Math Strategies for English Language Learners

In Massachusetts, all core subject area teachers and administrators of English Language Learners, must receive a Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) Endorsement from the state. One way for educators to receive this endorsement is by taking a RETELL (Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners) course. One of the main goals of the course is to provide teachers with a repertoire of methods and strategies they can use to help students practice the four domains for learning language: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

These are a few of my favorite strategies I learned from the course:

Reading Strategy: Partner Reading for Comprehension
Partner Reading

This strategy made the problems more manageable because students were able to have valuable discussions regarding the content before actually solving the problem. Since Partner #2 had to comment and respond to Partner #1’s questions, they had to pay close attention to what was being read. Most of the partners were able to choose the most important pieces from each word problem based on what Partner #1 had commented on during part two of the reading strategy. Giving my ELLs the opportunity to read aloud with a mainstream student allowed them to practice their expressions and ask for explanations. The strategy helps support both partners as they learn from each other’s observations and questions regarding the text. The students were able to determine what phrases were necessary for successful completion of the problem, and those that were not needed.

Writing Strategy #1: Cut and Grow
The Cut-n-Grow strategy provided students with an opportunity to see exemplar/non-exemplar student work samples and focus on improving their own open response questions. First, students looked at a student work sample that received a score of 2 on a standardized open response question. They cut the question apart and wrote additional explanations to turn the score into a 4. Then, students repeated the process for an open response question they had previously solved, to improve upon their own writing.

Cut and Grow

Many of my ELLs tend to leave open response questions blank on exams, so it’s important that we explicitly practice answering these questions. The strategy gave students a second chance at improving their work, and they responded very well to this strategy. The physical act of cutting and pasting pieces of the response, and then adding their revised sentences, really helped show students how to edit and model good writing.

This strategy can work with any writing sample the students produce in class, such as journal entries, AP open response answers, exit tickets, etc.

Writing Strategy #2: Write Around
Students should be divided into groups of 3 or 4. Each student starts with a blank sheet of paper and writes one sentence of a word problem. Then, the student passes the paper to the right. After reading what is written, students continue to add sentences until a word problem is created (approx 4 sentences). Each team will choose one problem to write on a large whiteboard or paper to show the rest of the class during a gallery walk. The gallery walk gives students the chance to make observations regarding other students’ work. Students can then choose one or more of the problems to solve. Teachers can scaffold this activity by providing students a list of must-haves for each word problem. For example, students might have to include the following in a quadratics word problem: a setting, the type of object being thrown/launched/dropped, height at which object starts, and the speed or distance the object travels. Each student would take turns providing one of these details.

My biggest takeaway from this course is that we all need to explicitly teach strategies for reading, writing, speaking, and listening in our disciplines. We cannot sit back and “let the English teacher handle it.” English Language Learners are trying to learn a new language at the same time we are expecting them to learn our content. It’s our responsibility to provide opportunities in our lessons to support both goals.

Advertisements

Solving Equations – Add It Up

I wanted a quick and fun way to assess students’ abilities to solve equations during the first week of school, so I made this “Solving Equations – Add It Up” powerpoint. Each group of four students will have one large whiteboard on their desks (purchased from Home Depot – panel board that is cut up). Each student will solve the problem in his/her quadrant, then the students will add all their solutions together to get one final number which they will write in the middle of the board. I will only look at that final number and tell a group whether they are right or wrong. If a group is wrong, they will have to look at each other’s work and figure out where the error has been made. During the activity I will walk around and monitor student’s progress, keeping notes on my clipboard for future reference.

If a group does not have 4 students, I will ask the student who finished his/her problem first, to also solve the 4th problem. If you do not have large whiteboards, you can still have students do this activity. Students can solve their problem on an individual mini white board or sheet of paper, and then combine their answers onto one sheet in the middle of the table.

A Field Trip to Italy

Last week I chaperoned the greatest field trip I can ever expect to go on… to Italy. Along with 3 colleagues, we flew 23 students to Rome for a 7 day Italian adventure. Each of the students takes Latin in school, and were far more qualified than myself to visit each of the historic sites. I’ve traveled abroad many times before, but there is something about sharing this experience with my students that makes this trip one of the best I have ever taken. It would have been impossible for our group to not become a family on this journey, as we spent numerous hours on a bus, exploring the streets of Rome, and bonding over our love/hate for various tour guides we encountered. I watched students who had never spoken to each other at school become close friends and take selfie after selfie together. I watched eight students wake up early each morning to go for a sunrise run or participate in a mini spartan workout. I watched students who have never been away from their parents for more than a night, flourish and make choices on their own. I watched our male students become protectors of the entire group as we walked the city streets.

I often found myself at the back of the group, feeling protective of our students, and wanting to make sure they were all in front of me and visible. It is during some of these times that I found myself happiest on the trip. Different students would find their way to the back of the line, some because they were tired and lagging a bit, or some because they couldn’t wait to tell me about something they just saw. I learned so much about my students and their lives during these conversations, and was able to share so much more of myself than I usually do in the classroom. There’s something special about sharing moments when you’re drenched with sweat, you’ve already walked four miles, and you’re on your third gelato of the day.

It was truly the adventure of a lifetime and I’m so grateful I was given the opportunity to chaperone. It is my hope, that some of the friendships formed will continue during the school year, and I know, that the memories of this trip is something we will all share forever. Here is a snapshot of some of the things we saw/did (minus student pictures for privacy):

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

Colosseum

Colosseum

Mozzarella Bar

Mozzarella Bar

St. Peter's Square and Basilica

St. Peter’s Square and Basilica

Herculaneum

Herculaneum

Lunch in Naples - Zeppole, Bruschetta, Crocchetta, Mozzarella Fritta, Pizza Margherita, and Foccacia with Nutella

Lunch in Naples – Zeppole, Bruschetta, Crocchetta, Mozzarella Fritta, Pizza Margherita, and Foccacia with Nutella

Early Morning Run

Early Morning Run

Blue Waters of Capri

Blue Waters of Capri

Pompeii

Pompeii

Mt. Vesuvius

Mt. Vesuvius

View of Sorrento

View of Sorrento

Tiberius' Grotto - Sperlonga

Tiberius’ Grotto – Sperlonga