Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What’s new with ACCESS for ELLs this year (2011-2012)?

For many of our states, ACCESS for ELLs testing is just around the corner. In fact,  Auld Lang Syne might still be ringing in your ears when you start testing next month.  For other states, ACCESS testing is already underway.  So I thought it would be a  nice time to bring everyone up to speed on the administration of the ACCESS for ELLs test.  There are three main points and some tips to keep in mind this year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

An Evening With…Dr. Yong Zhao

Every year I am eager to see the “Evening with…” dinner and speaker at the Illinois bilingual conference.  This year we were honored to have Dr. Yong Zhao as our guest speaker. If you have not heard of Dr. Zhao, check out his website or one of his many publications.     
 Photo courtesy of Nicole Conroy

Not only was Dr. Zhao’s presentation insightful, he struck the perfect balance between serious and funny.  As someone who does professional development for a living, I know how difficult that can be. 
Dr. Zhao began his talk by asking the audience – what kind of education do you want to buy for your children?  He provoked us to really think about what is most important when educating our children.  Do we want children who do well on tests or students who show creativity?  In a moment of both humor and complete seriousness, Dr. Zhao mentioned

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Me Washa la Mano

Thank you, readers for making this blog such a success.  This weekend we hit a major milestone – one thousand page views!

Last week’s conference was a wonderful success. For those of us that attended, it was a time of professional rejuvenation, reconnecting with old friends, and meeting new colleagues.  For those of you outside of Illinois, I am referring to the 35th Annual Statewide Conference for Teachers Serving Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students (aka the bilingual conference) that is held annually in Oak Brook, Illinois.  It is a four day conference with local, national and international speakers.  This year, more than 3,000 educators attended over the course of the week. 

This was the first year that I did four presentations.  Needless to say, I was very busy and simply ran out of time to blog.  But don’t fear, I have taken copious notes and am looking forward to sharing what I learned with you. First, let me share with you the highlights of the opening keynote address from Else Hamayan, director emeritus of the Illinois Resource Center.  Her talk was titled “Me washa la mano! Debunking some myths about early childhood bilingualism.”
Photo courtesy of Josie Yanguas, IRC

Dr. Hamayan started by saying that many people believe that it isn’t beneficial, and may even be harmful, for children to grow up with two or three languages.  She reminded the room of educators that what we believe is important because it impacts how we teach our students. In all, Dr. Hamayan debunked a number of common myths about young bilingual children.  I’ll share my two favorites with you.

Myth #1 – The monolingual brain
Dr. Hamayan stated, “nearly half of the world’s population is functionally bilingual.”  In other words,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Q&A on Transformations

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving last week.  Today I thought I would share with you a question I received from Renee Sartore.  She is the Director of ELL Programs in Yorkville, IL.  

QUESTION: Regarding making transformations to the MPIs, I wonder how to keep the same content or topic goal, and adjust the MPI appropriately for Language Proficiency levels. Would it just be changing the type of support, or changing the language function, or both? Would you say the progression of language functions reflects the progression of the level of higher order thinking skills? 
My question comes from wanting to make the common district learning goals and outcomes for a given subject area accessible and adaptable for ELLs. 

ANSWER:  Part 2 of the transformations blog will give you more details and examples of how to transform the MPIs.  But let me see if I can provide some additional clarification beyond what is in the previous posts. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Transformations - Part 2

Now that you have had a chance to identify the three parts (language function, the topic, and the support) of each Model Performance Indicator (MPI), we are ready for the next step.    Today I will share with you how to change the components so that they align with your state standards and classroom instruction. 
As you might imagine, the Resource Guide has several pages that will be useful as we work on the transformations.     Here are the pages I recommend.   Grab your nearest stack of sticky notes and tab these pages:
·         RG-14-20 – explains the three parts of each MPI and gives examples
·         RG-21 – lists of sensory, graphic and interactive supports (I also like RG-23 and RG-24)
·         RG 34-38 – these pages walk you through the transformation process
·         RG-39 is the WIDA Checklist for Reviewing Strands of MPIs – a handy sheet that we used in the workshops to double-check the newly transformed standards
Now that you have those pages tabbed, let’s take a look at an example.      

            Each one of these MPI components can be changed.  For example,we can change the topic from “weather conditions” to “body parts.”  Then, the newly transformed MPI would be:   Name familiar objects in photographs or illustrations associated with body parts (e.g. face, leg).  This type of transformation

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Transformations - Part 1

Hello blogosphere,
                I am thrilled to be the lead blogger for WIDA.  I am a former bilingual/ESL teacher and program coordinator.  In June 2005, I left my school district and joined the Illinois Resource Center (IRC) to provide training and support to educators. Now I am eager to join the online conversations impacting ELLs – I hope you’ll share your thoughts and perspectives with me. 
                Teachers ask me what to do when the MPI strands (see the picture above) don’t match the instruction they are providing in their classroom.  Sometimes the supports need to be changed.  Sometimes the example topics don’t match what they are currently teaching, or they want to see what a particular topic would look like if it were written for a different language domain (e.g. speaking instead of writing).  My answer – let me show you how to transform the standards!   So, today is part one of a two part blog about how to make the English language proficiency (ELP) standards more relevant and useful.          
This month I have facilitated two workshops on “Transformations” – the process for adapting the ELP Standards to your curriculum and instruction. The first workshop was in Minnesota – practically in the shadow of Mall of America.  (Thank you, Minnesota, for providing me with the chance to spend 12 hours at the mall and ride an indoor Ferris wheel – what a trip!).  The other was at the IRC.  I had two very different groups of teachers.  In Minnesota, I spent the day with a wonderful group of teachers from one district.  They were new to the WIDA Consortium and the ELP Standards but experts at curriculum design and UbD (Understanding by Design).  The Illinois group consisted of teachers and administrators from various districts- many who had been working with the ELP standards for years but who had varying levels of curriculum design expertise.  By the end of each workshop, teachers from both groups were quick to share how much the day had impacted their understanding of the ELP Standards.  One teacher wrote on her evaluation form that “This is the first time in years that the standards have been so clearly explained to me.”  Another mentioned that she was surprised to learn that “higher level thinking can be addressed at level 1 and level 2” of English language proficiency.  A third teacher “was happy to see how WIDA spells out the need for sensory, graphic and interactive support all the way up through level 4.”   Many commented about the need to spend time with their colleagues actually doing transformations – not just reading about how to do them.  So let’s try a little experiment – professional development through a blog.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Decisions, decisions....about tier placement

“It’s time to make the donuts!” Recently I was reminded of that classic TV commercial.  The diligent baker wakes up in the early morning hours to make fresh donuts. He is hard at work carefully making various types of donuts and motivating his fellow bakers.   Right now in several WIDA states, including Illinois and Minnesota, educators are being called “to make the donuts.” For them, it is time to order pre-identification labels for ACCESS for ELLs and determine what tier of the test their students will be taking in a few months.  In my role as a professional developer, I am often asked about this topic.  Just last week,  a gentleman told me that if he hadn’t been attending my workshop on understanding and using ACCESS score reports, he would have been stuck at his desk all day determining tier placements for dozens and dozens of students.  So let me share with you a few of the tips, tricks and helpful links that I shared with him.