Last spring we found out we would be getting the chance to present at WIDA’s first national conference. Little did WIDA suspect that by accepting our proposal they were also inviting 28 fourth and fifth grade bilingual co-presenters and their families! However, when we floated the idea to WIDA prior to the conference, they went out of their way to welcome the students and their families. Consequently, when WIDA invited us to be a part of their family as monthly bloggers, we couldn’t wait.
We work together in Madison, Wisconsin, at Sandburg Elementary, a school at the forefront of innovative and transformative approaches to education. As Sandburg’s principal Brett Wilfrid explains, “In the last five years, our areas of focus have included character traits which are predictive of future success, interpreting the Common Core State Standards through the lens of WIDA's features of academic language, and expanding the school's offerings and partnerships (including a Community Learning Center after-school program and partnerships with the UW-Madison in a number of areas, such as hosting pre-service teachers pursuing ESL licensure, collaborating with researchers focused on the the achievement of language learners on standardized assessments, and consulting around our school-wide efforts to effectively integrate tablet technology).”
At Sandburg, collaborative technology integration has helped us become more effective when it comes to formative assessment, meaningful project-based learning, providing language learners with appropriate scaffolds and giving students exciting opportunities to write and speak for authentic purposes. Collectively we have teaching experience that spans K-12 in ESL, DLI and bilingual settings.
Our hope is that these monthly posts offer inspirational and practical ideas for cultivating rich opportunities for language learning that keep student creativity at the forefront. Although we are currently elementary school teachers, many of the ideas we will be sharing in the blog can be applied to secondary teaching as well. Our original intent in highlighting student voices at the WIDA conference and beyond was to allow the community to learn from and love our bilingual students as much as we do. Our wish is that they continue to have their voices heard through our monthly blog posts.
Photo courtesy of Ashley Coblentz, Sara Batesky and Jackie Moreno