a year if a student begins school as a kindergartner!
But what about the English Language Learners who don’t enroll until middle school or high school? For these students, the vocabulary challenge is even more demanding. To meet it, teachers must learn and use the most effective strategies. Over the years, I’ve tried many different approaches and techniques and compiled the following list of my top five favorite vocabulary strategies for ELLs.
Students at San Francisco International High School (SFIHS) come to us from all over the world. They come from the megalopolises of Hong Kong and Mexico City, from the deserts of Yemen and the high steppe of Mongolia. They come speaking the ancient indigenous languages of Central America, as well as the cosmopolitan slang of bustling cities of Asia, Europe, and South America.
Some students come to us alone, without parents or family to support them in their new lives in the United States. Some come after attending prestigious schools in their home countries, while others enter school for the first time in their lives the day they walk through our doors.
SFIHS has served hundreds of immigrant and refugee students over the past eight years; even though each brings their own experience from their distinct corner of the world, they have one thing in common: they come to us to learn English and to graduate from high school.
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.
Several years ago, a mentor approached me with an opportunity for which she thought I had just the skill set. It was a far stretch from my comfort zone and my knee-jerk reaction was to reply with a “thanks, but no thanks.” You see, this was at a time when I was just a little seedling of a teacher leader. I was growing, absolutely, but I was still nestled safely beneath the surface, not yet ready to push through the ground and share with the world who I am, what I know, and what I think.
Despite my reluctance, and inspired by the confidence of someone I respected immensely, I applied to be part of a cohort of teachers who were tasked with blogging about standards for learning, instructional best practices, assessment strategies, and basically anything to do with the how-to’s of being an effective practitioner. As a fourth year teacher, what I didn’t know far exceeded what I did, but I was obsessed with learning about learning and I had an insatiable appetite for books, articles, and blogs that discussed how to be a better teacher. Because of this, I accepted the position and felt mildly confident (at the time, that was a big deal) in my ability to put something out into the world that at least one person could find beneficial.
Until it came time to write my first post.
I came to writing books for kids through a very peculiar path. My journey began when my son discovered Minecraft.
According to Common Sense Media, “Minecraft is an open-ended, exploration- and creation-focused environment. Players can create items and buildings from scratch using materials they harvest from the world around them.” My son was very eager to be a part of this new phenomenon. In fact, if you asked him, he’d tell you he had to have it or he was going to die!
My wife and I put up a good fight, but our son was relentless. We ultimately caved and bought him the game. We were surprised and quite pleased with what he did with this new digital power. He built incredible structures, created cities and castles of glass, and floating giants. We’d never seen him so creative or engaged. It was fantastic.
As a sixth grade reading teacher, I’m always trying to think of ways to keep my students motivated. As a veteran teacher, I’m always trying to think of ways to stay current in my practice. This year, as a Teaching Channel Laureate, I decided that I’d experiment with blogging myself, then give my students the opportunity to become bloggers.
Earlier this year, I worked with my students to ask questions using Blooms Taxonomy in order to have deep discussions about text. My next goal was to have my students get those deep discussions into written form, without feeling as though they had to write a “paper.” Blogging seemed to be one possibility. Blogs represented a venue for my students’ writing, a way to solicit responses, and a move into a modern form of communication.
First, though, I had to learn more about blogging. Once I did, I brought my new-found knowledge into the classroom.