The lesson to analyze was held by the Language Arts and Social Studies teachers at King Middle School in Portland, ME. 27 % of students at King Middle School are English Language Learners who attend classes with native speakers (EL Education, 2018). As a rule, English learners used to be detached from local pupils; they were given sheltered classrooms and felt insecure when it came to communicating with native speakers. Moreover, they were prone to lag behind the other classes due to their primary focus on English. Now, the tendency to integrate has a good effect on English Learners’ language skills. There is an interview excerpt in the video with the student who came from Rwanda a year ago (EL Education, 2018, 02:15). With only a year of English learning experience, she can talk fluently and understand complex texts in English. I suppose it is due to the teacher’s strategy. Moreover, Caitlin LeClair highlights that the skills students receive are of great help for other classes. Therefore, ELA is of primary importance for pupils with a non-native-speaking background.
The other thing to consider is why students love the activity – reading the book and non-fiction about an African country. As they admit, it is interesting for them to learn how other countries live, and it allows many students to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, learn empathy and compassion. Additionally, some students came originally from the African continent. For them, it is a chance to learn more about the African countries from other perspectives and have an opportunity to apply their personal experience to class discussion. Thus, students’ motivation to read challenging texts is encouraged through the careful choice of the topic interesting to particular these children.
The Social Studies teacher (Caitlin LeClair) applies scaffolding during her lessons. Hence, students start with simple tasks (working with vocabulary, reading aloud, text decomposition) and proceed to more complex work (discussion, strategy building, writing). This strategy appears to be highly beneficial for ELs, as any student has the opportunity to understand the text step by step, following their natural pace. Slow pacing and pausing are strong tools for working with both English learners and native speakers, for students are given time to think, and they feel that their ideas are appreciated.
It is also great when teachers let children be creative when making various strategies for their learning. For example, Mrs. LeClair involves the seventh-grader in discussing techniques of coping with challenging words in texts. Thus, they acquire independent learning skills this way. Moreover, the teacher attaches much importance to proper grouping. It means that the educational milieu should be as powerful as to encourage learning.
Due to all processes described above, students learn to understand different types of texts, analyze and discuss them when necessary. English language learners admit that these strategies help them promote confidence in speaking. Nowadays, every teacher will highly probably encounter ELs in their classes. The methods that teachers of King Middle School apply are proved to be simple but effective. I find it amazing how Mrs. LeClair smoothly transfers from one activity to another and how naturally it works out to intensify the difficulty of tasks. I would apply scaffolding in my practice; pacing and pausing times is also useful technique for working with English learners.
EL Education. (2018). Scaffolding literacy instruction for English Language Learners. YouTube. Web.