In October we talked about Where to Start with Sofia, looking at reports to determine a plan of action. Now we can start monitoring her progress.
Feel free to tell your story in the comments below.
– Sue Ann Towle, Pearson
Progress for Sofia!
Sofia is already starting to move ahead in the area of listening and reading, and is beginning to understand and follow commands. Small steps, the progress monitor report is still at yellow, but moving in the right direction coming from red last month. So while her scores are improving, we still have a lot of room for growth.
She seems to have entered that silent period that many new ELL students go through. Her score for speaking was 202, again at the lowest end of the yellow range and her score for writing wasn't much better. So I will continue to focus on speaking and writing as she becomes more proficient faster in the areas of listening and reading. I like how TELL gives me proficiency levels for all four of the essential language skills—listening, writing, speaking, and reading. Later we can turn to focus on areas where she is already doing better as her speaking and writing gets closer to the green range.
The results from the diagnostic test helped customize an instructional plan for Sofia. I've learned that students progress at English at different rates and understanding their areas of strengths and weaknesses is critical to an instructional plan. I’m also trying to learn more about her as a person, where she came from and what her life was like in Mexico, picking up a few words she can understand in her native language. My instructional coach, Tina Torrance, suggested I pair Sofia with one of my intermediate or high level ELL students. That way she can feel more comfortable asking questions about the English she needs to learn, and will feel as if she is more part of the class.
Her parents came in for the first time and I had Tina with me to help translate if needed. I can print the TELL report in Spanish so they can take it home, and it makes my conferences so much easier. Parents who are struggling to learn English are understandably concerned about making sure they understand what I’m saying about their children. Having the report in Spanish is really so important and they always are amazed and pleased when they see it. Having someone who can speak Spanish at these conferences also makes a big difference.
With the help of Tina and the report, they really understand the importance of Sofia reaching the standard for her English. They are clear that to be successful in school, she must be able to keep up with the rest of the students who are fluent in English. That means not only getting the basic skills but beginning to really understand the meaning of what she is reading. For Sofia it is also critical to emphasize her speaking skills. They agreed to try and have her speak English when she is home and with her new friends in their neighborhood, and will ask her aunt to read the books I suggested they get from the library. I believe that learning to be proficient in English means joining the community of English speakers, and helping ELLs learn English is part of the community’s responsibility to our new members.
Speaking of speaking, I try to learn about the customs and use some Spanish during my class. The first year what I tried was funny. I remember trying to say “Close your book please” which is “Cierren sus libros, por favor” and I said “Cierren sus lobos, por favor” which meant “Please close your wolves.” When my ELLs laughed and I asked what I said, then I laughed as well. It’s okay to show that you can make a mistake when speaking and learning another language, and the mistake can be funny. Just laugh at the mistake and not the person taking the risk to do the speaking. It was a good lesson.