Listening, speaking, reading and writing = language and literacy.
I have been teaching English language learners for a little over a year now. It was a big change from teaching older native speakers English and social studies.
I teach lots of speaking, reading and writing, but I have been neglecting to teach listening as a skill. Usually, students practice listening to each other during show and tell, and to me when I’m talking or reading stories. They listen to and sing along with songs, but really I have not helped them to practice and have success in listening.
Thanks to the British Council and the U.S. State Department, we have excellent resources for learning to teach English! Face-to-face classes and workshops, webinars, online classes. I’m learning so much. (See at the end of this post just a few of the resources I got today.)
Today, however, I attended one of the best webinars. It was on teaching listening. I will be a better teacher tomorrow because of it. I just wanted to share the resources for other ELL teachers and anyone who wants to teach listening skills. The webinar is led by Kevin McCaughey, a Regional English Language Officer in Kyiv, Ukraine. It was a great presentation with a wealth of practical activities, and beautifully designed for the Earth Day audience enjoying it today.
I’m excited that I got up early this morning for the #geniushour chat. It used to be at a convenient time when I lived in North America. Now I’m living in the Middle East, and so I have to get up by 5:00 a.m. on a Friday, which is a weekend day here. Not so bad because I became re-inspired and re-ignited in a topic I am passionate about.
That topic is handing the reigns over to my students. Allowing them to learn and make and choose how to show their learning. It’s not always easy to give choices when we are mandated to test and cover so much material. However, when students are entrusted with learning–real learning, not just to pass a test learning–they are empowered and motivated. It makes every moment of school better!
This morning I actually was the moderator for the #geniushour chat because I wanted to ask questions about differentiating genius hour for students with special needs or English language learners. My questions were timely because months ago I signed up to lead a session on genius hour: “Genius Hour: Productive, Creative, and Empowered Students.” That session is tomorrow at the ELT Conference here in Bahrain, “Differentiation That Makes a Difference.”
Here are the questions we asked and answered at this morning’s chat…
Q1 – Do you differentiate during #geniushour? How?
Q2 – What are some of the most common reasons you need to differentiate #geniushour?
Q3 – How do you help your ELL students? Do you need to differentiate for them?
Q4 – How do you adapt #geniushour for students with IEPs? Any tips to share?
Q5 – Why do you think #geniushour is great for all learners?
Q6 – Any general #geniushour successes that you want to share? Tips and links to share?
I was excited to hear the answers from such a variety of teachers. Many shared that the nature of genius hour is already differentiated. Pure differentiation. Others had suggestions for how they differentiate. Here are a selection of the tweets they shared:
After this morning, I tend to agree with the pure differentiation crowd. Students decide what they will learn and how. The term differentiation is usually paired with instruction, but really it’s always about learning.
Students will learn in the right conditions. According to Carol Ann Tomlinson, we can help create the right conditions when we take into account the student characteristics of readiness, interest, and learning profile, which includes these four facets of learning profile: gender, culture, learning style, and intelligence preference.¹ Teachers can differentiate the curriculum when they make adjustments on content, process and products.²
In genius hour we hand over power to the students. They choose what they are ready for. They choose what they are interested in. They choose based on their learning profile. They choose the content they want to learn. They choose the process to use to get to that end. They choose the product to show their learning. Throughout, the teacher is available for scaffolding, guiding, helping, leading as needed. Primarily, it’s about the learning, not the knowledge the teacher is imparting.
In my current work as an English teacher in a foreign country, though, I am learning that genius hour looks a little different here. (Or is it the fact that I moved from junior high to kindergarten.) According to most of my friends this morning at the Twitter chat, it seems that the very nature of genius hour is differentiation at its best.
Do you agree? Is it already differentiated or are their special things you do for ELL students? What if they are all ELL students, like mine?
¹”Faculty Conversation: Carol Tomlinson on Differentiation.” University of Virginia. Curry School of Education, 15 Feb. 2011. Web. 06 Mar. 2015. <http://curry.virginia.edu/articles/carole-tomlinson-on-differentiation>.
²Allan, Susan D. “Chapter 1. Understanding Differentiated Instruction: Building a Foundation for Leadership.” Leadership for Differentiating Schools & Classrooms. By Carol A. Tomlinson. ASCD, 2000. web. 06 Mar. 2015. <http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/100216/chapters/Understanding-Differentiated-Instruction@-Building-a-Foundation-for-Leadership.aspx>