Strategies for ELL Learners

The article I chose for today gives multiple strategies for effectively teaching ELL students in the classroom, along with a video. There were five strategies listed, but out of these the three that I thought were the most influential were:

  1. Knowing the students’ background knowledge. For instance, a history teacher cannot assume that all students already know all about the United States’s history that would have been taught in previous grades, because some students could have possibly just moved here. Knowing where each student comes from and being able to maneuver lessons to fit their needs is important when teaching ELL students.
  2. Purposeful Grouping: This strategy reminded me a lot of grouping low-achieving learners with high-achieving learners. The article says that it is most beneficial to ELL learners to use heterogenous grouping, to increase their interaction with fluent english speakers. If ELL students are only working with other ELL students, it will be much harder to increase their language proficiency and confidence speaking the language.
  3. Using Scaffolding: The point of scaffolding is increasing autonomy over time. Types of scaffolding the article references are graphic organizers, visual aids, and peer help, and over time such aids can be taken away to increase such autonomy.


Why is a Flexible Classroom Necessary for Student Success?

The first article for today’s reading focused on the importance of differentiation in the classroom, which is basically teaching in a way that acknowledges student differences and caters to the students’ individual as well as group needs. The idea of flexibility thus presents itself in the form of the teacher’s flexibility for noticing and catering to such differences, rather than teaching in a “one size fits all” way. The article touched a lot on the fact that in today’s classroom, there is more and more diversity–learning disabilities, poverty, and language barriers are just a few examples for why students are needing extra attention and differentiation. When a teacher is understanding that her students learn in different ways, the students will better flourish and succeed as their own individual needs are being fulfilled. This article also brought up an interesting point that teachers should avoid grouping students always with those of the same level, but should instead try to group students by varied levels of learning so that lower level students aren’t “stuck” at the bottom, with little to no chance of working their way up. It might be comfortable for teachers to want to group students based on their learning abilities, but learning to be flexible for the sake for the students will ultimately lead to student success.

The second article focused more on the students’ flexibility in the classroom, through the notion of cooperative learning. Two main aspects are required in order to maintain cooperative learning and this is positive interdependence and individual accountability. Although the teacher plays a major role in maintaining cooperative learning structures, the students themselves are in charge of working together as a group through bringing their own ideas to the table as well as listening and understanding multiple points of views. Because of this, the students themselves must use flexibility to reach a certain communal goal. Such collaboration and flexibility is necessary for  student success because, as the article notes, deeper levels of thinking are being used when students work together as a group and work with multiple viewpoints than when students are merely working on a worksheet individually or listening to a lecture. Such cooperation is also crucial for real world experiences, and can allow students to adapt more easily to such situations after they leave school.

The video that I chose for today is from the teaching channel, and focused on a 7th grade world history teacher. This teacher used differentiation within her classroom through the use of a “learning menu”. After finishing a chapter in the textbook, the students go through this learning menu and pick one activity they would like to complete from various options given, and they do this for the “appetizer”, the “main entree”, and the “dessert” courses. The appetizer focuses on literary skills, the main entree is focuses on the bulk of the material learned, or the important material, and the dessert is a summary of the whole chapter. Each student is following the same format, and is working to reach the same goal at the end of the chapter, but the way they go about this learning through the different activities they choose is entirely up to them.

Effective Performance Assessments

In chapter 7 of Understanding by Design, six requirements were laid out for creating an effective performance assessment: They are realistically contextualized, require judgement and innovation, ask the student to “do” the subject, replicate key challenging situations in which adults are truly “tested” in the workplace, in civic life, and in personal life, assess the students’ ability to efficiently and effectively use a repertoire of knowledge and skill to negotiate a complex and multistage draft, allow appropriate opportunities to rehearse, practice, consult resources, and get feedback on and refine performances and products.

A performance assessment idea that I have for day four of my unit plan on figurative language is to put the students in groups of 4 to 5, and have them come up with popular songs that they listen to that utilize different forms of figurative language. Once they have pinpointed a specific song, they will work as a group to uncover what the underlying meaning of that figurative language is, and finally, how this shapes their perception of the song as a whole. This activity follows through on all six of the requirements listed above, for multiple reasons. For one, this “do” activity is culturally and socially based, and requires students to utilize aspects of their society in which they live in and apply this to what they are learning in school. This will teach students that the material is not only relevant, but it can be fun as well. Secondly, through this group dynamic, the students are forced to negotiate varying ideas and understand that there is no one-way of going about the activity, and thirdly, students are able to share this knowledge with others and perhaps reevaluate their own ideas through other groups’ sharing of theirs, which allows for deeper thinking as a whole.