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Strategies, methods, and resources that will help meet the needs of English language learners (ELLs).
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Let us know if you are on Twitter also.
I wanted to share a blog that I follow. Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/. I like that Larry posts multiple websites relevant to current events, holidays, celebrations, and other miscellaneous and useful websites. These websites facilitate planning, provide background information, are educational in nature, or just resourceful when navigating the web. Because Mr. Ferlazzo teaches English language learners he always evaluates the sites that he references according to useability by ELLs.
I would like to know what blogs or websites you find helpful and informative.
A couple of weeks ago my cousin passed away, and I traveled to Georgia to be with my family for the funeral. My cousin’s death was published in the local and state news papers and online. I was previously aware of the interactive side of news (being able to comment on an article) but had never commented on any articles or been on the receiving end of those comments. People who new my cousin or our family left notes of sympathy, love, and encouragement after the obituary. I thought this was a wonderful use of the interactive web. However, there were also comments left from readers of the news story (separate from the obituary). Some of the comments and opinions left were uncensored as far as how they may impact and affect the family of the deceased. I saw this as the less attractive side of the interactive web.
Since then, I have been pondering how to blog about my new experience with the interactive web and what I learned from it. First, I think the ability to comment on the news can be thought provoking and beneficial. The comments of sympathy, love, and encouragement were overwhelming and brought joy and warmth to our family. However, I don’t think that it is a place where the random reader should write whatever they want just because they can. Maybe this falls under web etiquette.
So, why did I blog about this and what does it have to do with English language learners? I think that this is another form of authentic writing that can be used with our students. Standard 2 of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) standards for the 21st-Century Learner states that “Learners use skills, resources, and tools to draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.” As members of a democratic society, it is essential that our students know how to think critically and make informed decisions. It is also important to teach them how to participate ethnically and productively (AASL standard 3). The interactive news websites can be a tool we use to facilitate the teaching of these skills.
I was working with a teacher several weeks ago on various math strategies when an idea struck me. I was talking about the coordinate-graph vocabulary strategy that my colleague Laura Zoromski created (and I blogged about in an earlier post) because his students were struggling with vocabulary. I mentioned word walls to him and he indicated that he used them. That was when the idea hit – add an additional component to the wall. If a student proves that he/she not only knows the definition of a word, but can use it and explain it to others, put their name under the word on the word wall. That way, if a student has a question about that word, they know that they can ask the teacher or one of the students listed there. It would also provide a way to see what words most of your students truly own and those you need to reinforce. I think if you paired it with the coordinate-graph strategy, students will become much for effective in self-evaluating their level of knowledge – which is the direction I think we need to be heading.
I have been working with a teacher who has an 8th grade Language Arts class that has quite a few ELL and SPED students. She is struggling to find a way to meet the diverse needs in the class, work with students in small groups, and maintain classroom management. I talked to this teacher about coming in and co-teaching with her.
I met with the teacher to plan out the lesson and decide what she wanted the focus to be. She has been working on determining the subject and predicate in sentences and is moving into the different types of sentences. She also wanted to be able to meet with a small group of kids. We decided to set up stations. She would create groups based on some classroom data. That way when a group came to her, she would be able work on specific skills that that group was missing. The four stations that we decided on were: teacher station, creating sentences finding the subject and predicate, types of sentences foldable, and a parts of speech bingo. I would create the foldable, provide the game, and an introduction to types of sentences. She would create the stations, the subject and predicate station, and her teacher station materials.
Before class began, we arranged the desks in the class and put the materials at the appropriate stations. When the students came in, we told them the station that they needed to sit at. We did this because we knew that this group would struggle with movement after the instructions. We started the lesson with an introduction to types of sentences. I created a powerpoint (you can view or download it at this address: http://www.slideboom.com/presentations/32470/Types-of-Sentences ). to introduce the topic and explain the foldable.
After the introduction, we explained the task at each station. At the subject/predicate station, students had to write one sentence based on a picture and then highlight the subject and predicate in each sentence. This sheet would be used as a pre-assessment for the teacher at her station (the one right after the subject/predicate station).
We got some good data from this station. One entire group neglected to add a subject to any sentence. This allowed the teacher to know exactly where she needed to begin her instruction – even further back than she had anticipated.
At the foldable station, students made a hotdog fold and cut out four sections. Each section would be used to describe one of the types of sentences. They would write a definition, a sample sentence, and a picture illustrating that picture. They will use this foldable as a study guide for future assignments.
With our short classes (only 45 minutes), we ran out of time very quickly. Students did not get to finish the foldable. We decided to create an overhead and have them finish it as a warm-up. We would provide the definition and they would add the sample question and picture. This would provide a quick assessment for the teacher to see if they comprehended the various types at a very simple level.
At our debriefing, we talked about how great a job the students did, how surprised she was that a group of students didn’t add subjects to any of their sentences, how she adjusted her instruction to that, the fact that students were upset when they couldn’t finish their foldable (how many students do you know who complain when they can’t finish their work?!?), and how to build in the time to finish the foldable during a later class.
All in all, the kids did a great job. I think that this might be a strategy that will be successful with this class.
On a different note, the more foldables that I make, the more excited I am about this strategy and using it with students.
The longer I teach, the more I realize that activating my students’ background knowledge about a topic is critical. I find this especially true with ELL students. There are lots of ways to find out what your students already know about a topic and what misconceptions they have. This is also incredibly important – what do students not understand.
There are several ways that I try and get at my students’ knowledge beyond KWL charts or having a whole class discussion.
Brain dump – where students draw a picture, give an example, or write down everything that they know about a topic or vocabulary words or a process, etc. I might have students do this as a warm-up activity, an exit ticket, or at the beginning of a unit. If it is an exit ticket, I would assign it before we started a new unit or topic. That way I can collect some information that informs my instruction in the unit. There are many off-shoots or extensions for this activity. After students have written, you can group them using a Kagan structure (like HandUp, StandUp, PairUp) and have them share their thinking (maybe using RallyRobin). This allows them to hear about many sets of knowledge. You need to keep in mind that some students might share some incorrect information. This is why you will probably want to collect their writing – so that you can address these.
What is the topic? – You can use this strategy when you are introducing a new topic. You write vocabulary words on the board (or overhead, etc) and based on the words, the students must decide what you will be focusing on. This allows you to see if your students have any frame of reference for the topic.
What words don’t fit? – This activity is similar to the previous, except the students are told the topic and they must decide which words written on the board (or overhead) should be included in the unit and which words should be discarded.
My colleague, Laura Zoromski, has created a great building background activity that she uses in her math class.coordianate-graph-explanation Click on this link to view an example and the explanation.
If you have a specific set of vocabulary words that you will be teaching, you can have the students pre-assess their familiarity with the words. You can create a basic chart that lists the word and options on a knowledge continuum. vocabulary-checklist Click on this link to view an example. After you have taught the unit, have students re-evaluate where they fall on the continuum.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of strategies, but these are some simple, quick, and useful ways to help your students activate their background knowledge.
Almost a month ago, I signed my classes up at http://www.epals.com. It is a website that matches classrooms from around the world that are looking to work on similar projects together. I had my students get parental permission and started e-mailing teachers in other countries that had students of a similar age. I finally had a class respond over the weekend and my students e-mailed students in Italy today. My students are incredibly excited and enthused about communicating with students from around the world.
Here is how it works. After you get parent permission (the site wants it for students under the age of 13, I made all of my students get one), you create an account for each student. There are several options on the types of accounts that you can create for them – those are explained at the site. After you have created the accounts, you get to select the amount of monitoring that you would like to have over each account. I selected the highest level of monitoring, which means that each e-mail has to be approved for delivery both incoming and outgoing. My students grumbled a little bit about this, but when I explained why this was necessary, they understood. It was also a selling point with parents. Students can access their account anywhere they have access to the internet. I have signed up for computer lab time, our ePals are e-mailing us from their homes.
Even after our first day e-mailing, I can see the types of conversations that we will have about letter writing, use of slang, how to write questions, spelling, and editing on the computer. I am excited to have them start receiving responses.
Eventually, I want them to share the books that they are reading and the literature that their ePals are reading. This might lead into a shared project – the sky’s the limit!