Monday, February 29, 2016

While learning a new language is part of the education process, there are several physiological factors at play. The following link provides interesting background information.

     http://brainblogger.com/2016/02/29/how-do-we-learn-languages/

Monday, February 22, 2016

Did you guess new Can Do Descriptors? You're right!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

It’s almost 2-22. Can you guess what WIDA plans to do?


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Walking the Literacy Tightrope

By Heather Jung



Is it more important for a student to be a reader or to be a writer?

We all know that to be a literate person you need both, but teachers only have so many instructional minutes a day. Where are those minutes best spent?

Striking the right balance between reading and writing is the tightrope that literacy teachers across the country have to walk each day.

In elementary schools, many teachers spend most of their time on reading.  They are often highly knowledgeable and comfortable with reading instruction and with their own skills as readers. 

These teachers are often avid readers themselves both professionally and personally, some may even belong to book groups. They read for work and for pleasure. This predisposes them to the idea that reading is the more important content to teach.  This predisposition is reinforced by standardized tests, “since federal law required standardized tests only in math and reading” (Layton, 2015), with little to no attention paid to other content areas.

Still, “over the past ten years research has shown that reading and writing are more interdependent than we thought” (k12reader.com, 2008).  The reciprocal nature of the relationship between reading and writing makes it impossible to teach one effectively without the other.  “A child’s literacy development is dependent on this interconnection between reading and writing” (k12reader.com, 2008).

Furthermore, a singular emphasis on reading does not prepare students well for life in a 21st century global community where the ability to communicate ideas effectively and multimodally is essential to success. 

So what is a busy teacher to do?

The first thing is to build a stronger pedagogy around the teaching of writing and writing conferences.  A good place to start is by researching the work done by Lester Laminak, Katie Wood Ray, and Lucy Culkins. 

The second, and possibly more difficult thing, is that teachers must build their own identities as a writer. Very few teachers, outside of secondary English departments, see themselves as writers.  While some may engage in, and be quite accomplished at writing for professional audiences; few write for personal pleasure and fewer still belong to either professional or personal writing groups. Participating in a writing group can be a great way to start building one’s own identity as a writer.

Just as a teacher that is a passionate and voracious reader models a love of reading for their students, a teacher that writes for themselves as well as for their students models and encourages a love of writing.

When the teacher is equally invested in both reading and writing, it will be easier for them to walk the tightrope of balanced literacy.

Works Cited

k12reader.com. (2008, April). The relationship between reading and writing . Retrieved from k12 Reader: http://www.k12reader.com/the-relationship-between-reading-and-writing/
Layton, L. (2015, October 24). Study says standardized testing is overwhelming nation's public schools. Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/study-says-standardized-testing-is-overwhelming-nations-public-schools/2015/10/24/8a22092c-79ae-11e5-a958-d889faf561dc_story.html




Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Escamilla Interview: A Must-Read for Teachers of Language Learners

Interviewed by Jackie Moreno and Ashley Painter

 

Top experts in the field of bilingual education Kathy and Manuel Escamilla
answer teachers’ questions on what makes a successful school, hybrid language use, and student identities. Their answers have affected our practice and could influence yours.

How would you define a successful school?

Kathy: We need to measure how kids are learning and doing in reading, writing and math. However, engagement is as important as accomplishment. Are the kids engaged?  Are they motivated? Do they like to come to school? Do they see school as a place to invent their future? Those factors, as hard as they are to measure, are equally important to me when it comes to having a successful school.

Are the teachers well prepared? Is there a positive climate in the school?  

I go into too many schools where the climate is like a prison. Kids are marching down the halls like soldiers. I don’t think that’s the kind of place where you will find engagement or the joy of learning that will take kids through graduate school.

What are your thoughts on hybrid language use and bridging in DLI programs?

Kathy: I think that hybrid language use has a place. I don’t think it matters if we legitimize it or not in schools; the human mind is open. We don’t close the Spanish drawer and open the English drawer, which is why doing things like mixing language is possible, because the human brain is going to do it anyway.

I know how controversial it is in the field and why the field took such a strict separation of language policy because 20, even 10 or 5 years ago, there was so much concurrent translation. Concurrent translation is not the same as hybrid language practice.

I see a place for it, and we have to consider it in the context of the entire school day. Even if we tell students not to, they are using both of their languages to process information. We have to understand how to productively use what they know and what they are bringing to the table.

I don’t see it as a problem, but rather as a way for us to understand how the human brain is processing two languages. There is a need for us to better understand that.

How could a teacher integrate hybrid language use into a guided reading group?

Kathy: Let’s say you are doing a guided reading group in English and the teacher says the sound is “ch, ch, ch” and the child responds with chancla. You don’t need to stop and say, “It’s English time.” Rather you could say, “ You’re right, that’s a good Spanish word that illustrates the sound ch, just like chocolate.” You don’t need to put down the child or censor the child. You let them know they were making a good cognitive connection.

How can we effectively affirm student identities as bilingual learners when there are so many social forces that are coming at them?

Kathy: There is absolutely no problem affirming the identity of kids who speak English at home in terms of learning Spanish. They value their bilingual identities when they are not even bilingual yet. For white students who come from the dominant culture, bilingual is not a bad word, it’s an additive process. You are affirming an identity that is already there.

In the case of the kids who come to school speaking Spanish, the identities that we have to affirm are a little bit different because they are speaking a stigmatized language, stigmatized in terms of what they are bringing to school. We have to work a little harder to assure them that what they have is of value to them, to their family, and to the greater community, and it is not something that they should lose.

Manuel: We have two colleagues here at the University of Colorado, and there are others. They grew up in Mexico, and they went to the University in Mexico and graduated. The language they spoke was the normal language that was used there. They didn’t have to be corrected or told not to use that language.  They have a different attitude than I do and other colleagues like myself. This is a very big issue and a big challenge.

I came to the U.S. as a young person when I was eleven years old. The experiences that my colleagues had were different than the experiences that I had or of the students who are born being simultaneous bilinguals. We don’t often give enough attention to our native language.

The difference between me and my colleagues is the confidence that they exhibit. I am a faculty member, and I teach at the college level. I notice how I react and behave when I teach a class versus how those two colleagues act. Their accents are heavier than mine, but that is not important to them. To me it mattered because I grew up here with the expectation that I shouldn’t have an accent in English.

Two things that are important in terms of what is happening in education: many of our children lack the confidence to be more adventurous in their learning. Also, teachers at low-achieving schools are reminded that they are at low-achieving schools, and their confidence is not at the level where they think they can teach something well. Because of this, we have lost the ability to inspire our children.

See more of the Escamillas' work at: www.literacysquared.org 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

WIDA Has Something New on 2-22

Be watching WIDA for something new. Coming your way on 2-22!


Sunday, December 13, 2015

What If We Measured What We Value? A Must-Read Interview with Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy



We recently had the opportunity to interview Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy (Lumbee), ASU President's Professor of Indigenous Education and Justice in the School of Social Transformation. Brayboy was a keynote speaker at WIDA’s 2015 National Conference. Here are some thoughts he shared with us after his presentation.

Narrow metrics are often used to measure how successful a school is, how would you define a successful school?

It won’t be using the same metrics that other people are using. To me, it is about whether or not children are healthy. To me I measure if a school is working based on how kids look when they are walking in. So for my own kids, who go to a good school, they have a way of walking when I know they are happy and engaged and want to be there. So one of them glides when he is happy. When he is gliding, I know things are working well. The other one bounces.

I understand accountability measures and the politics around them, but for me school should be a place where kids want to be, where they are happy, where they are healthy. And I think the same would be true for teachers. The teachers and the administrators should show up and feel happy. They should bounce or glide into work, however that goes for them. That would be a pretty good mark, and the rest of the work will end up taking care of itself.

So for me, I’m a big believer of taking care of people.

On mistakes and learning:

The other thing I would say to teachers is make mistakes. We don’t do that enough. I was once watching my son build with Legos. They’d come in these packages, and he’d spend all day doing it, and then he’d be done with it. It’d sit on the shelf for a week and then he’d tear it apart and start free styling with the Legos. I watched him trying to do this really complicated thing once. It kept breaking in a particular spot, and he just kept going back to it. I watched him work through that and figure it out, but he made the same mistake probably four, five, six, eight, times. Then he started trying stuff, and this was maybe when he was in second grade. 

I noticed around fourth grade he stopped doing that; he’s still building with Legos, but I think there’s something, and I don’t know developmentally how this works, but it seems to me he stopped wanting to make mistakes. And I think that mistakes are actually this great place to learn, so administrators have to allow teachers to make mistakes.

What we need to be careful of when analyzing accountability measures:
Transferring deficiencies to children rather than looking at structures.

Moving beyond conventional thinking about students:

Think about things differently. Move outside of what you see as success or failure. Open yourself to see new kinds of possibilities for your children. I think the other thing is to love your students.

Interviewed by Jackie Moreno and Ashley Painter