I plan to support the ELLs' L1 (first language) by incorporating their L1 into school activities and providing more resources for them. There are only benefits in providing the ELLs with books in their home language, adding bilingual posters throughout the classroom, and providing worksheets in both English and L1. I would also incorporate the L1 into the calendar routine. Furthermore, the ELL can have a few minutes each week to teach the class new sentences and words. It could be called, "the word of the week." This would not only foster the ELLs' confidence and development of their home language, but the whole class would benefit from learning new words and sentences in a new language.
An important aspect of the Constructivist Theory is asking questions to guide student knowledge. When a question is asked during a lesson, students link it to their own understandings before answering. Questions are also a great way to find out prior knowledge. For example, I was showing students a Polygon Mobile that I had made, they were also going to be making them. I asked them what they noticed about mine before giving them any details or instructions. Many hands flung into the air. Students noticed that each shape was a different color, except the quadrilaterals were all one color. They noticed that I had named the shapes and cut them all out. They also noticed that there were no circles or ovals because those are not polygons. The students had revealed my entire lesson. The Constructivist Theory proves that students come to school preloaded with information. They are NOT blank slates. By simply asking questions, teachers can help guide students' own learning and understand their prior knowledge.
The students in my site classroom generally read the textbooks together as a class (round robin reading), then they buddy read. Questions are asked throughout the process to gain student knowledge. This is the teacher's method, not mine. I have read complex language with students and restated it in ways where it makes sense to the students. In a lesson of teaching them word problems in math, I related the word problems to my life and theirs. In some word problems, I replaced the names in the problems with the students' names to make it more personal. New subjects are best learned as relatable, continuous stories. For example, in science, all the concepts connect to each other. If a teacher can teach science in a way where every area is connected, the students will understand it better. I remember that in history class throughout school, I did not see how the events were connected. First, we learned about the Civil War, then WWI, and finally WWII but there were never connections between them and I often was confused with which happened first. In college, I had a professor who talked about history as a story. He left in all the details in between the wars and was excellent at telling history as one chronological story. He emphasized certain details but there was never a break in the timeline. This is what made me fall in love with history. It also instilled the need for teachers to teach subjects so they connect. This is also how I mentally edit textbooks before teaching to the students. Instead of reading as a class first, I like to tell them the chapter as a story, then they can buddy read or silent read the chapter.
Academic language is perhaps the most important tool in getting hired. When someone has a strong academic language, they leave a stronger impression. Careers have different academic language. For example, a lawyer might feel out of place when talking with a computer engineer. Academic language is the language of the profession. Since it is so important to have in life, students can practice it at school in various fun, engaging ways. When students switch subjects throughout the day, the teacher can say, "Okay it is time for science, we are all scientists now." The class can be challenged to use the academic language of the profession they are practicing. It is necessary to teach ELLs the academic language because of its importance. There should be exposure throughout each day of academic language and all students should be challenged to use it.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle we face going into the public school system is the lack of bilingualism for student growth. Jose does not speak any Spanish at school and my site classroom does not have any Spanish books, posters, etc. Study after study proves that bilingual education is the most beneficial way of learning a new language as it strengthens the home language. Without a strong first language, it is harder to grasp a strong second language. The public school system is full immersion and assimilation into the new language. Since I cannot change public schools to bilingual schools, I can incorporate books, posters, and other resources in languages to foster all my ELLs. They can do the calendar routine with the class in their home language and teach us other vocabulary throughout the semester. We need to start using the second language to our class' benefit instead of hiding it.
Jose's first language supports him in many ways. He has excelled at the English language because of the knowledge of his first language, Spanish. Throughout our conversations, it is clear that Jose likes to read in both English and Spanish. When I listen to him read in English, I point out strange words in his book and ask him if he knows what they are. In one book, he read something about a girl opening her blinds. I asked him if he knew what blinds were, he said "no." When I explained them to him, he said, "Oh yeah, I know what that is. We have those in my house!" I asked him what they call them in Spanish and he said a word that I did not write down. Now, Jose can associate the word "blinds" with his prior knowledge of their name in Spanish. This continuous growth of vocabulary will support him throughout his language journey.
I plan to use arts to support English Language Development because art communicates throughout all cultures and languages. Since this is so important for ELL development, I would like to have students draw and create things every day. At the end of a journal entry, students can draw a picture. To help a student come up with a sentence, they could draw an image of their thoughts first. To learn about different cultures we can do some art and create items that the culture might make. For example, many Northeastern Native Americans made corn husk dolls which can be made in just a few simple steps with corn husks and water. Art like this can convey that the Northeastern Native American culture played with dolls and grew corn and were very creative. This can be an intro to learning about that culture. This can be done with any culture, including the ELL's culture. Also, art helps ELL's understand concepts better. For example, if I talk about tornadoes and have an image of a tornado, that student will better be able to put that word with the image and understand that we call those tornadoes. There are many reasons why we should incorporate art into the classroom, so let's do it!
There are many interesting linguistic techniques that will incorporate ELLs and benefit the whole class. The first major area to discuss is direct instruction. Students get plenty of direct instruction throughout the day, so there needs to be time to switch it up. Students need to make their own connections to ideas without always being talked at. Tapping into students' prior knowledge is key, this is why the Constructivist Theory is effective. There are ways to incorporate students' prior knowledge to any lesson by asking them questions or allowing them to explore topics on their own. A video called "Post-Its: Little Notes For Big Instruction" (teachingchannel.org) shows one teacher giving her students post-its to gather their thoughts on each page as they read. The students can make connections to the reading through the post-its or they can make predictions. I think this can be effective especially for ELLs because the post-its are completely personal. They can make whatever connections they want and even write them in whatever language they desire.
Incorporating art into language is also a very popular and effective idea. One teacher incorporated vocabulary words onto paint chips in a video called "Vocabulary Paint Chips" (teachingchannel.org). This helped the students see a word, with different variations of the word written on each shade of the paint chip. Seeing words on different shades and colors will help students when they go to think back on the word. That extra connection to color may be surprisingly helpful. Also, making a word cloud is another great idea. In "Literacy In Science: Word Clouds," (teachingchannel.org) a teacher discussed weird words and ideas in books with the students then made a word cloud via the internet for the class to see. Seeing the words as art is another way for students to retain them. This is especially helpful for ELLs because art becomes that extra tool in memorizing words. I also like the idea of illustrating connections to stories after students are finished reading. They are not actually illustrating the story, but rather how they personally connected to it. They can talk about those connections with other students and even see similar connections that students made. These illustrations are helpful for ELLs because they will have a personal drawing of a connection which will help refreshen their memories when they come back to it.
Above is a Word Cloud I made with words from the book, "I Was So Mad," by Mercer Mayer. I made this Word Cloud from www.jasondavies.com
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I have decided to expand my knowledge of the Mexican culture. There are five ELLs that I will focus extra attention on in the classroom. I've gathered that the do's of the Mexican culture have much more to do with respect for authority than the American culture. Every ELL in the classroom is respectful, not that other cultures are not, but ELLs tend to take their work more seriously than the average student. I hear ELLs talk about their families quite a bit, and many of the ELLs I am observing live with extended and immediate family. One girl, whom I will call Sedia, said that she lives with her family, her aunt, uncle and cousins. Another girl whom I will call Ada, said that she shares a room with her cousins. There is a large sense of community within the Mexican culture, family means more than the immediate family, cousins are like brothers, aunts and uncles are like parents. The word structure is also very different. Though many words sound similar to English, one of the ELLs, José will sometimes say a sentence in a different way. Also, I sometimes hear the ELLs say "Come" instead of "Come here." There are subtle differences that I pick up on, even though all the ELLs are learning English very well.
The Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights was developed in 1966 to protect the rights of language. I was immediately drawn to Article 3 of the Declaration.
1. This Declaration considers the following to be inalienable personal rights which may be exercised in any situation:
the right to be recognized as a member of a language community;
the right to the use of one's own language both in private and in public;
the right to the use of one's own name;
the right to interrelate and associate with other members of one's language community of origin;
the right to maintain and develop one's own culture;
and all the other rights related to language which are recognized in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 16 December 1966 and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the same date.
2. This Declaration considers that the collective rights of language groups may include the following, in addition to the rights attributed to the members of language groups in the foregoing paragraph, and in accordance with the conditions laid down in article 2.2:
the right for their own language and culture to be taught;
the right of access to cultural services;
the right to an equitable presence of their language and culture in the communications media;
the right to receive attention in their own language from government bodies and in socioeconomic relations.
3. The aforementioned rights of persons and language groups must in no way hinder the interrelation of such persons or groups with the host language community or their integration into that community. Nor must they restrict the rights of the host community or its members to the full public use of the community's own language throughout its territorial space" (Unesco.org, 1996).
These are rights of every human being and should be welcomed into our classrooms. It is not uncommon for some teachers to try to block, "The right to the use of one's own language both in private and in public" (1996). Students should be encouraged to practice their home language at school. This is especially true when there is free time, or if students are doing group work. They should absolutely be able to use whatever language they feel comfortable with.
Moreover, language doesn't have to be a big secret. I think it would be great to implement helpers at the beginning of the day while going over the date and morning routine by asking a bilingual student if he/she would like to say/teach the words in a different language. The students would be inspired by the language and want the student to translate much more, rather than pretend it doesn't exist. This would be a way for the bilingual students to develop their own culture in the classroom.
I really love the part that reads, "The right for their own language and culture to be taught" (1997). I cannot remember how many times I was exposed to American culture after Europeans arrived. My grandfather is full Native American, Yavapai-Apache to be exact. I found myself always wanting to learn about the Native American culture only to be met with facts of Sacagawea and Pocahontas. Let's not forget that these are Native Americans who are only famous for helping settlers. I think it is important to teach about the authentic culture of each Ethnicity reflected in one's class.
The UDLR is a reminder that students have a right to learn about themselves and their culture. They have a right to be represented in the classroom and should be allowed to share their culture with the class. I am not only talking about ELLs, everyone should have the ability to share their language and culture.