Confer with Colleagues In conferring with three colleagues about my Imagine IT project, I gained some insight and confirmation of ideas I have had about more fully including ESL students in class projects. I spoke with a middle school social studies teacher, math teacher and science teacher. They confirmed the idea that a great way to engage ESL students is through hands-on investigations and cooperative group work. But when this is not possible, or in the lesson plan, how can we engage the ESL students in more higher order tasks like analyzing, synthesizing or evaluating an investigation? The science teacher suggested honing in on the NGSS practice of “developing and using models.” He shared an example of an ESL student who was able to design and build a model of the heart and circulatory system. While this student did not have the language to explain all the parts of the model, by designing and building the model, he was able to show the teacher that he had a deep understanding of the content. This made my wonder where else in the “Where Does the Water Go?” project I could incorporate the practice of "developing and using models."
Focus Group with Students I held a focus group with eight 6th grade students with the main question being “How can we more fully incorporate new English Language Learners into our science group work?” A couple of students suggested that I include more drawings and visual aids for students and allow the students to draw what they are learning. Another student liked the idea of pairing up a new English Language Learner with a student who speaks their same language. Another suggestion was to pull out google translate for these students for readings, test, or quizzes. I asked them to discuss two options for grouping students: heterogenous versus homogenous groups. After an interesting discussion, they agreed that heterogenous groupings were better in science class for the new English Language Learners. They suggested that each group have two native speakers and two English Language Learners (we have a lot of ELL students in our school!) I then asked the students to make the seating chart for second quarter with this idea in mind. They did a beautiful job working together and each decided they would be a “captain” of a table and would model what to do and assist the ELL students at their new tables. Takeaways I will incorporate the suggestion of using more visual aids with ELL students, a practice that I already do but will likely increase. Every day I will have an ipad with google translate available for the very new ELL students. I will continue to group my students heterogeneously and will make sure there is a leader at each table who can model the work and offer help to the new ELL, preferably in their own language. I will also look for more opportunities for students to develop and use models in our earth and space science curriculum.