Module 1

Assignment 1
I didn’t know how to effectively plan for instruction with EL’s in ways which would help them to make a year to two years’ progress in only one year. I was excited to read that the author believes grouping around “thematic” content helps build a “more comprehensible” means of instruction and allows students with different English levels to participate fully.
I didn’t know that using their cultural material was a proven method for improving learning. In my ESL classes with Chinese (and one Vietnamese) I did find books and movies with Chinese culture and history. I wasn’t sure if this was a good strategy or not? I wondered if it was “biased” to pick stories that were about Chinese since my students were Chinese. I am glad to learn that this is considered a good strategy.
While I knew that it would help EL’s to place them with different proficiency levels, including native speakers, I wasn’t exactly sure what effective group teaching would look like. I am beginning to understand how to scaffold content for language objective. This was the first time I ever heard “comprehensible input” but came to understand it better during the week.
In the article “Learning from Children” I saw an excellent example of children coaching other children. In my school last year, it became essential during the first weeks of 7 Chinese students enrolling in my high school to use other students to help navigate some of the social and instructional language. There were no Chinese bilingual teaching assistants in my school to rely on. However, when two of the new students became problematic over the course of the year, I took a stand with administration about using the other students to be translators. It wasn’t fair for either student to be in that place and it broke all kinds of confidentiality laws and we couldn’t be sure the message was translated well.
In the future, I see myself more confidently using these strategies and being able to “coach” content teachers how to use them in their classroom.
I didn’t know that over half the LEP’s enroll in 10% of our country’s elementary schools. Because I have mostly worked in rural Maine where the poverty level is higher than the statistics for the high- LEP schools, I wasn’t aware of the amount of remedial, after-school, and summer school programs available. In rural Maine there doesn’t tend to be as much of these kind of programs, and often if there are, they are not staffed by highly qualified teachers who know how to mitigate the challenges of poverty.
I wasn’t aware how NCLB has been behind the impetus to gain more parental involvement for LEP’s. At the high school level, parental involvement can be virtually non-existent. It seems as if many new teachers begin their careers at high LEP schools and then work themselves into lower LEP schools as their teaching experience progresses. And while NCLB seems to have challenged schools to put more qualified teachers into the classroom, I think it is still a safe assumption that new teachers teach in the unwanted classrooms and schools. If they are still standing after a few years, then they have earned their “wings” to fly to easier teaching assignments where students are not as likely to be ESL, poor, or disabled.

Assignment 2

What surprised me the most about this reading is that Lau v Nichols has been around since 1974--nearly 40 years! I am surprised because until last year when I began my journey as an ESL teacher, I had never heard of this law. I have been a teacher in Maine and Florida for 18 years and a student of educational leadership, including school law courses, and I still have never heard of this law. I think as the face of America’s student body begins to change, more and more school districts will need to have a better understanding of the implications of the law.

As an educator it is important to understand how a student’s success is tied to his or her ability to manage the language being communicated through. As teachers we often take for granted that students can hear and understand the words we are speaking to them. They may not be able to do higher order processes with some of the language we use, but they have developed skills to figure out a word or phrase’s meaning by using decoding strategies. EL’s do not have these strategies because they often don’t understand the linguistic complexity, vocabulary, or language control features of the words and phrases around the discourse. As an educator, it is important to have strategies to scaffold a student’s ability to understand. The MPI’s, Language Standards, CAN DO descriptors, and Performance indicators provide me with the scaffolding I need to design lessons comprehensibil by all of my students.

As I read through these pages, the hardest part for me is organizing the definitions of the terms to what they are: I get “MPI” confused with “CAN DO Descriptor”. I also wonder if there are other MPI’s out there or am I supposed to use these “models” to create my own?

I have been left wondering why teacher preparation programs have not included learning a foreign language as part of a graduation requirement? Most content teachers have a difficult time relating to language development in older students or adults because they have no personal experience to draw on. For me, linking my journey through French and then Spanish has really helped me to connect to the journey our EL students go through on a daily basis. Teachers don’t want to mis-serve the EL students in their classes, but they just can’t identify with the EL’s predicament. The language strands help a teacher see how a language learner develops language, but it many ways it is too abstract for teachers to comprehend because they haven’t walked a mile in their shoes.