SURN ESL Workshop Featured in School of Education News Release

SURN Workshop Featured in School of Education News Release:

by Julie Tucker | March 8, 2017

“The faloopious scaringas tringled quaransically to the barton.” This sentence, projected on a conference room screen, welcomed 65 middle- and high-school teachers from across Virginia to “ESL101,” a workshop at the William & Mary School of Education last week.

The group of educators, led by Katherine Barko-Alva, clinical assistant professor of TESOL, puzzled out possible meanings by analyzing the sentence structure and using the visual cue offered by an accompanying photograph. A consensus quickly emerged about a grumpy cat holding tight to a treat he did not want to share.

“Every sentence has layers upon layers of meanings,” said Barko-Alva. “The beauty of ESL is when you bring content and academic language together for the purpose of classroom instruction.”

The workshop, offered through the William & Mary School-University Research Network (SURN), was geared toward teachers with English language learners in their classrooms and offered strategies to help them meet the needs of those students.

The need for this type of training for teachers is huge. “When I ask superintendents what kind of professional development opportunities they need for their teachers, ESL training is almost always at the top of the list,” said Amy Colley, executive director of SURN.

Luckily for Colley, the William & Mary School of Education brought Barko-Alva onto the faculty last fall, and she enthusiastically agreed to collaborate on a series of workshops for elementary and secondary public school teachers from across the state.

IMG_0393

Dr. Katherine Barko-Alva speaks to an attentive group of teachers at the ESL 101 Workshop.

For Barko-Alva, teaching ESL is a passion born from personal experience. She arrived in the United States from Peru with her family at age 15. And though well-prepared by her schools in Peru and ready for college study, she spoke only a smattering of English.

She recounted one memorable experience in a pre-calculus class when she was given a math problem about baseball. “I knew how to do the math, but the language of baseball — bases, runs, strikes, walks — was totally foreign to me.” Language, she added, depends entirely on context, and every content area has its own specific register. The challenge for the ESL teacher is to navigate the disconnects between content and academic language.

It takes anywhere from one to three years to gain the language skills needed for day-to-day social interactions. Cognitive academic language proficiency — the ability to read, write, analyze and evaluate subject-area academic content — can take up to 10 years.

A year and a half after arriving in the U.S., Barko-Alva enrolled as a freshman at the University of Florida. She’s now a leading voice in ESL education, advocating for students like her who arrive in this country with little or no English but who deserve a full and engaging education.

Public schools in Virginia serve somewhere around 100,000 English learner students. And while these students are guaranteed equal access to grade-level materials and content under federal law, the resources, structures and policies supporting these students vary greatly among districts and schools.

“Our focus for the workshop was to offer specific strategies that teachers could take back to their classrooms and put to use right away,” said Colley. “These are techniques that every teacher can use, regardless of how much experience they have working with ELLs.”

The workshop was co-facilitated by Joy Martin ’02, M.Ed. ’08, who is a reading intervention teacher for Norfolk Public Schools and adjunct faculty member at W&M. For the past six years, Martin has led W&M’s Summer ESL Institute, which allows students to add an ESL endorsement to their teaching degree. Students who pursue the ESL-dual endorsement program graduate prepared to teach English language learners as content-area teachers and as ESL teachers. “And that is what our ELLs need to acquire English and succeed in school — teachers with the knowledge and skills to teach academic language and literacy,” said Martin.

IMG_0427

Joy Martin directs teachers at the ESL 101 Workshop.

Working within the limitations of a one-day workshop, participants at ESL101 got a primer on ESL foundations, but the main focus was on actionable techniques for the classroom.

Martin and Barko-Alva led the group through interactive exercises to conquer oral language production, such as the “jigsaw,” a group activity in which each student becomes an expert in one aspect of a topic and then teaches fellow group members. Another, “think-pair-share,” allows ELLs to practice language with a native speaker before being asked to speak in front of the class. These strategies also ensure that all students have equal opportunities for producing language in the classroom.

Kathy Smartwood, a kindergarten teacher from Yorktown, VA who attended one of the workshops, recognizes the value of having English-language learners in her classroom — to her, it’s a unique opportunity for cross-cultural exchange, rather than an obstruction to learning. “All of my students, regardless of their ability to speak English, should feel confident socially and academically.”

140 teachers from 29 school divisions and the Department of Juvenile Justice participated in the workshops, representing seven of the eight regions in Virginia. “It was a great opportunity to reach out to content-area teachers, who are the front line of support for English language learners,” said Barko-Alva. “We have a lot of work to do to improve outcomes for these students in Virginia, but we have amazing teachers.”

Leadership and Learning @WMSURN Leadership Academy 2015

Start a Reading Revolution in Your Classroom!

How often do your students make true connections to what they are required to read in the classroom?  Do your students react with boredom or frustration when you want them to read?  If so, consider flipping your class through the power of blogging!

There is so much value in what we want our students to read, but sometimes it can be a battle to get them to engage in a successful reading process.  There are many ways to transform reading in the classroom, and one exciting way is through flipped blogging.

A flipped classroom is one where students engage in learning at home in order to have an understood foundation of a topic before returning to the classroom.  Once they return to the classroom, they participate in project-based learning that supports and extends the learning they did at home.  Flipping the classroom with reading as a focus allows students to read in the classroom while the teacher models successful reading strategies.

Overview of the process:

  • Students choose any work of fiction appropriate for their reading level
  • Students read in class 3-4 times a week for 2.5 weeks.  They must read actively, but get to choose their method: index cards, post-it flags, bullet points in their notebooks, etc.
  • At home, students write their blog using the Writing to Learn method.  They have the freedom to craft posts on topics of their own choosing.
  • Every day that they read in class, students blog about the experience at home.

 (Sztabnik, 2014)

Flipped Blogging

For more information, please visit

Start a Reading Revolution: Flip Your Class With Blogs

Resource Collection: School around the World

What does your classroom look like? How do you get to school each day? What’s for lunch?

The experiences of children across the U.S. and the world are very different – yet there are often underlying similarities that bind us together. Explore the resources below and share them with your students to start reflecting and discussing: why is school important? How does learning about a school help to reveal community values? What goals do you have for your school year? What do you take for granted about school and what would you like to change? Why is it important to know about school around the world?

SURN Study Tour

Photos from the SURN Study Tour in China

Resources:
Documentary (available online from PBS): Wide Angle’s Time for School 3 http://video.pbs.org/video/1239934544/

Photo Series: Here’s What School Lunch Looks Like in 13 Countries Around the World
http://www.businessinsider.com/school-lunches-around-the-world-2014-5?op=1

Photo Series: Quiet at the back: classrooms around the world
http://www.theguardian.com/education/gallery/2012/sep/14/schools-around-the-world-children

Article: School Years around the World: From Australia to South Korea
http://www.factmonster.com/world/statistics/school-years.html

Photo Series: Back to School around the World
http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/family/photos/back-to-school-around-the-world

Infographic: Schooling around the World
http://elearninginfographics.com/schooling-around-the-world-infographic/

Graph: Where in the World are the Best Schools and the Happiest Kids?
http://www.coolinfographics.com/blog/2014/1/17/where-in-the-world-are-the-best-schools-and-the-happiest-kid.html

Books: Check your Library!

Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools around the World by Susan Hughes

My Librarian Is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World by Margriet Ruurs

What the World Eats by Faith D’Alusio and Peter Menzel

One World, One Day by Barbara Kelley

Teacher Appreciation Week

The first full week in May is Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9, 2014). Instructional leaders, PTA, School Boards, students, and others often recognize this week in a myriad of ways from proclamations to tasty treats. Perhaps there are clever plays on words or use of candy bars such as “Don’t Snicker, you are worth $100 Grand, no you are really worth the entire Mint.” Perhaps there is a token of appreciation such as flashlights for “lighting up students’ learning.”

One school’s administration and PTA designated days to show their appreciation for teachers so that students were invited to bring items to school such as:

Monday: Smile big and say something nice to your teacher
Tuesday: Give your teacher an award-make a ribbon or a certificate
Wednesday: Pick a flower to bring your teacher
Thursday: Write a letter or draw a picture telling your teacher what you appreciate about him/her
Friday: Decide how you will honor your teacher – maybe bring a candy bar or donate a book you no longer need at home to the classroom library

For an interesting twist, consider reaching out to a memorable teacher in your life. Send the teacher an email or letter reminding them when they taught you and sharing how the teacher made an impact in your life.

Consider having your students write a letter to a former teacher. Use the intra-district mail to send the letters to the teacher or place letters in the faculty mailboxes.

Power Tools: High Yield Teaching Strategies for Success

John Hattie’s research on Visible Learning highlights the impact of using high-yield teaching strategies on student learning.  Power Tools strategies include high-yield practices such as setting goals and establishing student expectations for learning, using classroom discussion to promote learning, providing feedback to students, using reciprocal teaching, teaching study skills, and instructing using specific reading and writing strategies.

Power Tools strategies align with observation ‘look-fors’ emphasized on the tools that Principal Academy participants use to observe in classrooms within their schools.  The use of small group options for student learning, allowing student access to a variety of text sources, assessing and providing feedback to students throughout the learning processes, affording students choice in learning and assessment processes, and providing and reinforcing instructional clarity throughout the lesson can all be accomplished through the use of Power Tools strategies for literacy instruction.

If you were able to attend one of SURN’s Power Tools workshops on November 21st or 22nd, you were likely engaged and inspired by the activities discussed during the session!  In the event that you were unable to attend, here are the highlighted practices demonstrated:

  • Incorporating literacy skills and strategies into all content areas
  • Using memory pegs as a teaching and learning strategy
  • Relating literature to one’s own life to promote comprehension and create powerful connections
  • Promoting student learning and ownership through reciprocal teaching
  • Influencing learning through knowing oneself and one’s learning style

 

Consider these questions as you reflect upon your own teaching practices:

How do I promote student ownership of learning?
How do I incorporate literacy into my teaching of content-area subjects?
How can I tell that a student really ‘gets’ something?  What teaching practices do I use that promote this level of understanding with my students?

How do I prefer to learn?  How does this impact my teaching?  How might I flex my teaching practices to promote learning for students with learning styles different than my own?