I was searching for something else on the Web today, and happened to instead find a nice short PDF called “Fifty Stimulating Classroom Starters” for ESL/EFL classes. It was put together by Jack Bailey and Marit ter Mate-Martinsen.
Sarah Peterson is a mathematics teacher for 10 years in the New York City Public Schools. She has taught Algebra 1 and Geometry to the ELL and SPed population throughout her career. Sarah can be reached via email, email@example.com.
When I tell someone outside of Teacher World that I teach math to English Language Learners I continuously hear the same two responses. The first is “You must speak Spanish ” Well the truth is, I don’t. Not even after six years of taking it in school, and teaching math to ELL’s for ten years. Even if I did, it wouldn’t help me too much because I have students from Ghana, Yemen, Albania and Bangladesh in the room. The second is “Well isn’t math just numbers, the universal language?” I wish this was true. But numbers in Arabic look different, many countries use a comma as a decimal separator, and most math problems these days are contextual. Word problems full of non content specific vocabulary words. What’s an ELL math teacher to do?
Put yourself in their shoes. To keep me humble I will have students explain a math problem to the class and in their native language. Woah, to hear the slope formula explained in French is a real eye opener. Their brains are overloaded all day with all the new content and learning the language. Give them more time to think and formulate an answer.
Get them talking
Data shows that ELL talk much less in class than their non ELL peers. I break the ice in the beginning of the year by reading a math problem that I put into Google Translate to one of the languages a student in the class speaks. By the time I am done they are laughing so hard, and teasing me about my pronunciation and accent. It shows them we are all learning a new language together and it’s okay if it doesn’t sound perfect every time we speak.
I create a list of sentence starters that the students can use when answering or posing a question. The sentence starters are posted in the classroom and are written in the students notebooks for reference. Some examples are: I agree with you because…., another strategy that can be used is ……, I can connect this to when we learned about…. Until they have the confidence to speak on their own this is very helpful to them.
Modify your speech
When I was in my Masters program in Secondary Math Education, there were no ELL math classes offered. So I had to find my own way. I speak slowly and use more wait time than I would with a native English speaking class. I repeat and paraphrase throughout the lesson. Often having the students paraphrase what I just taught. But I do not shy away from using the same math vocabulary as I would for native English speakers, I have the students use the vocabulary when answering questions, and they have a vocabulary section in their notebook to reference. I gesture throughout the lesson and reference pictures, graphs, examples whenever possible.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the seemingly endless hurdles your students face. But by taking the time to put them at ease in your classroom, you will see great gains in their understanding of the English language and mathematics.
It’s easy to get caught-up in the day-to-day work involved in teaching a class or multiple classes, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing the “usual stuff” and not “think out of the box.”
I thought it might be useful to share in a “The Best…” list the resources that help me try to use Bloom’s Taxonomy in my classroom.
There may very well be resources out there that do a far better job of explaining the Taxonomy and how to use it. However, a lot of them are caught up in academic jargon or are just not offered in a way that I find particularly usable.
I personally try to use Bloom’s Taxonomy in two ways. One, I have a big wall chart in the front of my classroom with a summary of each level of the Taxonomy and “question starters” for each of them. Since I spend a lot of time helping my students practice reading strategies, and one of them is asking questions, they can take advantage of the accessibility of this poster. After reviewing what the whole thing means, we discuss how — by practicing asking themselves the higher-level questions while they read a text — they can gain a deeper understand of its meaning.
In addition, I try to use Bloom’s to help me formulate my own lessons. In order to do that, I just need simple, accessible, and practical reminders that I can use. That’s what you’ll primarily find on this list.
Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Helping Teachers Use Bloom’s Taxonomy In The Classroom (most, though not all, are materials prepared by different school districts):
Here’s a Bloom’s Taxonomy chart that’s organized very simply, with many question-starters, and that I can keep on my desk or with my papers to help me remember the levels, questions, and practical activities that could go with them.
The New Jersey World Languages Curriculum Framework is a PDF document with a lot of interesting stuff. The most interesting item in it — by far — is a Bloom’s Taxonomy framework for language learners. It’s Figure 47. It lays-out teaching and learning strategies — specifically for language learners — for each level of the taxonomy.
Harry Tuttle has come-up with an intriguing way to evaluate student projects using Web 2.0 application. I’d encourage you to read his post (and the comments section where he answers a question I left for him). He basically assigns each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy a number — the higher the level, the higher the number. He identifies the level the student achieved in his/her project, and then multiplies it by the number of days they worked on it. It seems to me that this could be a useful formula.
The Differentiator is a cool online application designed to use Bloom’s Taxonomy and other similar thinking/planning “charts” to come-up with appropriate high-level student assignments (I’m sorry, I couldn’t think of any better way to describe it). Though I’m not that sure if it brings much more value than other sites on this list, it still belongs here just because it’s a cool-looking tool. Check it out and you’ll understand what I mean.
I’ve just read an excellent post by George Couros titled Bloom’s Taxonomy and a Pen, which uses a pen as an analogy for explaining the different Taxonomy levels. It’s an excellent idea, and I’m kicking myself for not thinking of using an analogy before when we teach the Taxonomy in our ninth-grade English classes.
The ASCD In Service blog has republished two twenty-five year old interviews with Benjamin Bloom, creator of Bloom’s Taxonomy. They’re not specifically related to the Taxonomy, but they focus on two other very interesting topics — automaticity and talent development. Even thought they’re aren’t on the Taxonomy, I still think they’re worth being on this list.
Joshua Coupal has created a very useful slideshow on the changes in Bloom’s Taxonomy and how it can be applied through digital tools. He used Prezi, and I know it looks cool and everything, but just have to say that I find Prezi distracting and disorienting. But, perhaps I’m just an old fuddy duddy.
A picture is worth a thousand thoughts: inquiry with Bloom’s taxonomy is the title of a very useful resource from Learn NC. It shows a photo, along with the original Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid. By clicking on each thinking level, you are shown questions about the photo reflecting the level. It’s a very simple and visual way to teach Bloom’s Taxonomy, and can easily be replicated as a student assignment in any classroom. I like this interactive A LOT.
Bloomin’ Mathematics is a great post sharing ways to incorporate Bloom’s Taxonomy into teaching math.
Near the end of the extensive Bloom’s Taxonomy lesson I describe in my book, I show some fun videos demonstrating the thinking levels through scenes from Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean:
I’ve previously posted about the Bloom’s Taxonomy of Reflection that Peter Pappas developed. I just discovered that he developed this excellent Prezi about it. I’d also strongly encourage you to read his post that explains it further, as well as one by Langwitches giving an example of how to apply it in the classroom.
In my book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves, I have a very extensive lesson plan on Bloom’s Taxonomy. The lesson ends with students applying the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy to The Three Little Pigs story. The Guardian newspaper in the UK published a short video imagining how the same story might play-out if it took place today. It’s pretty strange, but engaging. I’ve embedded it below, and think it could be a short and fun video to show students at the end of the lesson:
Sesame Street did their own version of the story as a parody of the House of Cards series. It could be used in the same way:
Here’s a fun video using Seinfield to illustrate the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I don’t necessarily think it’s as good as the Star Wars or Pirates of the Caribbean videos already on this list, but it’s fun. I can’t embed it here because that ability was disabled.
If Math Is Basketball, Let Students Play The Game is by Dan Meyer, and is just a very thoughtful commentary on teaching and applicable to all subjects. His comments can be applied to some recent additions I’ve made to this list questioning whether students have to start at lower levels of thinking in order to “build-up” to the higher ones, so I’m adding it here.
In my book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves, I include an extensive and engaging lesson plan on Bloom’s Taxonomy. There and in this “The Best” list, I also include discussions of the dangers of viewing it as a rigid pyramid that must be climbed rung-by-rung.
A new addition to that lesson plan, which I hadn’t gotten around to sharing here previously but which has worked well with students, is to show them different illustrations of Bloom’s Taxonomy and have them determine which they think is best and why (and to also give them the option of creating their own). I do this near the end of the lesson after they’re familiar with the different levels and the interplay between them.
It’s easy to find different versions on the Web by searching images with “Bloom’s Taxonomy,” but I thought readers might find it useful to see the ones I’ve used or am planning to use. Feel free to offer suggestions of other ones I’ve missed, too:
In yet another example of how much I do not know, I’ve recently learned about the Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome (SOLO), which can be characterized as an alternative to Bloom’s Taxonomy. I read about it at Peter DeWitt’s fine Education blog in his post, What’s Our Best Taxonomy? Bloom’s or SOLO?
I’ve spent a little time trying to understand it and, though I’m not persuaded a convincing case can be made that we need an alternative to Bloom’s, I thought it would be important to add information on it to this list, which continues to be the all-time most popular post on this blog and gets several hundred visits each day. In addition to Peter’s post, here are some other useful SOLO resources: I found this slide presentation at Ewan McIntosh’s blog, which also included several other helpful links:
There’s been a recent flurry of activity by some to redesign Bloom’s Taxonomy by questioning whether “knowledge” should be at the bottom. Personally, I interpret knowledge being at the bottom not saying students shouldn’t prioritize learning and educators teaching it but, instead, suggesting that application of knowledge is harder to teach and learn. That, I think, is the key value in the taxonomy – reminding us to put effort into areas of learning that it is easy for teachers to avoid.
But I have a great deal of respect for the folks who have been raising this question, so I’m adding this info here:
This year, though, I’m going to be posting two separate lists specifically related to English Language Learners. The first is this one, which shares my choices for the best resources made available this year for teaching ELL’s. In a month or so, I’ll be posting a second list that will share sites specifically for students.
That second list will be ranked, and will include a readers’ poll. This one is not ranked, and I have not included a way to vote.
However, if you feel like voting, the polls are still open in two other lists:
Here are my picks for The Best Sites For Teachers of English Language Learners — 2009 (not in order of preference):
Complete United States History Curriculum Available Online: As regular readers know, during the last school year I taught two U.S. History classes to English Language Learners — one in a regular classroom and the other in the computer lab. You can read more about the results of this research experiment at Results From My Year-Long U.S. History Tech Experiment. I used a blog during the computer lab class. You can access the United States History Class blog and see an entire year’s of lessons designed for student self-access. You can also see links to the students blogs used during the course. The lessons include quite a bit of original material I developed for use in both of the classes, and they are available for download (during the year students would open up the documents and cut-and-paste the exercises into their own blogs). You’re obviously welcome to use the resources there with your students. I just ask that you not publish or reprint any of my original materials for use other than by your students.
The “Wizard English Grid”: Jason Renshaw was generous enough to share on his blog about a nifty tool he’s come-up with called The Wizard English Grid.That link will take you to the direct PDF download. You’ll see it’s a simple sheet laid out in a grid. You might be thinking, “Big deal!” Don’t stop there, though. Go to Jason’s blog post Wizard English Grids for “Finding Out” to learn how he uses it. After reading it, I immediately printed out the Wizard English Grid for use in my own English Language Learner classroom. Jason also continues to write about more ways he uses the grid and keeps all of his “Wizard” ideas in one place on his blog.
Teaching About The Environment: The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a free 133 page downloadable curriculum that connects English language-learning with environmental issues. It’s called Teach English, Teach About The Environment, and looks pretty good to me.
Classroom Starters: A nice short PDF called “Fifty Stimulating Classroom Starters” shares ideas specifically for ESL/EFL classes. It was put together by Jack Bailey and Marit ter Mate-Martinsen.
Two hours before I was going to post this list, Sean let me know that he has just started yet another excellent site called Listen A Minute. It has short audio pieces with supporting materials and online quizzes. It looks like another great resource.
Finding New Websites: I’ve written many times about the great site Ressources Pour Le College. It has a ton of great resources for English Language Learners. Michelle Henry, who has been the primary person responsible for locating and organizing all of these resources, is no longer updating that site. Instead, she has created a new site that should be bookmarked by all ESL/EFL teachers.
This post contains a listing of the most popular posts in this blog during the month of August. These are the ones that have been most “clicked-on,” and are different from my Websites Of The Month. Those are the posts that I personally think are the best and most helpful.
Because of the popularity of my “The Best…” lists, it should be pointed out that often the most clicked-on posts are not necessarily ones that I wrote that month. Instead, they might have been written earlier, but then one of these older ones has just been highlighted elsewhere and all of a sudden become popular.
You can see previous reports on my Most Popular Posts here.