We should ask ourselves "What should students know, understand, and be able to do? What is worthy of understanding? What enduring understandings are desired?" (Wiggins & McTinghe, 1998). The big ideas are those that "are applicable to new situations within or beyond the subject" (Wiggins & McTinghe, 1998). They are the ideas that stick with children into adulthood and help them contribute to society. They allow students to access the discipline in an authentic way, engaging them from within rather than treating them as outsiders. The breadth of a big idea will allow students to work through their misconceptions, indicating to them that they can learn from their failures but also that their perspectives and understandings will develop as they continue to question their assumptions.
The best way to monitor student progress is to have a "a collection of evidence over time instead of an event-a single moment-in-time test at the end of instruction" (Wiggins & McTinghe, 1998). Frequent use of assessment for learning and assessment as learning techniques and strategies makes this manageable. Also focusing on performance tasks that are open-ended, complex, and authentic in these frequent assessments will ensure that students have multiple opportunities to practice cognitive thinking and language skills, building confidence and success over time.
Backwards design asks teachers to identify desired results, determine acceptable evidence for assessing those results, and then plan learning experiences and instruction. The criteria for meeting these needs fall under the categories design considerations, filters (design criteria) andfinal design accomplishments. More specifically, teachers need to ensure their planning meets provincial and board standards, uses a continuum of assessment types with a variety of observable behaviours for different facets of understanding, and is grounded in research-based learning and teaching strategies. The design criteria should support authentic, discipline-based work grounded in enduring ideas and inquiry. The evidence for understanding these concepts and applications should be reliable, transparent, equitable, and accessible to the individual students in the class. As these opportunities to demonstrate their learning occur, teachers should record observations and reflect on the appropriateness and effectiveness of the assessments, making important revisions as the unit progresses. All these steps should provided a unit framed by big ideas and enduring questions, which are grounded in reliable and educational evidence of learning, forming coherent and engaging learning experiences for all students (Wiggins & McTinghe, 1998).
BICS and CALP are conceptual distinctions in language acquisition. They are important for teachers and students to understand because proficiency in the L2 depends on the daily integration of both everyday and academic vocabulary in students' school environments. Students will learn academic language through everyday conversation, some students will be more proficient in academic vocabulary than in conversational vocabulary, and some students will struggle with gaining academic vocabulary. Each student' learning journey is unique and needs to be honoured and supported. When teachers understand this, they are better able to use their subject curricula to support students' individual language needs. Modeling academic language use, providing opportunities for authentic, higher-order thinking activities and peer dialogue, and teaching language and academic content simultaneously are all ways teachers can use the concept of CALPS to promote ELL development.
In lieu of the assigned video (did it not work for anyone else?), I read a short opinion paper Cummins wrote (accessible here) and watched a short video in which he discusses empowerment. The paper is useful in that he breaks down the three important components of a bilingual program: instruction is cognitively challenging, academic content is taught in tandem with language instruction, and critical language awareness of both L1 and L2 is fostered (p. 6). He summarizes that teachers should focus on message, language, and use in both languages (p. 6). In doing so, teachers are able to authentically build ELL empowerment. He defines empowerment as "the collaborative creation of power" and suggests that relationships in which each individual's identity is affirmed, both individuals will feel a greater sense of "efficacy to create change in their life or social situation" (see video). This is the real effect of social justice education. It tackles the "English-only" colonialist mindset that insidiously attacks students L1 and their cultural capital; it corrects false diagnoses of ELLs as having lower cognitive ability, special learning needs, and/or behavioural issues. There are a number of activities, techniques, and tools teachers can use to support BICS and CALP (Cummins' theories have permeated through teacher resource websites: here is just one example). For me, the most important implementation is explicitly teaching the conception to students - supporting their metacognitive processes, showing them there are different types of language to learn and use, asking them to look for and reflect on the different ways they use language in different contexts - so that they can begin to take ownership of their language acquisition.
Literacy has given me the tools to express myself, ignite my curiosity, and learn from others. It has had a profoundly positive impact on my life.
The six principles for improving literacy focus on realigning literacy instruction with current educational research. Literacy has developed into a nuanced concept that reaches from the traditional reading/writing skills to higher-order thinking skills, authentic engagement in real-world issues, and student ownership of learning. The principles suggest that all teachers, in all subject domains, at all grade levels need to make a conscious and ongoing effort to teach literacy in this broader sense. Co-creating learning environments with students in which they are driven to deeper understandings of a subject's content within their developing schemas of the world will promote literacy for all students. I think all six principles need to be used together for ELLs to successfully develop their literacy skills. New research comes out all the time, and teachers who take time to inform themselves of this new research, discuss it with colleagues, try new things, share and discuss what happens, and try them again with new insights will be much more effective in their literacy instruction because they're consciously trying to improve. Research will be targeted at instruction or at assessment, and finding new ways to instruct and new ways to assess will certainly help students needing alternative ways of learning and assessing, like ELLs. To me, focusing on literacy means incorporating all six principles into our daily lives.
Teachers can support ELLs in developing critical literacy skills by understanding that "decoding and understanding the texts" will get a student to surface level meanings, but that critical literacy requires students to "identify, reflect on and analyze underlying power relationships" present in the texts and in their lives (Roberge, 2013, p. 1). Students learning English will need to be given adequate and appropriate scaffolds for both understanding the language and the underlying concepts.
I found a webinar on Youtube by Stanford professor Jeff Zwiers titled "Developing Oral Academic Language with Critical Thinking Skills" which offers three approachable, effective classroom activities for connecting support of oral literacy and critical thinking. He first makes the point to distinguish between "oral output" activities, in which the desired product is a singular response, and "interaction" activities, in which the desired product is developing constructive conversation skills. While the webinar is not targeted at ELL instruction specifically, the three types of activities he describes are perfectly suited for developing ELL confidence in oral language and critical thinking. The activities are highly scaffolded, both procedurally and cognitively, making it easy to insert language scaffolds (he has an interesting opinion on sentence frames in connection to the first activity). The activities focus on developing the clarity and strength of students' ideas in ways that ground that development in speaking with their peers, which is so fantastic for an ELL's oral confidence! At just under 40 minutes (you can skip ahead at some points throughout), Zwiers gives a manageable and informative workshop-type lecture on lesson planning for oral and critical thinking skills.
Having used STEP in the context of teaching ESL, I am definitely thankful for the framework's simplicity and thoroughness. As my colleagues have already mentioned, the rubric-style observable language behaviours makes it very easy to assess the oral, reading, and writing progress a student is making. The User Guide also lists a number of strategies teachers can use to support students at the different levels, making it a truly valuable resource to have on had when planning lessons and assessments. Having these strategies available while planning can allow for really affective Universal Design and Differentiated Instruction implementation right from the start. The addition of example continua, which indicate when a student would or wouldn't be moved to the next step, makes it easy to see how we will need to revise our plans to help students meet all the criteria for successful language learning.
If teachers utilize this resource in its entirety, I think the document is a great tool for promoting positive change in classrooms to support ELLs because that is the document's purpose. It incorporates diagnostics, Growing Success assessment structures, and observable behaviours that act as touchstones for student progress in their language development. Using the word 'continua' for the observable behaviours even suggests that teachers should reflect and revise their understanding of a student's progress. Student success is build into the document's language, which I think is a powerful start to changing approaches to ELL support.
The OLB and OLLB are specific and scaffolded skills that teachers can observe and record to monitor a student's progress in literacy and language development. Besides being straightforward for teachers to use, they support student growth because the behaviours can be observed in any number of activities. This gives students the ability to demonstrate their learning outside of formal tests or assessments. For example, one of the criteria for Step 3 on the Oral OLB is to "Self-correct or seek confirmation that a word or expression is used correctly" and students can demonstrate this behaviour informally with classmates or as an aside question to the teacher. That is a very specific criteria that demonstrates a certain level of metacognitive activity, but is interestingly separated from a similar one: "Ask follow-up questions to seek additional information". The latter criteria could be a question regarding content, instructions, or curiosity, but is specifically separated from questions about language use. In ways like this, STEP supports students because it recognizes the different contexts students learn language in and the importance of language-specific criteria blended with general learning criteria. I think this helps guide ELL instruction quite seamlessly because, as we have read, learning a second language doesn't happen in isolation but as students learn academic, cultural, and social "content" that makes up a school environment. STEP gives teachers a way to create lessons and a classroom environment that will elicit these behaviours from students, therefore allowing them to observe the behaviours often and help support students moving through the continua.
The OLB and OLLB also have very similar criteria. The OLB is divided into six steps but the OLLB is divided into four. The criteria mentioned about about self-correction is a component in Step 3 in both the OLB and the OLLB. However, the criteria in listening for following multi-step instructions is in Step 3 in the OLB but Step 4 in the OLLB. These similarities and differences suggest to me that STEP is trying to reflect the complex and nuanced layers of literacy and language development, and that when students demonstrate an observable behaviour or skill it should be taken in context and observed over time.
Accommodations I see used in the classroom are those that allow for student choice in content or assessment style, as well as in their groupings. I also see use of graphic organizers and word walls frequently. I think in combination these help all students learn course content more deeply and efficiently, but for ELL students they make a world of difference. Being given choice and scaffolded language/instructional support can make an ELL feel more ready to participate and succeed in class.
In a Grade 10 History course, World War 1 is inevitably taught. The lens through which the material is covered, however, is up to the teacher. I used colonialism as an introductory lens so that students had a geopolitical and historical framework for the content we would be discussing. The "MAIN" reasons for the war are usually discussed, and students were better able to understand big concepts like militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism once we actually developed them using a specific idea like colonialism. Graphic organizers and pre-teaching of key words are accommodations that work very well with this introduction lesson. Providing definitions, examples, and conceptual connections visually on a graphic organizer allows students to take notes in the L1 and connect oral discussion with L2 vocabulary. Students begin by using a gallery walk, where images connected to the four MAIN ideas are placed above a sheet of paper. Students observe the images and write notes on papers of what their understanding of these concepts are. As we discuss them as a group, ELLs have now seen images and written vocabulary that they can connect to the explicitly taught definitions of key terms. A further accommodation would be to give ELL students time to use technology to look up the concepts in their L1 and use that information to support their understanding of the concept in English.
For a student with short term memory and mobility needs, I would use groups of 3 for the gallery walk and assign a 'scribe' in each group. This way, the student can participate in that activity by giving ideas orally and will not be impacted by the writing aspect. I would also audio record all my lessons for this student, so they had an electronic version of the lesson to watch at their convenience. I would also ensure they had an electronic copy of the graphic organizer so they are able to take notes on a laptop if possible, or also provide the student with a scribe buddy who could share notes with them. However these are quite superficial accommodations and I think once I was aware of this student's needs I would try to revise my lessons using UDL and DI with the student's specific needs in mind.
The following modifications are being made for HNC3C - Grade 11: Understanding Fashion. Most of the modifications are done to simplify the communication process and details of the required information. In addition, the modifications also put emphasis on exploring cultures of origins to engage students. We must always consider the student's ability, prior knowledge of the English language, and practical learning experiences (SEE ATTACHED LINK: COMING SOON).
For me, supporting 21st Century learners means supporting daily use of higher-order thinking skills in a problem-solving, collaborative environment. Students need to be put into positions of action rather reception, in both knowledge acquisition and social stimulation. They need to take risks in and make decisions about real-world context in a safe classroom environment so that they have the confidence to do so in situations they face outside the classroom. Teachers can focus on building resiliency, self-efficacy, internal motivation, goal setting skills and self-reflection as ways to increase students' academic, emotional, social, and mental capabilities.
The amount of educationally driven technologies is astounding (and as an industry I think it poses interesting questions about the nature of capitalism and education, but that is a whole other tangent). ELL students can have access to translation programs, visual aids, and Google (how useful is Google to all of us!?) when they need it the most - to understand what is going on in class! When we plan our lessons around available technologies, we can incorporate a lot of the cognitive skills I mentioned above in a purposeful way. For example, using GoogleDocs to take group notes provides all student real-time access to the content but also allows them to ask each other clarification questions (through the comment/chat functions). When teachers use UDL and DI, technology provides was to incorporate multiple different areas of content, assessment, and processes.
I think it is important to recognize that all students need to receive equitable access to education. Regardless of the barriers a student faces, their classroom teachers, administration, and support staff should work together to alleviate these barriers for that student. The observable behaviours English Language Learners exhibit can resemble those of students with special education needs, making it difficult to determine the source of the behaviour. Teachers also need to be cautious in their informal 'diagnoses' of a student's needs because that is not within our professional expertise. The procedures put in place by the Ministry of Education outlined in documents like the STEP program, the ESL/ELD curriculum, Many Roots, Many Voices, Ministry monographs such as "Including Students with Exceptionalities" and Growing Success should be reviewed yearly by all teachers to ensure their teaching is aligned with student needs and best practices.
I think teacher collaboration at the start of the year is an effective way to ensure students with exceptionalities are given the most appropriate and effective instruction. This is especially important for ELLs because their behavior and language ability might be different in various classroom environments, and as teachers share their observations and strategies the student's needs might be more easily met in classes they are struggling with. This also allows teachers to use UDL and especially the tiered approach effectively, as they are able to put together a more holistic understanding of student needs and anticipate interventions, addressing problems before they become problematic to the student's learning.
I am an enthusiastic and conscientious educator. I use my blog to connect my personal experiences and adventures to my pedagogy.