For the past 20 years or so, teachers have been pushed to reflect on their practice - we are told that we need to be able to explain why we choose to teach in particular ways and be able to look at our practice and improve it. As a teacher it can be very difficult to find the time to reflect and if we find time to do it, it can be a disorganized and overwhelming task. Where to begin? - there is so much we do in just one lesson, let alone consider reflecting on an entire year!?!
If we can reflect effectively, it will support our professional growth (Constantino & De Lorenzo, 2001; Danielson & McGreal, 2000; Glickman, 2002; Lambert, 2003). However, we should also be careful to reflect in particular ways - ways that move beyond, "What worked? What didn't?" to deeper issues of, "Does my teaching reflect my philosophy of education (what I think the purpose(s) of schooling is/are)? Do the strategies and interactional styles I use respond to the unique populations that I teach? Do I foster a love of learning and critical thinking?
June is a great time for us to carve out even just 30 minutes to sit and write about our deep reflections. Here are some guiding questions that are focused on English Language Learners (ELLs):
1) What are 5 strategies or classroom practices that I can show improved my ELL's language learning and/or content learning?
2) Why do I think each strategy worked? What do the strategies have in common? How can I use them more often?
3) During what times, lessons, subjects etc. did my ELLs struggle? Why? What could I do to support their learning during these times?
4) What supplementary materials (visuals etc.) did I use this year to support ELLs? Did they improve language or content learning? Why? Why not?
5) What percent of time do I think my ELLs knew what they were supposed to be learning and doing? How could I increase this percentage?
6) How often do I make connections between ELL's background knowledge or prior knowledge? What could I do to make these connections more often? And, if needed, how can I efficiently provide background knowledge necessary for lessons?
7) When are the times when my ELLs understand what I say and do? When are the times they don't? How can I improve this?
8) How often each day do my ELLs engage in higher-order thinking? What routines, questions, and strategies can I add to increase this?
9) How much time do my ELLs get to practice talking about content? How can I increase this?
10) Out of a total 100%, how much time did my ELLs read, write, listen, and speak this year? (For example, Ms. Chat thinks her students listened 65% of the year, talked 10%, read, 15% and wrote 10% over the school year). How can you even out these percentages to 25%/25%/25%/25%?
11) On average, how often during lessons did I restate, repeat, reinforce, or explain the major concepts and key vocabulary of the lesson? How can I do this more often?
12) Are my ELLs happy and comfortable in class? Do they enjoy learning? What could I do to improve the classroom environment?
13) Compared to my native English speaking students, how often do my students see someone like them, an experience from their home community, or their own language in the curriculum? The same, more often, or less often? How can I include the unique experiences of my ELLs into my curriculum?
Constantino, P. M., & De Lorenzo, M. N. (2001). Developing a professional teaching portfolio: A guide for success. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Danielson, C., & McGreal, T. L. (2000). Teacher evaluation to enhance professional practice. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Glickman, C. D. (2002). Leadership for learning: How to help teachers succeed. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Lambert, L. (2003). Leadership capacity for lasting school improvement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Everyday ELL is now Every Language Learner.