This afternoon I made a presentation at a staff meeting about the nature of LBOTE and EAL/D students and simple strategies for supporting their language acquisition in the mainstream classroom. Shared below are the general slides (minus those specific to our school), including an explanation of the differences between LBOTE and EAL/D, the documents available to support mainstream teachers in their work with EAL/D students, and a variety of simple strategies for directly targeting the needs of these students in the mainstream classroom.
Wait. What do you mean it’s Week 4 already?
This term feels like it has gone from nought to a hundred in less than 0.25 seconds. And it’s not slowing down…
As many readers of this blog would know, I made the move to Sydney at the end of the last school year. 2015 has brought with it a new city, new job(s), new school(s), new colleagues, new kids, new system, new processes…new just about everything. Needless to say my head’s been left in a bit of a spin at times.
Today provided a great opportunity to take a breather and take stock of what’s happened so far and the direction in which my role as a secondary EAL/D teacher in a Catholic girls’ school in the south-west of Sydney is headed. A cross-regional EAL/D Induction Day offered the chance to meet key contacts within CEO Sydney and other new EAL/D teachers, to generate greater clarity about our role description and to engage with a range of resources.
Some of these resources were the same as ones I had engaged with in Adelaide, but many are different. Some are designed specifically for EAL/D specialist teachers, and others are for mainstream classroom teachers. The fact that EAL/D strategies are effective for all students in a mainstream classroom is something of which I have become acutely aware in my time as a specialist teacher in Adelaide. However, the cultural demographics I am working within Sydney’s south-west have truly reaffirmed this in a very short amount of time. In a school where roughly 70% of the girls are identified as LBOTE or ESL, it is simply impossible for an EAL/D teacher with a 0.6 FTE allocation to offer direct support to every student. Therefore the role of the classroom teacher in developing the language and literacy levels of the students is of the utmost importance.
So here are some resources that have helped me on my short, yet information-packed journey within CEO Sydney so far and that would serve both specialist and mainstream teachers very well in the work with LBOTE and EAL/D students…
Written by the team at CEO Sydney, this book provides definitions of roles, strategies for identifying and assessing EAL/D students and for supporting them in the mainstream classes, suggestions for effective practice for EAL/D practitioners. Whilst the language of ESL is still used, chapters are being updated throughout 2015 to align with the language of the Australian Curriculum. The content, however, remains fantastic and useful for teachers of EAL/D in any state. Available to order at the CEO Sydney Bookshop.
A document specifying the characteristics and behaviours of EAL/D students as they progress in their language development. It has been used since the 1990s, and the South Australian Language and Literacy Levels document has developed from this and the ACARA documentation. Available at the CEO Sydney Bookshop.
Overview, advice, EAL/D learning progression, annotated content descriptors for English, Maths, Science and History, and student illustrations of the learning progression. Created specifically for mainstream classroom teachers. Available here.
CEO Sydney’s online learning modules for individual teachers, school groups and leadership.
Twitter Hashtag #ealdconnect
A handle for EAL/D teachers to connect and discuss learning on Twitter.
Wow! It really has been some time since my last post. Looking back on my posts from several months ago I realise I started the year with the best of intentions for my blog, my precious piece of cyber space. Many of these intentions I have kept up (or at least attempted to) in practice, but unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, there have been a few circumstances which have meant that life’s ups and downs have rudely gotten in the way of documenting it here!
Yet, in the space of a week, several people have asked me what’s happening with my blog. To be honest, I was both shocked and flattered that they remembered it existed! And this has become a prompt of me to get back in to my writing. So, given some of the not so great parts of this year, I thought I’d explore how I could change my thinking around these areas to make them positive.
The stimulus for my thinking around this post came from a professional development with the Languages team from Catholic Education SA today. We are fortunate enough to have the lovely and talented Selena Woodward (@TeacherTechnol) working with us. While discussing the successes and challenges of the project we are currently working on, I commented that a barrier for me has been changing classes with the change of semester. Selena challenged this comment, suggesting that this is an opportunity rather than a barrier and on further reflection, I can see what she means. The work I did with one class, can now be tested out to see if it is equally as effective with another class, with reflection and further adaptation to follow.
One thing that has really struck me recently is the fact that each year of teaching brings different challenges. For me this year, I have been challenged both professionally and personally. On the professional front, it is the first year that I have taught a Year 12 class, and they are combined with a Year 11 class. The idea of teaching Stage 2 (THE big year!) for the first time in a combined Stage 1 and 2 class made me feel physically ill. I had taught Stage 1 before, no dramas. But to get my head around the Stage 2 curriculum and do the students justice in a combined class? I wasn’t so confident in that.
Yet in this challenge has come opportunities, for both myself and the students. Firstly, the Year 11s benefit from seeing and being involved with a Year 12 program…they get a sneaky heads up for what’s in store next year. Meanwhile, the combined class has ensured that I do not get lazy (they keep me on my toes!), but also it has forced my hand in actively seeking support from sources outside of my school. As the only Stage 2 teacher of Italian at the school, and with my inexperience, I have been forced to step outside my comfort zone and accept where my weaknesses lie and network with those who can help me overcome these barriers. This has been at times reaffirming, and at times reassuring that I am on the right track, or am not far off. The challenge has become an area of growth.
So, my goal for the remainder of the year (as horrifically cliche as it sounds) is to take my challenges and think of them in terms of opportunities!
This blog is titled ‘Teaching as Learning’ for a reason. I adamantly subscribe to the view that to be an effective teacher, one must also be an effective learner.
Yet, in conversations with colleagues, I notice that teachers often find a tension between their need for on-going professional development, and the fact that it takes them out of the classroom “too much.” This concern is completely understandable, but I do not believe it is completely true.
A range of professional development opportunities have come my way over the last few years, many of which have taken me out of the classroom for one or two days per term – sometimes more. This year will be no different. I am very fortunate to work for a leadership team who are supportive of this and happy to accommodate the fact that I will be away on certain days each term, because ultimately the school and – most importantly – the students benefit from involvement in these programs.
This is, of course, a huge commitment for any teacher, and there is always the worry that we are doing our students a disservice. However, I would argue that we are doing our students a disservice if we don’t take the time out occasionally to engage in training that is relevant and meaningful, and fits in with the direction that the school is taking in its approach to teaching and learning. Time spent out on such courses enhances the quality of our teaching when we are in the classroom. It improves our ability to support colleagues in their own teaching and professional learning, and it improves our own self-efficacy. The YouTube clip below from AITSL illustrates perfectly the idea that everybody involved in the school community thrives when there is a culture of learning, an important part of which is the modeling of learning by the teachers themselves!
It is crucial, however, that teachers take responsibility for their own professional learning. We cannot expect opportunities to simply fall into our laps if we do not seek them out and pursue clear, defined professional goals. The AITSL National Professional Standards for Teachers provide an incredibly useful framework for on-going self-evaluation and reflection, identifying areas of need for professional development, and goal setting.
And, just for a giggle from one of my favourite comic strips to finish off:
Image source website: http://scientificteacher.com/category/professional-development/
As teachers, we sit through a vast range of professional developments – some compulsory and some elected. We would all have sat through the brilliant and the boring, the engaging and the excruciating. But what is it that makes a professional development effective?
There are a number of factors that I feel are crucial to an effective PD.
Firstly, relevance. Now there are two sides to this. As an attendee, I need to make sure I select appropriate workshops to my context. Assuming I have selected appropriately, I would hope that the presenter/s are providing learning that is relevant in terms of curriculum, contemporary society and its resources, and the learning of modern students
Engagement is also crucial. Every presenter will have a different style, and different topics will require more or less talking from them. As a teacher-learner, I, like my students, want to be engaged. I want to hear about things that I can explore, adapt to my context and apply in my own teaching. I want to be able to interact with others in the room, including the presenter. I want this engagement and excitement to continue after the PD with the connections and networks it has allowed me to develop.
In my opinion, a PD should not answer every question. Participants should walk away with old questions answered, but with their heads full of new ones to explore themselves and continue the discussion with their colleagues. The most effective learning experiences I have been a part of as an educator are those that I have walked away from feeling exhausted but excited because my brain has been buzzing all day with ideas to apply to my practice.
Finally, I think effective PDs leave the participants with at least one practical thing that they can take away and use almost immediately. Sometimes the theories that are presented at these workshops can be quite overwhelming, but if there is a practical example that can be applied to one’s practice straight away, then I, personally, am more likely to take the risk by trying something new.
So, they are my four main criteria for an effective professional development. I’d love to hear from you. How do you gauge a workshop’s effectiveness?