Collaboration Improves Support for English Language Learners

Teacher working groupApproximately 20% of YES Prep students qualify as Limited English Proficient (LEP). Traditionally, there has been a discrepancy between the performance of the LEP population and the general population on exams such as STAAR. To better support English Language Learners (ELLs), YES Prep has aligned the work of literacy specialists and content teams (teachers who teach the same subject area; i.e. science). The literacy specialists and content teams have developed a two-pronged approach: providing professional development to teachers on content days and collaborating to provide instructional resources for teachers.

“We are trying to build a bridge between the literacy supports and classroom instruction so that teachers see tangible ways to support their language learners in their content area,” said Larkin Logette, Managing Director of Academics.

Professional Development on Content Days
Content days are scheduled professional development days for the entire district where teachers meet with their content teams. During content days, literacy specialists provide professional development sessions.

“The content specialists met with their assigned literacy specialist to determine what teachers for their particular content needed. For example, in social studies, they focused on vocabulary instruction,” said Tanisha Tate, Lead Literacy Specialist. Teachers were presented with easy ways to incorporate vocabulary into their daily instruction in a way that is meaningful for ELLs.  Other contents, such as science, focused on using sentence frames to develop speaking skills, providing structures for writing, and using tiered vocabulary lists.

We are trying to build a bridge between the literacy supports and classroom instruction so that teachers see tangible ways to support their language learners in their content area.

Collaboration to Provide Instructional Resources
Each literacy specialist has been paired with a content specialist in their geographic region with whom they meet to design instructional resources for teachers.

“For science, we took the vocabulary lists for each unit and provided kid-friendly definitions for those words,” Tate said. “We’ve also focused on how to teach students to write lab reports.”

For math, the unit plans now include ELPS (English Language Proficiency Standards) and concrete examples of how teachers might meet the standards with the content in that unit. For example, to teach students to speak using grade level vocabulary during a unit that includes decimals and place values, the teacher might display .42 , say “forty-two____,” have the students identify the place value of the furthest digit to the right and say “forty-two hundredths.”

So far, teachers have provided positive feedback on the professional development and instructional resources. On surveys, teachers report an appreciation for having concrete examples and strategies such as sentence stems. And through classroom observations and discussions with other literacy specialists, Tate notes an added “emphasis on making sure ELL students are getting what they need.”

The collaboration has also resulted in strong relationships between the literacy specialists and the content teams. Next year, Logette and Tate hope to see continued collaboration and increased alignment between their teams. “We want teachers to increasingly view ELPS as interwoven in their daily practice, not as something ‘extra,” Logette said.

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