Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Supporting Second Language Learners

One of the most outstanding standard-based bulletin boards this month is the board presented by Nina Thomas and Laura Sambito's kindergartners. This board supports the second language students in their classroom, describing the strategies that they are intentionally designing to support students who speak a second language.

Mini-lesson. During the mini-lesson of Readers' Workshop the teachers use visual cues to support their second language students as they introduce comprehension. The poster on the left is a typical kindergarten poster that shows students the story elements of some of our "Star Books." In this case the teachers have intentionally used visual aids instead of words to support, not only their second language students, but all of their young non-readers.

Work Session: Independent Reading - As children leave the mini-lesson to practice their new skills during independent reading, the teachers understand that although reading is difficult for any five year old, it is even more difficult for the student learning English as a second language. One of the things that these teachers have done is to pair children who speak the same language together so that they can use both their native language and their new language to support their learning. The teachers have noticed that the second language learners are able to discuss the stories in much more detail when they are able to speak with someone in their native language. They have seen the students' confidence soar. The teachers have also created story webs as a visual representation of what they want the students to do. In this case, they have even written the directions in the student's native language to help parents understand the expectation when the sheet goes home later in the week.

Work Session: Literacy Centers - Students practice the retelling skills they are learning in Literacy Centers. In this classroom the teachers make sure to have puppets, flannel board characters, costumes and sequencing pictures for each of the stories that they are studying to support the second language students as they learn to comprehend and sequence new stories. While this is good practice for all young learners, these props are intentionally added to make sure that second language students have optimal opportunity to participate in oral storytelling.
About 18% of the population at Chets Creek includes students whose parents speak a second language at home. Although we have many, many languages spoken the highest percentage of families speak Spanish. Second language learners are the largest growing population at our school. One of our School Improvement goals addresses our need to make sure that these families and students are supported throughout their time at the Creek. It is obvious that these kinder teachers are thoughtfully considering accommodations to make these students successful in their class. To help parents, they have even provided the commentary for this board in two languages!

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

I find the out of the box thinking for this SBBB truly remarkable. These teachers are certainly setting the standard for the rest, and what a great way to engage our ELL students. Thanks to this board, we all got a glimpse at a new idea.