Friday, March 27, 2020

TAI 2020 #2

Collaborate with your school’s leadership team and colleagues to identify areas where your inquiry will make a powerful contribution to wider school and cluster goals.

I want to begin this blog post by stating the obvious about the English Language Learners (ELLs) or English for Speakers of Other languages (ESOL). Because English is their second language, they are faced with the challenge of not only learning a new language but learning in it and through it as well (Pauline Gibbons, 2006). They have to learn and understand English first and then use it as a medium to do their learning or for social use. So while their peers with English as their first language are on point and hurrying ahead doing their learning, these ELLs lag behind with a few years in their vocabulary knowledge and English language skills. They have gaps that must be filled or they will become detrimental to their learning and progress. This is a real challenge for this group of learners. 

When these ELLs get to do the New Zealand Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), there are ‘add-on’ challenges. They are expected to be at certain curriculum levels in reading and writing in order to manage NCEA, they are required to attain a certain number of literacy and numeracy credits (depending on their year levels) for certification, and they are to attain a certain number of credits from all their subjects in order to pass level certificates. Their vocabulary requires them further to increase their knowledge of academic vocabulary, technical words, and subject-specific language. Again these are all English language-related so they further place challenges on these ELLs to wrestle with.        

As an ESOL teacher - ‘What do I do? Where do I begin? How can I do it?’ are very relevant questions that I grapple with continuously. Again and again I ask myself, how can I transition a migrant or refugee to my English-speaking classroom and steadily build their skills as English speakers and listeners. On top of that, how can I help the same in an educational and academic context to build their knowledge and skills to the point of adequacy for attainment of educational certificates. A challenge for both my students and their teacher.

Teaching as an inquiry has been a very useful approach for me in answering these questions and teaching my kind of learners. It is effective because it gets me to know my learners and their needs first, then appropriate my design and delivery to take them from where they are to where they should be, and then assess whether they achieve the outcomes or not. I also find this approach effective for my learners because it requires me to use evidence-based strategies which drives me to further learn and acquire knowledge and skills from the experts in the field and research. By doing this, I expand and enrich myself as a teacher for the kinds of learners that I have and hopefully enable them to progress.  

Last year I found this to be true when I chose to focus on improving the reading proficiency of my year 10 English language learners in my inquiry. The shifts they made in their reading comprehension ability not only showed the effectiveness of this teaching as an inquiry approach, but I have done better in using evidenced-based strategies to teach reading to English language learners. This year I plan to change and focus on another English language skill but still working with the same learners except that they move to a year level higher. This year I want to focus on improving the writing proficiency of my year 11 English language learners, who are doing L1 NCEA. I would like to explore two main aspects of writing proficiency - developing and structuring ideas and use of appropriate language features when writing for different purposes and audiences.   

I feel this inquiry would make a powerful contribution to our school wide and cluster goals. Here are some of the reasons why I think so.

1) Developing students’ writing proficiency is part of our Manaiakalani achievement challenges.  
2) This will contribute to the achievement of our 2020 school literacy goal - ‘That 90% of Year 11 students will achieve NCEA Literacy’ - which is 10 credits from English achievement standards and some standards from some other subjects.
3) The aspects of writing proficiency I want to focus on are actual achievement or performance criteria for some English writing achievement standards as well as EL unit standards offered in L1 NCEA. My L1 English language programme is a combination of some achievement and unit standards.
4) These writing skills can be also cross-curricular needs and requirements. Some standards in other learning areas may require students to write essays, reports, or research with those skills. When these learners do better in these writing skills, they are transferable for use in other learning areas.  
5) As mentioned above, these writing skills are gaps that English language learners have and they to be bridged. These were shown in their last year’s and this year’s English language learning progression assessments, asttle writing, and drafts of their current writing. 
6) At a personal level, I feel that I can expand my knowledge and skills by doing this in this inquiry.
In closing, I like the idea of ‘English language Toolkit’.

I like looking at this inquiry as adding on a tool to a toolkit for purpose. A language toolkit for students involves teaching and providing them with knowledge on how to use certain language tools in a variety of contexts and for different purposes and audiences. It encourages them to explore and practise how language works in those contexts. For myself as a teacher, I need to increase and improve my ‘English language Toolkit’ so I can be more effective in helping my students. With this inquiry, a tool will be added to my students’ English language toolkit, hopefully. 

After collaboration, the following comment is indicative of how this inquiry is perceived to be contributing to the wider school and cluster goals.
"As a COL teacher, I feel this inquiry will make a powerful contribution to our cluster goals in the following ways:
* As stated in reason 4, the focus on developing skills that are transferable across curriculum areas is important in ensuring that learning is consistent. I feel the findings from this inquiry would support other curriculum areas who struggle with our ESOL students.
* I am interested in learnings from how students responded to extending their 'English Language Toolkit' and the implications of this moving forward."

1 comment:

  1. I feel that there will be a lot of value in our group of CoL teachers to meet and discuss more regularly how we are going with our inquiries, so that we may be able to provide critical feedback to each other about our inquiry process. I like the idea of a language tool or toolkit. As a teacher, I often feel overwhelmed as to whether I am or can meet the learning needs of our students who need support in areas that I lack a specialty skill in. I would like a toolkit like this particularly useful to enable me to support my learners more effectively in the classroom.