I really have been deeply moved by the Integrating Language Development and Content Learning in Math: Focus on Reasoning through Stanford University Online that I spoke of in my previous blog post. I wanted to share another strategy that I have tried this week that I just loved. I can't wait to refine it try it again!
One major take away from this course is the importance of students having conversations not just to make meaning of their tasks or discuss procedure, but to deepen their mathematical thinking. However, often in classrooms moving conversations into reasoning is often heavily teacher dependent. I have been guilty of this too, feeling the responsibility and urgency to help the students "get it". That is where this strategy can help.
The strategy is called Silent Support Cards and it was shared by Dr. Jeff Zwiers. When students are engaged in discussing a math problem in partnerships or small groups, we want to students to move beyond simple procedure, but make conjectures, see patterns, and connect to larger mathematical ideas. Instead of inserting ourselves in a conversation, when the reasoning has stalled, we can simply place down a Silent Support Card to give immediate feedback, without inserting our voice into the conversation. Some possible support cards might say:
I tried this out with my third graders. I was able to provide my students with immediate feedback, without interrupting the flow of their conversation about a multiplication problem they were solving. One adaptation I plan to do is enlarging the size of the card (perhaps index card size) and adding an icon to match the feedback.
I'm wondering how I might apply this strategy to other scenarios in my classroom beyond math.
What a whirlwind of a semester it has been! I have been very busy taking the online course Integrating Language Development and Content Learning in Math: Focus on Reasoning through Stanford University Online. I stumbled across this course in my Twitter feed right before it was set to begin and quickly signed up. I have been heavily influenced by the work of Dr. Jeff Zwiers, particularly when I worked in high schools and was excited he would be one of the professors.
As an EAL specialist, my day to day job does not require the teaching of math. There is a lot of language of math of course; my language targets would revolve around vocabulary, specific verbs, if/then statements to name a few. I am so glad I took this course because it really has been helping me strengthen the language learning of reasoning. I can't recommend it enough.
Our EAL training informs us that students make meaning and develop language by using it with their peers. This of course is the classroom implications of the Zone of Proximal Development. Think-Pair-Share is the very classic strategy used in math classrooms. How can we go deeper? What other strategies might we facilitate in our math classrooms, as the EAL specialists, that get students talking to each other authentically about mathmatical reasoning.
My favorite learning experience I have learned from this course so far is the information gap strategy for mathmatical reasoning. This emphasizes listening for reasoning. My anchor chart can be found here. Student A and B receive two cards. Student A receives a card that has a math problem on it, but information with numbers is not provided. Student B receives the partner card that has the information on it. Student A must ask Student B a question. Student B, before giving the information must ask "Why do you want to know that?" Student A provides their reasoning. If Student B is satisfied with their reasoning, they provide the information. This process continues until Student A is able to solve the problem. The emphasis is on building the listening for reasoning skills.
We tried this several times, using a lineup strategy. This became a go-to lesson for my language station, switching the problems to align with the work they were doing with their classroom teacher. Kids loved it. "It's like we're Sherlock Holmes!"
One of my favorite classes to co-teach in is art classrooms. Art teachers understand the importance of performance based assessment and students needing time to rehearse and practice both artistically and linguistically. The language is rich with Tier 3 vocabulary and more importantly Tier 2 words. I had the pleasure of working with a co-teacher named Victoria for one year on AP Studio Art, which despite being a portfolio based AP course requires intensive academic English. My school at the time was comprised of bilingual students with different degrees of English proficiency. It was an absolute joy.
I had the pleasure of working with other AP courses as an EAL specialist. The biggest challenge that I experienced was not the dense content, or my students developing English proficiency, but rather the great bravado of the AP; the notions of what an AP class is and an AP class isn't. In classes like Victoria's and others, co-planning was a reciprocal process, a balancing of the content needed and the ELL strategies that were important for students to access the content and develop academic discourse. It was a synergistic relationship centered around students and formative assessment, rather than an external exam.
That is why when Victoria shared the Atlantic article Rewriting Art History by Jacob Urist I was excited to read it. It may be a year old, but the message still rings true. I applaud the College Board for analyzing a test and making the appropriate changes to diversify the artists and narrow the content in order to allow for more depth. This also allows for a pedagogical shift, where teachers are able to design a variety of educational experiences, rather than frantically covering art from the Stone Age to today. I wonder what other AP exams will follow suit?
What strategies might be integrated into an AP Art History (or rather any AP class) class in order to benefit ELL students? What are the possibilities?
What strategies have you found successful for ELL students in your AP classroom?
I am an EAL specialist and educational consultant that is dedicated to building a more transformative educational landscape that honors linguistic diversity and challenges societal paradigms.