"Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day..." - 9 new articles
As I’ve mentioned before, our school has been working very closely with Jayne Marlink from the California Writing Project over the past two years. She has been working with all of our English teachers to help us become better teachers of writing.
This week, Jayne, along with other teachers from our school, has been leading a training for all of our English teachers, and it’s been going quite well. Since over half of our student body are English Language Learners, we’ve been spending a lot of the time discussing working with ELL’s.
Yesterday, we reviewed a recent report titled Reparable Harm: Fulfilling The Unkept Promise Of Educational Opportunity For California’s Long Term English Learners. This is a major issue across the country, in California, and in our school. By “long-term” ELL’s, the report means students who have been in U.S. schools for more than six years without reaching English proficiency. In California, 59% of secondary ELL’s are in this category.
It’s an interesting report, well-worth reading. There are a lot of instructional “take-aways” in it, but out of our discussion I had one major realization that got me kicking myself big-time.
I spend a lot of emphasis on students setting goals (see My Best Posts On Students Setting Goals). In that context, we talk a little about career goals, but primarily the focus is on more immediate ones during the course of the school year. In that context, I’m kicking myself for not sitting down with the long-term ELL’s in both my Intermediate English and mainstream classes and having individual frank discussions with them about their hopes and dreams for the future, how those might be negatively impacted by being labeled a long-term ELL (including, but not limited to, restricting the kinds of classes they can take, which in turn will limit their college options, which in turn will limit their career options), and then helping them develop a clear plan on what they can do about it individually and what we can do about it together.
I know if I had done that, the vast majority of them — if not all of them — would have responded very positively. I think many of my colleagues came to similar realizations, and I’m confident things are going to be different in the future.
Today, we talked a lot about teaching writing to ELL’s. A great source of material — not only for ELL’s but for mainstream students, as well — are free Writing Assessment Handbooks that can be downloaded at The California Writing Project website. It’s a great resource for all sorts of writing resources. I particularly like them for their examples of student writing.
I’m going to add that link to The Best Websites For K-12 Writing Instruction/Reinforcement.
We also discussed Robert B. Kaplan’s “Cultural Thought Patterns In Intercultural Education” (go to second page) and how they can be applied to teaching writing to ELL’s. Many readers of this blog might be familiar with his research, but I’m embarrassed to say that very few of us at the training were. Based on his teaching and his research, he identified several “rhetorical and syntactic features that occur” in different cultures. By knowing them (and he developed some fairly well-known simple diagrams that you can see in that link), it can provide us another kind of lens through which to see ELL writing.
I know there are lot of critiques of Kaplan’s categories. I figure it’s just another “diagnostic” tool we can use as we review our student writing. For me, because of what I learned today, I’ll have more patience as it helps me more clearly see that some of my student’s writing isn’t “bad” or “wrong.” Instead, it might just be reflective of their cultural orientation. I can acknowledge it and respect it, and I can also tell them that often within the academic culture and style of the United States, it may not get them to where they want to go, and then help them see what they need to do differently.
In many ways, it reminds me of the on-going discussion in community organizing groups about the use of language in meetings and negotiations. Yes, we want to respect and value native languages, and provide some translation. But the bottom line is that in the U.S. English is the language of power, and if people want to get their fair share of power — in the context of practical U.S. political life — they will need to learn English.
Once they get that power, then they can be less concerned about what language they want to speak. The same goes for ELL writing — for now, rightly or wrongly, students need to write more in the expected U.S. academic style (though, just as we provide some translation in organizing, we can provide a little space for writing flexibility). But afterwards, they can join writers like Sandra Cisneros and others in writing in whatever style they want.
I’d love to hear other people’s perspectives on all this. Feel free to leave a comment.
I’ll probably write another post later in the week to recap the next few days. We’ll be spending a lot of time on the WRITE Institute next.
This kind of quality professional development is so important. Teachers said they wanted it, helped plan it, the agenda is flexible according to our needs, and we’re getting paid to attend it. It’s unfortunate that, based on what I hear, many teachers can’t say the same about the PD activities offered in their districts and schools.
Later school start times and Zzzs to A’s is the headline of a Los Angeles Times article related to teens and sleep. Though I’m not convinced there will be a stampede of schools changing their starting times, the article does have some good information on recent research. I can include it in the lesson on sleep I do with my students.
You can find that lesson, and other related info, at The Best Resources For Helping Teens Learn About The Importance Of Sleep.
TIME Magazine just reported on a study in an article headlined Could hand-washing boost your workplace productivity?
In the study, some workers were given a hand sanitizer to use regularly. Time writes:
….the researchers suggest that the hand-sanitizer group may have been… more productive while in the office. The hand-washers certainly felt better. They reported fewer cases of the common cold, as well as less fever and coughing in general.
This makes sense to me. I always have a big bottle of hand sanitizer (and tissue paper) available for students, and encourage them to use it. I certainly haven’t done any kind of study to determine its effectiveness, but it would seem to me that it wouldn’t be that big of a reach to suggest any classroom study might reach similar conclusions.
And, apart from that, I think it also has an impact on students knowing that I’m concerned about them. Of course, it’s also in my own self-interest — the less they’re sick, the less likely I am to be, too.
Please leave a comment if you do something similar (or something different) to encourage student health, and if you have seen any impact…
The Fridge is another in a long list of applications that let you easily create private chatboards. This one does let you share, photos, too.
I’m adding it to The Best Online Tools For Collaboration — NOT In Real Time.
“Free Resume Builder” is a new site that uses a scaffolded approach to help you…build your resume.
I’m adding it to The Best Places For Students To Write Their Resumes.
Mexico’s Independence Day is coming up on September 16th.
I’ve just updated The Best Resources For Learning About Mexico’s Independence Day.
“Peacemaking Past” is a Wall Street Journal interactive about past U.S. efforts to help create peace in the Middle East.
I’m adding it to The “Best” Resources For Learning About The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
David Brooks has written a very good column in The New York Times today headlined A Case of Mental Courage.
He says “there’s a metacognition deficit” in our society and:
“In this atmosphere, we’re all less conscious of our severe mental shortcomings and less inclined to be skeptical of our own opinions.”
It sounds like this quote could fit right in my weekend post “Five Quotes That All Of Us (Including Self-Righteous School Reformers) Should Keep In Mind.”
I often like his columns, except when he writes about schools. Then, he’s almost incoherent.
I’ve previously written two posts about working with colleagues reluctant to use technology in the classroom. They are:
You can also find both of them at My Best Posts For Tech Novices (Plus A Few From Other People).
In those posts, I explore examples of ed tech use that helps meet the immediate and direct self-interest of the individual teacher by making their lives a bit easier, and how it provides added value to the students’ learning experience.
In this post, I’d like to share some ideas for technology use that meet the second criteria — they clearly provide added value to the students’ learning experience (and there really isn’t any dispute that it does in the examples I’ll share) — but they doesn’t necessarily make life for the teacher easier. In fact, the opposite occurs. But it’s not necessarily a huge sacrifice, and I would suggest that the pay-off in valued-added (a tricky phrase to write considering its use in a different context with the Los Angeles Times controversy) benefits for the students make it worth the cost.
And I believe that teachers who have had good experiences with some of the ideas I shared in my previous two posts are more likely to be “up” for giving the ideas in this one a try.
I’d also like to thank my wise and experienced colleague Alice Mercer for pushing my thinking on this topic.
Here are my suggestions:
* Connecting with an online sister class — ideally in another country: It’s pretty easy these days to make that sort of connection (see The Best Ways To Find Other Classes For Joint Online Projects). And you can find relationships that are as loose or structured as you want (one example is our Student Showcase blog which you can read about here). I personally have questions about the value-added benefit that products like VoiceThreads can sometimes offer to mainstream students (those who are not English Language Learners or are not facing learning challenges). However, there is no question that these kinds of tools can indeed provide that kind of benefit if done in the context of communicating and learning about different communities with peers from different cultures. Having a class participate in the annual student blogging challenge is another option.
* Participating In & Creating Virtual Field Trips: There are many great examples of “virtual field trips” that are available for free on the Web, as well as easy ways both teachers and students can create ones for their own class (and for others). You can learn more about these at The Best Resources For Finding And Creating Virtual Field Trips. Virtual field trips can be integrated with whatever unit is being taught in the classroom and, with current budget restraints, it provides an alternative (though, admittedly, a weak one) to expensive “non-virtual” ones.
* Videotaping Student Presentations: Recording student presentations so they can be replayed and evaluated in a respectful way can provide a huge learning benefit for students. You can learn more about ways to do this at The Best Sources For Advice On Using Flip Video Cameras.
* Helping Students Learn Better Presentation Skills: PowerPoint, or a tool like it, is going to be around for awhile. Since most PowerPoint presentations are pretty bad, spending sometime working with students on the art of communication and using that knowledge to make at least one good PowerPoint-like presentation might be worthwhile. You can see ideas for this at The Best Sources Of Advice For Making Good Presentations.
I’m interested in hearing feedback, and learning about other ideas people have for just slightly more involved ways to introduce reluctant colleagues to technology and clearly provide a value-added benefit to student learning. When you share you suggestions, please be explicit on what you think the student benefit is. Thanks!
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