Sunday, January 18, 2015

CTA Issues Conference: K-5: Ensuring English Learners’ Success with the Common Core and California’s New ELD Standards

My presentation today is on “K-5: Ensuring English Learners’ Success with the Common Core and California’s New ELD Standards.” This is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart since I am an English language learner. I started kindergarten only speaking in my native language, Spanish, and needed all the support I mentioned today in my presentation to learn a new language. I also teach a population of students that is predominately ELLs. I blogged about this topic a few months ago. Click HERE to take you to my previous post.

To access today’s presentation slides click HERE
Steps to Structuring an Academic Class Discussion 

 The Cog Commercial by Honda
I used this video as part of my strategy to use videos to help students construct meaning.

Resources for Structured Accountable Responses - Language Frames:

Sample Graphic Organizers to Support ELD Writing Instruction:
Vocabulary on a Familiar Topic: may be used to support teaching of vocabulary on a specific topic, or Describing Function
Sentences with Vocabulary on a Familiar Topic may be helpful in teaching Simple Sentence Structure Form, Capitalization and End Punctuation
Describing a Person:  may support teaching Describing People Function and Nouns, Adjectives, Verbs
Describing a Thing 
Sequencing: (What Happened?)  May be implemented when working on Sequencing and Retelling Past Events Functions, and on Sentence Structure, Verb Tense and Conjunctions Forms
Comparing and Contrasting (with Categories): may support teaching of Contrasting Function and Comparative Structures

Picture Cards:
Use picture cards to start discussions or to promote writing activities. Click on the links below to access the picture card files:

Additional English Language Development Resources:
California Department of Education English Language Development Standards
Framework for English Language Proficiency and the CCSS
Common Core Translation Project

The English Language Learner Knowledge Base
This website supports education professionals in the administration of programs for English Language Learners. Resources are provided for administrators, teachers and parent advocates.
Visit Website

Considerations for English Language Learners
This module segment from the IRIS Center at Vanderbilt University discusses instructional considerations for ELL students within each of the five core reading components.
Visit Website

Effective Literacy and English Language Instruction for English Learners in the Elementary Grades
This Practice Guide from the Institute of Education Sciences provides specific evidence-based recommendations addressing effective literacy instruction for English learners. Recommendations for teaching reading to English language learners are included.
Download PDF

English Language Learners: A Policy Research Brief produced by the National Council of Teachers of English
This publication of the James R. Squire Office of Policy Research offers updates on research with implications for teaching and learning.
Download PDF

Challenging Common Myths About Young English Language Learners
This publication by the Foundation for Child Development provides a review of new research regarding English Language Learners. Commonly held beliefs and myths that have influenced the instruction, assessment practices, and organizational structure of educational programs that serve ELL children ages three to eight are included.
Download PDF

Instructional Models and Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners
This guide provides information on instructional models for English Language Learners, research findings, teaching methods and strategies and recommendations for decision makers.
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Language and Reading Interventions for English Language Learners and English Language Learners with Disabilities
This report presents information about assessment, instructional interventions, and professional development with a particular focus on ELL students who have been identified with a language and/or learning disability.
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Language Development for English Language Learners
This professional development module provides information on language development, language assessment of English Language Learners, academic language instruction and vocabulary K-12. Links for PowerPoint and Facilitator's Guide are included.
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WebEx: Promising Research-based Practices in Instruction and Assessment for English Language Learners
This Center on Instruction webinar presents information on promising practices for working with ELLs in both instruction and assessment. Links to the archived webinar and PowerPoint are included.
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WebEx: Data-based Instructional Decision Making for ELLs
This Center on Instruction webinar presents information on the key factors to consider when planning data-based and differentiated instruction for English Language Learners. Links to the archived webinar and PowerPoint are included.
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Visit my NEA Greater Public Schools (NEA GPS Network) site to join me in a conversation about these resources. By providing me with feedback, it allows me to see what other educators across the nation are doing to meet the needs of our diverse population of students.
This site is free and its the largest professional learning community in the nation. Click on the link HERE to take you there.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Folktales, Fables, and Poetry

I’m beginning the New Year with tales, fables and poems. The students love read alouds, especially ones that are about fantasy or have a villain somewhere in the storyline. I have two little boys of my own, who love hearing stories that have a moral at the end. We love reading stories that have similar themes but are culturally different. We are kicking off our unit of study, by focusing on the Cinderella fairy tale.

My unit will compare and contrast multiple versions of Cinderella by different authors and from different cultures. The students will be asked to identify similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic. Before reading each version of Cinderella, the students will be shown pictures, drawings, map, of different countries and cultures that correlate with some or all of the Cinderella stories.

Students will read and listen to fables and folktales from diverse cultures to determine the lesson, message, or moral. Students will compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story. In addition, they will describe how words supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song. During the writing process, students will consult reference materials to check and correct spelling. They will develop and write opinions about the books they read and their life experiences and learn to share their viewpoints and clearly develop their arguments to support their opinions. They will learn to distinguish between formal and informal language and when it is appropriate to use each type.

About the Cinderella Fairy Tale
Some 1500 versions of the basic Cinderella story have been recorded so far, and many of them are at least 1000 years old. In each, the cruel and thoughtless get their just rewards, as do those who are good and kind. Cinderella stories have both a rags-to-riches theme, and a good wins out over evil theme. Sibling rivalry is also a part of every story, and the stepmother is cruel and predatory. Cinderella is always the household drudge, and treated badly by her older sisters. Because Cinderella’s mother is dead, a helper character usually appears who can help Cinderella in her despair. Folktales place a premium on beauty, but also on a good and pure heart.

Big Ideas
(What teachers want students to remember long after instruction ends based on the unwrapped standards)
  • Folktales are stories told by the people.  They were told by the oral tradition and written down years later. The primary reasons for sharing these tales was to entertain, to teach, to reinforce cultural and social values.
  • Readers will gain an understanding of the basic components of a folktale, as well as how the illustrations in a text can contribute to characters, setting, mood, etc.
  • Develop opinions about their reading, learn to state opinions clearly, retell their stories so that their opinions make sense to readers.

Essential Questions
(Engaging open-ended questions to spark student learning and discover the “Big Ideas”)
  1. How does identifying the author’s central message, lesson, or moral help you better understand 
the story?
  2. Why do author’s include a central message, lesson, or moral?
  3. How do words and phrases add rhythm and meaning to a story?
  4. Why do readers compare and contrast stories?
  5. How do writers state and support a personal opinion on a topic or a book in a review?
Here are a few of the great links for you to use when teaching fables, fairy tales, or folktales!  

Websites for Cinderella (Useful for Performance Tasks)
  1. 900 Cinderella’s magazine article
  2. Behind the Scenes with Cinderella
  3. Cinderella, Cinderella, Cinderella
  4. Cinderella Around the World: Script for Reader’s Theatre
  5. Cinderella Comparison Chart
  6. Cinderella Folktales: Variations in Character
  7. Cinderella Goes to School
  8. Cinderella Sequence Cards
  9. Cinderella Thematic Unit
  10. Classic Fairy Tales
  11. Compare Yeh-Shen and Cinderella &  Compare Yeh-Shen and Cinderella
  12. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters

Example of a Performance Task
Performance Task #1: Fairy Tale Elements Map
Building Content Knowledge:
The teacher will create a chart labeled “Fairy Tale Elements Map” (refer to the information below for the elements of fairy tales). As a whole group discuss the elements on the chart. Elaborate on each element by providing examples of fairy tales that may be familiar to them.

Let your students in on the ‘secret’ about fairy tales. There are specific structures and patterns that make fairy tales easy to identify and easy to write. Students love it when you let them in on secrets that adult authors use! Use the FairyTale Elements Map to identify these patterns and structures.

First Reading: Read an original version of Cinderella to students. One was provided in PDF form. Give each student with a copy. Only interrupt minimally as needed to quickly define or explain any essential vocabulary or phrases for basic understanding of the text. Allow students the opportunity to appreciate and fully engage with the text.

Second Reading: Reread Cinderella and stop at various points to ask questions for students to demonstrate understanding. Encourage students to ask questions of the text by providing and developing a routine to ensure that all students are participating in the question asking and answering. In addition, stop to highlight the elements in the fairy tale.

Sample questions:
  1. How does the story begin?
  2. How does Cinderella’s fairy godmother view Cinderella differently than the rest of the characters in the story?
  3. How does Cinderella react to seeing her stepsisters at the ball? What does that teach you about Cinderella?
As you read, Students can underline evidence in the story where each element is found and annotate in the margins comments.

Suggested version: 
Cinderella – PDF version based on the original version by Charles Perrault

Collaborative Activity: Using the annotated version of the Cinderella story, students are to complete the Fairy Tale Elements Map. They are to write examples using evidence from the story.  Students are to be grouped (3-4 students per group) by mixed ability to ensure that the group is balanced. 

Visit my NEA Greater Public Schools (NEA GPS Network) site to join me in a conversation about these resources. If you would like to see the entire unit, vist my NEA site and leave a comment. I will be posting a link to my entire files for this unit for all educators that leave a comment.
The site is free and its the largest professional learning community in the nation. Click on the link HERE to take you there.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Session 1: Checking for Understanding Strategies, Simple Formative Assessments

Our sessions for the Common Core Café are back! I am excited to present our first one today and to have two amazing “teacher” facilitators on board!

David Keys, Montebello High School, and Angelica Paz, La Merced Intermediate, are the two expert teachers that will assist in facilitating today’s session on formative assessment. 

What is formative assessment? 

Teachers use a variety of assessments in K-12 classrooms today—summative, formative, criterion referenced, benchmark, diagnostic, screening, and norm referenced. Formative assessment is a process used by teachers and students during instruction. It is different from other kinds of assessment because it doesn’t occur at the end of the learning process. Instead, it is integrated into instruction and takes place as ideas and concepts are developing within a lesson or unit. As such, it provides important feedback for both teachers and students.
Teachers obtain information that helps them know how to adjust instruction to advance student learning.
Students have opportunities to gauge their own learning, ask questions, and improve their understanding.
Formative assessment presumes that students can themselves take action to improve their learning. Via formative assessment, teachers act as guides to help students acquire knowledge and develop skills. This focus on “learning how to learn” is especially significant as we move further into the 21st century because it helps learners become resilient and adaptable in a world of challenges and opportunities.
Three examples of how we use formative assessments to check for understanding are listed below. I have also collected some additional resources that may help you deliver these. 
1. Elementary: 

My student facilitating a math problem solving strategy. He is discussing his thinking process and explaining several ways to solve the problem.

2. Intermediate
Teaching Science Terms and Concepts Using TPR

3. High School
Gallery Walk, Graphic Organizers, and White Board Peer Editing

What is TPR? 
Total Physical Response (TPR) was developed by James Asher (1982)
Learning another language through actions: The complete teachers’ guidebook. The method was designed primarily for students in the early stages of language acquisition. Since commands can be made comprehensible to students with very limited language, Asher used commands as the basis for TPR. The teacher or a more proficient student gives a command, demonstrates the command, and then students respond physically to the command. Because students are actively involved and not expected to repeat the command, anxiety is low, and student focus is on comprehension rather than production. Hence, they demonstrate comprehension before their speaking skills emerge.

Features of TPR
In a nutshell, here are the most salient features of the TPR:
  • The coordination of speech and action facilitates language learning.
  • Grammar is taught inductively.
  • Meaning is more important than form.
  • Speaking is delayed until comprehension skills are established.
  • Effective language learning takes place in low stress environment.
  • The role of the teacher is central. S/he chooses the appropriate commands to introduce vocabulary and structure.
  • The learner is a listener and a performer responding to commands individually or collectively.
  • Learning is maximized in a stress free environment.
TPR Activities
Activities in the TPR method rely on action based drills in the imperative form. In fact the imperative drills are introduced to elicit physical/motor activity on the part of the learners. The use of dialogs is delayed. Typical classroom activities include:
  • Command drills
  • Role-plays on everyday situations (at the restaurant, at the movies …)
  • Slide presentations to provide a visual center for teacher’s narration, which is followed by commands or questions
  • Reading and writing can also be introduced to further consolidate grammar and vocabulary and as follow ups
Formative Assessment Resources for Teachers: 

Formative Tools for Teachers : Tools for teachers to incorporate successful formative assessment practices in their classroom.

NCTM: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) article “Five ‘Key Strategies’ for Effective Formative Assessment.”
Practice Tests | Link
Practice tests for English language arts and mathematics can be found at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium website.
MARS Tasks | Link
MARS (Mathematics Assessment Resource Service) is a project of UC Berkeley, Michigan State, and the Shell Centre in Nottingham England. The tasks and their associated rubrics provide a platform for professional development in schools transitioning to the Common Core Standards. The tasks can be used to promote discussion about student work and provide real performance data.
Data Tools | Illuminate Education | Intel-Assess
Some California school districts are adopting specific data tools to implement formative assessment relative to the Common Core State Standards. Two companies providing these tools are Illuminate Education and Intel-Assess. Districts are using resources from these companies to guide formative assessment and their work in professional learning communities.

Video Clips of Teachers using formative assessment:

Forest Lake Elementary School (FLES) uses technology to differentiate student learning by initially assessing students with a program called MAP on English and math skills. 

How a resource-strapped elementary school became a top-performing school with a homegrown, easy-to-implement differentiated instruction program.

Examples of Formative Assessment and MORE Resources: 
Here are a few examples that may be used in the classroom during the formative assessment process to collect evidence of student learning.

Anecdotal Notes:  These are short notes written during a lesson as students work in groups or individually, or after the lesson is complete.  The teacher should reflect on a specific aspect of the learning (sorts geometric shapes correctly) and make notes on the student's progress toward mastery of that learning target.  The teacher can create a form to organize these notes so that they can easily be used for adjusting instruction based on student needs.
Anecdotal Notebook:  The teacher may wish to keep a notebook of the individual observation forms or a notebook divided into sections for the individual students.  With this method, all of the observations on an individual student are together and can furnish a picture of student learning over time.

Anecdotal Note Cards:  The teacher can create a file folder with 5" x 7" note cards for each student.  See Observation Folder.  This folder is handy for middle and high school teachers because it provides a convenient way to record observations on students in a variety of classes.

Labels or Sticky Notes: Teachers can carry a clipboard with a sheet of labels or a pad of sticky notes and make observations as they circulate throughout the classroom.  After the class, the labels or sticky notes can be placed in the observation notebook in the appropriate student's section.

Observing Students

Exit/Admit Slips
Exit Slips are written responses to questions the teacher poses at the end of a lesson or a class to assess student understanding of key concepts.  They should take no more than 5 minutes to complete and are taken up as students leave the classroom.  The teacher can quickly determine which students have it, which ones need a little help, and which ones are going to require much more instruction on the concept.  By assessing the responses on the Exit Slips the teacher can better adjust the instruction in order to accommodate students' needs for the next class.

Links on Exit/Admit Slips:
Readingrockets:  Exit Slips Exit Slips
Writing Across the Curriculum: Entry/Exit Slips
Exit Slips: Effective Bell-Ringer Activities
Admit Slips and Exit Slips
Learning/Response Logs
Learning Logs are used for students' reflections on the material they are learning.  This type of journal is in common use among scientists and engineers.  In the log, students record the process they go through in learning something new, and any questions they may need to have clarified.  This allows students to make connections to what they have learned, set goals, and reflect upon their learning process. The act of writing about thinking helps students become deeper thinkers and better writers.  Teachers and students can use Learning Logs during the formative assessment process, as students record what they are learning and the questions they still have, and teachers monitor student progress toward mastery of the learning targets in their log entries and adjust instruction to meet student needs.  By reading student logs and delivering descriptive feedback on what the student is doing well and suggestions for improvement, the teacher can make the Learning Log a powerful tool for learning.

Response Logs are a good way to examine student thinking.  They are most often connected with response to literature, but they may be used in any content area.  They offer students a place to respond personally, to ask questions, to predict, to reflect, to collect vocabulary and to compose their thoughts about text. Teachers may use Response Logs as formative assessment during the learning process.

Websites on Learning Logs and Response Logs:
Learning (B)logs: Time to Give Students a Voice
Learning Logs Online:  Examples and Photos of Learning Logs