Moving Beyond Figuring It Out on Your Own: Preparing and Developing Linguistically Responsive Teachers

Today’s blogger is Meghan Bratkovich, Doctoral Candidate in Teacher Education and Teacher Development at Montclair State University, a contributor to the special issue of The Educational Forum on linguistically diverse students. See this month’s free article from that issue of The Educational Forum.

“How did you learn how to do this?” 

I had just observed a high school math teacher, highly effective by about every formal and informal measure, teaching a lesson to a class of English language learners (ELLs). Due to a shortage of credentialed bilingual teachers, Mr. Erickson, a self-described monolingual, had been identified to teach a section of bilingual geometry. As much Spanish as English rattled around the classroom as students excitedly reasoned through the differences between lines and line segments, actively debating their way through the classwork.

Though little in his prior education or experience had prepared him for this task, Mr. Erickson was managing to teach geometry under these constraints, and teach it well.

“I don’t know, I guess I just figured it out on my own,” Mr. Erickson said, breathing a heavy sigh. “I don’t even know if it’s what I should be doing.”

“What if you hadn’t agreed to teach this class?” I asked.

“They’d probably be sitting at the back of some mainstream classroom, not understanding anything,” he replied.

Every school has its “Mr. Erickson” among the teachers who are willing to go above and beyond, the ones who will work with students with whom they can only imperfectly communicate—the teachers who always seem to make it work. We also probably know the other teachers—those Mr. Erickson referenced—who are so unsure of how to help a struggling ELL sitting at the back of their class that they do nothing, which is exactly what they’ve been or feel prepared to do. The teaching of ELLs is too important to fall solely on the shoulders of good teachers who feel un- or underprepared.

Teachers looking to build or improve their teaching of ELLs can see this special issue of The Educational Forum as their invitation into an established community of inquiry seeking to make sense of the complexity of teaching ELLs and strengthen teaching practices. The community shares knowledge and research geared toward helping teachers feel as prepared to respond to the needs of their language learner students as they feel to teach their content. Collectively, the reviews, studies, and commentaries in this issue point to the need for linguistically responsive teachers—those who can teach academic content in ways that are comprehensible while simultaneously attending to and furthering the development of students’ language skills.

Teachers beginning their journeys into teaching ELLs might be drawn to Athanases and Wong (2018), who offer evidence that can help teachers to tailor their practitioner inquiry, systematically study their students, and develop an asset-based orientation that fosters inclusive practice. Individuals seeking research-based ELL writing programs can look to Haas, Goldman, and Faltis (2018), who provide a deep dive into transdisciplinary best practices for writing at middle and high school levels.

Those looking to better understand the broad landscape of research on how teachers learn to teach ELLs can look to literature reviews from Villegas, SaizdeLaMora, Martin, and Mills (2018) and Lucas, Strom, Bratkovich, and Wnuk (2018). These reviews provide readers with a succinct synthesis of research studies conducted to date, condensing decades of research and helping to situate, contextualize, and explain the anecdotal experiences that teachers like Mr. Erickson live every day in their classrooms.

Lastly, de Jong, Naranjo, Li, and Ouzia (2018) provide pathways for teacher educators and teacher leaders to support teachers in building their confidence and competence around their ELL teaching practices. The authors emphasize that transforming education for ELLs necessitates preparing the preparers and inclusively brings teacher educators, administrators, and supervisors into the cultivation of a linguistically responsive approach to education.

It is vital that all teachers feel confident and competent teaching ELLs. However, no teacher should be forced to figure it out on their own, to needlessly reinvent the wheel, or to start from scratch. Students deserve better. Teachers deserve better. This special issue offers multiple entry points into conversations and communities striving for better, practical, and pervasive understandings of linguistically responsive teaching to ground teacher leaders and teacher educators, prepare and support teachers, and ultimately serve students.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from the special issue of The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through June 30, 2018.

Celebrating the Life and Leadership of Dr. Frank E. Marsh

Faye Snodgress is Executive Director of Kappa Delta Pi.

Dr. Frank Marsh

With a very heavy heart, I share news of the death of Dr. Frank E. Marsh, Professor Emeritus of Northeastern University, and a truly outstanding and dedicated leader of Kappa Delta Pi International for nearly 7 decades. Inducted into KDP’s Beta Beta Chapter at The University of New Hampshire in 1949, his service goes back far enough that he had opportunities to meet the founders of KDP and often shared interesting stories about KDP in the early years.

It is fitting at his passing to acknowledge his many significant contributions to the Society. There is no one who matched his sustained effort in leadership excellence. He captured the spirit of KDP in all the work he accomplished in his professional life as a teacher, coach, university professor, and Dean. He personified the ideals of the Society.

When we reflect on his legacy, there are many significant firsts associated with his term as President of the Society (1972–1974), many of which are still in place today, such as offering regional one-day conferences for members, training of new Chapter Counselors at Headquarters, holding student forums at Convocation, and establishing the Educational Foundation, where he served as Board Chair for 18 years. During his tenure as leader, the Foundation raised millions of dollars, resulting in increased scholarships, awards to teachers, national conference sponsorships, and the completion of a fundraising campaign to purchase a new headquarters’ facility in Indianapolis.

Dr. Richard Judd (L) with Dr. Frank Marsh (C)

“Frank was the one who nominated me for President. A true leader in all respects. As Frank’s leaf dies and drops from sight, other substances of his abundant life will take their place. His place remains, and in spirit remains very, very present with us. As theologian Karl Rahner has said, ‘Every person is a person of eternity, and not just noble spirits of memory.’ All who knew Frank knew that we had been invited to a special table of life that was anything but ordinary, if not quite extraordinary. We realize that sharing his life and our participation with Frank came as a gift, not a given. We are all thankful for the opportunity we had to be part of Frank’s life—his world of the mind, family, colleagues, friends, and conviviality.” –Richard Judd, Former KDP President

In addition to his service as the Chair of the Educational Foundation, his leadership benefited the Society through his service as the Academic Editor of the Kappa Delta Pi Record from 1996 through 2001, on multiple Convocation Planning Committees, on the President’s Advisory Committee, and as the founding counselor of the Kappa Zeta Chapter at Northeastern University. A constant in all of his leadership roles was his ability to provide the vision and initiatives for improvements in these organizations.

He always provided steadfast support of the Society, the staff, and all educators in its community. His consistently positive and gracious disposition set him apart and served to make him a special mentor, coach, and beloved leader.

Honoring his significant and longtime contribution of service to Kappa Delta Pi, he was inducted in 2015 as a member of the prestigious Eleanor Roosevelt Chapter—one of the highest recognitions bestowed by the Society.

In addition to Frank’s sustained service and leadership in KDP, what impressed me most is that every conversation I ever had with Frank, he was always positive and hopeful of the great things that lie ahead. He definitely had a “glass half full” disposition . . . a most gracious and kind man. May he rest in peace.

Hey World, “We’re All Wonders”

Tapping in to Literacy Along With Some Tolerance and Respect

Frequently, books and films in popular culture and Hollywood spill over into the classroom, creating opportunities for conversations that might not otherwise happen. The 2012 book Wonder, written by R. J. Palacio, followed by the 2017 picture book We’re All Wonders, and the 2017 film adaptation are no exception. The story centers on a boy, Auggie, who was born with facial disfigurations from Treacher Collins syndrome (TCS).

This story, in the tradition of Dr. Seuss stories, engages all ages and therefore is relevant to the K–12 classroom. Given that it illustrates the worst and the best in people, the story provides opportunities for classroom learning and lessons on empathy. Wonder is perfect for counselors, and educators in family literacy, visual art, and reading at all levels.

Here are ways you can leverage the power of Wonder in your classroom.

Set up the message. Before exploring the narrative or the picture book, have students anticipate the story from the title. Talk about the word “wonder” and try to draw a picture of this word. Ask whether it is good to be “a wonder.” Children can discuss what it means to be “ordinary.” Would they choose to be “ordinary” or “different”? During read-aloud time, have students share how they react to insults or even whether they themselves talk about others, make gestures, or use expressions that hurt others’ feelings. Challenge younger children to draw and to talk about or share how they might “escape” being mocked. After the story, ask the children to draw or write a story about how they might “look with kindness … and find wonder.”

Discuss how illustrations can convey emotions. Early childhood teachers can explore how Palacio uses line art and painting to convey the “wonder” status of a “different” Auggie. Full-page illustrations in We’re All Wonders portray snapshots of Auggie’s life, doing ordinary things like riding his bicycle, eating ice cream, and playing ball. Small thumbnail portraits show the other kids who are different from him—and each other. A two-page spread, which features Auggie and his dog Daisy facing the ground because they are devastated by the looks and comments of other kids, conveys Auggie’s emotional pain. Another spread shows Auggie escaping ridicule by putting on his helmet and blasting off to Pluto to chat with other single-eyed beings, and demonstrating ways individuals retreat from insults. The illustrations show the power of imagination to overcome negativity. Palacio’s message, “The Earth is big enough for all kinds of people,” is universally communicated by the illustration of Auggie with his back to the reader gazing at a vast shining Earth from a galaxy perspective.

Focus on Auggie’s just right narrative voice. For early childhood teachers, use story hour to share the picture book illustrating Auggie wearing his helmet. Palacio crafts Auggie’s voice to the appropriate K–3 register. The take-away message is that, despite his youth, Auggie is aware that he is different and that others make fun of his differences. For his taunting peers, the word “wonder” is a negative. Auggie wants them to focus on their own differences. Were they to do that, they would include him as an integral part of their world of differences because everyone is different from others. Palacio has poignantly tapped the rich emotional core of Auggie’s message to the unfeeling universe of so-called normal adults and children.

Explore the concept of genre. For middle school students and beyond, Wonder offers a unique opportunity to reconnect them with a favorite book from their childhood. Challenge students to share a favorite picture book from when they were young and detail how picture books differ from the young adult and juvenile literature they now read. Have students anticipate how Palacio might reframe the story in various genres, including picture books. Once students anticipate the themes and images, have them review the work and compare their ideas with the print story. Explain how Palacio, an illustrator and author, decided to tell her Auggie story through the picture story book genre. Ask students whether they prefer the middle school level book Wonder or the picture book version, and have them explain why. Families and students in class can also sample read-alouds of the work: bit.ly/Wonder-ReadAloud or bit.ly/Wonder-ReadAloud2. These resources can inspire students to create their own read-alouds, including public domain music and special effects.

These are just a few ways you can use Wonder in your classroom. A powerful message with a hero who has fascinated millions of readers—and viewers—can transcend age and genre to touch a larger audience. Palacio has used “wonder” to change the way readers of all ages “picture” the wonders within themselves. Readers of every age can benefit from this recognition and bring a little bit more nice “wonder” into the world. How will you bring “wonder” into your classroom?

Dr. Rose Reissman is a veteran teacher educator who founded the Writing Institute now in 157 elementary schools nationwide. She is coauthor of Project-Based Literacy: Fun Literacy Projects for Powerful Common Core Learning (Information Age Publishing, 2016).

10 Quotes About Teachers to Inspire You This Week

KDP staffers have put together a list of 10 quotes to inspire you this week. Share your favorite quotes in the comments section below!

1. “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” – Brad Henry

2. “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops” – Henry Adams

3. “Teachers can change lives with just the right mix of chalk and challenges.” – Joyce Meyer

4. “I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” – Lily Tomlin

5. “I touch the future. I teach.” – Christa McAuliffe

6. “The duties of a teacher are neither few nor small, but they elevate the mind and give energy to the character” – Dorothea Dix

7. “I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession.” – John Wooden

8. “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.” – C.S. Lewis

9. “Everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.” – Sidney Hook

10. “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” – John Steinbeck

Getting Political About Teacher Preparation for Multilingual Learners

Today’s blogger is Kathryn Strom, California State University, whose essay (co-authored with Tamara Lucas, Meghan Bratkovich, and Jennifer Wnuk) on professional development opportunities on ELL for inservice teachers appears in The Educational Forum.

Recently, I attended a superintendent “Listening Forum” with executive leaders serving districts in the East Bay of San Francisco.

One superintendent, who headed a district with a large migrant worker population, described observing a downward trend in attendance across her district among specific groups. Latino students and, in smaller numbers, other groups of immigrant populations, were not coming to school.

When she and her team spoke to principals, teachers, and parents to find out what was happening, they were told that undocumented families were avoiding their public schools due to fears of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests, which had risen in 2017. In response to this story, several other superintendents shared that they were grappling with racially charged speech and acts toward the same groups of students. While these types of incidents had occurred in the past in their districts, the superintendents collectively agreed that since the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, they had skyrocketed.

These stories reflect a national trend. In the month after the 2016 election, the Southern Poverty Law Center (2016) conducted a survey of more than 10,000 teachers. More than 90% reported a negative impact on their school climate, and 80% said their historically underserved students exhibited heightened anxiety.

While we might like to pretend that education is solely about the enterprise of learning and is unaffected by what is happening outside the classroom, stories like these demonstrate that it is not. Our educational systems, curricula, and classroom pedagogies are not somehow separate from the rest of the world, nor are they neutral. They are shaped by multiple external factors, including historical conditions, policy makers with specific political agendas, and current societal trends. Schooling and teaching are profoundly political, and perhaps nowhere is that more visible than in the education of multilingual learners, also known as “emergent bilinguals” or “English language learners” (ELLs).

As Lucas and Villegas (2011) detailed in their Linguistically Responsive Teaching Framework, the teaching of multilingual learners has important historical and sociopolitical dimensions that teachers need to understand to effectively educate these students. For instance, the United States has long valued English over other languages. This has resulted in multilingual students having limited access to dual-language or bilingual programs, and has led several states to mandate that multilingual learners would be taught exclusively in English—policies that contradict a large body of research on quality second-language instruction. Furthermore, teachers of multilingual learners need to understand their own possible biases and how these may translate into low expectations or deficit views of their linguistically diverse students—which, in turn, may influence their instructional decisions and interactions with these students.

Many initial teacher preparation programs in the United States now offer at least some coursework focused on instruction for multilingual learners. However, as shown in the recent review of literature regarding preservice preparation for second-language learner instruction by Villegas, SaizdeLaMora, Martin, and Mills (2018), most programs do not offer sufficient experiences to develop “sociopolitical consciousness,” or understanding of how social and political issues affect the education of multilingual learners. Similarly, in Lucas, Strom, Bratkovich, and Wnuk’s (2018) recent review of professional development opportunities for teachers of multilingual learners, the researchers found little evidence that inservice teachers engaged in learning aimed at increasing their understanding of how the current political context, societal divisions, and their own deep-set beliefs about language and diversity may influence the learning of their multilingual students.

As a country, we are more polarized than perhaps at any other time in recent memory. Already a politically fraught area in education, the instruction of multilingual learners is being further affected by the mainstreaming of xenophobia as part of an ethno-nationalist presidential administration. Across the professional continuum, teacher candidates, beginning teachers, and veteran teachers need learning opportunities not just about quality instructional practices; they also need sustained opportunities that explicitly address how the political climate and potentially their own internalized understandings of language and second-language learners impact their multilingual students.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Kathryn Strom’s essay with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through May 31, 2018.

 

References

Lucas, T., Strom, K., Bratkovich, M., & Wnuk, J. (2018). Inservice preparation for mainstream teachers of English language learners: A review of empirical literature. The Educational Forum, 82(2), 156–173.

Lucas, T., & Villegas, A. M. (2011). A framework for preparing linguistically responsive teachers. In T. Lucas (Ed.), Teacher preparation for linguistically diverse classrooms: A resource for teacher educators (pp. 55–72). New York, NY: Routledge.

Southern Poverty Law Center. (2016, November 28). The Trump effect: The impact of the 2016 presidential election on our nation’s schools. Retrieved from https://www.splcenter.org/20161128/trump-effect-impact-2016-presidential-election-our-nations-schools

Villegas, A. M., SaizdeLaMora, K., Martin, A. D., & Mills, T. (2018). Preparing future mainstream teachers to teach English language learners: A review of the empirical literature. The Educational Forum, 82(2), 138–155.

Five Reasons Your English Language Learners Should Be Using Adobe Spark

When I first started teaching English Language Learners (ELLs), the classroom was a very different place. I had a chalkboard and one teacher computer. Fast forward seventeen years and even on campuses with the most limited technology resources, I can piece together enough computers or iPads to provide my ELLs with engaging lessons using any number of apps and sites. One app my students and I have fallen in love with is Adobe Spark (https://spark.adobe.com).

Here are five reasons to use Adobe Spark in your classroom.

The ELPS or English Language Proficiency Standards in Texas require that our lessons address both receptive (reading and listening) and productive (writing and speaking) language skills for ELLs every day. With Adobe Spark, your students can record their own voices to narrate videos they create using images from the app’s built-in library. Students can listen to their own and other student’s video presentations without all of the pressure of standing up in front of a class.

Intrinsic motivation in language learning can be nurtured through activities that allow for authentic use of English with a specific audience in mind. Many students tell me that their first year in school was filled with frustration and isolation because they could not communicate their deepest thoughts and feelings to their teachers and peers. Adobe Spark allows students to tell their own stories using images, music, and their own spoken words.

Speaking a new language can be very difficult without ever speaking the language! That sounds obvious, but in my experience, I see ELLs go through entire school days without saying a single word in English. Some teachers shy away from calling on ELLs because they don’t want to put them on the spot. Adobe Spark allows students to take their time thinking about what they want to say and to record their words as many times as it takes to be happy with the quality. When we can lower students’ affective filters by taking away the pressure to perform on the spot, students will be more successful.

Differentiation is a must with our classrooms becoming more diverse each year. The number of ELLs in our classrooms and communities is consistently rising each year. As an ESL campus specialist, I see teachers struggling to meet the needs of their students when the range of ability levels in a single class can be vast. Adobe Spark makes student-driven storytelling accessible to all of your students.

Free and easy accounts make Adobe Spark an irresistible choice for the classroom. If your school is one of the many that has jumped on the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) bandwagon, your students can sign up by clicking the “Continue with Google” button. Once they agree to the terms of use, they are up and running immediately. Since students don’t go anywhere these days without their earbuds, most will already have a microphone to record in their own pocket or backpack!

The true beauty of Adobe Spark is that it can benefit and empower all your students, not just your ELLs. Using technology tools in your classroom is a great way to engage students who may otherwise tune out another teacher-centered lecture. Twenty-first century literacy skills go beyond traditional text and trade books, and we must define what counts as knowledge by modeling a respect for digital literacy in our classrooms. This tech tool allows for creativity in student work beyond what can be produced with the minimalist pencil and paper of yesterday’s classrooms. Our future leaders and active citizens must think creatively if they are going to find and solve the problems of tomorrow’s world. We as teachers must keep in mind that we are not preparing our students for the world we know today but for the future we want tomorrow.

Faith Kane is the campus ESL Specialist at McCollum High School. She is a technophile using technology to empower students in her ESL Reading classes.

Top Websites for Inclusive Classrooms

The demands upon teachers continue to grow, especially as they seek to accommodate all of their students’ learning needs.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act provides that students with disabilities are educated in the least restrictive environment, or that of their same-grade peers. According to the The U.S. Department of Education, 95 percent of 6- to 21-year-old students with disabilities were served in regular schools.

It is incumbent upon teachers, in an era of accountability and mandates set by the Every Student Succeeds Act, to prepare themselves to face the challenges in meeting the needs of students with exceptional learning needs. At the same time, student engagement is at an all-time low and decreases every year starting in the fifth grade; reaching its lowest point by eleventh grade.

Continuing to build classroom supports is essential to keep students encouraged to learn and hopeful for their future. The following websites offer teachers the opportunity, at no cost, to reinforce classroom knowledge and skills while giving students the opportunity to use technology to reinforce their learning.

Flocabulary

Flocabulary offers an engaging approach to K-12 vocabulary instruction aligned to the Common Core State Standards. It offers a free trial and discounts for school-wide subscriptions. Through the use of rap music, Flocabulary helps activate auditory processing and memory and reinforces concepts in all academic subjects including Life Skills and Current Events, necessary for students with exceptional learning needs. All videos have captions, include transcripts, and have variable speed controls to accommodate all learners.

Reading Educator

Students with disabilities must be explicitly taught how to use reading strategies because they do not automatically know how to use these strategies. Reading Educator assumes that every teacher is a reading teacher, and support in the general education classroom comes through the teaching of research-based strategies, which help students become more active in their learning. The website provides sample lesson plans and models of effective strategies such as active reading, vocabulary development, classroom discussion, and higher-order questioning. Additional resources include fun supplemental activities for parents to encourage reading at home.

Funbrain

Designed primarily for grades Pre–K through grade 8, funbrain includes a variety of educational games and videos including all traditional academic areas as well as memory challenges, strategy skills, patterns, logic, and sign language. These animated and interactive games disguise learning through video gaming modules.

Free Rice

Students with exceptional learning needs require review and practice of basic concepts and reinforcement of material previously learned. Based at the United Nations World Food Programme to end world hunger, Free Rice is a win-win website. Teachers are able to register their students to play as a group. As the students answer the questions correctly, a visual representation is shown of the grains of rice that will be donated. This website is appropriate for students at all grade levels. Subjects include: basic math operations, grammar, science, and geography, anatomy, chemistry, pre-algebra, and SAT preparation.

Bookshare

Accommodating the diverse learning needs in the classroom can be challenging and costly. Bookshare.org is an accessible online library for persons with a documented print disability. This website has over a half a million titles and many different options to read books. Students are able to listen to books using text-to-speech voices. Books are available in enlarged font, digital braille, and image description.

Quizlet

Quizlet is an interactive website which allows students the opportunity to practice material learned through digital flashcards that are created by both teachers and students. Study sets can be transformed into games and practice tests to promote application of the vocabulary terms. Students can search for previously created study sets that align with specific course content. Quizlet Live is another version of quizlet. In this feature, teachers can create teams throughout their classroom to play collaborative games to further reinforce vocabulary.

Guysread

Students with learning disabilities are reluctant readers and have motivational problems due to repeated reading failure and negative reading experiences (Melekoglu & Wilkerson, 2013). It’s based on the premise that when children and youth are given interesting material to read, they become more proficient and life-long readers. Guysread is a web-based literacy program for boys, who are more likely than girls to receive special education services and have markedly lower achievement in language arts from elementary through high school (2009). The website includes book recommendations by genre and age range. Interesting reading material on superheroes and supervillains, graphic novels, cars, mystery, fantasy, and sports can also be found.

With these resources, you will provide opportunities for students with disabilities to review and practice educational concepts with technology, all the while facilitating your engagement and motivation to learn.

 

Rachel is a senior undergraduate student at Flagler College and plans to attend graduate school in the fall. Her current interests include students with exceptional needs with focus on best practices in working with children with autism, and behavioral issues.

Cheryl has a Ph.D. in Special Education with expertise in Learning and Behavioral Disorders. She currently teaches in the Education Department at Flagler College.