On Tuesday and Wednesday, May 10 and 11, I attended a WiDA Consortium workshop atPaTTAN in Harrisburg. This workshop focused on (English Language Development (ELD) Standards in Action: Collaboration. Allyson Newton, a professional development outreach specialist for WiDApresented the workshop. WiDA is a project within the Wisconsin Center for Education Researchfrom the University of Wisconsin-Madison that promotes advance academiclanguage development and academic achievement for linguistically diverse students through high-quality standards, assessments, research, and professional development for facilitators. WiDA believes in language learners’ assets, contributions, and potential. Teachers will benefit from realizing what ELs can do and what knowledge can be built upon, as opposed to what the EL cannot do.
The Can-Do Philosophy is based on the belief that everyone brings valuable resources to the education community. Linguistically and culturally diverse learns, in particular, bring a unique set of assets that have the potential to enrich the experiences of all learners and facilitators. Facilitators should draw on these assets for the benefit of both the learners and the community.
The exchanging of ideas is one proactive way to educate ELs within the regular education classroom. Collaboration is beneficial to ELs and regular education students. The 4 Cs of Collaboration are collaborative conversations; collaborative coaching; collaborative curriculum; and collaborative craftsmanship (Honigsfeld & Dove, 2010). During collaborative conversations facilitators discuss learners’ needs, their lives, how the learners’ complete academic work, the curriculum, instruction, facilitators’ successes and challenges, and what matters to the facilitators. Collaborative coaching is when facilitators meet to improve the lesson planning; lesson delivery, unit design, use of supplementary materials, adapt or modify the content, and assessment. During collaborative curriculum meetings teachers meet to align lesson objectives (language and content), unit goals, curriculum maps, materials, resources, and adapted texts and materials. Finally, collaborative craftsmanship occurs when facilitators explore the EL’s background knowledge and prior knowledge, effective methods for aligning curriculum and objectives, ways to use time more effectively, and making the most of collaborative efforts. For the purpose of this workshop, collaborative conversation is the main focus of understanding the WiDA ELD Framework.
WiDA ELD Can Do Philosophy Framework: The guiding principles represent WiDA’s core beliefs about language development. The developmentally-appropriate academic language is viewed as a vehicle for communicating and learning within sociocultural contexts. . The interactions between different people for specific purposes and across different learning environments influence how language is used. The performance definitions show the various levels of language proficiency and where the lines of demarcation occur. These definitions are informed by the features of academic language. The English Language Development Standards and their Matrices represent the social, instructional, and academic language that students need to engage with peers, educators, and the curriculum within our school.
The matrices help facilitators understand what language development might look like with elementary, middle, and high school classrooms.
Examining Collaboration Context
When facilitators collaborate, examining the ELs assets will guide the lesson planning. Four areas to evaluate are the ELs linguistic, cultural, experiential, and social and emotional assets. The linguistic contributions include the EL’s knowledge of their first language (L1); the EL’s cultural perspectives, practices, beliefs, social norms, and ways of thinking; EL’s experiential knowledge (life and educational experiences, exposure to unique topics, diverse approach to learning and expressing their knowledge); and the EL’s social and emotional knowledge (personal interests and needs). Understanding this information will help facilitators better incorporate the academic language within content to meet the needs of linguistically diverse learners. When addressing these components facilitators become aware of the academic language within the lessons. Then use realia (real objects), photographs, and other resources that will bring the academic language to life.
WiDA’s Features of Academic Language
There are three dimensions of academic language to examine when lesson planning for ELs: (1) Discourse; (2) Sentence; and (3) Word/Phrase. Discourse involves linguistic complexity which is the quantity and variety of oral and written text in communication. Discourse boils down to the message or the big picture you want the learners to understand. Examples of discourse include blogging, narratives, math word problem, graphs, explanation, field notes, research, timelines, debates, lab reports, and participation in debates. The Discourse dimension involves:
- amount of speech and written text
- structure of speech and written text
- density of speech and written text
- coherence and cohesion of data
- variety of sentence types to for organized texts
The sentence dimension includes language forms and conventions such as word or phrase specificity in communication. For example:
- types and variety of grammatical constructions
- mechanics of sentence types
- fluency of expression
- match language forms to purpose and perspectives
- formulaic and idiomatic expressions
The final dimension is word or phrase. This dimension includes vocabulary usage such as specificity of word or phrase choice in communication. More specifically:
- general, specific, and technical language
- multiple meanings of words and phrases
- nuances and shades of meaning
- collocations and idioms
Facilitators begin these features of academic language in three phases, beginning with discourse, adding the sentence dimension in January, and introducing word and phrase in March.
Some things to consider for successful collaboration, facilitators must be committed to the process, relinquish their independence in both theory and practice and accept the team concept, capitalize on facilitators’ strengths, and find the time to meet and stick to it. When facilitators co-plan, remembering the uniqueness ELs, their prior knowledge and experiences, their beliefs about education and learning, and using resources to meet their needs will promote a higher level of learning for linguistically diverse learners, as well as other learners within the classroom.