Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sociocultural Aspects of Schooling for ELs

I can relate to the Rubinstein-Avila article statement that, "Secondary teachers may not be aware that many of their ELLs have been designated as such throughout much of their K-12 school experience because they failed to score above the 36th percentile on standardized test (in English)." When it comes to the students in my Acquisition Language Development (ALD) class, I had misconceptions about students before I knew their background, story, life, and history.

One of the twelve students in my ALD class was born in America—though her parents and family were born outside the United States and speak Spanish as their primary language—she doesn’t know how and never speaks Spanish at home or school, only learned English, but is classified as an ELD student! I had assumed, prior to supporting the teacher of the ALD class, that any ELD or ALD student must have been born in another country and speak another primary language other than English.

This student, like Miquel, struggled with later literacies. It makes me wonder, is this student, like Miguel struggling with English because of painful early literacy experiences earlier in her life. I imagine her parents wanted her to learn English only, like other immigrant families I knew throughout my life. My son's father immigrated from Russia, and his mother, who was bilingual, demanded that he must only speak English. He never learned or heard Russian after he was four. He was lucky because his mother also spoke English and helped him developed English literacy. But, he lost his first language and culture completely.

One strategy for me to understand students like the girl in my ALD class would be to listen to her story (and her parents) to find about her literacy experiences. If her parents don’t speak English and are not bilingual, this student may have deficits in Spanish, which would impact her early literacy development and ability to learn English, too. If her parents avoided Spanish and didn’t know English, my student could have suffered from lack of literacy in either language and therefore is English and Spanish deficient.  

Another strategy to help in creating a bilingual atmosphere would be to make a commitment to building a shared school community by displaying all cultures within the school on the school campus, integrate multiculturalism, and talk about language development and literacy as part of the instruction and student activities. I would also suggest to my ALD student, after finding out more about her background, that she consider developing her Spanish skills to help her better develop her later English literacy.

Rubinstein-Avila, E. "Conversing with Miguel: An Adolescent English Language Learner Struggling with Later Literacy Development." Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 47:4, December 2008/January 2004. Pp. 290-301.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Teacher Candidate Weekly Log

Week 8, Date: 10/19/12

Description of activity/participation:  observation, tutoring, planning, meetings etc.
1 Coursework. Catching up from last week. I was sick on Monday and missed classes.
3 Teaching lead: I taught the students about The Golden Mean for 45 minutes (during my University Supervisor’s observation). After considering what beauty and truth mean, students watched a presentation—including a video—about the mathematical measurements of the ideal beauty studied throughout history in many disciplines. This ties in to the discussion of theme and provides the anticipatory set for the Beauty is Truth short story. The students located the Golden Mean in artwork using grids. Students wrote about one phrase from the Anticipation Guide and gave evidence to support their position for or against the statement with examples from the two previous assignments.
5 Teaching lead: It takes longer to get through the material in fifth period than in third period English 9 class. Sometimes fifth is behind or doesn’t have time to run through all of the elements of a lesson—only the basics. They did watch the presentation and locate the Golden Mean in artwork using grids with me in the lead for 45 minutes.
2 Support: Due to the testing schedule, all periods are only an hour, from 11:05 to Noon. ALD students worked on sentence frames in groups of three, where they practicing academic language, listening, writing, and presenting to the class.
4 Planning: My co-teacher and I met to discuss some quantifiable expectations regarding co-teaching, following my post observation meeting with my University Supervisor.
6 Coursework: Catching up from last week. I was sick on Monday and missed classes.
1 Coursework/Observation: I observed my co-teacher teach the topic of theme so that I can teach it in periods 3 and 5. During down time I did coursework.
3 Teaching lead: Taught students about theme. Linked theme from popular novels, used think pair share for students to come up with themes of their own, filled in short story graphic organizer, and wrote down theme examples the students generated on concepts of hate, love, and friendship. Walked through theme-related homework due on Monday.
5 Teaching lead: Taught students about theme. Linked theme from popular novels, used think pair share for students to come up with themes of their own, filled in short story graphic organizer, and wrote down theme examples the students generated on concepts of hate, love, and friendship. Walked through theme-related homework due on Monday. Walked through theme-related homework due on Monday.
2 ALD: Daily Do Now and continued work on video game topic using Issues book and debate tracker, using individual writing, partnering, listening, speaking and peer evaluation skills.
4 Planned for short story wrap up, review for short story quiz, unit planning for Of Mice and Men.
6 Coursework.

 Best part of this week

            I taught the students about The Golden Mean for 45 minutes (during my University Supervisor’s observation). After considering what beauty and truth mean, students watched a presentation—including a video—about the mathematical measurements of the ideal beauty studied throughout history in many disciplines. This ties in to the discussion of theme and provides the anticipatory set for the Beauty is Truth short story. The students located the Golden Mean in artwork using grids. Students wrote about one phrase from the Anticipation Guide and gave evidence to support their position for or against the statement with examples from the two previous assignments. It was fun to plan and take the lead on teaching a successful, interactive, engaging lesson. And, I was happy to lead two direct instruction sessions this week.

            I also appreciated working towards a more successful and focused co-teaching experience with my University Supervisor and Cooperating Teacher.

Biggest challenge this week and where to improve next week and beyond

During the Golden Mean presentation, there were several things I could have done better. During the whole class period, I could have used a signal to get students’ attention when necessary. I spoke with my co-teacher and we came up with the count down from 5 during transitions.  Regarding positioning myself at an “attention spot,” I will stand at the front, near the projector, to signal I need their attention, I will also use the signal of the Mavericks (silently, with my hand in the air) to focus the students. Additionally, my co-teacher brought a bell to ring to pull attention back to direct instruction, as needed, when particularly noisy or engaged in student activity, independent, partner, and group work.

Before the video, I should have clarified about the math expectations. The math was just the background context from which to understand the activity. Independent note-taking was a bit advanced for the students. I should have been more explicit with the exact measurable goals with the class. And, the video required a lot of high level listening skills. I should have handed out the important text from the presentation for students to use during the activity (that were relevant to the activity).

During the video, I should have paused to check for understanding. During the presentation, I incorrectly said Pi instead of Phi. For the hands-on activity with art and grid transparencies, I should have found a way to model for students prior to them doing the activity themselves. Also, I could have used cooperative learning by having students pair and support each other. Once one student found the golden mean in their art, I should have instructed them to help someone around them. My co-teacher and I differentiated instruction and supported students who needed assistance; however, there wasn’t enough of “us” to go around.

During the whole lesson, I should have given explicit timeframes and provided time checks and reminders for students.

Regarding co-teaching, I will continue to work with my cooperating teacher on my lead with planning, creating materials, and teaching that align with the expectations of the CSUSM co-teaching model so there is a balance with my coursework, co-teaching, and life. My cooperating teacher and I are on the same page about expectations and scaling back my lesson plan and material creation, while continuing our collaborative overall planning, and my teaching lead staying to 15-30 minutes, as often as possible for the next four weeks.  

Additional Materials

TPE Blog All of my TPE materials are posted on my blog. Please click the links on the left-hand side of the blog to follow links where all of the evidence in my portfolio is grouped by TPE number and by class at

            Teacher Website

Regarding the teacher website, my co-teacher already has an amazing website replete with amazing support materials, resources, examples, all homework assignments, and a recap of the daily lessons ( and ).

            We discussed how I can help add to the online experience. Another website is not beneficial to the students; it would create some confusion since I’m already referenced on my co-teacher’s site. Instead, I created an Edmoto site at: This site acts a lot like Facebook. We’re considering having students interact on my Edmoto site, created for our freshman English 9 class, when we do Of Mice and Men. I also posted the materials I created for class: one as an assignment, two lesson plans as library references for teachers. I’ll continue to update my Edmoto site, and think of ways to have the students interact with each other on the space.

Check the co-teaching models you have used this week. Indicate who (Cooperating Teacher or Teacher Candidate) took the lead in planning and teaching.

Co-teaching Model
Planning lead Cooperating Teacher
Planning lead Teacher Candidate
Teaching lead Cooperating Teacher
Teaching lead Teacher Candidate
X (45 minutes in lead role)
X (20 minutes in lead role)
X (45 minutes in lead role)
X (20 minutes in lead role)


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blog Post #2—Teaching Shapes Adolescent Brains

Teenagers take more risks than children and adults. They’ll do almost anything to impress their friends and gain independence. Cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore compares the prefrontal cortex in adolescents to that of adults, to show us how typically “teenage” behavior is caused by the growing and developing brain. Scientists and educators try to understand adolescent behavior in terms of the underlying changes that are going on in their brain.

Teen behavior is no accident. Grey matter in prefrontal cortex is still developing until people are in their early twenties. Therefore, adolescent brain activity, the network of brain regions in the medial prefrontal cortex, causes teens to want to have more active social interactions. However, strong synapses are improving, while weak synapses are pruned away during this time of development. Their brain and grey matter cause them to feel self-conscious, make it hard for them to control their impulses, prohibits them from saying something inappropriate, making decisions, and seeing other people’s perspectives—overall they are less self-aware. All the while the limbic system during this time is hypersensitive to the good feeling teens get from taking risks.

It’s important to understand that the adolescent brain is malleable during this time. Adolescents are the most creative during their brain development, and there is a large opportunity for teaching and social development during this time.

Lesson designs and planning that incorporate the knowledge of the teenage brain in the following ways will help connect learning to the developing brain and memory.

1.      Repeat information, concepts, and themes in a variety of ways. When a neuron receives a message repeatedly, the connection is strengthened.

2.      Feed teen’s need for independence by giving them choice and autonomy.

3.      Help adolescents take safe risks with kinesthetic (physical) activities, active participation and experiences, in a positive community, authentic performance tasks that matter to them, are valued, and bring about change and awareness.

4.      Create social environments where teens thrive and are engaged by interacting well with peers in collaborative groups.

My overall attitude and strategies in teaching teenagers needs to encompass their brain growth and development. It’s important that teachers use optimism, kindness, humor, and teach with multiple intelligences, include interesting anticipatory sets, make sure to include a purpose that is relevant to the students’ lives, and active working and long term memory, formative and summative assessment. I make a connection to the social brain by having students use and practice the learning concepts together.

My planning for learning is designed to access memory lanes and use what I know about how adolescents learn by teaching from a growth mindset—helping students become aware of their developing brains. 

Source: Ted Talk by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore at

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

SIOP Observation Looking for SDAIE Strategies

Two days a week, I support my co-teacher at my school site in an Academic Language Development (ALD) course for English-language learners who have just been designated. ALD uses English 3D curriculum to inform the instruction and student activities.

Each class session is highly structured for the first hour and fifteen minutes, followed by time available to students to complete homework and one-on-one, individualized teacher/student tutoring and mentoring where students demonstrate using academic English in other classes (creating a bridge for technical and academic language use in life and other classes), reflect, create action plans, and receive feedback on success strategies, such as, organization (binder, agenda); collaboration (study skills and in-class partner/group/class work); and academic progress check (all classes).

The classroom has twelve students who face each other from both sides of the classroom. The space is large for twelve students with plenty of room to move around in pairs and to spread out for individual and group homework collaboration. The teacher is very process-and people-oriented, and allows students to eat breakfast in class (not allowed for other classes), because some of the students are hungry or bring their breakfast to eat at school. The space is non-confrontational, the students are all comfortable with each other and they react positively (low stress) to group and pair interactions.

Strategies and activities based in SIOP Protocol

1.       Response and sentence frames provide scaffolding for gradual release throughout the course. Frames become increasingly reduced so students’ responses become increasingly independent. The workbook allows students to refer to previous work for help, as needed. Teacher and curriculum establish think-aloud strategies for students and teacher.

2.       Response frames include assists with words, syntax, grammar, and style for verbal and written academic and technical language for interactions (including partnering and responding to discussions as a class), coursework, assessments, and reflections.

3.       Content and language objectives are clearly stated, read aloud and shown in writing, and students repeat the objectives orally and in writing. Content and language concepts are appropriate for the students’ age and background. Content includes students using precise words, verbs, and adjectives; describing people; Language objectives include: restating, comparing, and reporting their and classmate’s ideas using complete sentences during interaction.

4.       Content includes students using precise words, verbs, and adjectives; Vocabulary and concepts are interwoven through instruction and activities. Content includes cultural and social norms (invisible curriculum) technical and academic terms, and a variety of questions that promote higher-order thinking are used. Each section is set up as a question, such as, “How does a lesson partner demonstrate active listening?” Teacher states (and it’s in writing) part of speech, defines in casual language and academic language, and uses words in context.

5.        Students use graphic organizers including: brainstorming; T charts; language response cues; sentence frames; Think, pair, share; Discuss, restate, record, share; write sentence frame and add their own ideas (releasing gradually to writing essays independently); frames that introduce difficult grammatical and syntax cues (prepositional phrases, pronoun, verb tenses) and teacher models correct responses; before reading and after reading;

6.       Students tap into real life experiences though discussion, reflection, and response. They build schema, role-play, use peer tutors (and adult tutors), speak their L1s and L2s during instruction and in discussion as needed to process their thinking, ideas, and responses.

7.       Monitoring is built into the workbook also for formative and summative assessments of the student’s comprehension and ability by the teacher and the student themselves. Students also take a Beginning-of-Year Test, including assessments of students’ background knowledge on language functions. Later formal assessments include fluency and writing ability.

This is an effective lesson for English learners because English 3D curriculum teaching strategies and student activities cover five stages of English development and proficiency levels, matching ELD standards and SDAIE strategies. There is scaffolding at the beginning of the program, which leads to independence by the end of the program.

I would modify the lesson and activities to give students more choice and autonomy over the materials.  If the curriculum was less “fixed” and had less process formulas it would be easier to adapt to all levels of proficiency. However, this model works to pair students with lower fluency, and weaker writing, listening, and speaking with students who have reached higher levels of proficiency and stronger writing, listening, and speaking skills. Also, more meaningful activities would help engage the students. However, the benefits of working through the scaffolding as a class helps students who have accumulated learning gaps and helps recognized and address needs.

Overall, the students don’t seem engaged in the coursework. Now that we’re a month into the curriculum, I’m glad we’ve transitioned from walking through the early routines to discussing the issues, found in non-fiction articles that relate topics of interest to teenagers, with a balanced perspective and discussion prompts regarding video games, fast food, social challenges, graffiti, teen driving, etc. The students were livelier during the most recent lesson where we discussed video games, than in the other lessons that focused predominately on reading, listening, writing, and interacting within the instructional routines.

Second Language Acquisition

Collier’s conceptual model considers multiple factors of acquiring a second language with the goal of bringing students to the same level of proficiency as L1 native-English speakers. Factors include simultaneous development of sociocultural (affective, social, psychological), linguistic (first and second language acquisition in pronunciation, vocabulary, meaning, context, nonverbal, thought patterns), academic (development in all academic subjects through the student’s L1), and cognitive development.

A key point to remember when I apply theoretical frameworks to teach English learners across content area classes is that it’s a lifelong process. Another point to consider is how long language proficiency will take each learner. According to Collier, English L2 learners take, “…at least 5-7 years to reach typical [English] native-speaker performance…when they have at least 2-3 years of first language schooling.” It takes two to three years longer for immigrant students with “no schooling in their home country.”

Several questions come to mind. How can English-based curriculum and English-dominated institutions provide the level of support needed for the conceptual model? If dual-bilingual education is the answer, how do we bring more English L1 students and families on board? Or find the time, money, or support needed to make this a reality in our schools? Also, when traveling abroad, many Europeans have a level of proficiency comparable to L1 speakers, and in multiple languages. What can we learn from the European language acquisition model for applying theoretical frameworks? What personal responsibility lies with the immigrant students and families to practice the English language and develop their L1 academic and cognitive development? This model seems to lay most of the responsibility with the school. How does this concept fit into a classroom with 44 students who are heterogeneous as EL, RSP, 504, and English L1 students?

Collier offers some solutions to my questions. “When first language instructional support cannot be provided, “(1) second language taught through academic content; (2) conscious focus on teaching learning strategies needed to develop thinking skills and problem-solving abilities; and (3) continuous support for staff development emphasizing activation of students’ prior knowledge, respect for students’ home language and culture, cooperative learning, interactive discovery learning, intense and meaningful cognitive/academic development, and ongoing assessment using multiple measures.” 

In the language development class I work in at La Costa Canyon, where first language instructional support cannot be provided, I’m happy to say that think, pair, share, brainstorming, sentence frames, and academic language are used in a cooperative learning environment. These solutions are some of Collier’s recommendations. Because the class only has 12 student and there are two teachers to support their learning, ongoing informal and formal assessments using multiple measures takes place at every class session. I’m glad that we’re following the model the best we can.


Collier, V. (1995) Acquiring a Second Language for School, Directions in Language & Education, National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education. Vol. 1, No. 4. Retrieved from:

English Learners and Percent of Total School Enrollment

The most recent data available is from 2010-11. Of the student body at La Costa Canyon High School, 6.48 percent are English Learners.
California Department of Education at
(Data and Statistics, Data Quest)

Who Are You and How Do You Feel About Reading?

Who Are You and How Do You Feel About Reading?

Who Are You

Directions: Please write your responses to the below questions in the line provided. Then, move on to the below survey. Note: I will not share your answers with anyone without your permission.

Name__________________________Name you like to be called___________________

Date of birth_________________________  Place of birth_________________________

Email address_____________________________________________________________

Home phone________________________ Cell phone____________________________

Parents’/guardians’ names__________________________________________________

Parents’/guardians’ email__________________________________________________

Parents’/guardians’ cell phone_______________________________________________

What language do you speak at home?________________________________________

How do you get to school? ______________________How long does it take_________

What do you do after school? _______________________________________________

What do you imagine yourself doing 10 years from now?__________________________

Do you like this subject? Why or why not? __________________________________________________________________________


What would you really like to learn about in this class?___________________________

What’s a fair amount of homework time to expect you to give to this class?__________

Describe the way you learn things best________________________________________

Is there anything that could make this class especially hard for you?______________________________________________________________________

Can you think of a way I could help you with this struggle? __________________________________________________________________________

Is there anything else about you that you would like me to know? __________________________________________________________________________




How Do You Feel About Reading?
Directions: This survey tells me how you feel about reading and books. Please answer as honestly as you can by checking the term or terms, which tell me how you feel about each statement.
Strongly Agree
Strongly Disagree
Library books are dull.
Reading is a waste of time.
Reading is one of my hobbies.
I believe I am a better reader than most other students in my grade.
Reading is almost always boring.
Sometimes I think kids younger than I am read better than I do.
I enjoy going to the library for books.
I don’t have enough time to read books. 
I believe that I’m a poor reader.
I would like to belong to a book club.
Teachers want me to read too much.
You can’t learn much from reading.
Books can help you understand other people.
I almost always get As and Bs in reading and English.
I like to have time to read in class.
Reading gets boring after about ten minutes.
Sometimes I get Ds and Fs in reading and English.
I like to read before I go to bed.