by Jordan Greer and Curstin Ploch, Frisco ISD
In the ESL world, we always advocate that language-rich instruction is good for all students, not just ELs. In our current situation, it is not just ELs who are experiencing disruptions in their lives. Everyone is struggling with isolation, disruption to routine, and a variety of stressors that normally do not impact their learning. For example, a student who does not typically need oral administration may need linguistic support during an assessment because these stressors have raised the affective filter for reasons other than language proficiency. With parents now playing an even larger role in their children’s education, they themselves may need additional support to be able to support their children during remote learning.
If we’ve learned anything from our first few weeks of remote learning, it is that comprehensible input and scaffolds help everyone — even parents. As teachers began to review the work students were submitting, they knew their students were capable of more. What had changed? In a word: everything. Kids no longer had their instructional models and leaders modeling responses. They no longer had their teachers standing next to them providing immediate feedback. They no longer had writing conferences that referred them to anchor charts reminding them of expectations. Parents are now, to an extent, filling those missing roles, and it has never been more important to involve these stakeholders in language-rich instruction.
In Frisco ISD, we created a layered approach to meet the needs of the families we serve who are experiencing a wide range of situations at home. We are using comprehensible input to share instructional strategies online with parents. It has been well-received, with one parent telling a first grade teacher, “You’re doing amazing at breaking it down and making it easy to follow.”
This past year, Language Coaches worked diligently to build the capacity of teachers and build an understanding of the “why and how” behind the Seidlitz 7 Steps. We found a layered approach to language-rich instruction was essential in order to make the lessons comprehensible to all stakeholders. If we want parents to use the 7 Steps with children, teachers must first embed them in all lessons. The language coach and teacher teams at Bright Academy found success with embedded support through choice boards for lower elementary and upper elementary, as well as emerging readers and growing writers.
The next step was to train parents and guardians to incorporate language-rich strategies in their homes. In collaboration with her principal, the language coach at McSpedden and Nichols Elementary developed a training for parents with an emphasis on the steps that are most critical for learning and acquiring language at home. Knowing that we have parents with varying degrees of proficiency themselves, the training was intentionally sent to all families as a three-part series with the language coach’s contact information included.
“I understand the need of the ESL population and how to present information because of my own personal ESL background. We need to understand that ESL families not only need language support but we also need to understand their cultural needs and find a way to integrate them into our culture. It is about providing a safe environment so the families are comfortable asking questions that may seem basic.”
-Kranti Singh, Principal at McSpedden Elementary.
A parent at McSpedden provided the following feedback:
“I have to admit that there is an obvious distinction between home learning and school learning. It is inspiring to know so many strategies to help with the learning of a language. While I have never used any structured method, what I find most helpful are the suggestions 2 and 5. I wish I could learn more strategies at home in helping my son read, write and talk. Step 6 and 7 are what I need to improve on. With good planning and structure, my son will learn with more efficiency. Basically, I think it is a helpful guide to help the kids in language learning.”
Our biggest takeaway? Teachers and parents can fully support their students by embedding language-rich instruction into at-home learning experiences. Embedding language-rich support into instruction empowers children to work independently. Providing training to caregivers puts structures in place so they can support their children and provide feedback that may have been missing in asynchronous learning. By connecting and partnering with parents, we’ve been able to use this opportunity as a launching pad for building language proficiency at an accelerated rate. Then, when school begins again, caregivers will be primed for the type of partnership with educators that will continue to enhance students’ literacy.
Thank you to the team at Frisco ISD for making the 7 Steps training for parents available to our readers! You can view each of the three parts at the links below:
And, for more insights about how to share the 7 Steps with parents, don’t miss our free webinar featuring Frisco ISD’s Jordan Greer in conversation with our very own Natalia Heckman!