I’m publishing this post more-or-less simultaneously with one appearing at Education Week. At Ed Week, I’m sharing a list of things that worked – and didn’t work – for my school and me during the first semester.
Here, I’d like to make a list of things that I’ll either be doing differently, or things that I’ll be doing more of when we return in January.
Here goes (the list is not in any order of priority):
* Expand my individualized homework activity to more classes and more students (see HERE’S A NEW “INDIVIDUALIZED” HOMEWORK STRATEGY I’M TRYING WITH MY ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER STUDENTS).
* Expand our mentoring program to students in my ELL classes. Right now, my IB students have been mentoring English-proficient students in ninth-grade classes. As usual, that’s going great. In past years, I’ve organized a separate process where advanced ELLs have met weekly with Newcomers and Intermediates as part of a mentoring relationship, and just haven’t gotten around to doing that this year. It will be easy to make happen, and it will.
*Develop Leadership Teams in each class. They worked great last year during distance learning, and I just haven’t gotten around to do them – yet.
*Continue two new weekly activities that have gone very well. In one, where students write about a picture without using Google Translate (see A NEW WAY I’M DEALING WITH GOOGLE TRANSLATE IN MY ELL CLASSROOM). The other is a slight once-a-week change in the daily retrieval practice notebook my students use each day to write about one thing they learned in each of their classes. In this new modification, students draw and write about one thing they learned in one of their classes, share them, and peer tutors decide on several winners.
*A new bilingual aide is beginning to work with me in January, and she’s a wonderful former student! She’ll be with me for two hours, and my tentative plan is for her to spend the first thirty minutes working with up-to-three of the newest Newcomers going over lessons they’ve missed; then thirty minutes one-on-one with a student experiencing the most challenges learning English; then thirty minutes with up-to-three of the most motivated Newcomers to help them improve their proficiency as quickly as possible so they can move to my Intermediate group; and then another thirty minutes with a different student experiencing a lot of challenges. We’ll see how it goes.
* Presentations have been going well in my ELL Social Studies classes. I now want to change things a bit about how we deal with our textbooks and have students do more jigsaws and mix-up what they have to create for them, too.
* I want to experiment with “gamifying” some writing instruction.
* I’ve generally let students in all my classes choose their own small groups for activities, but now want to sometimes do them randomly. Most of the time, I’ll still let them pick their own, but the sense of class community can benefit from different people working together once-a-week in a low-stakes activity.
* Do more explicit speaking activities in my ELL Social Studies classes, including critical thinking dialogues and “One minute, ninety seconds, and two minutes” where students need to gradually increase the time they can talk with different partners about something (generally, a textbook chapter) that we’ve recently studied.
* Have my Intermediate students teach a lesson to Newcomers once-a-month (see Here’s A Lesson – & A Template – That Intermediate ELL Students Taught Beginners). I tried doing this in the fall, but hadn’t remembered how much prep time and practice students would need to teach, so it didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I think giving it two-or-three days should do the trick.
* Come down hard on cellphone use. Ninety percent of my students are doing fine with it (though I tell students they can use their cellphones for family, work, or school, few do), ten percent just won’t stay off them (I talk more about this in my Ed Week piece). After one warning, students will need to give it to me until the end of the period (with the positive relationships I have with students, it’s never a battle to get them to give it to me).
* Move my extra Chromebooks to behind my desk and make students have to ask to borrow them. I have several Chromebooks available for students to borrow if they forget theirs at home, or if their laptop’s battery is low. They’ve just been on top of one of my bookcases for students to take, and it’s worked fine. However, in the past two weeks, two of them have gone missing. I’m sure they haven’t been “stolen” – I think students forgot they were borrowed, thought they were their laptops, and have them sitting at home. But, whatever the case, I need to have them stop disappearing. I suspect they will reappear soon.
* Start using the “Instructor-Paced” mode more when playing Quizizz, instead of the “Classic” mode. Quizizz is one of my favorite online tools but, at least when using it with ELLs, the “Instructor” mode is the way to go. It allows me to show the question, read it, explain meanings, etc. The “Classic” mode is sooooooo much easier for the teacher – we start the game and wait for it to end. But it’s just not the best way to play many of the games in ELL classes. There’s no problem, however, using the Classic mode in my TOK classes.
That’s what I have so far. We’ll see how it goes!