Thursday, July 12, 2012

Supporting ELLs in Mainstream Common Core Classes:)

The common core standards movement  in education will not leave ELLs behind.  Teacher commitment is strong.  After all, how many teachers want their students to fail?  In truth, teachers want the best for their students.  The motivation becomes even more earnest when faced with ELLs.  The heart is there, but often times, teachers don't have much in the way of training to fully support these students in their mainstream classes.

So, let's start with a teacher attitude that can make a world of difference in achievement for ELLs and other struggling students-attitude of the teacher towards students.  ABC News captured some of those exceptional qualities that make a major difference in inspiring all kids to succeed.  WHAT MAKES A GREAT TEACHER?  Notice regular physical checks for understanding are prominent.  If the teacher doesn't monitor progress, s/he leaves students behind academically.  With those quickie assessments, the teacher keeps her/his pulse on the learning going on.  If there is a problem, teachers can quickly do some repair work to assist the strugglers in catching up to the class.  Another big asset for teachers is setting high goals for all their students.  Let students rise to the teacher's expectation.  Encourage students to reach for the stars and help them get there.  Also, if a lesson is not working out as planned, change it.  Confess to students that it isn't working and that is your fault.  Students of all ages appreciate honesty here. 

HOW TO SUPPORT ELLS IN MAINSTREAM CLASSES WITHOUT DUMBING DOWN CONTENT  Though this is aimed at elementary, many of the teaching tips also work in the higher grades.  What components transfer over?

First, teachers must build background knowledge so students will be ready to appreciate your lesson.

Second, teachers must provide explicit instruction (tell students exactly what they will be doing and held responsible for learning) and modeling (teachers must model the behavior they expect their students to copy).

Third, teachers need to provide time for guided practice so that students will be fully familiar with what is expected of them to produce eventually on their own.  Here, the teacher monitors their progress offering assistance or guidance as needed.  With sufficient support here, students can successfully complete project or homework assignments.

Fourth, instruction can not be top down all day.  Students need to interact with peers (THINK-PAIR-SHARE, elbow partner, small cooperative learning groups) to fine tune their understanding of key concepts to complete assigned tasks.  This is also an ideal time for ELLs to further develop their knowledge of English while simultaneously growing in English.

Fifth, teachers must offer various means of assessment to be sure that at least 80% of the class is following along with the instruction.  For that 20% that isn't, the teacher can clarify in a small group while the rest proceeds with additional tasks.

Here is a great overview in a checklist like format of problems teachers need to look for in planning content lessons for ELLs in all content areas.  It is a great tool to use in planning a lesson for classes with some ELLs in them.  Of course, other students would benefit as well.



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