Sunday, February 23, 2014

Reading Olympics

Participating Countries:

Puerto Rico
Dominican Republic

Winners for the Third Nine Weeks will be announced after Spring Break.

So far, these are the top three scoring countries.

340 Reading Counts Points

130 Reading Counts Points

120 Reading Counts Points

Winners are chosen by the amount of Reading Counts points they earn on
  computerized quizzes.  Each winner represents their native country in the competition.  

READ ON. . .

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How Much Is Too Much? Part 1

There's a thin line between helping ELL's and enabling them to become dependent learners.

 English is my dominant language, however I am able to communicate in a second language.
In my opinion, my ability to speak another language other than English is not always a benefit.


First, my students speak many different languages.
Not all of them benefit from my ability to speak another language.  It would be amazing if I could speak all of their languages, obviously that's not the case.

Secondly, I've noticed over the years that some ELL's who have the privilege of receiving native language support become inceasingly dependent on that support. It may be fueled by a fear of taking risks, lack of confidence, or simply because they become accustomed to it.

  In the first few months, native language support is a life-line for these students.
However, as the months go by, and unfortunately even years, some ELL's do not seem to make the transition from depending on native language support to discovering meaning independently.  I find these particularly dependent students become so accustomed to our "hand-holding", they are sometimes not easily inspired or motivated to try things on their own.  Native language support can become a crutch if we do not properly provide opportunities for our ELL's to take risks in finding their own way. In a multi-leveled classroom it is an enormous balancing act trying to simulteneously nurture the beginners with support and challenge the intermediates to let go. 

Here are some challenges I find some ELL's have with writing in English.  

Teaching writing to students who do not understand the language well is a monumental task.
When students arrive to our classrooms at the middle school level, we need to get them writing immediately.  ELL's have to produce in one year what non-ELL's have been training to
do for 6, 7 or 8 years.  So, we write every day.  Students answer a prompt each day.  To see some of the prompts I use take a peek at a previous post.

Thank the Lord for online translators.  

To make a long explanation short, students who have acquired enough English to understand the prompt on their own begin immediately without any assistance.  Beginners receive a pre-translated prompt in their native language.  Beginners  are also allowed to respond in their native language for the first few months.  The transition to less native language support happens as the student's communication level increases. Dual-language responses follow and eventually all English.    

Some students are hesitant to move to this level.  I may be confident they can, but they aren't.  When they come to me and say, "I don't get it", meaning they don't understand the prompt.  This is where I must resist the urge to just tell them what to do.  It's easier for me, but it limits the opportunity for problem solving.  I walk them through the following process to help them figure out what the writing task is.

1.  Read the prompt out loud (to me).
2.  We pause after each directive marked by a verb.
3.  Discuss what is being required and connect the next step to the prior one.
4.  We then summarize each step one more time.

Here are some of the ways students get stuck.

Some ELL's may not want to go the extra mile to look up a word in the dual language dictionary, so they'll ask me to spell a word or to translate it for them.  If I don't, they'll just write in dual languages because they've decided not to inquire what the word is on their own.  I even have some students who have not transitioned to dual language and they should have based on the amount of time they've been in my class.


Friendly Competition 

Some students are natural "go-getters" and are very motivated and determined to become literate in English.  Some aren't.  A great motivator sometimes is positive peer pressure.  A student who's been slacking may get motivated because another ELL who recently arrived from another country begins to excel and progress much faster.  Another student may get motivated because his or her buddy was just given a public compliment and shout out.  They know they can do the same, maybe more, and they ask themselves, "Why aren't I?"

Expect More Without Compromise

Each day we expect just a little more and we don't settle for less.  No excuses.  We are not asking our students to give us a perfect product.  We're asking them to demonstrate effort and growth.  If a student can get something for free, why pay for it?  If we don't require more, they are more likely not to require it from themselves.

Celebrate Small Successes

As they say, we may not be where we want to be, but at least we're not where we used to be.  It's those small achievements that add up in the end.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

28 Day Random Acts of Kindness Challenge

For the month of February our class is on a R.A.K. Challenge.

Students have one act of kindess to complete each day, document it in their agenda and submit on Mondays.  At the end of our challenge we'll write about our experiences and celebrate.

Here's our calendar.