How does one eat an elephant?

One bite at a time!

ElephantIt’s alphabet soup time:  CCLS, APPR, ELLs, SLO, LEP-ELL PET, DTSDE, ELA,  L1 or L2….and then there is SIOP!  My lesson plans have the look of a business plan with details about vocabulary, close reads, activities and strategies that are ‘research based’….this all feels like something as big as an elephant and I’m trying to eat it in one big bite.  Forget about digesting all of it, it’s too much at once!

My ESL students are my professionally chosen comfort zone.  I know ELLs need explicit attention to oral language and vocabulary development when learning to read in English.  They have come to me with many different life experiences and will therefore need text to which they can relate, or explicit attention to background building when faced with text that represents unknown experiences.  ELLs learn to listen and speak in English while they are learning to read in English, whereas their EP (English proficient) peers are developing reading skills in a language in which they already have command of the oral language. As a teacher of ELLs I have to focus on language as well as content; I have to be sure to construct vocabulary and language structures needed to access and produce grade-level content…..and, it goes on and on about classroom practice to assure students will be successful.

As a teacher using Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP), I frequently go through SIOP materials to keep my teaching practices fresh and use best practice approaches.  My classroom wall has the visual of ‘The Iceberg Concept of Culture’. It’s my reminder that my ELL students come to me with their own culture.  This visual shows surface culture: food, dress, music, dance, celebrations, games – basically, the obvious things we experience by living within the culture surrounding us.  The iceberg under the surface is the ‘deep culture’.  These are the unspoken rules, the unconscious rules, the heavy emotional load with its intensity.  The intensity of: courtesy, concept of time, rules of conduct, facial expressions, concepts of food, theory of disease, to mention but a few.  These are the things that a child or teen living in a prison camp in Africa or coming from a dictator or police controlled government will have very different ideas of understanding. The ‘Iceberg’ keeps me grounded in the reality of what could be happening within my students as they work at learning a new language and culture, along with learning the content of their subjects to be successful on the tests waiting for them.

Teachers are always looking for ways to recharge their batteries and be inspired, learn effective strategies and best practices.  Check this out.

This is a web site that has easy access information to use so that a teacher can take ‘one bite at a time’  and eventually eat the elephant.

Lee Beals
Mid-State Regional Bi-Lingual Education Resource Network


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