Course Crafters’ Blog

hmh-family-engagement-making-a-difference-video-thumbnailSeveral years ago, Course Crafters published a successful e-newsletter for educators called The ELL Outlook. We’re making some of the most popular articles available free here, which include insights on reading research and ELLs, formative assessment, and more.

Check this site regularly to see new articles and blogs by Lise Ragan and guest bloggers, on topics such as ELLs as Assets, ELLs and the ESSA, What’s Needed for Professional Development?, Funding and ELL Education, Effective Sustainable EL Family Engagement, and The Changing Face of Bilingual Education. If you’d like to suggest a topic, email us.

 

Flexible Grouping: Nobody Ever Said Teaching Was Easy!

By Dr. Suzanne Irujo, ELL Outlook™ Contributing Writer

This is the fourth in a series of articles that explore classroom implications of some of the findings of a study done by Gándara, Maxwell-Jolly, & Driscoll (2005). These researchers interviewed teachers of English Language Learners (ELLs) in California and identified challenges they face.

In previous articles in this series, we have seen that teachers of ELLs don’t have:

  • enough time to teach all of the required subject matter to ELLs;
  • enough materials to appropriately teach and assess ELLs;
  • enough professional development to help them teach ELLs.

On top of all this, the 2005 Gándara et al. study found that “teachers expressed frustration with the wide range of English language and academic levels often found in their classrooms” (p. 8).

So if you’re a teacher of ELLs, you have no time, no materials, and no professional development. Now you find that you also have students at various levels of language proficiency and academic achievement in your classes. At this point, you must surely be wondering what ever made you want to be a teacher.

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Differentiated Instruction: We Can No Longer Just Aim Down the Middle

By Dr. Suzanne Irujo, ELL Outlook™ Contributing Writer

During all the years I was teaching a third- and fourth-grade bilingual class, I had a Peanuts cartoon stuck on the reminder board behind my desk. In it, Charlie Brown is talking with Lucy, and he says, “My teacher thinks that teaching is just like bowling; you aim down the middle and try to hit as many as you can.” Lucy replies, “She must not be a very good bowler.”

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The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and English learners

I recently attended a webinar sponsored by TESOL, “An Overview of the Every Student Succeeds Act: What TESOL Educators Need to Know”, which was an overview of the ESSA and the implications for states, schools, and districts that enroll English learner students. The ESSA, signed in December 2015 by President Obama with bipartisan support, greatly decreases the role of the federal government in K-12 education and moves authority and responsibility back to the states and local education agencies. So knowing the implications of the ESSA for ELs in the states is critical.

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Effective School-English learner (EL) Family Partnerships

More than fifty years of research supports the importance of parental and family engagement for improved student achievement, better school attendance, and reduced dropout rates, regardless of socioeconomic background or ethnicity (M. Beatriz Arias and Milagros Morillo-Campbell, 2008). As I state and elaborate on in the white paper I wrote for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, EL Academic Success through Effective School-Family Partnerships, the most effective family engagement is a shared responsibility in which schools and families work together as equal partners, with shared responsibility and a common goal: student achievement and school improvement.

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Designing Effective Instructional Materials for ELLs

In August 2014, the Council of Great City Schools published their Framework for Raising Expectations and Instructional Rigor for English Language Learners, which I and Course Crafters use as a guidepost for designing curricula and instructional materials for ELLs and their teachers.

The Council of Great City Schools has a huge stake in the academic success of ELLs: their 67 school districts collectively enroll over 1.2 million of the country’s ELLs, or 26% of the nation’s total. After NCLB, and now reiterated in ESSA, all ELLs, K-12, are held to the same rigorous academic, college- and career-ready standards as their English-proficient peers. Helping school districts meet this goal requires those of us who design curricula and instructional materials for ELLs and professional development for teachers of ELLs—language educators and, increasingly, mainstream classroom teachers—to reexamine the way we are looking at developing ELLs’ academic language proficiency. We’re not there yet, but we’ll get there if we examine and pay heed to the suggestions in the CGCS Framework.

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Back-to-School Success for English learners

By Lise Ragan

As we return to school for another academic year, how can we, as educators, understand and best support the English learner (EL) students in our schools so that we give them the best chance for school success, graduation, and a bright future? Here are a few ideas to consider.

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What Does Research Tell Us About Teaching Reading to English Language Learners?

By Suzanne Irujo, ELL Outlook™ Contributing Writer

As a classroom teacher, I was largely ignorant of, and definitely suspicious of, research. I believed that researchers could make their studies come out any way they wanted them to, and that a good teacher who reflected on her own teaching knew much more about how to be effective with her students than any researcher did. Later, as a university professor, I learned how important good research can be, and how difficult it is to do really good experimental research in a field such as education, where it is impossible to control all the variables.

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Teaching Math to English Language Learners: Can Research Help?

By Suzanne Irujo, ELL Outlook™ Contributing Writer

It seems almost unbelievable now, but many people in education used to think that mathematics classes in English would be easy for English language learners (ELLs) because math was less language-dependent than other subjects, as it dealt with numbers. When I was a bilingual teacher in the 1970s, it was routinely recommended that bilingual students be placed in math as their first mainstream subject. People really believed that math was nonverbal.

This belief was so pervasive that somebody had decided that the bilingual classes in my school system could learn math from nonverbal textbooks. These were programmed instruction texts that broke down calculations into their smallest parts and modeled each step for students to copy and then do on their own. They covered nothing but addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and most of my third- and fourth-grade students were so bored by the process that they never even made it to division.

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ELL Teacher Diary #1: Nagib Learns to Read

By Ámbar de Mejía, ELL Outlook™ Staff Writer

Ana had been absent for a week. Since she is almost always sick with some cold or another, I didn’t think much of it except to note that this time, her absence was longer than usual. Today I saw her during dismissal while I was standing in the hallway saying goodbye to the children and keeping my eye on the flow of traffic. “Walk, please!,” more of an order than a request, not that I’ll tell them that. Ana walked by me.

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