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Six Key Program Components for Serving English Learners with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education Jill A. Watson, Ph.D. Minnesota English Learner Education.

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Presentation on theme: "Six Key Program Components for Serving English Learners with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education Jill A. Watson, Ph.D. Minnesota English Learner Education."— Presentation transcript:

1 Six Key Program Components for Serving English Learners with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education Jill A. Watson, Ph.D. Minnesota English Learner Education Conference (MELEd) November 14, 2014

2 Agenda 1. Characterize the needs of Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE) in Minnesota schools, as a basis for exploring key program components to serve these students. 2. Reflect on, rate, and discuss Six Key Components of SLIFE Program Design with reference to your school site(s).

3 SLIFE students bring a unique learner profile to Minnesota schools  They have come of age in an oral paradigm rather than a paradigm of literacy.  Cognitive and social maturation in an oral paradigm brings with it certain affordances.

4 Affordances of Orality  Specific Skills : transfixed listening, oration, memorization, stories, proverbs, fixed expressions, long / epic poetry  Manner of acquiring and evaluating knowledge  Orally developed cognition: affects values, thinking  Role of elders and tradition  Everything relates to the direct community, collectivistic  Knowledge comes from tradition and experience  Knowledge is contextual, practical, of immediate relevance References: Bigelow & Watson (2012), Goody (1968), McLuhan (1964), Olson (1994), Olson & Torrance (1991), Ong (1982), Tarone, Bigelow, & Hansen (2009), Watson (2010, 2012)

5 Learning challenges for SLIFE students in our schools 1. Learning based on abstraction & formal categories rather than experience, tradition, or the teaching of elders  Sesame Street: “This episode was brought to you by the letter M.”  Abecedary classification  Organizing according to abstract categories  Luria’s (1976) example: tools and wood

6 Separate these items into the two groups they belong in.

7 What is money good for?  The coin story took place in an economics class with many SLIFE members. The teacher taught a math- enriched, 2-week unit on various strategies for saving money, including calculations predicting how much one could save under various scenarios and why one should do so.  At the end of the final review she held up a quarter rhetorically and asked the class to review why they should save money —essentially, check off the list that she had taught them, and that they would be tested on. A SLIFE student emphatically called out a very unexpected one-word answer that puzzled the teacher. What do you think he called out?

8 Question: Why should we save money? He called out... “History!” Surprised at this answer from one of her best students, who had done well on homework and quizzes of the material, the teacher asked him to say more. “You can see your history on the money! See, here is the president. Tells you where you come from.”

9 Learning challenges for SLIFE students (cont.) 2. Learning by definition: Focus on decontextualized vocabulary or formalities of definition rather than experience, tradition, or the teaching of elders  Meaning as derived from dictionaries, textual, or technological authority rather than direct experience or the teaching of elders  “Copy the vocabulary words and write their definitions”  Establishing definitional proof  Dinosaur Train on PBS: Your mom says you are a tyrannosaurus, but are you really?  Determining definitional sufficiency (eg. Frayer model):  Does ______ count as an example of ______?

10 Example of an activity practicing definitional sufficiency from ESL Sheltered Science (WIDA 1 & 2 combined, 75% LFS), MN high school

11 Learning challenges for LFS students (cont.) 3. Learning that is based on formal reasoning rather than experience, tradition, or the teaching of elders - Luria’s (1976) example: In the far north, where there is snow, all bears are white. Novaya Zembla is in the far north and there is always snow there. What color are the bears in Novaya Zembla?

12 There is very low awareness of SLIFE student needs in K-12 schools  Teachers (even ESL) are often unaware of their particular profile and needs  Teacher ed programs provide little if any preparation to teach SLIFE.  Most states, schools, districts, federal funding agencies, and national expert panels do not recognize this group as distinct from English learners with significant or age-level prior schooling  A few exceptions:  New York has a state education policy regarding LFS students.  Boston: under consent decree to educate LFSs  Some schools cater to LFS needs  MN legislature passed a definition of SLIFE into law, spring 2013

13 First-ever EL SLIFE definition in MN law: passed spring 2014 An English learner with limited formal schooling is defined as a student who:  comes from a home where the language usually spoken is other than English, or usually speaks a language other than English  enters school in the United States after grade 6  has at least two years less schooling than the English learner's peers  functions at least two years below expected grade level in reading and mathematics  may be preliterate in the English learner's native language (HF 3062, 2014).

14 Students and a parent from 3 MN districts on capital steps after testifying before Joint House-Senate Education Committee chaired by Sen. Torres Ray and Rep. Mariani. Student is holding bill that passed!

15 Summary: Who are SLIFE?  Raised in an oral paradigm—everyting is negociated orally  Strong skills / preference for characteristic oral modes of living and valuing  Typically refugees from war-torn countries, but some exceptions  New to the English language and American culture  No or very limited prior formal, Western-style education, very significant gaps in academic skills compared to age peers, including other ELs with similar initial Eng. proficiency  No or very little literacy in any language, including the native language(s); little if any alphabetic awareness, literacy skills  Age is a major factor: the older one is at literacy / schooling onset, the harder the attendant skills are to acquire  Diverse, valuable individuals who have been dealt a very cruel hand by fate, but who can learn and grow, who want and deserve a better life and a great education

16 It is a very long way to travel from no school experience at all, or, for the lucky few, from a school like this one in Dadaab camp in Kenya:

17 Or this Karen school in a camp in Thailand:

18 Or this one in Mexico…

19 To the palaces of literacy we are accustomed to in the Western academic tradition…

20 The George Peabody Library, Baltimore, MD


22 We live in a culture that David G. Smith (2006) has characterized as hyperliterate, so saturated in artifacts of literacy that we find this stash of obsolete books, to be discarded, in a metro area school basement…

23 Orality to literacy: A journey across a formidable abyss  What does it mean for educators in the receiving community to recognize this abyss?  How can our practices reflect that we know something about SLIFE needs and are ready to educate SLIFE students when they arrive?  What components should appropriate instructional programs for SLIFE contain?

24 Six Key Program Components for Serving SLIFE Layered Presentation, Reflection, & Discussion  Components are based on SLIFE research and actual practices and problems in MN schools  Not just a yes-no issue: quality and routinization are paramount if the practices are to benefit SLIFE Format :  Present 1 component, then 30 sec. reflection & rating using handout  After 3 components, small group discussion (2 discussion times)

25 Six Key SLIFE Program Components 1. Implement custom intake and placement procedure  Determine SLIFE student English proficiency per WIDA  English and Academic Language Development Levels in all modalities  Take specific steps to determine student / family level of prior schooling and literacy  Base SLIFE identification protocol on new SLIFE definition in MN law  Prior schooling, number of years, quality, location (abroad, U.S.)  Custom intake forms (Marshall, 2013)  Native language literacy assessments  Speak to family about prior schooling, use interpretors  Inquire about and record cultural and linguistic background and make connections  What is their home culture and language(s)? Are any staff or student in school of similar background? Make connections via mentor or buddy program.  Deliberate, on-going connections with relevant ethnic community organizations  Take specific steps to learn about health and trauma issues  Refugee camp, family separation / loss, flight  Psycho-neural problems resulting from witnessing or participating in violence (eg. child soldiers & others) affect learning and memory (Neuner et al., 2009)  Assess health and developmental status  Many Karen students (@ 30%) have hearing problems  Many Somali students have trouble with fine motor tasks  Take specific steps to learn and verify age and incorporate in learning path planning  The older the preliterate student is, the harder it is to acquire academic literacy, and the longer it takes, with more need for repetition.

26 Key SLIFE Program Components (cont.) 2. Ensure meaningful, on-going communication among intake personnel, ESL teachers, nurse, counselors, Gen Ed teachers, SpEd teachers, social worker, school psychologist, administrators (grade-level dean or other)  Essential to share key information to build and adapt appropriate schedule, create support plan, from the beginning and throughout the learning path  Share ESL services list with all staff: WIDA level, prior schooling, languages, cultural backgr., special needs  SLIFE PLC: create structured routine for all involved parties to check in about SLIFE: eg. 4 – 8 X / year  Create vehicle for all staff to update with notes about struggling students, eg. Google doc  Take specific measures to ensure that all staff understand the new SLIFE definition in MN law, and know how to refer unidentified students who may be SLIFE

27 Key SLIFE Program Components (cont.) 3. Identify building and district resources, both available and possible, and match to needs  Identify & empower SLIFE expertise in building / district (eg. EL T who has had training & experience)  Identify specific learning needs and staff who have that teaching skill, eg. if SLIFE student needs phonemic awareness development--which staff know how to teach it?  Reading T, SpEd T, elementary T as resources for ESL T, share materials  Which GenEd Ts are good at working with ELs? Schedule & resource with appropriate leveled materials, clustered scheduling  Identify specialized programs already available or that you can acquire, eg.:  Intervention staff / periods already in place or launchable  After-school program: Homework & learning skills lab  Find / create leveled books, recorded books, and materials that make learning meaningful, eg. New Reader’s Press, Linmore, etc.  Lab time, can be monitored by a variety of staff  Raz-Kids Reading, Rosetta Stone in English, Accelerated Reader  Read 180 is NOT a good choice for low level SLIFE

28 5 minute group discussion 1. Share ratings of what is important & difficult to implement 2. Share what you are doing 3. Discuss ideas, questions, priorities, challenges, & resources

29 Key SLIFE Program Components (cont.) 4. Implement a progressive, targeted scheduling strategy in middle and high school  Immediate push-in to PE, Art, FCS, Industrial / Ag Arts; modified grading  Sheltered content courses for SLIFE—WIDA levels1 & 2, and some Level 3. It is best NOT to cluster SLIFE with schooled ELs, especially at level 1.  If sheltered content scheduling is not possible (due, eg. to low numbers of SLIFE & ELs), create Basic Skills focus within ESL classes—ESL Basic Math, Science, Social Studies  Clustered scheduling for core content when SLIFE are ready, with ESL teacher meaningfully co-teaching, or para support  Schedule graded resource period (guided study hall) for SLIFE in MS and HS  Connect with Gen Ed re: assignments, materials  Computer lab period—English, literacy, numeracy  Can be supervised by support staff  Plan for the fact that SLIFE typically need to repeat a level one or more times—work with ESL teachers to determine exit criteria for each level

30 Key SLIFE Program Components (cont.) 5. Review and customize SpEd referral, assessment, and service policy  We know in advance that many SLIFE will have learning challenges– our procedures must stand ready to respond to their needs  Customize and shorten referral wait time: SLIFE teachers report that 2 years’ waiting time for SpEd referral is too long, especially for MS and HS students. Districts have discretion on this.  Customize referral and child study process: all stakeholders on alert that SLIFE students often experience learning challenges that make them eligible for special education support.  Take measures to ensure that this DOES NOT mean that SLIFE are always or automatically SpEd eligible  Cross-reference with medical and intake records  Administrators: communicate attentiveness to the unique profile of SLIFE as a priority to SpEd and all staff

31 Key SLIFE Program Components (cont.) 6. Build capacity in the domains of supervision, instruction, and support to develop expertise in instructional strategies, curricular models, policies, and procedures that are effective with SLIFE A. Ensure availability and use of effective configurations, materials, & practices, for example:  Scheduling flexibility, adjustment of roles, on-going communication  Phonemic awareness & initial literacy building materials, leveled & recorded books, realia, document cameras, field trips  Front-loading vocabulary, background-building, academic thinking instruction, and oral interaction strategies in every class. Lessons that use only reading and writing doom SLIFE to fail.  Curricular model appropriate for SLIFE, eg. Mutually Adaptive Learning Paradigm  Partner with immigrant community, elders in the school B. Incorporate professional time into SLIFE teacher schedules  Considerable extra time is needed to: interpret intake, schedule, connect with families, create custom materials for multiple re-entry of content, leveled materials  Case-load approach: how many SLIFE does T serve? C. Expert SLIFE Professional Development & Expectations based on it for key staff  Administrators  Include SLIFE best practices in teacher observation protocols: every T who has SLIFE  ESL teachers, select Gen Ed, SpEd teachers: PD to practice  Counselors, social workers, support staff: know & intentionally address SLIFE needs

32 5 minute group discussion 1. Share ratings of what is important & difficult to implement 2. Share what you are doing 3. Discuss ideas, questions, priorities, challenges, & resources

33 Evaluating and Extending  What components are the most important for your program?  Which are or would be the most difficult to implement?  What other components should a good SLIFE program have?  Other ideas, questions, comments?

34 SLIFE Projects & Resources  MinneSLIFE: committee within MinneTESOL  Regular meetings and a spring mini-conference focusing on supporting LFS students and teacher  All are welcome, membership not required  Website: MinneSLIFE Google Site  Like on Facebook: MinneSLIFE  Mutually Adaptive Learning Paradigm  Curriculum model designed for SLIFE (Marshall & DeCapua)   MALP books, presentations

35 Thank you for attending! Contact me with questions, materials requests, or to continue the conversation: Jill A. Watson, Ph.D. /

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