Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Socratic Seminar

A few weeks ago, a pair of colleagues asked me to assist them with one of their seventh grade classes.  This particular class has a large number of long-term English language learners and both educators are fairly new to the profession. Since this class is completing a mini-unit on economic inequality, one of my suggested modifications was to use leveled text from Newsela.  After planning the initial part of the lesson, we decided to go a step further and have the students engage in a Socratic seminar.

A Socratic seminar is a discussion around a piece of text.  While in some cases there is one leader asking the questions, we modified this piece a bit.  After the students read and annotated the news article, they wrote a discussion question. This meant that during our Socratic seminar, multiple students took on the role of the leader, while their classmates actively participated.  Not only did this activity give students the opportunity to see the material in a new light, it provided some much needed speaking practice.  During the following lesson we connected the new material to the information covered during the Socratic seminar and immediately received student buy-in for that lesson.

There are multiple ways to implement a Socratic seminar in your classroom.  Check out the video below for more information.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Daily Grammar Warm-Ups

Now that WIDA ACCESS testing is over, my department has resumed our weekly meetings.  At the last meeting, some of my colleagues brought up that they are struggling with teaching grammar in a systemic manner.  I shared my strategy, which involves daily grammar warm-ups.  Since many of their students will eventually wind up in my class, I offered to find my colleagues resources that are different than the one that I currently use (Caught'ya! Grammar with a Giggle).  Here's what I found:

  • Everyday Edits: This website provides daily exercises that require students to edit sentences.  The exercises revolve a monthly theme and provide cultural tidbits.  Recommended Levels: Intermediate and Advanced
  • Interactive English Games and Activities: This British site provides exercises related to capitalization, question marks and "full stops" (periods).  Recommended Levels: Newcomer and Beginner
  • Daily Grammar: This site provides more daily lesson lesson than there are days in a calendar year.  Recommended Levels: Beginner-Advanced
  • Grammar Bytes: Users can peruse through the handouts and create a series of daily grammar warm-ups.  Recommended Levels: Beginner-Advanced
  • Grammar Blast: This site covers the basics of sentence structure.  The most efficient way to use this site is probably to display the quizzes on an LCD projector.  Recommended Levels: Newcomer and Beginner

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Teaching to Students' Strengths: Free PD from WIDA

'Tis the season for testing, so WIDA has been on my mind quite a bit lately.  Roughly half of the country makes up the WIDA Consortium and follows and "Can Do" philosophy about English language learners.  In order to help teachers become more effective with their ELLs, the WIDA Consortium has created an online professional development module entitled Engaging English Language Learners: Teaching to Student Strengths.  This module covers a variety of topics related to academic language and is free to educators with a WIDA account.