Thursday, April 28, 2016

Now "Reel 'Em" In!

To "piggyback" off of last week's post, once you set the "hook" you gotta "reel 'em" in! Keeping our students attention after an engaging introduction should be an easy task, but not quite so with all those we have "hooked." One such area where we may lose a few is asking questions and expecting responses from most of the class, but only getting a handful to respond. What are the others doing during this time? Are they staying focused, are they understanding the lesson/concept, are we not finding out until we give an assignment? Today my focus will be on engaging our ELL students during questioning...although this strategy can help with all students. ELLs seem to struggle with participating for so many reasons. Give them tools to help them use and practice the academic language and be a part of the group without feeling intimidated or left out. Set that "hook" and be prepared to "reel 'em" in!

One of my favorite experts in the field of ELL learners is Joanne M. Billingsley, known as the "Vocabulary Magic" lady. She has a real passion for sharing strategies that have a positive and lasting impact on teacher effectiveness and student success. Her book, Making Words Real...Proven Strategies for Building Academic Vocabulary Fast, is a must for a reference of proven strategies that are really easy to implement and fun! Very tasty "bait", I might add! According to her book, Joanne found that ELL learners were very often not called on to share their ideas verbally with the class. In fact, she observed that most teachers were reluctant to call on them. Being curious about why the teachers were so apprehensive about calling on ELLs, she asked hundreds of teachers to share their ideas.

Here is a partial list of responses found in the book:
I think teachers are reluctant to call on ELL students because...
1. Their language skills are weak, and they don't want to embarrass them.
2. It can take a long time for ELLs to compose a response, and it wastes a lot of class time.
3. They may not understand the question.
4. They do not volunteer answers, and other students do raise their hands to respond.
5. They are less likely to provide a high-quality answer.
6. They get upset if I ask them to speak on the spur of the moment in front of their classmates.
7. Teachers have to frequently coach ELLs as they answer, and this causes others to become bored and lose focus.

Next, she asked ELL students why they thought their teachers might be reluctant to call on them.
I think my teachers are reluctant to call on me (an ELL student) because...
1. I am quiet and shy so they don't really notice me in class.
2. They know other students have better answers so they call on them first.
3. They mostly call on smart students.
4. They call on students that are not paying attention, and I usually listen during class.
5. I don't raise my hand to answer in class.
6. They know I struggle with English, and other students may not understand me.
7. They think other students might make fun of the way I speak.

After these observations and surveys, Joanne goes on to say that no matter the reason, the reality of not calling on ELLs delays their progress significantly as they try to acquire the English skills. Even shy, English-speaking students are penalized. A random system for calling on students is desperately that eliminates the "reasons" for not calling on certain students. This system tells all students that their thoughts and opinions are valuable.

Her system is Numbered Heads paired with Scaffolded Questions: Joanne has observed that with this system...class participation skyrockets...or in other words, get your line set to start "reeling"!

Here is a summary of Numbered Heads with Scaffolded Questions:
It is recommended that this strategy be used approximately every fifteen to twenty minutes during direct instruction...can be shorter intervals depending on the grade level and content. Each Numbered Heads question serves as a "mini" formative assessment, allowing the teacher to randomly collect immediate feedback from multiple students. It stops the teacher from talking and starts the students thinking!

* Students in class are assigned a number from 1 to 4.
1. Pose and post the question.
2. Post the sentence stem/sentence starter (includes academic vocabulary)
3. Have students gather/share information with a partner or group. (This can include a written response.)
4. Teacher models a response for students.
5. Select a number at random and have all students that are that number stand to share. (1, 2, 3, or 4)
6. Assess, stretch, and clarify responses.
The questions should be open ended requiring more thought and reflection. The first could have a quick and easy response and subsequent scaffolded questions can build up to more complex thinking.
When any struggling students or ELLs are the numbers chosen to share, be sure not to call on them first. Give them a chance to hear other responses and build their confidence in the answer they will share.

This teaching tip can work with any subject/level. Contact your instructional coach for more tips on using this strategy with your students. We can help design your questions to "hook 'em" and be sure your line stays taut and ready to "reel 'em" in!


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