Guest Bloggers: Valeria Sandoval and Casey Siagian
Language Acquisition English (LAE) teachers, Valeria Sandoval and Casey Siagian, collaborate on a regular basis with the aim to tailor the International Baccalaureate MYP LAE curriculum to meet their multilingual students’ varying English language proficiency levels. They chose to give their upcoming summative, “Write a Movie Review”, a full-body UDL makeover! As they worked together they noted flaws, AKA barriers, and worked together as a true glam squad to enhance the inner beauty, AKA the criterion, of the writing summative assessment. They viewed imperfections as opportunities to eliminate language obstacles through design. Read about their process here.
The majority of our students are emergent multilingual learners with varying English language proficiency levels from China, Korea, Japan, Spain and Israel. In our Language Acquisition English class, we wanted to ensure student voice and choice were at the forefront of our planning process when applying the UDL framework. We started with identifying barriers, preferences, and needs of our students.
Our original Unit 2 summative assessment was a written opinion review about a text of the teachers’ choice. We found that many of our summative tasks were automatically representing dominant English-speaking cultures, not the cultures we work with. After gathering data about student language proficiency, background knowledge, learning preferences, we re-designed the summative task to include student voice and choice. Students had the option to choose from multilingual articles, songs, movies, podcasts, videos, or documentaries to write their reviews in English. The original lesson plan’s barrier was that students all had to write a movie review based on a movie (in English) we would all watch in class. This didn’t allow any choice at all, since some students might have preferred to read or listen to something rather than just watching a movie and writing a review about it.
Another barrier we considered was the limited and interrupted education due to COVID and/or the nature of a highly-transient international school setting where families move often. Some students have difficulty with school culture, attendance, classroom expectations, cultural differences, limited literacy, and writing skills in home language, many have been long term language learners which causes fatigue, many have mastered social language (only BICS) but struggle with CALP (academic).
We applied CRT (culturally responsive teaching) to activate prior knowledge and participation styles to make instruction more relevant and accessible. We wanted to make content more personally meaningful and easier to master which required us to focus on our students' assets and make tasks more learner-centered.
What we are working on is making a clear connection between culture and cognition. We are passionate to guide students to success by building upon their cultural, linguistic, and language skills. We clearly defined content and language goals for Unit 2 and the summative task, focusing on specific language domains such as reading, writing, speaking, and listening. We planned backwards to ensure students had multiple opportunities to engage in a variety of personalized methods and materials to suit their individual language learning needs.
We primarily focused on activating students' prior knowledge with a visible thinking routine, targeted specific skills selected based on language proficiency data, provided meaningful and relevant instruction by integrating reading, writing, speaking, and listening practice. We heavily focused on students’ assets by promoting cross-linguistic features and transfer skills to encourage translanguaging. Some strategies we embedded in our daily lessons that led up to the summative assessment were: sufficient wait time, activating background knowledge, providing scaffolds with visuals and manipulatives, vocabulary building, using gradual release model, and multiple opportunities to review, repeat, and practice.
Changing the summative and adding choice completely changed the way we viewed our unit. We plan to apply this learning process and our summative process as a template for future learning engagements.
Valeria Sandoval is an experienced and internationally-minded Elementary and EAL teacher. She is dedicated to developing both students’ 21st-century skills as well as their English as a second language through collaborative learning lessons that meet the needs of each and every student in the classroom. Creative and collaborative instructional strategies are implemented to guide lessons for multiple learning needs in a welcoming, open-minded and diverse environment. She communicates frequently and effectively with students, faculty, and parents to support the achievement and success of all learners. In her free time, Valeria enjoys reading, exercising and spending time at home with her husband and cat.
Casey Siagian, M.Ed.
Casey Siagian is an experienced, award-winning educator originally from the United States. She is the Head of Middle School English as an Additional Language (EAL), and this is her fifth year at SAIS. She has 13 years of experience in the TESOL field, including teaching multilingual language learners and teacher training in China, Timor Leste, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United States. Prior to Singapore, Mrs. Siagian was an English Language Fellow with the U.S. Department of State and Georgetown University. Casey stays current with the latest trends of English language instruction, translanguaging, cooperative learning, and inclusion. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family, trying local cuisine, and gardening.