Monday, January 25, 2016

Education Around The World: Scotland

"Dare to be honest and fear no labor."
-- Robert Burns

It’s fitting that this month’s guest blogger comes from Scotland because January 25th is Burns Night, which honors Robert Burns.  Frances McGowan is a retired EAL teacher and the name of her TpT store is EALEE, which stands for English as an Additional Language Excellent Education.  (EAL is one of the acronyms used to describe a teacher of English Language Learners.)  Frances presents general information about teaching in Scotland as well as more specific information about teaching English Language Learners.

Map of Scotland
Map of Scotland; source: Wikimedia Commons
In her own words:

General Information about Scottish Schools
In Scotland, there are state schools and independent/private schools. The state schools are either non-denominational or for Catholic pupils. Catholic education has been provided in Scotland for many centuries. The independent schools may have a religious affiliation. Most children attend non-denominational state schools.

There are two routes to becoming a primary or secondary teacher in Scotland; a four-year undergraduate programme or a one-year Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) programme in either primary or secondary teaching.  To be a subject teacher of English in a Secondary school, teachers must have a degree in English and Post Graduate Diploma In Education (PGDE).

Blog post about eduction in Scotland
Edinburgh Castle; source: Pixabay
I have recently retired but for many years I taught English as an Additional Language (EAL). I worked as a peripatetic teacher at state schools. When I started, I worked in Nursery, Primary and Secondary, providing direct teaching and advice to mainstream teachers on strategies and resources for supporting EAL pupils in a Local Education Authority. In recent years, because of ever increasing numbers of EAL pupils, we only provided advice to Nursery Schools.  The age span from Nursery to the end of Secondary could be from 3 years to 18 years.

Some education authorities have language units where new arrivals who are initial learners of English attend for a short period. However, where I worked we didn’t have the numbers to justify funding of a language unit. Funding for EAL learners comes within additional support needs and is awarded annually by the Scottish Government to Local Authorities (LAs) who then have control over the way in which this funding is used. Many Scottish LAs use part of this funding to establish specialist teams delivering EAL teaching and advisory services in schools and Early Years settings. All of the services across Scotland are different, reflecting local cultures, demographics and demand. However, the vast majority of the funding is used to cover the cost of specialist EAL teachers and bilingual support assistants, as well as for teaching resources and training. I was part of a specialist EAL team.

The School Calendar
In general, the school session starts in the middle of August and ends at the end of June.  School holidays can vary by a few days over the Local Authorities.  The pupils’ school day in Primary schools generally starts at 9.00am.  There is an interval for 15 minutes in the morning, 45 minutes lunch break and school finishes at 3.00pm.  In Secondary Schools, the pupil’s school day generally starts at 8.50am.  There is a 15 minutes interval in the morning and 45 minutes lunch break.  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays pupils finish at 3.40pm.  On Wednesdays and Fridays pupils finish at 2.50pm.  There are variations among Local Education Authorities (LEAs).

My working hours were 35 hours per week in total, 22.5 hours of which had to be teaching time with pupils.  Preparation work could be done in a place of our own choosing including at home, but liaison and consultation took place in establishments.  My working hours often exceeded 35 hours due to the preparation and liaison required for a large number of pupils and schools.

Teaching English Language Learners in Primary and Secondary Schools
In Primary Schools, ideally, I liked to have 45 minutes for teaching beginners in a tutorial, but sometimes only 30 minutes was possible. Visits were usually only once per week.  When the pupil progressed from the basics, I incorporated and differentiated classroom materials.  Eventually if time allowed, I provided in class support to the pupil.  Part of my role was to provide professional development to class and subject teachers. I usually produced and provided handouts containing background information about pupils and strategies to be used in class.

In Secondary Schools, again I felt that tutorials were more beneficial for initial learners. When pupils progressed, I provided in class support.  Periods were usually 50 minutes.  I also produced, sourced and differentiated resources for use by myself in tutorials and for class/subject teachers to use in class. Resources like my English Worksheets and Games for Initial Learners Pack were found to be very useful by class teachers who didn’t have a lot of time to work with individuals, due to the demands of other class members.
Product mentioned in blog post about Scottish Education
Click HERE for more info about this resource
Initial Learners of all ages found these kinds of worksheets and games to be very helpful and they allowed time out from constantly listening to a language that they didn’t understand.  The workbooks enabled initial learners to work independently when they couldn’t be included in the class work.  The games reinforced the targeted vocabulary, encouraged interaction with native English speakers and consequently provided further opportunities for building friendships and acquiring English.  The title for Booklet 1 in the previously mentioned pack is English as an Additional Language Worksheets and Games for Initial Learners School Vocabulary.  There are 5 booklets altogether.  The other topics are Colour, Number, School Clothes and Food and Drinks.

EAL Curriculum and Assessment

The work I did with pupils in tutorials depended on need.  I did not have to follow a set curriculum. Initially, I taught the vocabulary that was needed in school. I planned a lesson, taught the lesson, then assessed progress. This cycle determined the next work to be done. When the pupil had sufficient English to understand, he/she was included in choices about what work should be done. Class/subject teachers also provided information about what support was needed.  I often looked at pupils’ jotters to see the kinds of errors that were being made and then focused on providing support.  From my assessment I decided where input was required and planned the next step.

Because the pupils were scattered over the schools, I often worked with individuals or groups of up to about 6 pupils. Sometimes native English-speaking, able, articulate pupils were included in the groups so that the EAL pupils could hear good models of English.

My reports on pupils focused on what pupils had achieved in the Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing skills in English.  Progress in Maths was also included. My comments were related to pupils being, Successful Learners, Confident Individuals, Effective Contributors and Responsible Citizens. EAL pupils were graded by stages – Initial, Emergent, Consolidating, Competent and Native English Level. We had profiles with set targets for each stage. When pupils had met all the targets in the four English skills for a particular stage, they were classed as having reached the next stage.   We did not have set tests for EAL pupils. When EAL pupils were included in class work, they sat the ordinary class tests, but when I had the opportunity I made staff aware that this was not a true representation of their ability due to language and cultural difficulties.
Blog post about education in Scotland
Language Tree created by students at EALEE's school; source: EALEE
In recent years there have been changes to assessments and in the 2017 there will be more changes. In 2017 new national, standardised assessments are to be introduced for pupils in P1, P4 and P7, as well as for youngsters in the third year of secondary school. The focus will be on literacy and numeracy.

My main educational aim was to help pupils to reach a stage where they could be fully integrated into the school curriculum. After the basics, the content of my work supported the work of the class/subject teacher.  In addition I provided some secondary pupil input for the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) ESOL qualifications.

In 2005, Learning and Teaching Scotland produced guidelines for teaching EAL pupils.  It is called Learning in 2+ Languages and while I was working was considered to be "the bible."  The Curriculum for Excellence is a major educational reform with the aim of providing a wider, more flexible range of courses and subjects.

Other Responsibilities
In addition, I attended parents’ evenings. Parents often brought a friend or a pupil to interpret. Funding for professional interpreters was seldom available. I also used visuals, drawings, diagrams, etc. and  home language dictionaries to aid communication.  There was a regular intake of new arrivals, so we worked on a priority system, giving initial learners priority.  To find time to work with the new  pupils, sometimes difficult decisions had to be made when withdrawing support from pupils who had made progress. These pupils were then put on to a monitoring list and were monitored at least once a year.

I also had other responsibilities for fully supporting the whole pupil. In addition to education I was concerned about physical, social, emotional spiritual and psychological development. One of my efforts towards making EAL pupils feel respected and included was the running of home language clubs. I wanted to raise the status of the home language and reinforce the importance of maintaining the home language. The clubs each ran for 6 weeks. Native English speakers were keen to attend.   Parents came in and I provided games to be played to teach colours, numbers and phrases in the home languages. One mother provided a cooked dish from her home country. All seemed to enjoy the experience and native English speakers saw their EAL peers in a new light. To raise the status of the home language, I also encouraged the display of the home language in schools and writing in the home language. Pupils and parents made signs or commercially-produced signs were purchased.

Blog post about education in Scotland | The ESL Connection
The saltire--the flag of Scotland; source: Pixabay
If you would like to learn more about Scotland or teach your students about Scotland, please take a look at Frances’ Free Scottish Words and Expressions for EAL/ESL Students and her resource Scotland Information and Worksheets for EAL/ESL/ELL/ELD/EFL.  You can find more of Frances’ products for English Language Learners at EALEE, her TeachersPayTeachers store.  For more information about Scotland’s education system, click HERE.

Thank you very much, Frances, for giving us such a comprehensive look at what it's like to teach ELLs in Scotland and about Scottish education in general.  And for more information about Robert Burns and Burns Night, you can find them on my Pinterest board about holidays around the world.

To read the first 2 installments in this on-going series, click HERE to learn about education in Quebec, Canada, and HERE to read about education in South Africa.

Monday, January 18, 2016

How to Make Learning about Writing Citations Fun

"Nothing is said which has not been said before."
-- Terence

Fortunately, I’ve never been accused of plagiarism.  But it’s not because I learned early on how to cite my references correctly.  In fact, I don’t ever recall being taught how to write a citation. 

Part of the reason might be because I attended three different high schools.  I went to tenth grade in Pennsylvania, where the curriculum was to learn how to write an essay the following year.  But my family moved during the summer to New Jersey and I was told that at that high school, students had been taught how to write essays in tenth grade.  When I went to Sweden as an exchange student for my senior year, I lost any chance of learning how to write academically in English.  It wasn’t until college that I learned how to properly write in-text citations and bibliographies.
Use task cards to help your students learn how to write citations in MLA format.
Writer's style handbooks used by The ESL Nexus
Nowadays things are different.  Students don’t have to wait until college or even high school to learn what a citation is, why it’s important, and how to write one.  My colleagues and I taught our middle school students about citations.  It was easy to incorporate it into my classes because of the focus on teaching students how to use evidence from texts to support their ideas.  In my ESL Social Studies classes, I did research projects where I made a point of showing my students how to take notes on index cards and writing the citation for the resource on the back of it.
Use task cards to help your students learn how to write citations in MLA format.
Notes about Ancient Egypt by students; source: The ESL Nexus
And although I was teaching my students the APA format--because that is what I had to use when writing articles for education journals--until one of my school’s librarians told me it was MLA format students should be learning, at least my students were being exposed to the idea of giving attribution to other writers.
Use task cards to help your students learn how to write citations in MLA format.
Citation from a book used in a research project; source: The ESL Nexus
To help students learn how to write citations correctly, I've just created a resource called Practice Writing Citations with Task Cards for middle schoolers to teach the MLA format.  I thought task cards would hold students’ interest and be an engaging way to learn about a dry but essential topic.  Books with one author, books with two authors, movies, websites, print and online articles, TV episodes, plays, songs, YouTube videos, podcasts, and tweets are the types of resources addressed in the product.  I had fun searching for resources that would appeal to middle school students; some of them will be familiar (Hunger Games, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Outsiders, A Christmas Carol) but others may be new and pique their interest.  I think one of the strengths of the product is that all 72 resources used are actual books, plays, websites etc. that students might encounter in school or use at home.
Use task cards to help your students learn how to write citations in MLA format.
Click HERE for more info about this resource
In addition to the task cards, Practice Writing Citations also includes a mini-poster that models how all 11 types of resources should be written in MLA format.  This can be displayed to the whole class, photocopied for distribution to students, or used in a writing center.  Each type of resource has its own answer key and students can use them to check their work themselves.  All materials for students come in both color and black-and-white versions to make printing easy if a color printer is not available.
Use task cards to help your students learn how to write citations in MLA format.
Pages from the Practice Writing Citations resource created by The ESL Nexus
Middle school is the ideal time to begin teaching about citations and this resource will help students learn how to write an MLA citation correctly for several types of resources.

Monday, January 11, 2016

6 David Bowie Quotes for ELLs

Rest in Peace, David Bowie.  January 8, 1947 - January 10, 2016

Musings about David Bowie and ELLS
Mural in Brixton, England--Bowie's birthplace; source: Sowas142

I remember listening to Space Oddity as a kid and thinking it was such a weird and wonderful song.  My friends and I loved it.  I looked forward to his new albums.  Songs like Fame, Rebel Rebel, Young Americans, Changes and Suffragette City are among my all-time favorites.  I learned the word androgyny because of Bowie.

His legacy as a pop culture icon is assured.  He was an inspiration to me when I was growing up and I'm sure he will continue to influence young people for decades to come.

Here are a few of his quotations that I feel will resonate for English Language Learners and their teachers.  A bulletin board display of these quotes could be a springboard for writing tasks for students.  They could choose one and explain what it means to them.  Or they could pick a singer/songwriter they like and write a short biography of their selected artist.  Students could also listen to a few of Bowie's songs and write their reaction to them, then compare and contrast one of his songs with their current favorite song.

All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it.
ELLs should be proud of their work and not compare themselves to other peopleThey should have confidence in themselves and believe in what they do and who they are.

I've never responded well to entrenched negative thinking.
Don't let other people get you down.  If someone else has a bad attitude, don't let that negativity make you feel bad.

I'm not very articulate.
But you will be!  It may take a while, depending on your personal circumstances, but with motivation, hard work, support, and focus, you will get there!
But I'm pretty good with collaborative thinking. I work well with other people.
Learning how to work with other people is a skill that takes practice to do well.  Brainstorming ideas with others often means the ideas generated are better than those you think of on your own.  Remember the phrase: Two heads are better than one?  :-)
Don't you love the Oxford Dictionary? When I first read it, I thought it was a really really long poem about everything. 
Words have meaning because words have power.  Play with words and you play with ideas.  Learn how to express yourself well and you can do great things.  It doesn't matter whether you read the dictionary or something else -- just read!
You can neither win nor lose if you don't run the race.
If you never try, you'll never know if you can succeed.  You can learn just as much from losing, i.e. from making a mistake, and winning isn't always everything.  All anyone can ask for is that when you run the race, you do your best -- success often comes from the attempt, not from the result.

As Jarvis Cocker said in a tribute to David Bowie on the BBC News website
Bowie made people feel that it was alright to be a bit different and to try things out. 
Isn't that a perfect description of English Language Learners?

Monday, January 4, 2016

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn't & 1 Reason Why You Should Teach to the Test

"To be prepared is half the victory."
-- Miguel Cervantes

I hate teaching to the test but sometimes it is necessary.  Here are my top three reasons why I dislike doing test prep and also one reason why I think it’s important.  As the testing season for administering the annual standardized assessments that all English Language Learners in Kindergarten through Grade 12 must take in the U.S. begins, I think it would be helpful to share materials that can help ELLs do well on whatever tests they have to take.  Please add one or two resources to the linky at the end of this post.

My #3 Reason Why I Dislike Teaching to the Test:
It’s ineffective.  Teaching skills in isolation is not the best way to provide instruction that sticks with students.  Skills need to be taught in context and test prep often isn’t.  I know that when I did it, I interrupted whatever I was teaching at the time and spent a week giving practice questions to my students.  Such a review might help some students but if they really don’t know the material a week before the test is given, it’s not likely a cram session can make up for that.  Expressing an opinion is a common type of response question so I've created this resource to teach students how to write an opinion or persuasive composition.
Reasons Why You Should & Shouldn't Teach to the Test | The ESL Connection
Click HERE for more info; source: The ESL Nexus
My #2 Reason Why I Dislike Teaching to the Test:
It’s boring.  For students and for teachers both.  If teachers are primarily doing drill-type exercises, students won’t see the relevance of what they supposedly are learning.  And if teachers don’t like what they are teaching, students will pick up on that attitude and have an even harder time staying interested.  Doing the same thing over and over and getting a different result may happen occasionally but spending one week before the test probably isn’t going to make that much of a difference.  Nevertheless, I felt obligated to do it.
The poor student...and her poor teacher!  Source: Pixabay
My #1 Reason Why I Dislike Teaching to the Test:
It takes time away from real learning.  Teaching to the test usually means spending more than just one class period on it so all the time spent doing test prep means less time devoted to something else.  I much preferred to spend the limited amount of class time I had with my students teaching them the skills they needed for success on the tests throughout the school year.  Teaching them the skills they need for success on the tests over a longer period of time by embedding them in the regular curriculum is much more productive.  Comparing and contrasting is another common form of writing on standardized tests and I used the materials in this resource throughout the school year to teach my students how to do that kind of writing well.
Reasons Why You Should & Shouldn't Teach to the Test | The ESL Connection
Click HERE for more info; source: The ESL Nexus

The one reason why I do think offering some test preparation is necessary is because, when students are taking the test for the first time, they need to become familiar with the types of questions on the test and with the technology they will have to use to take the test.  So if, as is the case this year, your state is part of the WIDA Consortium and will be taking the new ACCESS for ELLs tests online, then I think it is actually a disservice to the students not to prepare them for the tests.

* The WIDA Consortium includes 37 states and for them the annual testing begins in early January,
* Washington State will administer the ELAP21 beginning on February 2nd,
* Arizona its AZELLA test on February 8th,
* The TELPAS will be administered in Texas starting March 16th,
* New York’s NYESLAT begins on April 12th.

To help prepare your ELLs who will be taking these tests and other tests in other states later in the year, and to also support other students who must take some form of standardized assessment, the theme for this month’s linky party is: Providing support to enable students to be successful on standardized ESL tests.  This could be anything from a product specifically aimed at preparing students to take these ESL tests, a resource that teaches skills assessed by these ESL tests, or some kind of product that can help students mentally or psychologically prepare for or sustain them during these tests.  Links can be for materials for any grade and proficiency level.  Please link up a maximum of two resources.

Good luck with your testing!

January 2016 Linky Party | The ESL Connection