Which skills are needed for drawing conclusions?
I’m one of the ESOL/HILT teachers, which is one of the specialists that collaborates with grade‑level teams in looking at student data. And I might pull out several students, but mostly we follow the push‑in model for a full integration model in school.
Whenever we plan together as a grade‑level team for third grade — and we also do this in fifth, both grade levels I support — we look at student assessments first. So, the students had taken a quarterly benchmark assessment for the state reading standards. And we noticed that across the grade level many, about 45 percent of students had missed these questions on drawing conclusions. And we noticed that several of them, a large number of them were ELLs.
So, we decided that we needed to break it down even further to draw conclusions about characters and draw conclusions about settings and events and teach students how to look and identify evidence and clues in each. So, the group that I had pulled out was a smaller group that we really wanted to target academic language in finding specific evidence to draw conclusions about characters: “passage,” “evidence,” “context”, “conclusion,” and have students use sentence frames to help support their answers first. And we feel like pre-teaching this skill before they go into the classroom gives them not only a first exposure to the academic language but also confidence in being able to approach this sort of task in a whole-group setting and ask questions and participate in a group actively.
Where do students need additional instruction?
So, if we’re discussing data, I might bring up certain factors like let’s look at the syntax of this question or this passage. Do we think this passage was on grade level for the student? Do we think there might have been vocabulary that could have affected their interpretation of the question, multiple meaning words? So, I bring up those factors and then I help talk about how we will pre-teach or intervene.
We can look at all of that and divide students accordingly to match them with a specialist or a classroom teacher that will be targeting not only the skill that needs to be assessed but getting instruction that is on their reading level. And that needs to be a group discussion so that we can all make sure we’re on the same page about what skill — how we’re teaching this skill but so that it’s modified at an appropriate reading level and with the needs of the students. For example, if they have academic language needs, we can also support them in that way.
Ideas for differentiating reading instruction in small-group settings
In our small group settings a lot of times we think about the student’s particular reading level. And so we might give a leveled text. There are lots of resources for passages or books that have the same content but are multileveled. So, we’ll give a leveled text, appropriate level. And also small group intervention or pre-teaching gives students an opportunity to just relax and be able to ask questions in a smaller setting, which is also very beneficial.
Using English language proficiency levels to plan instruction
We use English language proficiency levels in planning for our instruction as another piece of data.
If we have a student that’s a level two that has been in the country for several months, has some spoken English, is speaking in short words and phrases, but we know that we have to support them further, we’ll look at the WIDA breakdown to see where the student is in reading, writing, listening, and speaking because each of those levels may be — vary slightly.
For us we are constantly monitoring the student progress in that. We get an update on the official data from WIDA once a year. But we are constantly building students’ data with exit slips and formative assessments throughout the year.
Challenges for ELLs in reading instruction
They’re almost having to simultaneously decipher through a text and perform a skill. And that has been challenging to be able to almost teach twice as much because they need reading development and academic language and reading as well as developing a skill, so we often pre-teach using a text that is on their level so that they can get a concept, master a skill first and then provide — expose them to an actual grade level text so they get sort of both worlds.
I think also just building background knowledge. So, we talked earlier about specific academic words like “passage” or “flyer” or “brochure,” things that they may have seen in everyday life but haven’t put a label to the actual piece of text, bringing those in, making anchor charts and explicitly teaching these things before students can get exposure to grade‑level texts.
Using sentence frames with ELLs
A sentence frame is something that scaffolds for English language learners. It’s actually an entire sentence written out where students only have to fill in parts of information that complete the answer. For example, for drawing conclusions about characters we used, “Andrew is blank. I know this because the text says blank.”
Students might say, “Andrew is helpful. I know this because the text says he stopped to help the girl pick up her books.” This helps students not worry about expressing their thought in English. That part is taken care of for them. All they have to do is go through to the text and isolate the actual answer and plug it in so that that sort of takes away — they’re sort of navigating through two skills there.
It isolates one, which is the drawing conclusion part, and lets — the English part is done for them. And it also scaffolds their English language development.
Transferring skills between different languages
One great difference about being an ELL support at a bilingual school is that we can look for — for planning purposes we can plan together with the Spanish side at our school so that we can reinforce and transfer skills back and forth between languages. And it takes extra planning, but it is much, much — it’s extremely valuable for having the students transfer skills back and forth between languages. They become that much stronger.
And for students, for ELLs coming in that are native Spanish speakers, it’s wonderful for them in language arts or any other language to be able to grasp a skill on the Spanish side and then transfer it over on the English side. That has been fantastic so that students don’t really skip a beat in terms of content development, content knowledge.
Advice for working with ELLs: Collaborate!
The best thing for new people working with English language learners, the best thing you can do is collaborate. Collaborate with your team members. Talk about assessments with them, plan assessments together or pre, post — pre, formative and post so that you are constantly looking at your students, seeing where they are and what they need, what the next step is they need to move forward. It requires a lot of planning, but it’s so worth it.
Why I wanted to work with ELLs
The reason that I wanted to work with English language learners is that I’ve been a language learner myself on the Spanish side, and I remember the feeling. And I remember being so motivated to want to get in there and learn content and demonstrate my knowledge. And I wanted to do the same for these students that are coming in.