Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Perfect English Language Learner Lesson - Part 1

The night before "The Perfect English Learner Lesson".

I just learned that the English Language Learner's Department from my school district would be visiting my classroom to observe my student engagement strategies.  I am so very excited!  It's an honor to be chosen for the visit because it means that word has gotten out that my students are constantly engaged in learning and this engagement has produced great results in their English Language progression.  But even more than that, I am excited about the influence I could possibly have in my school district.   Like I said, I have had great progress regarding Language Learners, yet my strategies are not widely used among other teachers.  If this visit goes well, than I could possibly persuade the administrators that make decisions for the whole district, to promote engagement strategies that would foster the growth and well-being of thousands of children in my district.  This opportunity is huge!

So tonight I am planning the perfect English Language Learner lesson.   Our district uses GLAD strategies (Guided Language Acquisition Design) which teaches students academic vocabulary, grammar and content.  Its a fun way to deliver information to the students, prepare them to assess lessons at the appropriate grade level, and get them on their way to becoming fluent in the language.  My assignment is to add engagement and collaboration to these GLAD strategies.  I need to ensure that everyone is participating in every lesson and that no one is allowed to become a wallflower during the lesson, and that everyone is challenged at their own level.  I also need to ensure that the lessons are fun and have an element of variation to hold the students' interests.

Here is the lesson I taught, written a day after the lesson delivery, continuing my thoughts of how I planned "The Perfect English Learner Lesson".
So here is the lesson I planned for.   I went full Kagan Engagement Strategy on them.  Everything taught was strategically planned to ensure 100% class participation with listening and speaking.  I started out like I always do with a description of the content and language objective.  I explained how it related to the students by reminding them that we would be visiting an university next week to build our own electrical circuit in a science lab.  (This really motivated them!) And I explained how these lessons would help them to write a report on the electric circuit which is our big idea of the 4th grade Electricity Unit.

I began with a motivational piece.  I asked the students which component of an electrical circuit is most like them and why?  I gave sentence stems appropriate to their English level and expected a complete sentence or something appropriate to their individual level of English ablility.  When finished writing, I directed them to go to the corner of the room that declared their component.  There was battery, copper wire, switch, and bulb posted on a flash card.  They got happy about this part of the assignment because they got to group up with some friends, but since I had made them pre-write their answers, they were only with like-minded friends for this activity.  Next, I told them to pair up with someone and shake their hands and greet them with a "Good morning!"  I always add this component to my engagement strategies because I have found that many students have never been instructed or have experienced using correct formal social skills.  This is a quick way to add it into the lesson in addition to creating a bond with the partner whom which they will be sharing personal information.  Next I told the students that the taller person (I always pick some random criteria) will share for 30 seconds.  While they were sharing, the less taller person would listen and afterwards would tell them what they liked best about what was shared.  This ensured that the listener actively listened.  If the person sharing ran out of things to say, the listener would encourage them to speak more by asking questions about their topic.  Then roles were switched.

The teacher had a job to do during this lesson too.  She was to walk around listening to conversations, one for class management and two to listen and correct any errors in thinking or grammar that really need to be addressed (small errors can be allowed to slide, we don't want to nitpick or kill dreams or courage).  And third, the teacher repeats whatever conversation she hears that she feels is helpful to move the class along to their next topic.  For example, during this conversation I walked over to the battery section and heard a girl stating that she was like a battery in that at night she sleeps and recharges, while during the day she uses her energy up.  At the switch corner, I heard a boy say he was like a switch because someone could turn him on and off by saying, "Stop that!"  I spoke these answers out because I wanted the other students to hear the creative metaphors that some of their peers were using and understand the concepts better and build on their ideas in the future.

This is actually just a five minute introduction to my ELD lesson.  All of this planning and action for five minutes!  But this is what I want to show you.  I want to show how much planning goes into a very successful lesson, or as I said tongue in cheek, "The Perfect English Learner Lesson".  If I had not had the English Language Learners Department from my district visiting me, this may never had happened.  Because I had an audience I was motivated to plan the very best lesson that I was capable of.  I did my research.  I did my planning and got all materials ready and accessible.  And who benefited most from this extra preparation?  My students.  This is why I say in my previous post that teacher observations are one of the best forms of professional development.  The precise planning and intense preparation benefits everyone.

In my next post, I will try to finish the day of the "Perfect English Language Learner Lesson".  I actually think it is ironic and a bit comic that I only got through the first five minutes of the lesson in this post.  It just proves how much insight and planning goes into a good lesson.

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