By Ivannia Soto
I have just completed my fourth week of teaching college-level courses online. With each class session I have had to make new pedagogical shifts, which are as applicable in a K-12 online setting as they are in a higher-ed environment. I mostly teach preservice teachers at Whittier College, a small liberal arts college in Southern California, known (for better or worse) for being Richard Nixon’s alma mater. My specialization is second language acquisition and designing equitable environments for English language learners (ELLs) within school systems. Historically, ELLs in classrooms have been relegated to little or no classroom participation. ELLs have not been required, or oftentimes, expected to speak in the classroom setting. As I oftentimes remind my preservice teachers, the person talking the most is learning the most, so we must require all students to speak and be engaged in the classroom setting. I am taking this lesson to heart as I transition my own classrooms to an online setting, where students can easily become passive and disengaged, whether they are K-12 students or preservice teachers themselves.
Continue reading “Essential Pedagogical Shifts: Prioritizing Student Engagement and Self-Care during Lock-down”
By Katharine Davies Samway, author and Professor Emerita at San José State University in California
Having an extensive vocabulary is very helpful in order to understand, enjoy, and appreciate oral and written language, as well as to succeed in school and the outside world. Vocabulary is often taught in isolation in a rather boring, uninspiring way for many students—being given ten words to define is one example. However, vocabulary development can be a very engaging and exciting experience. Word Consciousness is one such approach—it focuses on language in context and an awareness of and love for language (e.g., Graves & Watts-Taffe, 2008; Samway & Taylor, 2009; Scott & Nagy, 2004).
The following word consciousness/vocabulary development activities are very helpful for English learners (ELs), as well as for non-ELs. Importantly, students who do not have access to a computer and/or the Internet can complete these activities. I mention this because there has been a lot of talk about the importance of online teaching while students are likely to be out of school for weeks, if not months, during the coronavirus epidemic. However, many students who are immigrants and/or come from low-income homes do not have access to the Internet or computers that are necessary for online learning to occur.
Continue reading “Supporting EL Students’ Vocabulary Development While Schools Are Closed”
Five stages or steps for engaging students in a service-learning project have been identified by the RMC Research Corporation (2009)*. Here we look at each stage and include an example from Whittier College in Whittier, CA, which engaged in a service-learning project that involved multilingual students and addressed a community need.
Investigation: The first phase of a service-learning project involves engaging students in exploring a community need they might address as they engage in an academic learning experience. This initial phase should include a range of activities to spark students’ interest in addressing the problem and develop consensus in the ways that it will be addressed. These might include a classroom brainstorming discussion (e.g., where students engage in pairs, small groups, and/or as a whole class); engaging in research about the problem and solutions that have occurred (such as reading newspaper accounts); and collaboratively developing an observation protocol for students to see the need firsthand. These might also occur as part of a specific course of study that is designed to provide a structured, systematized program of service-learning study as well as a less formal program. Both can be highly successful. Let’s look at the nationally recognized service-learning efforts at Whittier College.
Continue reading “Gift-Giving: Features of K-16 Service Learning”
The proportion of English learners (ELs) in the United States public school system has reached nearly ten percent of all students, and is on a nationwide growth trajectory1. Along with this growth in numbers, ELs tend to experience an opportunity gap, which generally refers to the impact that factors such as students’ English proficiency, socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity have on their achievement. For example, 79% of English fluent eighth graders scored at the basic or above reading level in 2017, while only 32% of ELs scored at those levels during that same year.2 In addition, ELs have one of the lowest graduation rates among all students on a national level, approximately 63% as compared to 82% of all students3.Gaps such as these have helped lead far too many educators to see ELs as one-dimensional, defined primarily as being lacking in areas such as English proficiency, achievement in content areas, and/or ability to graduate. Recent research4 on teachers’ perceptions of ELs in kindergarten through second grade suggests that classifying students as ELs has a “direct and negative effect on teachers’ perceptions of students’ academic skills.”
Continue reading “Back to School: Promoting English Learners’ Assets”
We have all heard that collaborating is an opportunity to stretch our thinking by hearing what others have to say, or have read, or are reading on a topic that we are exploring. That is what is occurring as I co-write a book with Ivannia Soto; I am learning about resources from my writing partner, in addition to reading what she has to say, and the combination makes collaborating a powerful experience. One book Ivannia recommended is Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race. A self-proclaimed “internet yeller,” Oluo brings a fresh, current, and serious look at racism in ways that are on the one hand personal and on the other generalizable. She helps us to see, in today’s climate, how it comes in many subtle, but no less-damaging forms than overt racism.
Continue reading “Summer Reading: Learning About Race”