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Elementary ELL by Ms. Tracy

This month in Elementary English Language Support, we were full STEAM ahead.  It was a pleasure to be involved and watching students explore, design and test various materials and challenges to come up with solutions to their designs.  It was not a small feat for staff and students to take on a completely new theme for our community activity. But, the results were a complete success!   

The very basis of STEAM is integration and the elementary students and teachers really embraced the opportunity to use science, technology, engineering, art and math into their design challenges.  Projects ranged from balloon art, plastic bottle furniture to hydroponic greens and electrical circuits. STEAM offers all students the opportunity to showcase their efforts. Students who are still developing language skills are able to demonstrate their creativity and ingenuity through design without language constraints.   

I hope you were able to join us for our first ever Festival of STEAM.  If you didn’t, here are just a few samples of the exciting design challenges.   

Secondary ELL by Ms. Kim

Someone recently asked me, “Is there an ELL (English Language Learner) class specifically for ELL students?”. The answer is simple, “No.”  The research does not support pulling ELL students out of a class or having a specific class for ELL students. ELL students working in isolation, missing the instruction in the general education class are not beneficial to their educational process let alone their English proficiency progress.  

It can be a struggle for a parent and for a student if s/he does not understand the process of English Language Development for 2nd language learners. There are five to six stages that a learner goes through to fully grasp another language. According to Jim Cummings (and others), it can take 5-7 years for a learner to be academically proficient in another language, 5-7 years to be considered near-native or advanced. So time and patience are big factors in learning an academic language. The learner him/herself also has a big impact.

Factors such as motivation, attitude, age, intelligence, aptitude, cognitive style, personality, and knowledge of his or her first language greatly influence a person in the process of his or her second language acquisition. Khasinah, Siti. (2014). 

At SIS, ELL teachers co-teach and co-plan with the general education teacher, supporting students with scaffolds, strategies and differentiation practices. These supports allow a student to learn the language AT THE SAME time he/she is learning the content. Scaffolds such as using a student’s home language, allowing for reading and writing opportunities, and teaching the academic vocabulary contribute to language learning. Some strategies SIS teachers use are graphic organizers, collaborative and cooperative opportunities, images, sentence and paragraph frames, previewing material and providing background material before a lesson begins; you may have noticed that teachers send tasks on Google Classroom before it needs to be completed in class. Teachers also use differentiation strategies to reach ALL learners, it is just good teaching. For example, we all read at different levels, we all learn science at different speeds, some learners are quick in understanding technical concepts and other learners are quicker at math skills, we all learn at different rates. This is the reason, teachers try to utilize differentiation strategies in their classroom. For instance, different text levels allow a learner to gain access to the same content but at different reading levels. Other differentiation strategies include flexible grouping, varying assignments, and providing choice for tasks, or reading texts. It is important to recognize that providing differentiated tasks or assignments is not “dumbing” down the material but rather “presenting the same task in different ways and at different levels so that all students can approach it in their own ways.” (Zlotnick, Julie 2015)

One of the most important steps in building a student’s academic well-being is providing the learner with support and showing a genuine interest in their psyche. We also realize that each unique, individual learner who comes to our classroom has other outside factors that might influence how they are learning and we are prepared and trained to adjust or differentiate our lessons to meet the needs of the students.

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