For many ELD students, literacy is only part of the equation for closing gaps in their prior schooling experiences; Math is equally important and requires adaptations to their regular classroom programming and assessment in order for students to be successful. Often adapted programming consists of placing the ELD student in locally developed or Special Education tutoring programs. Students may be successful in these programs, on the surface, but they may not be receiving instruction that will help them to understand and apply basic mathematical concepts; instead they maybe using assisstive technology and techniques that help them to perform tasks in a variety of strands without true comprehension. This is similar to literacy instruction that doesn't include phonics and phonemic awareness; students may be able to memorize patterns and repeat them with support, but are never truly literate. Math programs for ELD must address their specific numeracy gaps. To determine what gaps exist, the Ministry has released math tests for ELLs; information about these tests can be found online at the EDUGAINS website. From there, ESL teachers must work with the school team and Math specialists to plan programming for individual ELLs.
Scope and Sequence charts for English Language Arts: Houghton Mifflen - It can be very helpful for teachers to have a sense of what specific skills/words/phonemes/grammar is associated with the grade that they teach in the Primary and Junior years. Scope and sequence charts from educational publishers have had to pass through reviews by government agencies and can provide specific expectations more clearly than curriculum documents do! We all agree that reading is developmental when working with First Language speakers and that growth should not necessarily be strictly defined by grade levels as a result, but for ELLs it is important to carefully consider the specifics as you assess and plan to bring students to grade appropriate skill levels.
I recently heard a student reflecting on her entry to English school at grade 7; she said she wished that someone had taught her the English alphabet letters and sounds because although she could read words that she had been taught through memorization, she struggled with new words because she didn't know what the letters were supposed to sound like. There's a lesson for us all in this!
March arrived like a lamb this year bringing with it finches and robins and the hope of Spring for many of us in the North suffering from Cabin Fever! My goals for March are to assist with the transition of ELLs moving from grade 6 to a -8 setting and from grade8 to high school. It is vital that staff at the receiving schools know that an ELL is coming and that they need to prepare to provide adapted programming. In Secondary settings this may mean ensuring students have an ESL class and a resource period as well as options for locally developed courses: especially in the case of ELD students. Intermediate teachers may not be accustomed to working with ELLs; since most teach rotary style in our area, they may also struggle to adapt and track student linguistic progress. In each case, the school team must work together to ensure the best possible programming and assessment for the ELL is in place.
I can't believe how fast the New Year is zooming by! We have had quite a few snow days here in AMDSB and our focus is always in the next forecast and what it will mean for our schools. It is quite an introduction to Canada for our new ELLs! Last month we said sad goodbyes to our students from Brazil; those lucky kids are now on a beach roasting in the sun!
Meanwhile back here we are getting Cabin Fever in a big way, but we do have a lot to celebrate. February means Black History month, Family Day, Valentines, and the beginning of a new semester! It is also the beginning of our experiment with the Interactive Notebook approach. All of our Elementary ELLs are going to be learning ESL or ELD through this interactive strategy as they work in small groups or one-one with their ESL tutor. We have a good range of students from STEP 1-4 and grades 1-8 and so far, the kids are really responding well to the notebooks. I am excited about the project and look forward to sharing how it goes from month to month.
I have recently updated our websites to include more information about ELLs and Math as well as ELD programming. In AMDSB, our students are immersed in a majority English speaking environment in most schools, so we find students acquire English at a different pace, often more quickly, than students in larger, more diverse boards may experience. This impacts on our planning and it is why our timelines vary a bit from the norm in terms of when students move from ELD to ESL and what kinds of supports we need to provide.
The benefits to being in a small rural board are numerous:
- more immersion in an English language environment
- staff know each other and their students, so year to year and department to department communication is good
-staff tends to have lots of experience and knows the local culture and community well, so they can help students to connect to and participate in their community
- schools generally experience less bullying, violence and suspensions
-students are safe
-there is a lot of green space and there are opportunities for outdoor activities, communities are small and friendly, life moves at a slower pace
There are drawbacks, however to small board life:
- limited mental health services, particularly for students with PTSD
- limited access to translators and professionals who speak/offer services in the first language of the students
-limited availability of support groups/services specific to the students' culture/language group
-fewer options in terms of course selections at Secondary
-isolation, fewer options for entertainment/shopping
Despite the voices of derision we hear on radio and TV and see in the comment sections of numerous articles online and off pertaining to immigration and Canadian culture, a CBC poll today found that roughly 80%, the majority of Canadians, still embrace our multicultural identity. It drives me crazy when I hear people trying to recast our history and culture as a monolithic British, white, European or even French; denying our Aboriginal roots along with the German, Mennonite, Amish, Jewish, African.... peoples who were all part of our very beginnings as a united Canadian nation. Let's face it, we came together in the first place to prevent the Americans from taking us all over and imposing their monolithic culture on us and we need to recognize who we are and not fall for it when people try to tell us multiculturalism spells doom! Maybe it has not worked so well in some places in the world, but no one has done it our way! The Canadian way: friendship, negotiation, working together through difficulties, sharing our best and taking on each other's strengths, and holding firm on the difference between right and wrong as established in our laws. We are a liberal people, with conservative values and a strength born of hardship that is unbeatable! We respect others and are always trying to do better. I am proud of this heritage and am so glad when I hear I am not alone.