Our multilingual learners deserve many things from educators. They deserve equitable access to core curriculum, they deserve to have their languages and cultures valued, they deserve quality instruction, and they deserve everything their English-speaking peers deserve as well!
One of the ways we give our students equity and access is by providing appropriate scaffolds in our instructions. That's a given! And if you aren't solid on those, that's okay! You can read all about scaffolding here! But how can we describe quality instruction?
I'm sure what one teacher says is quality might look different than another's; teaching is an incredibly personal practice. Sure, we want to follow our district's idea of quality instruction and those general best practices for teaching, but how else might you describe it? What does it look like in the classroom?
Carly Spina came a couple of months ago to talk a little about this and her book, Moving Beyond for Multilingual Learners, in our high school teacher membership, My MLL Mentor.
Carly brought up her experiences speaking with curriculum reps at conferences and how, when referring to the English Language Learner section of the curriculum, they always seemed to point out that, yes! There are ELL supports built-in! And they are amazing! And when it came time to show them off, they always ended up being visuals or sentence frames and stems, nothing more.
And hey- I am here for these scaffolds! But why stop there? What we can create are experiences. We can move beyond for our multilingual learners by providing immersive and relevant experiences that tap into their assets and create memorable learning! And what better way to learn language than to be immersed in an experience using language in a real-world way? Here are some ways you can create experiences in your own classroom.
One of Carly's examples was when she provided lab coats for her students. She emphasized that they could be scientists, not just old white men as they had envisioned! They explored and broke the status quo around being a scientist as they worked. One student even made the connection that his family member who was a mechanic was technically a scientist too. I even tell my own child that she is a scientist when she helps me cook! So break out those costumes lying around in the theater room and get students using that academic discourse while role-playing with classmates!
Transform Your Space
I have to be honest and say that I am not this type of teacher. I strive to be; I would love to be, but it was definitely not one of my strengths as a high school teacher. But when I see these amazing classroom transformations, it feels so inspiring! I want to note too as we look at two examples- room transformations are awesome, but if you feel that they might be too much work or overwhelming, that is okay! You can create an experience just by doing simple things like bringing in realia (real-life objects) or dressing up as a scientist while role-playing. It does not have to be a huge, time-consuming event unless you want it to be of course!
Meghan Syed of Enlightening ELLs did a glow-in-the-dark mystery-themed lesson that is tied to multiplication and telling time. The lesson had her students pretending that they were secret agents trying to crack a code! She also has a great reason that she goes into in her blog post about room transformations- the affective filter. When the affective filter is high, it is hard to learn language because there may be stress and anxiety present. When it is lowered, there is less worry and the barrier to learning is down. Creating an experience can help bring that filter down and bring fun and language learning up!
And to get into the explorer mindset, Becky Schnekser described in a blog post for National Geographic Education Blog her transformation of turning desks into a system of six caves. She filled the caves with things they might find inside and had students come with lanterns or headlamps. When the day came, the lights were off and students had to crawl to get into the lab with their lights. They had their notebooks and pencils to record notes. Instant fun and learning! And how easy would it be to add in some scaffolds such as sentence stems and frames for their notes?
Go on a Virtual Field Trip
And for those that don't want to transform their whole classroom (I'm looking at you, fellow high school teachers!), taking your students on a virtual field trip will work just fine! There are a lot of virtual experiences to offer online, but We Are Teachers pretty much compiled a nice list to explore further. A notable one that I could realistically see myself using is Making a New Life: The Courage of a Refugee. Take a browse and plan one for the end of the school year to keep students engaged!
Carly Spina's book is a gem for educators serving multilingual learners. It's also great for new ESL teachers too! It's a super quick and easy read, but not because it lacks valuable information; Carly makes you feel like you are reading a book by a friend.
Check out her book and if you are a high school ESL teacher and are looking for more support and resources, check out all that our membership has to offer!
How do you move beyond for your multilingual learners? Comment below!
I support middle and high school teachers through monthly lesson plans, coaching, and guest speaker offerings in our Secondary ESL Teacher Membership.