Last November, all language learners were formally assessed using the standardized language proficiency assessment WIDA Model. The collected data, WIDA results, in addition to other data sources, allowed EAL teachers to create ELPs, student learner profiles, including learning goals aligned to the ELD (English Language Development) WIDA standards. As I reflect on this process, it’s more evident to me that supporting all multilinguals to reach their language goals goes beyond daily instruction in the students’ homeroom or in small group settings. To address the need for embedded language supports that will create opportunities to practice language in meaningful ways to reach grade level standards, pre-planning and co-planning will be key.
Based on language proficiency abilities, all ELLs can be challenged according to their current levels of performance. Language matters in the context of demanding grade level standards, CCSS, as per the Standards Based Learning Environment adopted by ISB. As a language specialist, there are collaboration structures in place that will allow me to be an active participant in the pre-planning and co-planning process to embed language supports in the different content areas.
Within the ISB Language Acquisition Framework, SIOP & C6 elements, it’s common practice to analyze the language and content demands to inform our instruction. All teachers’ main goal is to support all learners to access challenging grade level standards in all content areas. Content standards raise the bar for learning, these ensure consistency and promote viable opportunities for all students. In addition to content objectives, guided by the CCSS, we set language objectives to promote equity for access to content areas through language functions.
The fact that ELLs span across a wide continuum of language abilities, from emerging to advanced levels, could pose some access challenges for the students and for the teachers supporting them to access grade level standards. Our instructional frameworks such as the workshop model, and specific content area practices, allow us to formatively assess ELLs as instruction unfolds. At this time of the year, we have learned a lot about our ELLs as learners so we can be responsive and adaptive to provide supports and scaffolds as needed. We can respond to language and content needs in real time. ELLs benefit from appropriate levels of challenge that will allow them to practice academic language features to grow their language abilities while accessing grade level standards. In order to foster appropriate levels of challenge, in my role as a language specialist, I will focus on pre-planning and co-planning to embed language standards and language expectations in content area units. I want to analyze content and language demands to include scaffolds focusing on different language domains, language forms, and language functions, as per the content areas standards.
This is how I plan to approach this professional goal.
WIDA has released the latest version of the language development standards. I am spending time becoming familiar with the 4 big ideas embedded in the framework:
-Equity of opportunities and Access.
-Integration of content and Language.
-Collaboration among stakeholders.
-Functional approach to language development.
These big ideas align perfectly with my professional goal. I will be participating in the WIDA virtual institute to learn more about how these standards can be implemented and applied to my current context.
It’s important to note that these standards are one of the elements in the WIDA Standards Framework. Key language uses, language expectations, and proficiency level descriptors are important elements within the framework. These elements are like a helpful map to set goals for curriculum, instruction, and assessment for multilingual learners.
Furthermore, it will be necessary for me to actively participate in the collaboration cycles with my grade level team in order to align this goal within the context of current units of study. Collaboration allows us all to share the responsibility to provide the just right challenges and the necessary supports for our ELLs in a Standards Based context.
Within the 6 Cs Tripod goals, I am focusing on the “Challenge” aspect of teaching and learning. These are two guiding questions that I am considering as I work toward my goal:
-How do I set challenges that are at the appropriate level for each student’s growth?
-How do I scaffold instruction to support students in rising to the challenges facing them?
Differentiation is the instructional strategy that I will focus on to start this process. I believe that all students can be challenged so that they can grow, and I also believe that ELLs possess funds of knowledge and abilities in their home language which allow them to be active learners and participants within a standards-based context.
Excited to see where this professional exploration process will take me. Most importantly, looking forward to learning from others and further enhance my craft and knowledge.
English Learners Success Forum. EL SF Guideline. Analyzing Content and Language Demands.
International School of Beijing. Our Curriculum
Koelsch, N. & Rodriguez, G. (2014). Supporting English Language Learners to Meet the Challenges of New Standards. TESOL Quarterly. doi: 10.1002/esq.181
Stanford University. April 2012. Challenges and Opportunities for Language Learning in the Context of Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. Conference Overview Paper.
WIDA Focus Bulletin. 2019. Collaboration: Working Together to Serve Multilingual Learners.
WIDA ELD Standards Framework, 2020 Edition.