Bilinguals Emerging

Student raising handLet’s all put down our Student Learning Objectives (SLO) guidance document for a moment to consider our English Language Learners. After all, if we succeed with our ELLs, we will find ourselves with bilingual adults, and bilingualism confers significant cognitive, economic, and social advantages on those lucky enough to have it, and on our communities more generally.

SLOs, Common Core and other reform initiatives contribute indirectly to the success of emergent bilinguals, but let’s consider three things that contribute more directly.

1) The concept of sheltered instruction – This term encompasses the many proven strategies that a content area or general education teacher can use to help ELLs succeed in a mainstream classroom. Sheltering instruction is hard work, but it indicates a teacher’s commitment to differentiate for all students, and comprises many strategies that are effective for English proficient students as well as ELLs.

2) Collaboration – In this case we highlight the relationship between the ESL teacher, who has a rich background in linguistics, language learning, and cultural factors, and the classroom teacher whose background is different, yet who spends many more hours with the ELL students. The relationship is symbiotic, as both teachers can increase effectiveness through better collaboration.

3) Student-centered learning – A mindset focused on student engagement, authenticity, and meaningful learning experiences shifts our attention to the experience of students in school. The truth is, without our students engaged in minds-on activities, all our sheltering and collaboration will only take them so far.

Mid-State RBERN maintains an online lending library with resources on these and many other topics. We can deliver resources to OCM BOCES component schools, and schools in many other BOCES.  Over the next few months, this blog will take on each of these three topics in more detail. In the face of challenging reform initiatives, I hope this focus will keep us centered on students and reminded about the reason most of us chose this profession.


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