Developing Social and Academic Oral Skills

The first learning artifact I’m really excited about is very broad–it is the entire Colorín Colorado website!  Like many people I initially thought this site was part of the state of Colorado’s department of education but after a bit of reading realized it was a national organization and the name is a reference to Spanish story-telling.  This site is a great resource for all teachers (although there is a strong emphasis and assumption that the ELLs are coming from a Spanish background which is slightly less helpful here in Canada).

Colorín Colorado is almost like an online textbook in that it aims to be a complete resource for teachers.  There are lesson ideas, research articles, opinion pieces, book reviews, and so much more.  I am thinking that it will continue to be a resource for me as I make my way into the ESL world going forward in my teaching.

For me as a teacher I can get overwhelmed if I’m trying to pull ideas and inspiration from too many different places.  When teaching ELLs it will be especially important for me to continue to seek out new ideas and having a resource like Colorín Colorado is one way that I can find much of what I may be looking for in one place.

A second artifact that stood out for me in this learning module was Jim Cummins discussion of Academic and Conversational language.  It’s funny how (notice my use of conversational language here…) we can be very accustomed with a topic and yet never have given it serious thought.  That was how this video and the subsequent lesson was for me.  And initially I still did not see all of the implications to be quite honest.  It took reading through my classmates responses and reactions to see how important it is for us as ESL educators to be ensuring that our students are aware of these distinctions and equipped to navigate the educational challenges that come with the use of academic language.

In her response post, Jennifer shared a link to a discussion featuring researcher Robin Scarcella, and this video helped to really hit home some of the key points for me ( ) about why academic language instruction is so important.  She shares a story of a student who had moved from Vietnam at the age of 5, done very well in school, but when she arrived at the University of California she was placed in an ESL class.  The student was very frustrated, especially since she had got “straight A’s” throughout high school in her English classes.  However, the student had never mastered actual academic English, and all of her formal writing featured very informal conversational language.  Somehow this student’s high school teachers had been willing to overlook her actual language development and left her very unprepared for the actual expectations of her university.  Luckily the student was successful in her university ESL courses and did very well going forward.

Overall I think as ESL educators it is essential that we remember how important this distinction is and that if we are serious about wanting our ELLs to be successful going beyond the ESL classroom they need to be able to do more than just have an informal conversation with us.  Informal conversation is obviously a helpful and worthwhile ability but it is not helpful unless it is balanced by the ability to understand and utilize academic language.   ELLs will need to be prepared for all aspects of their future academic courses.

Theoretical Foundations

Preparing for ELLs

Literacy Development and Engagement

Building Competence and Confidence