Iowa Culture & Language Conference 2016
Our ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, Alicia Martin and I attended the Iowa Culture and Language Conference in Coralville, Iowa this week. It was an outstanding conference and one that I wish every Howard-Winneshiek teacher could attend.
The reason I say that I would like to see every teacher attend an ELL Conference is because at the end of the day, teaching English as a Second Language is just plain good teaching! The domains of ESL are similar to the English Language Arts content areas of reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing. These are used in every class and in every content area. I will briefly outline here what is needed when general education and ELL teachers partner together to teach our English Learners the most important elements of learning a language by Making Content Comprehensible and Developing Academic Language.
During the conference I was able to attend a workshop that made the Italian Language content comprehensible and began to to help me develop the academic language of Italian. It was super fun! The presenter was John Seidilitz and the title of the presentation was "Monitoring Effective Instruction for English Learners." I was super surprised to learn that I had walked into an EL classroom! Mr. Seidilitz outlined the power of visuals, using hand gestures and signals, engaging dialogue, inflection of voice and of course, humor. Leaning the language was fun, and the room was filled with over 85 administrators engaged and encouraged to learn! Here is an outline of ELP Standards that are coaching tools and effective means of instruction when students are in our schools that do not have English as their first language. The reader will notice that these standards are vital in teaching all students. Here are a few that were outlined at the conference:
- Teacher posts and explains clearly defined content objectives aligned to the Iowa Core.
- Teacher posts and explains clearly defined language objectives aligned to the ELP Standards.
- Teacher clearly communicates key concepts, words, phrases, and directions for instructional tasks to students using visuals, gestures, native language resources as needed.
- Teacher aligns the content to the language development level.
- Teacher provides procedural scaffolding for students - sentence stems, modeling, instruction on how to use strategies.
- Teacher provides opportunities to write using academic English.
- Teacher provides opportunities for student to listen and speak using academic and social language.
- Students have the opportunity to demonstrate understanding of content.
We all know that the issue of English Language Learners and immigration was a "hot topic" during this presidential campaign and will most likely be a hot topic for many years to come. This issue was addressed in great detail during the conference. One of the most serious issues is that many of our English Language Learners here in the United States are legal citizens of the United States, but there parents are not. I learned that it costs, on the average about $20,000 dollars for an immigrant to become a citizen of the United States of America. I had no idea! Here are some other numbers that opened my eyes:
- 11 million undocumented immigrants in US.
- 5.5 million are children.
- 80% children are US citizens.
- 91% of children under 6 years old are citizens.
- On average, 1-2 citizen children are in every school in US.
- These children live in constant fear of being deported (or families being deported).
These numbers shocked me and what is more important, what are we going to do if we do not educate these children? It is something we take very seriously here at Howard-Winneshiek CSD.
Last spring we had an influx of English Language Learners arrive at our door. The majority of them did not speak any English and would be what is referred to as a SLIFE STUDENT.
SLIFE stands for: Student with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education. Many immigrant children are forced to move often in search of jobs and a place to call home. What happened in Lime Springs, with Upper Iowa Beef, is a good example. The doors were opened, families uprooted in the hopes of having a better life and three months later the doors were closed. I met one of our parents and a student affected by this last summer. The parent informed me that they LOVED our school and all that we had done for them, but they had to move because the work was gone. His little girl had once introduced herself to me and said her name. I asked her if she was from Guatamala? She said, "No, I am from Iowa." It was precious.
Currently, at Howard-Winneshiek CSD, we have 14 English Learners spread across our elementary through the high school. We have a .25 ESL teacher, Alicia Martin, as I mentioned earlier and without the support of our excellent teachers throughout the district, we would not be able to educate these children. I was again convinced, over the last few days, that HWCSD is set apart in meeting the challenging needs of so many students and giving our students the best, most innovative education.
When and if we see another influx of English Language Learners at Howard-Winneshiek, I know we will rise up to the challenge. Our teachers and community care deeply for kids. We will utilize the ENGAGE Model for EL's and all of our students will benefit.
The ENGAGE Model:
E - Establish a shared vision grounded in deep understanding of EL’s (culture/history).
N - Name & use relevant experience of EL’s.
G - Gather and analyze EL - specific data.
A - Align standards-based assessment & grading - in accord with linguistic & content development.
G - Ground standards-based instruction in both content & Language Development.
E - Examine results to inform and drive next steps.