Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Perfect English Language Learners Lesson - Part 3

Welcome back!  I am continuing my 3 Part post on "The Perfect English Language Learner Lesson".  What had happened is that my school district's English Language Learner Department had asked me to model a lesson for them that included the standard GLAD or Guided Language Acquisition Development and student engagement strategies.  I have previously discussed my intense planning for the lesson and the motivational and vocabulary piece.  I now continue the lesson description with a progression along the Depth of Knowledge ladder to reach higher levels of knowledge, while preparing all learners to have the ability to assess the lesson.

The next step of this "perfectly" planned out lesson was to teach the sentence structure that I wanted the student to master when they finally wrote an expository paragraph at the end of the lesson.  The class brainstormed words that could be used to compare and contrast two themes or concepts.  They gave me words like similar, unlike, and difference.  I used the graphic organizer of the Venn Diagram to organize these words.   They then used the when they responded to questions I had strategically created, using DOK level 4 questions.

Because the English Language Development Department was visiting me,  I strategically added sentence stems, which you can see listed below the question.   I actually don't usually use sentence stems.  I have always felt that my students need to learn to be independent and that they should not be encouraged to develop the habit of relying on outside interventions.  I usually go about lessons with letting them struggle with what they already know to find within themselves the correct way to word an answer.  Then if/when they fail, I swoop in and give them hints to move them in the right direction.  But reflecting upon today, and especially the sentence stem portion,  I now see why the ELL Department insists on them.  As I walked around the room to monitor and assist students, I found that no one needed assistance.  Everyone had been successful the first time writing their response to this high DOK level question.  And their answers were insightful and actually the best I had ever seen!  Little did these district officials know that not all my lessons went this well, and it was all because I had stopped being stubborn about using this new found strategy of sentence stems!

Here are some examples of student responses to the question "How are series and parallel circuits similar?"  They are not perfect, and there are definitely opportunities to pull small groups to differentiate according to their responses, but the sentence structure is fantastic and the vocabulary is coming along, which were two of the main focuses of my lesson!

To close my lesson on collaborative conversations and electrical circuits I asked my students to write a quickwrite.  I gave them five minutes to write anything they wanted on the topic of electrical circuits.  Besides being a time for them for them to organize their thoughts on all the new concepts and vocabulary they had learned today, this would be an informal assessment for my eyes only.  This was not used to grade or evaluate them, but for me.  I wanted to see how they learned.  I wanted to see what strategies worked and which ones didn't.  If they used academic vocabulary then I knew that the pictorial and Quiz Quiz Trade had been successful. If the sentence structure was good, especially when writing sentences that compared, then using the Venn Diagram to introduce comparison words as well as the DOK level 4 questions combined with sentence stems were compatible.  This is an example of a student's quickwrite, an activity of pure uninterrupted, ungraded writing for five minutes.

Again, I was happy with the results.  The concepts I had taught were evident in the writing.  Granted, there are mistakes, but I see these mistakes as new lessons to be taught.  If most everyone is making these mistakes, then I will teach the whole class.  If it is only a few, I will take note of it and teach them in a small group, differentiating instruction while the rest of the class does their next quickwrite.

So this concludes my description of the "Perfect English Language Learner" Lesson.  I hope you realize, especially if you have read all four posts that no lesson is perfect, never.  But what can make it close to perfection is the planning and reflection that goes along with it.  I was only able to plan a good lesson, worthy of the ELD Department's visit because I had reflected on all previous English Language Lessons in the past.  But the planning and previous reflection wasn't what made this particular lesson perfect.  It was the fact that I am always open to change.  I am always ready to see a new way to teach my students.  I never teach within the box, but always question if this strategy, this book, this method is best for my students.  Just like today I changed my mind about using sentence stems.  I had always thought they were a waste of time and a detriment to students.  But today I see different.   That is why this was the perfect lesson.  Because not only did my students learn something new, I did too.

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