GSL 692 Advanced Practicum Project
I teach in three schools—elementary, middle and high—in a rural school district with a low-incidence population of ELL students. There are 14 students in total, but 3 of those students are being monitored and do not receive ELL services at this time. Two of the students have been identified as special education students and are on IEPs. Three of the students are newcomers from China who have been in the U.S. for approximately a year and a half. The language proficiency levels for my students range from 1-5. The ELL model for this district is a combination of pull-out and push-in. This means that, depending on the students¡¯ needs, they are either pulled out of classes at designated times each week (generally two 40-minute periods for students with proficiency levels of 4 or 5 or greater periods of time for students with lower proficiency levels) or I push into the classroom and use the material presented to create scaffolds and appropriate lessons for the students.
I am the only ELL teacher in the district, and there are ELL students in three additional schools outside of my district (in the same supervisory union) that do not receive ELL services due to the difficulties of hiring and retaining an ELL teacher in this area. None of the mainstream teachers in the three schools in which I work has had any ELL training with the exception of 3 teachers who attended a two-day workshop in the fall of ¡¯06. One of these teachers also attended another two-day workshop for educators on incorporating language objectives along with content objectives in lesson plans.
Because I work in three schools and have several students with high needs, my time with individual students is limited. Although I try to spend the bulk of my time with newcomers, even these students spend considerable chunks of time in regular classes without any ELL accommodations. The mainstream teachers frequently ask how they can accommodate our ELL students and how they can make instruction and class time more productive and meaningful, particularly for our newcomers. Because I am in three different schools, it is also hard to meet on a regular basis with all teachers. In order to help teachers become better equipped to work with ELL students, I considered presenting a workshop on ELL strategies and methods. However, the usual constraints of time and accessibility arose. A resource that is available to all teachers at all times, would be an asset to this school district as well as to the students themselves who would benefit from teachers who have the strategies and skills necessary to teach them. Thus, I decided to build a webpage for classroom teachers which would pull together information and resources and make them easily accessible.
I began this project by gathering information via email and interviews with teachers who have ELL students in their classrooms. I placed poster paper in the faculty rooms of the three schools in which I work. The posters served as a means to collect questions from teachers about how to better serve the ELL students they teach. I also interviewed ELL students to see what particular challenges and needs they have within mainstream classes where they are often the only language learners.