Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Long-Term ELLs: The Hidden Population

I recently conducted a school-wide professional development session on long-term ELLs.  This is a group that is near and dear to my heart as they are usually the most neglected group in any school building.  These are the students that were usually born in the United States, yet are still members of the ESOL program five or more years after being identified as limited English proficient.  These students sound native, yet are usually several grade levels behind in reading.  By the time they reach middle school, many of these students are apathetic and/or really good at being invisible.  Believe it or not, this is my favorite group to work with as I believe that they have the most hidden potential.

Many of the teachers at my school do not love to work with this group.  They are either frustrated by these students or up until my presentation, failed to notice that they even existed.  My first step was to distribute a list of long-term ELLs to each interdisciplinary team (each team has at least ten long-term ELLs).  Since I had a three hour time block, we delved into WIDA ACCESS scores and Can Do descriptors. Then, I had each team refer back to their list and choose one long-term ELL student to focus on.  They filled out a student profile sheet and used the WIDA ACCESS scores and Can Do descriptors to create an academic goal for this student.

While many of the teachers admitted that they were not initially enthusiastic about the idea of spending their afternoon at a three hour professional development session, the feedback after the presentation was encouraging.  This hidden group is a little more on the forefront and teachers have reported that they have begun recommending these students for tutoring programs.  With any luck, the fortunes of these students will take a turn for the better in the near future.

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