Having worked in Title 1 schools for almost a decade, I had the privilege of being surrounded by language learners in all my classrooms. It proved to be a humbling, eye-opening, and fascinating experience in many different ways. Because state laws required my classrooms to be conducted only in English, I prioritized creating spaces where students of color and from varied cultural backgrounds could share the best of their communities through experiential learning, project based units, and narrative writing. In challenging political and educational climates, educators hold the power to create classrooms which allow students to shine in ways that are true to themselves, their families, and their communities and to support them in developing their unique identities. Students are the greatest assets to diverse learning environments, and they bring many experiences, cultural backgrounds, and languages to their classrooms. While it is up to the educator to provide space for these students to bloom and grow, one of the greatest and most common challenges in facilitating these spaces is in supporting English language learners (ELLs). Providing these students with the tools and resources they need can be daunting, especially when working to personalize learning and differentiate in other ways. While a bilingual classroom is preferable for language learners of all kinds, this blog offers support for teachers delivering instruction in English in classrooms with ELLs.
Getting Off The Bench If you are anything like me, you know that the “Science of Reading” is a lightning rod in the world of education right now, but feel more comfortable sitting on the sidelines and letting the experts engage. I decided it was time to jump into the conversation and wanted to share a few things that I learned along the way. As it turns out, I have a strong opinion on the matter, given my experience as an elementary and middle school educator and my dedication to building more equitable learning environments for all students. I now understand from my research and exploratory conversations that the Science of Reading promotes stronger reading and literacy skills. It also plays a central role in developing positive student identities when school districts support the implementation of DEI and SEL curricular tools. The magic potion for cultivating the most positive impacts for students includes the implementation of explicit phonetic instruction together with a culturally responsive curriculum. This language-rich and holistic learning environment sets students up to fully engage with academic material and grow to reach their full potential.
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