Special Interest Groups
Instructional Technology and English Language Learners
By Gregory Romero
Instructional technology choices available for purchase are a costly consideration for districts at a time where funds are limited. Careful consideration must be made prior to making purchases. Districts facing limited funds as a result of budget cuts and faced with making purchases for their students may opt to cutting programs as well as purchases to save on the extra expense. Procurements of instructional technology specifically prepared for English language learners (ELLs) by companies eager to enter the vast realm of ELL instruction need to be evaluated for alignment with the ACCESS for ELLs and the method with which they address the four domains of language [Ed.: listening, speaking, reading, writing.] The input from ELL specialists is integral to successful purchases. Therefore, ELL specialists must become savvy users of the various choices of technology that is available for instruction so as to give the best purchasing advice possible.
Teachers need to understand how using technology programs/applications (apps)/websites such as Lexia/Kid Biz, Teen Biz, Achieve 3000 or free programs found on-line such as STAR FALL, Story Time for Me, and Many Things can enhance learning and individualize instruction; resources are available free as well as for purchase and it behooves educators to become familiar with both. These resources can help develop pre-reading and reading skills through the creative use of animation, reinforcements, and games. Therefore, teachers need to choose programs that will increase the ability of their students to understand and speak the English language and increase reading and writing abilities maximizing the district’s educational dollars.
Opportunities to use technology are not limited to software. Students in schools are using Chromebooks or laptops using Google apps and Google Classroom in conjunction with traditional instructional materials. Teachers are able to create lessons that encourage second language usage with programs that require students to write and share information with each other allowing for self- and peer-editing to improve final products. One student-centered program that allows students to edit and share their work with fellow students is Seesaw. “Seesaw empowers students to independently document what they are learning at school. With support for QR code sign-in for younger learners and email/Google accounts to sign in for older students, Seesaw works in any K-12 classroom” (http://web.seesaw.me/learn-more). With Seesaw, students can add to their online journals and record responses which then are uploaded to their student account and then are visible or audible to their teacher/teachers. Teachers can access information for the entire class using Seesaw. But, just as important, teachers may share student progress with parents using the Seesaw app making parents and guardians an important ally in the instructional/learning process.
Teachers have to determine the impact of a new instructional program on English language learning by connecting the following questions to a purchase:
How can a teacher incorporate technology into instruction?
What instructional practices do teachers need to use that help students improve their proficiency levels?
How can these programs help ELL students in an ESL class increase their English proficiency?
What characteristics do ELL students display when learning a second language that is enhanced by the use of technology programs?
Teachers ought to remember that the positive effects of a new program can be manipulated by the faithfulness or lack of faithfulness of implementation by the teacher and students. Through observation, the teacher will be able to ascertain the effectiveness of programs. It is vital that programs be monitored and student performance measured. It is also important to remember that the students in our classrooms are digital natives and are familiar with technology so that whatever is chosen should both be instructional and engaging.
Gregory Romero, Bilingual Elementary SIG, firstname.lastname@example.org
The World in Your Classroom
By Michelle Land
T he hectic initial days of school are over. We look at our students and find the world in their faces. Just as the world is full of differences, so are our students.
Lately, there has been some talk on the NJTESOL/NJBE Hotlist about how to address the different needs of our students who span several grades and language proficiencies. I can’t think of many other teachers in public schools who have to deal with such a range of abilities in their classes. Having struggled to find a better way to deal with these challenges, I would like to share with you some strategies that I have found helpful in my class.
Our ESL and bilingual students have many different backgrounds. Some of these students have interrupted or limited formal education. Some of them are not even literate in their native tongue. At the same time, there are others who are highly educated in their native countries. And let’s not forget those who were born here, and can speak quite fluently, but have very little academic language, thus qualifying them for ESL.
Ironically, this is not a problem unique to our country. For seven years, I lived and taught in Norway, a country that accepts a fair share of refugees and immigrants. I had the same issues there.
When I returned to the United States, I also grappled with the difficulties in meeting my diverse students’ needs. I knew the traditional techniques were falling short. It bothered me that I wasn’t as effective as I wanted to be and I wasn’t sure where to begin to address the problem.
At this point, I became a detective. I researched files, communicated with families, and tested the students for English language proficiency. The more information I had, the better I could place them. Once I was able to place students in groups according to needs and proficiency, things became a lot simpler.
As I wrote out my plans for each group, I was able to focus on specific needs within the group while maintaining a continuity of curriculum, albeit at different proficiency levels. And yet, it still wasn’t effective in class. Each group would begin with an assignment/activity, and then wait for my instruction to begin the next. With up to four groups in each class, there was a lot of wait time, which became playtime, while I was introducing a topic/skill to another group.
At this time, our new school administration asked that we always make daily objectives visible in the room. The thought was that the students should know what was to be expected of them, and what topics were to be covered. I decided to take this one step further. I gave each member of each group a copy of an assignment paper, which listed objectives, skills, activities, assignments, and assessments on a daily basis. As students would finish each item, I would monitor their comprehension and work. If they were sufficient, I would check them off on the assignment sheet. If not, I would use the opportunity to reteach the skill in a different way or provide alternatives. At the end of the week, I would collect the assignment sheets and use this to monitor progress on a weekly basis.
Students are now expected to get out their assignment sheets each day, identify where they left off, and begin work independently. I monitor progress and have mini-lessons as needed. The students are becoming independent and self-motivated learners, eager to show me their completed work so that it can be checked off. This strategy is still a work in progress, but there is progress.
Some would say that the ideal classroom would consist of students with similar abilities and needs. That would make both the teacher’s planning and teaching easier. But the world of the ESL/bilingual teacher, by nature, cannot be that way. Luckily, we can embrace this diversity and meet the challenge head on.
Michelle Land is the NJTESOL/NJBE Bilingual/ESL Middle School 6-8 SIG Representative. She teaches ESL at Randolph Township Schools. email@example.com
Embracing ELLs: Beyond a Friendly Hug
By Carole Maurer
Being nice is not enough. “Every child needs to feel welcome, to feel comfortable. School is a foreign land to most kids, but the more distant a child’s culture and language are from the culture and language of the school, the more at risk that child is. A warm, friendly, helpful teacher is nice, but it isn’t enough. We have plenty of warm friendly teachers who tell the kids nicely to forget their Spanish and ask mommy and daddy to speak English to them at home; who give them easier tasks so they won’t feel badly when the work becomes difficult; who never learn about what life is like at home or what they eat or what music they like or what stories they have been told or what their history is. Instead, we smile and give them a hug and tell them to eat our food and listen to our stories and dance to our music. We teach them to read with our words and wonder why it’s so hard for them. We ask them to sit quietly and we’ll tell them what’s important and what they must know to ‘get ready for the next grade.’ And we never ask them who they are and where they want to go.” (Nieto, 2010) This is such a powerful quote which underlines the tremendous significance of embracing our students’ home languages and cultures.
I would like to share a resource which I have used as a coaching tool in my work as master teacher. I encourage its use as an implement for self-evaluation and reflection. The Support for English Language Learners Classroom Assessment (SELLCA) is a structured observation instrument akin to the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS). The SELLCA measures the quality of English language learner (ELL) supports in the following 8 categories on a scale of 1 (minimal evidence) to 5 (strong evidence.)
- The teacher incorporates the cultural backgrounds and life experiences of the children into the life of the classroom.
- The teacher speaks and uses the native languages of the majority of the children in the classroom.
- The teacher encourages children to use and extend their native language abilities.
- Books, print and literacy props are available in the native language of the children.
- The teacher organizes activities to promote the native language of the children.
- The teacher and/or program actively encourage children’s literacy development in their home language.
- The teacher uses effective strategies to help children understand and acquire English.
- The teacher uses appropriate assessment practices to identify children’s language strengths and needs in their home language and in English.
Use these guidelines to create a classroom environment that embraces the richness and diversity that ELLs and their families bring. Of course, friendly hugs are always nice too.
For more information on the SELLCA, contact your master teacher or me.
Carole Maurer, Early Childhood SIG Representative, ESL Teacher, Ocean City School District
National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) (January 2005). Support for English Language Learners Classroom Assessment.
Nieto, Sonia (2010). The Light in Their Eyes: Creating Multicultural Learning
Communities. Chapter 4, 114-115.
2015-2016 Update: High School Graduation Requirements
By Marcella Garavaglia
Educators and students at the secondary level continue to transition into the new high school graduation requirements. Please continue to check the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) website for district broadcasts. An updated broadcast was posted on September 9, 2015 about the graduation requirements. According to the letter, the scores for the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) are anticipated to be released in October 2015. Students must demonstrate proficiencies in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics.
English language learners (ELLs) are not exempt from these requirements. As educators of ELLs, the main concern is our students’ level of English and native language proficiency especially for Students With Limited/interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE) and incoming ELLs who arrive as seniors. It is probable that they will struggle with grade-level English proficiency in reading and writing therefore will need to meet the criteria for the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) portfolio appeal process to graduate.
On October 6, 2015 information about the appeals process for students that have not met their assessment graduation requirement was posted on the NJDOE broadcasts webpage.
- Attachment Portfolio.docx
- Attachment ELA Information Guide.pdf
- Attachment Math Information Guide.pdf
- Appeals Process Memo.pdf
Keeping track of student work that reflects the skills that PARCC assesses in English and, if possible, the student’s native language will help with the collection of data for graduation. ESL teachers use the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) with the WIDA standards to develop language and content objectives in order to teach grade-level skills to our ELLs. However, we are aware that the process of learning a second language involves multiple factors. If you view the ELA Test Specifications Documents on the PARCC website you can view the “knowledge and skills that an assessment item or a task elicits from students” which are aligned directly to the CCSS. Again, ESL teachers are aware of their ELLs' language proficiencies and academic strengths but unfortunately the academic strengths of our high school ELLs are not always grade-level appropriate in English or their native language. If you visit the WIDA website, https://www.wida.us/standards/eld.aspx, then scroll down to view the link to The WIDA Standards Framework and its Theoretical Foundations PDF you will find the research on page 3:
Language development occurs over time and depends on many factors. Second language and literacy skills develop interdependently but at different rates and in different sequences (Araujo, 2002; Fitzgerald & Noble, 2000; Pérez, 1994). A variety of individual and environmental factors impact second language acquisition, including age, time in the country, and educational background (Lightbown & Spada, 2006, Spolsky, 1989; Collier, 1987). Children’s varied experiences and backgrounds in addition to program type, curriculum, and the number and quality of opportunities for learning in and out of school, shape their entry points into language development. Recent research shows that language growth occurs more slowly at intermediate levels of proficiency than at beginning levels of proficiency (Cook, Boals, & Lundberg, 2011). All of these factors result in a wide range of language proficiencies and a number of paths toward progress among language learners.
At school, teachers must take into account each student’s stage of language development so as to provide relevant instructional practices (Cloud, Genesee, & Hamayan 2009). Since language development is a complex long-term process, students should have access to authentic curriculum concurrent with language instruction. Empirical research indicates that with access to grade-level content, students’ academic literacy development and performance improves on standardized assessments (Short, Echevarría, & Richards-Tutor, 2011).
Educators must continue this conversation. How were you able to show independent growth for your high school ELLs to advocate for their graduation in the past? Share your experience on the NJTESOL/NJBE e-mail hotlist.
Marcella Garavaglia is the NJTESOL/NJBE ESL Secondary Representative. She teaches ESL at Colts Neck High School for the Freehold Regional High School District. firstname.lastname@example.org
Integrating Academic Study Skills
By Howard Pomann
Students entering higher education English as a Second Language (ESL) programs come from varied educational backgrounds and have completed various levels of education from high school to advanced degrees. To facilitate the transition of students from their prior educational experience and provide the learning skills to succeed in their ESL and college-level courses, academic study skill instruction is integrated into many ESL courses at the intermediate to advanced levels.
At Union County College, two textbooks, On Course Study Skills Plus, Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life, 2nd Edition, by Dr. Skip Downing, Cengage Learning, and Practicing College Learning Strategies, by Dr. Carolyn Hopper, Cengage Learning, 7th Edition, have been successfully integrated into advanced level reading courses to develop personal strategies to:
- Develop understanding of differences in expectations of American college culture in relation to their previous college or high school experience;
- Develop effective time and stress management skills;
- Develop effective language learning and critical thinking strategies;
- Develop effective study strategies for their content area courses; and
- Develop career, academic and life goals.
Both On Course… and Practicing College Learning Strategies emphasize the need for students to take responsibility for their actions and become reflective learners. On Course… integrates student centered reflective classroom activities, which assist students to develop a deeper self-awareness of their goals, personal responsibility, interdependence, self-motivation and other learning principles, and at the same time develop academic/lifelong learning strategies. Through this reflection, students discover their preferred learning styles, and develop critical thinking along with flexibility to change their approaches. These meta-cognitive skills have assisted students to “make wise choices” in their approach to their academic courses.
Practicing College Learning Strategies, by Carolyn Hopper emphasizes taking ownership of material as opposed to passive learning. A major principle of the instruction is for students to “take the driver’s seat” in their learning. There are chapters on Learning style, Memory, Stress Management, Setting Goals, Critical Thinking, as well as Time Management, Reading, and Lectures. Students are encouraged to experiment with different techniques for enhanced learning. Hopper refers to research in neuroscience and psychology in order to show students that they can to some degree control their learning. There are a variety of surveys and exercises in the book to illustrate the ideas and help students to examine their own strategies, applying the neuroscience principles.
Instruction which challenges students to “make wise choices” and to “take the driver’s seat” provides students with a foundation for strong learning strategies.
Howard Pomann, Higher Education Special Interest Group Representative is an Associate Professor of English/ESL, Union County College (email@example.com, 908-659-5147)
Parent and Community Action
The Tangle or the Weave?
By Angeline Sturgis
Each year on the last day of school, I start in on my summer reading list. It is a ritual I adore, free at last to choose the books from the lists I've made on Amazon and Goodreads.com . Not surprisingly, much of the fiction I choose seems to have something to do with traveling. I'm drawn to sojourns from one country to another, regardless of the point of origin or the destination. Many of the books I cherish depict an immigrant's journey, the motive, the determination, the bravery. Another theme represented in my choices is the struggle of African- American slaves, also immigrants, but ones who came to this country against their will.
My favorite book of this summer was The Healing, by Jonathan Odell. It tells the story of Polly Shine, an African slave woman living on a plantation in South Carolina, who was a midwife, healer, and sage. Early in the book, she calms an angry 12 year-old girl with the words, "Sometimes when you look at a person, all you see is the tangle, and you miss the weave." I loved this terse, yet poetic sentence.
Summer is over, so is most of my free reading time, but the advice of that fictitious healer has stuck with me, reminding me on a daily basis that our English as a Second Language (ESL) students, so often viewed as a tangle of problems, can also be helped if we just try to remember not to "miss the weave," the complexity of their lives, the fabric of their family and culture, the countless things that have influenced them outside the school walls. Every child is worth untangling, to be sure, and the key to that just might be to understand where they've come from and who has been by their side.
This is why it is so important to bring the families into the schools. Hasn't every teacher had the experience of understanding a child much better the day after parent conferences? That's when we begin to get an idea of "the weave." And it works the other way around, too. Parents are given a chance to see how their child has become part of a group of learners, how he is perceived by others, and what special talents are revered.
It is vital, too, that families of ESL students know they can support a child's learning regardless of the language spoken at home. Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty recently wrote a comprehensive report, Supporting Family Engagement in Linguistically Diverse Families to Promote Young Children's Learning , which offers many suggestions and tools for implementing an effective program that utilizes parent outreach.
Understanding the whole child and his experiences, and empowering parents by involving them in their children's education are not new ideas, but the task can be daunting, especially when new cultures are involved. The September 2015 WIDA Focus on Family Engagement , available in both English and Spanish, is another resource that looks at the many aspects of home-school partnerships worth exploring. To access the WIDA Download Library and see both versions of this report at the top under “newest,” click here. With its rationale based on cited research, it offers best practices and useful tips in an easy-to-read document. It encourages you to personalize the process of inviting families into your school.
Decide what your priorities are in encouraging family participation in language learning. Start including a few parents in your decision- making process, listen to their suggestions, and plan events together. Soon you will weave a community based on mutual respect, with goals for academic success for all children, regardless of differences in language, culture, or experience.
Look past the tangle. Be an important part of the weave.
Angeline Sturgis, Parent and Community Action SIG Representative, is a K-3 ESL teacher in Lawrence Township, NJ. Besides being actively involved in the Latinos Unidos group in her school, she is also a founding member of The One Table Cafe, a pay-what-you-can community restaurant in Princeton, NJ.
To see her book list of favorite immigration themed fiction and nonfiction visit her Teacher Page, and click on the link on the left.
Considerations for Exiting a Classified Student from an ESL Program
By Sonya Bertini
Icertainly hope everyone had a wonderful summer with time to relax and enjoy family and friends. Recently, I was asked a question about exiting a classified Special Education student from an English as a Second Language (ESL) program. There seems to be concern that if a student who has a learning disability and has been receiving English language services for some time does not obtain a score of 4.5 or higher on the ACCESS, he or she will never be exited from the ESL program. This is not the case. To exit any student from an ESL program, more than just the ACCESS scores must be considered. The state makes clear that multiple criteria have to be considered before terminating services. In the case of a classified student, many of whom have a language-based learning disability, this is especially important.
The criteria to consider include the following:
- Progress in the other content areas. Is the student showing improvement in math, science and history? How has this improvement been documented?
- Length of time in the program. If the student has been in an ESL program for more than four years and improvement has been minimal or flat according to the ACCESS scores, this is very probably due to the disability the student has.
- Is the student showing improvement in listening and speaking, but not writing and reading? Again, this would be a sign that the overall lack of improvement in the test scores is due to the disability.
- What input does the classroom teacher give? How about the Special Education teacher? Collaboration among all the teachers involved is crucial when determining the possibility of exiting a student from ESL.
- What is the student’s performance like in the ESL class? Is the ACCESS score truly representative of his/her performance? Or, is it a case of the student just testing badly? Many learning disabled students do poorly on standardized tests. In fact, they perform poorly on all types of tests. For this reason, they receive testing accommodations and take modified tests. Very often they are given the opportunity to retake a test, after the teacher has identified their mistakes. The administration of the ACCESS does not offer any of these options.
- Are there any other standardized tests administered to the student (KTEA, for example,) whose scores can be used for comparative purposes?
- What has the language of instruction in the content areas been? For a classified student native language support is extremely important as is a gradual, well planned transition into the second language. How does the student perform in the native language? How does this academic performance compare to their academic performance in English? How is that performance documented?
It is my professional opinion that services should never be taken away too quickly from a classified student. There has to be a clear understanding of the child’s particular disability and how it manifests itself in the learning process. There is a need for collaborative consultation among all the professionals (educators and Child Study Team members) involved with the student before determining that a suspension of ESL services is warranted. This should never be the decision of just one teacher.
Sonya Bertini, SPED Special Interest Group Representative, Vineland Public Schools, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Importance of Using Multiple Criteria to Exit ELLs
By Natalie Pereira
The history of education in the United States for English language learners (ELLs) has long been an uphill struggle for both educators and students. Several states are leading the way toward a more equitable educational experience for ELLs by developing comprehensive plans for educating ELLs through programs that foster successful English language development.
The process is relatively straightforward: determine the home language of the student and conduct an English language proficiency assessment if the student speaks a language other than (or in conjunction with) English at home. From there, if the test scores determine that the student required language services for English language support, these are provided by certified staff, often for several years.
It is what comes at the end of this language development journey that often sparks conversations: the exiting process. In this modern American educational society, in which the word “test” is used exhaustively, the immediate tendency becomes to rely heavily on test scores, such as WIDA’s ACCESS test, to determine if the student is ready to “place out” of language services. Not only does relying solely on one indicator, a test score, contradict what most states require to determine exiting (i.e., multiple criteria), it is also a risky decision, one that could lead to unnecessary future challenges for students and teachers alike when a student begins struggling significantly when language supports are removed too soon.
The following are several additional indicators that should be used in conjunction with annual language assessment test scores to determine the appropriateness of exiting a student from language services along with a brief rationale:
Report Card Grades: What grades is the student earning on her/his report card? Is the student demonstrating proficiency or mastery in the content areas? If not, then the student would likely benefit from additional time in a language program so that s/he can continue to develop academic language proficiency and content knowledge.
Formative Assessments: How is the student performing on daily or weekly learning activities? Beyond grades earned on summative assessments (end of chapter/unit tests,) which are the grades that usually end up on report cards, the tracking of a student’s progress on day-to-day learning can yield a significant amount of information on actual progress that the student is making along the way which will provide a much stronger picture of her/his learning both in terms of content knowledge and language acquisition. If the student struggles frequently and often cannot complete daily tasks without language supports being put into place, the student may not be ready to exit from language services.
Standardized Assessments: Did the student attain proficiency on the most recent standardized assessment? With increasingly stringent testing being introduced into the academic lives of students, being able to perform well on high-pressure standardized assessment is a reality. Oftentimes, an ELL will demonstrate proficiency on a language development test, but will perform poorly on standardized tests. The academic skills and language on standardized assessments are quite high and having highly developed language skills and being able to use technical, academic language takes many years of develop.
Behavior: Is the student well-behaved and does s/he follows all school rules? Or is the student frequently in trouble with teachers and/or administration? Even if the student is performing well academically, poor behavior should be taken seriously. Are there emotional issues to consider? Is the student having difficulty adjusting to a new culture? Removing the support of a bilingual or ESL teacher when a student is not emotionally strong enough to be fully immersed into a mainstream classroom can cause issues, especially if the new classroom environment is not culturally responsive.
Attendance: Has the student missed a significant amount of school days? Even if the student’s grades are strong, poor attendance must also be considered. Why is the student missing so many days? Is the student frequently ill? Are family obligations behind the frequent absences? Once the reason is determined, it should be factored into the final decision. A former ELL is always monitored after exiting the program because of the potential adjustment issues. Chronic absenteeism can exacerbate those adjustment issues. Even if the student’s grades are strong, a high absentee rate will often negatively affect learning as well as the student’s smooth transition into a mainstream classroom.
Special Education Classification: Does the student have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) due to a Special Needs classification? What are the specifics of that classification? For this, it is critical that a conversation is had with the student’s Special Education teacher to deepen the understanding of precisely what the student’s learning challenges are. The importance of this issue cannot be overstated.
Classroom Teacher Recommendations: Who are the student’s instructors? The student typically only receives ESL for one period a day and the rest of the day is spent with one or more other teachers. Their input is critical. While most classroom teachers are not certified ESL teachers, they should have at a minimum a basic understanding of the language needs of the student. S/he should be able to articulate how the student is performing in the classroom and if the student, in the teacher’s opinion, is ready to exit the program.
ESL Teacher Recommendations: Who is this student? What has s/he accomplished in the time that s/he has been with you? Has her or his language growth been significant? Has s/he adjusted well to life in the United States? Does the student seem confident in her or his language development? Above all else, it is the ESL teacher who can speak most profoundly about the student. It is the ESL teacher who can take all of these factors, think about each one individually and then think about all of them collectively to be able to make an informed decision.
Simply using one piece of data, such as the student’s ACCESS score, simply cannot provide anything more than a snapshot of a moment in time. Just as it is important to provide students with an accurate assessment to determine language needs when they first arrive in a new school, it is equally important to make sure that the right choice is made when making the critical decision to remove these supports.
Natalie Pereira, ELL Specialist, NJDOE, Regional Achievement Center 3, email@example.com, 201.923.9337
Back to School
By Kristi A. Bergman
With so many new ESL teachers starting their careers this fall, I thought it might make sense to share some suggestions for a successful year. As I write this, classes have just started in K-12 and higher education; students are still registering for classes although they may have missed the first few days; and desk copies/adopted text books are still arriving, albeit after the year has started. While we learn so much in our graduate courses, there are still so many “surprises” that new teachers face. My experience in teaching has strictly been in higher education but teachers I have taught were mostly in K-12.
I remember during my first year of teaching how I was never quite sure how much to plan for my daily lessons. My classes met for 3-hour blocks four days a week, so there was certainly not a shortage of time. However, as a new teacher, it was not evident to me exactly how much material I would cover each day. Often what I had planned for one day really was enough for one week. As I gained more experience, I learned how to better estimate how much was feasible for one block. But, it is true—teaching is more of an art than a science, so whenever I taught a new course for the first time, I had the same issue. I finally realized that it is perfectly fine to over plan. In fact, as I transitioned into administration and observed teachers, the one issue I could not understand was when a teacher failed to plan enough for the full period. My advice to new teachers is to plan, but realize that you will over plan.
Depending on your district or department, the quantity and quality of supplies available to you will vary. In fact, whether or not technology is available in the classroom is not even consistent within districts and programs. What does this mean for new teachers? Make sure you take this into consideration as you plan your lessons. In an ideal world, you will have access to all of the supplies and technology you desire to teach your students. As a program director, I always take requests for whatever supplies a teacher needs; however, budgets may not permit all districts and programs to do this. Therefore, you may need to make significant purchases out-of-pocket or with professional development money (if permitted.) This comes with the territory, so keep it in mind as the school year progresses. With regards to technology, there is no parity across the state. Each semester, teachers complain to me that they did not get a room with a computer or that the wireless connection is not consistent. It is possible you will have these challenges as well. If you are fortunate enough to have new technology, run with it. When used appropriately, technology enhances learning.
As far as what happens in your classroom, my advice to new teachers is to employ the wonderful methodologies you studied and observed during your student teaching. Nothing is more rewarding in the classroom than to see your students actively engaged. Think out-of-the-box and embrace activities that require students to move around and work collaboratively. If you can include projects in your lessons, do so. Develop meaningful, task-based activities so students learn how to gather information while negotiating language. ESL classrooms should not look like somber rooms with rows of students sitting. Rather, find ways of having students work in dyads or small groups; encourage your students to speak to each other; and be proud when it looks like students are actually enjoying the work. Language learning is very evident in that type of environment. Just make sure you know how to assess what you are observing.
Lastly, consider journaling your experience in your new ESL classroom. Identify what works and what needs tweaking. There will be days that are beyond your expectations and realistically there will be days that frustrate you. However, if you remember why you chose to be an ESL teacher in the first place and keep a list of your short and long term goals, you will have a successful year. Good luck!
Kristi A. Bergman, Teacher Education SIG Representative, is the Director of the Program in American Language Studies at Rutgers Newark and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.