Library: The best place for growth

Huiqing Yolanda Xu,
Librarian, Wuhan Globe School, China

 

Library: The best place for growth

 

Rousseau, the Enlightenment thinker, has an incisive view on education:Education is growing up. Rousseau thought that education is a natural growth process of human innate instinct, education should obey the eternal rules of nature, and adapt to the natural development of children. Dewey, a famous American pragmatist educator, believed that growth is the continuous development of innate instinct. That growth has its own rules, and the purpose of education lies in continuous and full growth. I think so, too. Human growth is internal and active growth. What education should do is not to force knowledge into people. It should instead provide a good environment and stimulate people’s innate growth ability to make for the best state. Children should be respected in the process of growing up, separate from passive or repressed states.

 

Let education conform to the needs of children’s psychological development level and interest. But respect is not an indulgence, and laissez-faire is negative, which is not “growth”. In short, education cannot ignore and suppress the internal forces of children’s growth. Mr. Zhou Guoping, a well-known contemporary Chinese scholar, writer and philosophical researcher,  mentioned that intellectual education is to develop the ability of curiosity and rational thinking, rather than instilling knowledge; moral education should encourage lofty spiritual pursuit, not instil norms; Aesthetic education is to cultivate rich souls, not to instil skills. But growth should not set an external purpose. Growth itself is the purpose, otherwise, it will lose the value of growth. On the contrary, it will suppress growth.

 

Rousseau also has a point that many people don’t understand: The most important principle of education is not to cherish time, to waste time. Education is growing up. If so, then education shoulders the responsibility of providing a good environment for growth. Free time is essential to a good environment because children need plenty of time to experience and meditate. Rousseau once said: “Time lost by misuse is greater than time lost by waste,children who are wrongly educated are farther away from wisdom than those who are uneducated.” Therefore I believe we should leave enough space for children to have free time. The essence of achievement education: “all education is self-education”,especially in mental ability.

 

In view of the above ideas, the role of school libraries is highlighted. School libraries can provide abundant nutrients and space for free growth and self-education. It can make children’s leisure full of spiritual enjoyment. Children can talk with sages at any time from any country, and they can swim freely in the long river of art while watching the metamorphosis of history.

 

Based on the above description, school libraries can play the role of buffer and balance in various educational systems, in order to counteract the internal forces of different education systems. The school library should be the cultural learning centre of the campus, to cultivate students’ reading and information literacy, to cultivate their love of reading, to cultivate the habit and will of lifelong self-education. Alongside this, the school library should support the teaching of various subjects on the basis of the characteristics and objectives of school education, serving the whole community including teachers, students and parents. If the school gives the library enough attention and freedom, then the unparalleled advantage of the library can become the balanced force to make up for any lack of school education.

 

Under the examination-oriented education system, students can use the library to care for their spirituality and freedom. Under the international education system, students can use the library to build a more complete knowledge system suitable for the depth and breadth of personal level. In all kinds of characteristic education mode, the use of a library can highlight the characteristics but also can supplement the knowledge structure beyond the characteristics. In a tense learning atmosphere, the library can become a habitat for students to relax. In a relaxed learning atmosphere, the library can provide challenges and moderate stress. Libraries can also break through the barriers between disciplines and become the fusogen of the big education system.

 

By paying attention to the school library, and giving enough support, space, free growth and self-education to students, schools will provide more protection, naturally open the students’ ideals, hope and will, make them unlimited in their imagination and innovation, free to explore the beauty of the world. Based on this positioning, library education will be in a new plane, bringing students more enjoyment and experience of beauty, so as to stimulate more innovation and value of beauty. Lu Xingwei, a famous educational thinker and reformer, has three sentences to explain this:

 

“Education is a cause, and its significance lies in dedication. Education is science, and its value lies in seeking truth. Education is art, and its life lies in innovation.”

 

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Huiqing Yolanda Xu is a librarian at Wuhan Globe School in China.

“I have been engaged in the education industry for 12 years. I use years of experience and comprehensive ability in the library to have a deep connection with students and teachers. I have been exploring the integration course of Library and subjects, bringing the awareness and ability of information literacy and lifelong learning to students. We are on the way to build the library into a learning centre on campus and hope to keep going.”

Building Community, Connections, & Learning

Johanna Schooley
ES Librarian
Seoul International School

Building Community, Connections, & Learning

Learning, connecting and the building of community took a different twist this year as world events forced educators to think, plan and instruct in ways never before considered. This included how the Elementary School Library at Seoul International School in South Korea remained an “open” and active hub of learning. As the pendulum has swung from virtual learning to in-person and back again, students were never without opportunities to have fresh library books.
Although students might not have been able to walk in and freely “shop” the shelves, the library doors were never “closed” to them. We created the Tiger Book Shuttle which allowed patrons to request books and have them available for pickup. Students, Parents and the community could request either a specific title or make a more general request and a member of the library team “shopped” the shelves. The books, after having been sanitized, could then be picked up outside the SIS ES Library or through Curbside Pick-up, depending upon whether students were learning in person or virtually.
Students also have access to over 1,000 eBooks that are available for check out 24 hours a day. Creating opportunities to bring the SIS Elementary school community together to celebrate, connect and learn as one has been an important focus for the ES Library. The year began by collaborating with the ES Art Department to Celebrate Dot Day as a school. It was kicked off with a Virtual Assembly to watch a reading of The Dot by Peter Reynolds. Students attended via Zoom from home, joining teachers who were gathered in the school auditorium. The entire school community, no matter their location, dressed creatively in Dots to celebrate the day. Students then created their own Dot Art during Art class and their creations were placed into a Virtual Dot Art Gallery, which was unveiled during our second all Elementary School Virtual Assembly two weeks later. In October, the Elementary school began a Virtual Authorator in Residence program, connecting and working with author/illustrator David Biedrzycki.
He Zoomed in every few months to work with the entire student body in a series of writing and illustrating workshops. Workshops have been held by grade level and have been tailor-made to directly impact each grade’s student learning. From Mr. Biedrzycki, students have learned the writing and editing process and have been able to apply some of those techniques to their own writing directly after working with him. Our youngest students were even able to provide Mr. Biedrzycki with specific story elements – characters, setting, and problems and help him to create an original story just for them. The learning, connection, and memories students have of working and talking with Mr. Biedrzycki, a published author, is something they will carry with them throughout their elementary school years and beyond. While how the Seoul International School Elementary Library has operated throughout this year may have been different, our mission has remained the same – to support SIS as a community of passionate readers, collaborators, critical thinkers, inquirers and life-long learners who connect and contribute to the world around them.

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ms. Schooley is currently the ES Librarian at Seoul International School. She has worked as a teacher-librarian across the world for many years developing information literacy programs and re-designing libraries into flexible centers of learning. These centers of learning have inspired students, faculty and the community to connect, collaborate, create, or reflect, allowing for them to acquire new knowledge and skills. She has presented at various educational conferences around the world on a variety of topics including Research Tools for Young Researchers and Rethinking Libraries into Learning Hubs.

When it comes to reading and writing, volume matters

Kelly Gallagher
Educator, Author

When it comes to reading and writing, volume matters

When I first started teaching, I ran a “4 x 4 classroom.” My students read four “big” books a year (one per quarter), and they wrote four “big” papers a year (one per quarter). Four big books and four big papers—a 4 x 4 classroom.

At the time this made sense to me. It took a week or two to teach students how to write a specific essay. They took another week or two to move their papers completely through the writing process. Then it took me an additional three weeks to read and comment on 180 papers. (While students were waiting for their papers, I shifted the focus in the classroom to the core work we were reading). By the time I eventually returned the essays, we were into the next quarter and it was time to start thinking about the next big paper.

The same pacing held true when I taught core novels and plays. I took a week to prepare my students for the reading of Book X. We then spent six weeks reading the work, stopping frequently to make sure students were analyzing it to death. Then we spent a couple of weeks revisiting the work via numerous “beyond” activities. By the time students finished these culminating activities, we were into the next quarter and it was time to start reading our next core work.

Years later, I have come to understand the severe limitations of the 4 x 4 approach. The central reason why 4 x 4 doesn’t work can be summed up in one word: “volume.” Volume matters a great deal and, simply put, students stuck in 4 x 4 paradigms do not read and write enough over the course of the school year to significantly improve. A 4 x 4 approach ensures adequate progress will not occur.

Considering the importance of volume leads me to think about my students’ reading and writing journeys this year and I noticed two important things. 1) when students are given choice in their selections—whether limited or wide-open—they read and write more, and 2) I recognized that grading everything slows my students’ reading and writing growth.

The volume of writing is the key ingredient. If I provide good modelling, but my kids do not write much, they will not grow. If I confer with them, but they do not write much, my students will not grow. If I provide a lot of choices, but they do not write much, my students will not grow. Modelling, conferring, and choice are critical to growth, but if my students are not writing a lot, these factors become irrelevant.

In my school system, I am required to score essays, and I imagine this may be true for you as well (Atwell runs her own school and gets to create her own rules). But let’s not lose sight of the lesson Atwell teaches us here: students should be writing way more than a teacher can grade (I have a goal of at least a 4:1 ratio). When teachers grade everything, the writing pace of the classroom slows down. Volume suffers. It is only when students begin writing (and reading) more than the teacher can grade that they approach the volume necessary to spur significant growth.

I cannot shake the feeling that despite the progress in my classroom, my students are still not reading and writing enough (especially considering the deficiencies some of them have). My thoughts are already turning to next year’s classes and I am already wrestling with some big questions: How can I build more choice into the curriculum? When and where can I provide more modelling?

How can I build in more time to confer? What else can I do to increase the volume of my students’ reading and writing?

 

This article was originally published by Savvas.  Request a sample of myPerspectives, their English Language Arts Curriculum for grades 6-12.

 

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Since 1985, Kelly Gallagher has devoted himself to the teaching of reading, writing, listening and speaking—first and foremost, as a high school ELA teacher in Anaheim, California, and also as an author/consultant who works with educators around the world.  Today, he is considered one of the leading voices in literacy education.  Inspired by his classroom, mentors and professional development experiences, Kelly has written six books for teachers, many of which have been used in education schools around the world. He is also a featured author for several ELA classroom textbooks and programs. In 2005, Kelly received the Award for Classroom Excellence from the California Association of Teachers of English, the state’s highest honour for English teachers.

Reading Comics Won’t Cure Illiteracy

Joe Nutt
Author and Educational Consultant

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Reading Comics Won’t Cure Illiteracy

 

Post a question online as a parent, about how to encourage a child who is a reluctant reader, and you will receive numerous encouragements to offer them comics instead of books, not from publishers of graphic novels, but from English teachers. This is especially noticeable in the early years of secondary school when our entire education system assumes a child is able to read, or at least, decode English prose at a reasonable speed and with understanding. Secondary schools are predicated on the assumption that every child can read. How else can they start to study the range of subjects on offer? Letting a child who can’t read start secondary school, is like enrolling a child with no arms or legs in a swimming club and expecting them to compete.

 

In the UK in 2018, 75% of eleven-year-olds reached the expected standard in the national SATS reading tests, which presumably means 25% entered secondary school drowning in words. If you look at the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) which measures reading aptitude for 9 to 10 year-olds, the latest data from 2016, shows that 86% of UK students reached at least the intermediate benchmark for reading. So maybe the figure floundering in secondary school classrooms is a little lower, but whatever stats you plump for, adult literacy figures still have the power to shock. Whether you believe the Guardian newspaper’s claim in 2019 that 9 million adults in the UK were functionally illiterate, or revert to the more trustworthy Leitch report of 2006 which estimated the number was between 6 and 8 million, it doesn’t sound like all those comics make much of a difference.

 

Instinctively, I find the idea that comics will help a child become a lifelong reader, counterintuitive. But I’m open to evidence so I looked into the research and although there is quite a lot of it, frequently claiming that comics are indeed a wise option, what immediately struck me was how often studies relied on a tiny sample, often a few dozen children, or just one school. The metrics are also noticeably weak. Researchers almost unanimously thinking of reading in the most rudimentary way, as nothing more than basic decoding of letters and sounds. I didn’t find anything I could place any faith in and the one study that did seem promising because it began by talking about reading in more sophisticated terms I recognised, quickly degenerated into a series of vague and often grammatically ambiguous statements, that no English teacher would accept from a sixteen-year-old.

 

All of which provoked me to reflect on what’s happening when we read prose, on what it really means to teach someone to read.

At its core, reading is a surprisingly paradoxical experience; on the one hand necessarily solitary and solipsistic, while on the other, an act of sublime selflessness. When we turn our back on the real world and give our undivided attention to those rows and rows of print, we simultaneously open our mind to the individual human being who authored them. They may never know it, but in a uniquely intimate act of generosity, we let them in. For that small portion of our lifetime that we dedicate to their text, to the invisible words, they caught in the air then crafted into sentences, paragraphs and chapters; we allow them to interact with everything that is in our own head: with every memory, every insight, every learned hypersensitivity, every single thought we have ever had; before that moment when we pressed down the page and started to read what’s inside theirs.

 

Sometimes there is a mutual understanding, as when we read a formal essay or any sustained prose both author and reader know is designed to win us over. There is a scale for this where at one extreme lie the substantial, scholarly works of some length that claim a rightful place in academic libraries and at the other, the ephemeral, hastily grasped arguments of a newspaper column. As adult readers we appreciate dramatically differing levels of commitment are involved, we even seek out media prose that we anticipate will align with our pre-existing views, a situation social media has hyper-accelerated, so that some people now find it sufficiently rewarding to read nothing more than a headline, before responding with predictable support, approval or unadulterated ire. You may think describing that as reading might be stretching things a little, but there’s no doubt many perfectly literate, even professional adults do it.

 

At the crucial period, usually in early adolescence, when we are learning to become readers, people who are starting to recognise and value the experience described above; the kind of prose we are most likely to be offered is fiction. The booming market in young adult fiction that has burgeoned phenomenally in recent decades, has no non-fiction equivalent. Curious when you consider that almost the entire YA genre is an unrelenting mass exercise in proselytization. Schools, parents and teachers don’t tend to use reflective, argumentative or informative prose as the key tool in transforming children into adult readers and buyers of books. They use novels. This is why you find those concerned parents seeking help online. Yet novels make even more peculiar demands on us than discursive prose.

 

Novels are tickets to alternative lives. The best of them create and simultaneously transport us into credible worlds. Once there, the way they spark our emotions and senses is almost imperceptible from reality. In fact, one of the ways we commonly distinguish the best is how skilfully they pull off this illusion. But the illusion is never enforced. We aren’t bludgeoned or battered into belief. We surrender, even before battle commences. And that’s the precise point at which the idea that comics are a good choice for reluctant readers, crumbles and vanishes.

 

The comic can never escape its graphic nature. However lurid, fantastic or marvellous, it’s a visual, verisimilitudinous narrative; a sequence of depictions of character, action and dialogue. It asks that we surrender less than the novel because it demands less of us.

 

This is what those no doubt well-intentioned English teachers, misunderstand. Becoming a reader isn’t about steps, it’s about sacrifice. The decision “to read” matters more than the reading material. Every hour we spend with a novel, with the author’s characters, living in their world, is an hour taken from our own. You have to be sure the price is worth paying. For many adolescents, it simply isn’t. They see nothing of value in the transaction. It is literally, a waste of time.

 

Thinking they might react differently just by offering them units of less demanding prose, accompanied by graphic art, and with troubled characters that in some way are meant to reflect their own, internally unstable world, is avoiding the problem, because the problem is a proper understanding of what reading entails.

 

Reading is first and foremost a commitment. There is absolutely no point attempting it without fully grasping what that implies. There are only two conditions reading demands; our unqualified attention and time. In the graphic world, one characterised by the fleeting image, by the fast-moving and the ephemeral, is it any surprise reading is such a hurdle for so many contemporary children and adolescents? Those two conditions run counter to every other contemporary impulse and trend. Where the graphic world screams, “Come on in, the water’s lovely,” the world of words wags a finger, shakes its head and calmly says, “Sit down…alone.”

 

That at least, is how I imagine those struggling readers perceive it. For them, a book is a shackle, a restraint. It holds them back and isolates them. And they believe this because no one has taught them the true nature of the bargain. They haven’t learned that those rows and rows of print put them in touch, not just with someone else’s mind, often some of the most extraordinary people they will never meet, but with someone else’s entire world or radical new viewpoint. The value of the exchange eludes them. Their senses don’t fire up at the sight of an original simile or artful metaphor, characters in novels never fully materialise. They hang suspended somewhere midway between the page and the mind, like a blurry, half-recovered memory. So if they do read fiction at all, they feel nothing. Fiction bemuses and bewilders them, while fact constantly seeks its lowest common denominator, the diagram. They end up living in literary limbo, like innocent lost souls.

 

Parents and teachers can expend hours, searching for and recommending books or comics, without affecting the slightest shift in behaviour unless they start to address the problem head-on. As in so many other circumstances where learning is involved; think of teaching a child to swim, dive or ride a bicycle, the individual has to commit of their own volition. Think again of how parents and teachers routinely succeed in encouraging children to attempt those milestone physical trials and it is always a matter of trust.

 

My youngest daughter spent much of her childhood and teenage years in a gymnasium, being trained to do ridiculous things with her body by two Russian gymnastic coaches. Each had spent six years studying at university to reach the elite level they were at. I observed both of them at work for years, in awe at the trust they inspired in all those fragile young creatures. They knew exactly how to transform caution into courage; timidity into grace and power. My daughter once told me, at any one training session, they knew precisely how she was feeling without ever asking. There was always a lot of conversation in that gym.

 

Parents concerned about reluctant readers, and teachers trying to help them should be looking, not for substitutes or simpler options, they should focus on who is running the conversation, on the relationship between the child and the adult nurturing them along the path to adult literacy. It’s there where the magic happens, where row upon row of printed words can populate the imagination and fire up the senses; stir real emotions and kindle ideas. Take that step successfully just once, and like swimming or riding a bike, you will always be able to do it again. You will also learn that a picture… never says more than a thousand words.

 

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to have your thoughts below.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joe Nutt is the author of several books about the poetry of Donne, Milton and Shakespeare and a collection of essays, The Point of Poetry. His most recent book, Teaching English for the Real World was published in May by John Catt.

He is an international educational consultant who spent almost 20 years teaching, unusually in schools ranging from the highly selective, private sector to challenging, inner-city state schools. The second half of his career has been in business and he has implemented a number of major educational projects including the national intranet for Scotland, Glow, which won the Global Learning Impact Award in 2009.

Writing in the world language classroom does not have to be simplistic

Isabelle Wolfe
Language Teacher, International School Aberdeen

Writing in the world language classroom does not have to be simplistic

More often than not, writing in a typical world language classroom setting implies the students putting sentences together related to the topic they are learning at that time and more often than not students throughout their years of language instruction at school would write a paragraph describing themselves with a few variants over the years in the number or the length of sentences. However, does writing have to be limited to the topic being learnt/ taught in the curriculum?

Very often when the suggestion of creating a student multilingual newspaper is put forward, such an idea is met with reactions ranging from incredulity to disbelief and to a certain blasé attitude. “There’s no point” “Nobody reads it” “This is not in the curriculum” “The kids don’t have the vocabulary” “We don’t have time” …

In order to be successful, writing needs to have two main elements: a purpose and an audience. My students range in age from elementary to high school. For sure, students should not be restricted by their vocabulary and should be entitled to have the same writer’s voice they have when they write in their mother tongue. I firmly believe that there cannot be language acquisition if there isn’t a meaningful message being conveyed.

When I started thinking about a digital multilingual paper, we had been in virtual school for 6 weeks already and were going to be for another 4 weeks. Therefore, the topic that I found the most relevant was what they were experiencing. Lockdown was therefore an obvious choice. This topic is relevant and meaningful to our students. What does it mean to them? How did they go through this experience? Would the lack of vocabulary prevent the students from expressing themselves and what about their restricted grammar? Does it have to be perfect? However, should we not worry instead about their lack of voice rather than their lack of vocabulary?

As Stephen Krashen says “Learning-inspired approaches, normally tied to a syllabus, will emphasize the production of knowledge about the target language, especially its grammatical structures, at the expense of communicative skills. They will hardly meet the learner’s immediate goals. If not offset by a lively and charismatic teacher, the learning-inspired approach will drain the motivation, especially considering that proficiency in a foreign language can take a long time to be attained.

The efficient teaching of languages isn’t that tied to a packaged course of structured lessons based on grammatical sequencing, translation or oral drilling, nor is the one that relies on technological resources. Efficient teaching is personalized”.

As the students wrote and shared their experiences of lockdown, they then made the exercise highly personal. As a teacher, I learnt a lot about them such as for example, the huge disappointment one of them felt when he missed out on a basketball camp he was looking forward to for months and another missing out on a field trip to London .. By letting the audience know about their experiences and their ideas, a close relationship is then built between the teacher and the students which enables us to establish a more personalised relationship.

Teachers who have created positive teacher-student relationships are more likely to have above-average effects on student achievement. Stephen Krashen also states that “efficient teaching is based on the personal skills of the facilitator in building relationships and creating situations of real communication with comprehensible input focusing on the learner’s interests.” When students write, grammar is used in context and the teacher, as the facilitator, can then lead the students into using specific syntax or grammatical structures.

The next question that we should also consider is the following: what is the best medium to convey the students’ messages? One thing that the pandemics have taught us is that we need to “make things better” as John Hattie says. We cannot ignore virtual school and one of the teachings that have come out of virtual school is that educators should use social media in a safe classroom environment.

Indeed, after all, how many school-age students do we routinely see reading a “traditional” printed newspaper versus how many do you see reading their phones going through different news websites? Not only the written form is conveyed digitally but in some cases exclusively via social media. This is why our first edition is digital and features a blog. To this day, the blog has reached a total of 171 views for a student population of 300 students in middle and high school. Visible displays within the school along with a social platform are the two avenues that need to be explored so that the students’ articles are the most accessible and be ultimately read, which is after all what writing is about.

At the International School of Aberdeen, where I currently teach, we are in the process of writing our second edition. In the light of the current news, the topic chosen is “No to racism”. I have no doubt that this topic should generate opinions and views in our

international school. After all, even though the students might not know the French word for “respect”, I am sure they can still express their opinions on this topic.

For a link to the first edition of our French newspaper, click on this link.

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.

REFERENCES

Leaders Lounge

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

My name is Isabelle Wolfe. I am the language subject leader at the International School of Aberdeen. I teach French in Middle and High school as well as the French Mother Tongue programme to our French native students. Prior to teaching at ISA, I have been teaching in England, Australia, and Egypt.

 

Find a Space for Every Language

Susan Stewart
Head of Multilingualism at The International School of London and ECIS MLIE Chair (Multilingual Learning in International Education)

 

Find a Space for Every Language

 

What do international teachers and students bring to our schools? In general, they come to us with a wide range of literacies, that is, they can express themselves, and possibly read and write in multiple languages.  These teachers and students are also a rich source of cultural experiences.  And possibly a more important question to ask ourselves, is in what state do these members of our communities leave us a few years later as they go onto a new international school or possibly returning back to their home country? Do we explicitly leverage our students’ linguistic and cultural resources for both their own academic and socio-emotional development, as well as enriching the school community?

 

Let us consider three (intertwined) questions:

  • Why is it important to monitor our discourse and practice around languages and multilingualism?
  • Why is this so important for our students and our schools?
  • How can we take simple, cost-free steps to create a linguistically inclusive environment?

 

One of the most common statistics you will hear regarding international schools, and quoted on all our websites, is the number of nationalities present within a school. Whilst an interesting fact and an indication of the level of diversity, we cannot assume that a passport holder has proficiency in the nation’s official language or indeed any of the related cultural references.  We have all met students who have spent little or no time in the country of their passport. I dream of the day in international schools where we no longer hear the question ‘Where do you come from?’ This question can perplex a large percentage of international school students and many a teacher.  Indeed, it is an impossible question to answer for many people without using a ‘but’.  How about we rather ask two simple questions: ‘Where have you lived?’ and ‘What languages do you speak?’.  Further questions as to the type of school attended and the medium of instruction can allow us to build up a language portrait of the student which will be a lot more nuanced and accurate than ‘Where do you come from?’.

 

 

Another question we could consider avoiding is ‘What is your mother tongue?’. The term ‘mother tongue’ is confusing as it implies first of all that mothers are better sources of parenting languages than fathers. It also sometimes carries the assumption that it is a person’s strongest language, which is very often is not.  And finally, the term mother tongue assumes that the child only has one language spoken within the home, which is not the reality for many of our students.  How about adapting the question into ‘What languages do you speak at home?’ and then drilling down further to ask which language is spoken between mum, dad, and siblings, and any other member of the household.  It is here that you will uncover more interesting facts, such as the child being spoken to in Fulani, but responding back to the parents in English.  In fact, it is only when the family goes to Guinea in the summer that the children actively use Fulani, with the grandparents.

 

 

Parental attitudes towards languages are passed onto children but also find their way into the school ethos. A language that is claimed to be ‘just a dialect’ or ‘not useful’ (which most often means ‘not as useful as English’) will become a second-class, low-status language within the linguistic landscape of the school. A question to ask ourselves here, is ‘what is the moral responsibility of the school to correct these statements?’ as we would if we were to hear similar statements around gender or ethnicity.  There are hidden languages in international schools, languages which our students use to express themselves on a daily basis at home, to build family ties and conceptual understanding, which are left at home or in the car park. Can we only rely on parental advocacy for home languages, or should we, as experts, also play a role in defending our students’ home languages?

 

Let’s also think about how we use flags and other symbols in our schools in association with languages. Seeing a red, white and blue tricolour flag with a friendly ‘bonjour’ outside a Kindergarten class is a wonderful way to welcome a new French student at the start of the year. But what does that same image do to the other French-speaking students, staff, and visitors to the school who might have grown up using French in Benin, Congo, Guinea, Algeria, Ivory Coast, and the other 29 African nations who use French alongside other languages, as well as Belgians, Luxembourgers, and Canadians? You can see a similar use of flags to label books in a school library.  Here we are sending a message to the school community that certain varieties of a particular language are the standard, highly desired form of the language, and thus superior to other varieties.

 

 

The same can be said for the frequently heard parental requests that their child acquires a so-called ‘native-like accent in English in our schools. Just as we have little power over how a student looks physically, so it should be of little interest that we dwell on a student’s accent.

 

Inadvertently creating a hierarchy of languages or varieties of a particular language can only reinforce other negative attitudes towards certain members of a school community.

 

Something else to consider is the place of the host country language in your school?  Is it even taught within the school? If so, is it because you are mandated to do so, or because you believe as a school that it is important to connect with your host country?

 

Which languages do you offer as acquisition/second languages? Is it the classic French, Spanish, and possibly Mandarin we seem to see in schools all over the world? Are there other languages that could afford more interesting opportunities for students to engage in authentic language exchanges either within the school or within the local community of the host country?  At the ISL, we offer our Grade 6s the opportunity every year to study British Sign Language, which opens their eyes to a language within the host country.  When this same group of students was recently asked which languages they would like to know more about, an overwhelmingly large number expressed interest in Japanese and Arabic. Why?  Because we happen to have a relatively significant number of Arabic and Japanese speaking students in our school. This was a heart-warming example of linguistic curiosity and respect.

 

 

Why is it important to reflect on the need to find a space for every language in our school?  The first principle is that we should never view a student through a narrow lens, though the lens of only one of their languages.  Imagine if you, with your teacher qualification, possibly a Masters or Ph.D. also attached to your name, as well as countless years of experience in international schools in Europe and North America, imagine you went to work in a school in Asia, where you needed to work in the local language, within the local expectations of teaching and learning.  Your Ph.D. is not recognised in this new school as it does not conform to local requirements.  You are learning the new language, but you are not allowed to use English at all to build an understanding of how the language works.  Everything is explained to you in the new language. And so, you are left with no other choice than to work really hard to become proficient and literate in the new language and new ways of teaching to be able to function in this school. By ignoring your literacy in English as well as your expertise in education, you have not only been disregarded as someone who could offer new perspectives on things but also put at a disadvantage as a language learner.

 

What can schools do to move towards the creation of an equal space for every language? The first would be to ensure you have at least one expert linguist on staff who can work on creating a language policy that is put into practice across the whole school community.  This should be evident when families have their first contact with the school in the admissions office, as well as in the staffroom, in the classroom, in the playground, and in all recruitment meetings.

 

Secondly, within this language policy, agree on common terminology around languages. Buried within an IBO document entitled ‘Ideal Libraries’ is possibly the best terminology out there, one which can capture the nuances mentioned above.

 

We can distinguish between:

  • personal languages – languages that you speak without thinking too much, that are part of your everyday life, that you have a good degree of fluency in
  • academic languages – you have literacy in these languages. This means that we can recognise that a student might have verbal or oral fluency in a language spoken in the home (a personal language), but not necessarily have literacy in that same language.
  • functional languages – languages in which you can function (make yourself understood, order a drink).

 

These three terms allow us to speak with more nuance about a students’ language portraits, as well as recognising how their portraits change over time, for example, they might start at school using English as a functional language, which later becomes a personal language and an academic language.

 

The next thing to do would be to do a visual and auditory audit of the school environment?  Is what you see or hear around the school contributing to languages being put in a hierarchy – are they being ranked in any way?  In a recent initiative at ISL to display student-produced multilingual signage around school, it was interesting to see which languages students chose, which was sometimes a language they use in the home but also included some students advocating for their classmates and producing signage in Behasa, which is one of our hidden languages. Another student asked for permission to text her friend in her former international school in Nepal as she wanted to have a sign in Nepali on our walls. Giving such simple opportunities to students can open up new conversations about languages and increase a school’s respect of their linguistic diversity in interesting ways.

 

Our students come to our schools with complex, fluid, and dynamic cultural and linguistic repertoires. Let’s harness this richness for the benefit of the individual, the school community, or let’s be ambitious and think about what this could bring to the global network of international schools.

 

This article came out of a presentation delivered at the ECIS Leadership Conference in April 2021.

 

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to have your thoughts below.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

 

Susan Stewart is Head of Multilingualism at The International School of London and ECIS MLIE Chair (Multilingual Learning in International Education).

She has lived and worked in Thailand, the UAE, South Africa, Belgium, Oman, Sweden and the UK. She holds a degree in French & Linguistics from the University of South Africa and is currently completing a Masters in Applied Linguistics & Communication from Birkbeck, University of London. Susan’s role focuses on developing an understanding of students’ languages and cultural experiences, and then developing these further within and beyond the curriculum. Susan is the chair of the ECIS Multilingual Learning in International Education (MLIE) committee.

Using Computational Thinking in a Modern Language Classroom

Isabelle Wolfe
Language Teacher, International School Aberdeen

Using Computational Thinking in a Modern Language Classroom

 

Computational Thinking describes the thought process of formulating problems and their solutions in a way that can be carried out by a computer. More than just a classroom strategy, it is also a life skill that our students can learn to solve any problems inside or outside the classroom. In this article, I will endeavour to explain the four stages in this process as well as giving a specific example to illustrate how I implement this process in my modern language classroom

 

At the International School of Aberdeen, where I teach French, as a way to develop integration of Computational Thinking across the K-12 curriculum in different subjects, we have started a monthly podcast featuring teachers called “CT Pod”. Feel free to listen in https://anchor.fm/ct-pod

 

Computational thinking involves four steps, the first one being decomposition which is often regarded as the most difficult one. This step consists in breaking down the problem into manageable parts. The problem is presented as a task that will be extremely difficult to overcome. Actually, the most daunting this task is presented, the better the thought process led by the students will be rewarding. When a lesson plan uses the Understanding by Design Framework, this “problem” that is presented is the outcome of a unit or a couple of lessons.  The final assessment will essentially be this language focus introduced in this problem in this stage.  As an example, in a modern language classroom, it could be a skill or a concept such as “I am learning to use the past tense, J’apprends le passé composé”. For most Middle Schoolers who are just familiar with the present tense, this learning objective is presented as a problem that they have no idea of how to tackle it and more importantly to solve it. With guidance, students will then break this problem with the teacher by leading the discussion by asking questions such as “what is a tense?” “what is a verb?” “how many groups of verbs do you know?” “what is the past?” what is a regular verb?” “why is the past tense called compound past in French” “what do you think it means?” etc. Little by little, the students feel less anxious and more comfortable solving the problem.

 

The second step is pattern recognition which implies looking at similarities and differences. Students are presented with various sentences or paragraphs including the learning outcome and without much guidance from the teacher will be able to define a rule or an appropriate process that needs to be followed in order to achieve the outcome. It’s always very useful to colour code the similarities. Going back to the example of the past tense, in this lesson, students will be presented with sentences in the present tense and in the past with the same verbs and a variety of verbs (regular and irregular). Students will then highlight the similarities in one colour and in another the differences. Colour coding is an example of implementing pattern recognition but other methods such as the use of Venn diagrams can also be very effective.

 

The third step is abstraction and is probably the most important one. Abstraction consists in generalising the model, which is essentially extracting the general rule without focusing on the details. Here in the example of the past tense, abstraction will consist in giving the general rule of an auxiliary followed by the verb. However, we would not go into the details of regular and irregular past participles for example.

 

Finally, the last stage is the algorithm which is writing a set of instructions that needs to be followed in order to solve our problem, similar to a recipe. In the example of the past tense, the students will probably first write that it is important to look at the verb we need to conjugate so that we know if it is regular or not, then secondly to conjugate the auxiliary, and so on… This algorithm can be referred to by the students as a go-to resource when they are in doubt. As it is quite succinct with only a few steps written in short bullet points, it is very quick and easy to check the algorithm when in doubt.

 

It is very important to note that all these steps are student-led so that the students take ownership of the whole process and make the task meaningful. Computational Thinking can be applied across all subjects and grades. It is vital that the students are familiar with the terminology so that there is consistency throughout the process with any learning outcome to be achieved and in any settings. In order to achieve this, computational thinking could be included in the curriculum as a school-based strategy. Use of icons and visual displays throughout the school could also reinforce this wide-spread implementation and familiarisation of that thought process.

 

Computational Thinking has had many positive impacts in my modern language classroom. Firstly, it reinforced the student-led process and therefore the ownership by the students of their learnings. Secondly, it has definitely had a positive consequence on the time taken to achieve the learning outcomes. Computational thinking has also had benefits in the time taken to grasp new concepts. I have found that the students also have adopted a different mindset and look forward to embark on difficult concepts. With the process of computational thinking, teachers offer a safe and secure environment as students know that the algorithm they have designed can be referred to if needed.

 

At the International School of Aberdeen, where I teach French,as a way to develop integration of Computational Thinking across the K-12 curriculum in different subjects, we have started a monthly podcast featuring teachers called “CT Pod”. Feel free to listen in https://anchor.fm/ct-pod

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

My name is Isabelle Wolfe. I am the language subject leader at the International School of Aberdeen. I teach French in Middle and High school as well as the French Mother Tongue programme to our French native students. Prior to teaching at ISA, I have been teaching in England, Australia, and Egypt.

 

Planning for Language Development

Planning for Language Development

Beth Skelton
Presenter | Coach | Consultant

 

Much of my work with teachers this past school year has focused on the power of lesson planning for language development. In this blog post, I will explain how to use a simple tool to add a language focus to any lesson plan and provide the necessary scaffolds and supports to ensure that all students can be successful with the expected language outcomes of the lesson. The questions on the lesson planning tool I will be describing can be found at the bottom of this post.

Language Objectives

The SIOP model, the WIDA framework, Kate Kinsella and Tonya Ward, Jeff Zwiers, and Confianza have long advocated for adding language objectives to lessons, and they have created useful tools for how to do this. Despite this strong support for language objectives, writing and teaching them often remains a difficult challenge for many general educators and content specialists. During the past school year, I have drawn on the work of those mentioned above and worked with many educators to create and refine the following tool as a simple, practical way for deciding what might be included in a language objective for one lesson and planning ways to support students in meeting the language demands of a content lesson. This tool uses a backwards design to get at the language students need to be successful in a lesson.

Backwards Design: The Unit Assessment and Content Objectives

Like any lesson plan using the Understanding by Design Framework, this tool also starts with the end in mind. Since most districts and international schools already require teachers to plan units starting with the final assessment in mind, the information for the first row of the form should come directly from the teachers’ prepared unit plans. Once teachers review their final assessment (performance, project, or traditional test) and jot down what students should know and be able to do by the end of the unit, they think about one upcoming lesson within that unit. The second row of the form asks teachers to record what students should know or be able to do by the end of one lesson. In teams or individually, teachers should explain how those specific daily objectives help students to achieve the content objectives for the entire unit.

Planning for Language Development: The Prompt

The third row of the tool adds a focus on the language students will need to express their learning at the end of one lesson. Teachers should think about one Turn and Talk question or an Exit Ticket prompt they might ask students to talk about or write about near the end of the lesson to gather formative assessment on their learning for that day. This question or prompt should directly link to the daily content objective listed in the second row. Some of the elementary teachers that I worked with during recent planning sessions created the following prompts. These examples require students to synthesize their learning from the lesson using extended discourse of more than one sentence:

Explain how to create equivalent fractions using shapes.

What is the difference between renewable and non-renewable resources?

Describe the main character in the story and what he dreams of using details from the text.

Describe how the native Americans lived in the river valley in the 1750s.

Notice how each of these prompts starts with a specific language function such as describe or explain or asks students to contrast or compare. These language functions dictate the type of language students will need to use in order to effectively address the prompt. Students will need to use appropriate grade-level content vocabulary, sentence structures, and discourse markers in order to effectively and academically respond to each of those prompts.

Planning for Language Development:  The Response

Although general educators are usually able to quickly write a prompt that would require an extended response, they rarely write or think through what they expect as an answer before asking the question. Since every content area standard has different expectations for how students should respond to these prompts, I ask the teachers to write out an ‘ideal response’ to their own prompt. I began writing my own responses to prompts about 10 years ago when I was teaching at an international school in Germany. I would write every response with my students and share my papers with them as well. This process gave me insight into the complexity of the language and often led me to refine my prompts or teach short language-focused lessons to support their answers. Although this is a practice I have used for many years, I credit the WIDA Consortium for the term ‘ideal response’.

When two or more teachers from the same team come to a planning session together, I ask them to individually write their ideal response before sharing out with the entire team. This response should reflect what a top student at that grade level should sound like when using appropriate academic language in their response. The teachers should write what they would love to hear or read as a response to the prompt. When I script their responses, the teachers immediately understand how much language is embedded in their responses, which academic vocabulary words they should directly teach, and which linguistic structures they may have to intentionally model during the lesson.

For example, as an ideal response to the prompt, “Explain how to create equivalent fractions by using shapes,” teachers wrote several different possible answers. Then, they created differentiated sentence frames and sentence starters to support the language necessary for a clear response. They also realized that these sentence frames and starters supported the thinking necessary to successfully complete the hands-on task. One possible frame for Level 1-2 students was:

 

I can trade _______ ___________ for _________ _______. 

       (number) (shape)               (number)     (shape)

And for students at higher language acquisition levels, they created the sentence starter: I can create an equivalent shape by using ________________.

For the prompt asking students to describe the main character in the story, both teachers used a noun clause in the first sentence of their response and realized they would have to provide a mini-lesson on how to start a clause using who as in their ideal response: Leroy is a__________, who dreams of __________.  Teaching students how to embed a noun clause will not only increase the complexity of their writing but also help them understand more complex texts that frequently use noun clauses (like this sentence just did!)

Analyze the Language in the Response

Once teachers have written an ideal response, they can analyze the language in the response at the word level, sentence level, and discourse level. As a team of grade level or content area teachers, they can use the form to plan strategies for directly teaching the vocabulary students will need in order to respond successfully to the prompt. The teachers may also determine that some words do not need as much explicit instruction because students will not be expected to use the words in a written or oral response and only have to comprehend the vocabulary in context.

For example, when a team of fifth-grade teachers wrote their ideal response for the prompt, “Describe how the native Americans lived in the river valley in the 1750s,” they realized that they did not need to spend as much time on some of the new vocabulary words in the text as they had originally thought. Although words like quenched and knelt did come up in the text and needed some defining for comprehension, the students would not need to use these words in their responses to the end of the lesson prompt. When the teachers realized this, they changed their vocabulary focus in the lesson and spent more time on the general academic terms the students needed to clearly describe the native Americans’ life along the river.

Fourth-grade teachers wrote an ideal response to the prompt “What is the difference between renewable and non-renewable resources?” When they analyzed their answers, they realized that students would know the key terms renewable and non-renewable by the end of the lesson, but would need additional support with discourse markers such as however and whereas. The teachers on this team decided to explicitly teach students how to contrast ideas, so that they would have the language necessary to contrast renewable and non-renewable resources.

Often teachers discover that the words and sentence structures students need to successfully respond to the prompt are not part of the written curriculum. For example, in order to describe the main character, students would need to use the word spontaneous or a synonym. Although the text provided plenty of details that illustrated this character trait, this word, and its synonyms do not come up in the text. Teachers who wrote out their ideal response realized they should teach words that are not necessarily in the text, but necessary for talking about the text.

Using the Planning for Language Development Tool

After analyzing the language in their ideal response, teachers will have developed a list of words and linguistic structures they will need to teach in the lesson in addition to their content. They should also make note of any strategies, scaffolds, and supports they will use to teach this academic language. After just one experience using this tool, one third-grade teacher with no other background in language acquisition exclaimed, “It’s easy to add a focus on language to our lesson plans! We already have the prompt, so we just have to figure out what we want as a response. This helps us frame our teaching and the students’ thinking.” I hope you find the tool just as useful.

Prompts from the Planning for Language Development Tool

  1. What should students know and be able to do by the end of the unit? What is the end of unit assessment?
  2. What should students know and be able to do by the end of one upcoming lesson?
  3. Write a prompt for an oral discussion or a written response during the lesson.
  4. Write out an “Ideal Response” to the prompt.
  5. List the key content and general academic vocabulary students should ideally use in their response to the end of lesson prompt. How will you teach each of those words during the lesson? (include details on the strategies you will use like gestures, visuals, realia, questions, etc.)
  6. What grammatical or linguistic structures in the ideal response might be challenging? (clauses, verb tenses, word order, etc.) What organizational features of the response might be challenging? How will you teach these structures?
  7. What supports will you offer language learners as they respond to the prompt?  (labeled graphic organizer, labeled pictures, sentence frames, discussion starters, native language support, oral language practice before writing, etc.

 

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Beth earned her Master’s Degree in Multicultural Teacher Education from the University of New Mexico and taught English learners at many levels. She has coached, consulted, and presented in a variety of school settings across the US and around the world. From 2010 to 2013, she served as the program coordinator for English as an Additional Language (EAL) at the Bavarian International School in Munich, Germany. Her expertise includes Harvard Project Zero; the International Baccalaureate English B course; instructional coaching; the WIDA standards, Marzano’s Strategies that Work for English Language Learners, Kagan Cooperative Learning, Total Physical Response, and the Common Core for English Language Learners. She has also published student and teacher materials for adult English Learners entitled Putting it Together, which have been translated into Spanish, Dutch, and sign language.

Learn more about how Beth can support you and your students.

Multilingualism in schools. Yes or No?

Multilingualism in schools. Yes or No?

Valentina Spyropoulou, Teacher of English / EAL / Dyslexia Specialist
Optimist International School

 

Many people believe that when you move to a different country, you should try to exclusively practice the host country’s language in order to learn that language faster. This notion has also been adopted in many schools across the world. However, is this really the best approach?

A monolingual approach in schools has been vastly adopted for a long time now and, oftentimes, has resulted in many international parents and their children feeling excluded or even embarrassed to use their home languages. However, over the past years, we have seen a positive shift towards including languages in schools more and there are many good reasons why. Here are some of the most important ones:

 

Language as cultural identity
Language is an inherent piece of who we are. A valuable part of our identity. The more we explore and develop our languages, the more we develop a sense of belonging and self-value and this is of crucial importance to our children’s wellbeing and success when it comes to their personal and academic development.

 

Multilingualism and brain
Extensive research on the impact of multilingualism on the brain has proven that multilingual people’s brains do function differently and in a more advantageous way compared to monolingual people in areas such as complex thinking, mental flexibility, communication, and interpersonal skills, and even reduced risk of age-related mental diminishment conditions.

 

Home languages benefit the learning of more languages
Dr. Jim Cummins, a prominent researcher in bilingual education, has stated that developing language repertoires at the same time, actually accelerates and deepens understanding and acquisition of languages already mastered, but also of more, new ones.

 

Ready for the global community
Multilingual individuals are more prepared for the global community, as they are able to communicate with an open and flexible mind, having possibly been exposed to various cultures. Is this not a goal worth pursuing?

 

Language skills and structures, as well as concept knowledge, many times, already exist in the children’s educational toolkit, and the only thing missing is the words in the new language to prove it. I am sure, if you are an international living outside your home country, you probably have experienced a situation in which people are talking about a certain matter that interests you and you know a lot about, but the language spoken is one you have not yet mastered. If you were given the opportunity to talk and write about it in your own language, would you feel more confident and included? Do you think you could have contributed to these conversations? Maybe if you were reading a text translated in your language with the foreign language next to it, you would be able to understand some words? Maybe sentence structures? The answer to all the above questions is yes, and this is exactly how it works for multilingual children as well.

 

Language Friendly School
Optimist International School, an international primary school, recently became a Language Friendly school. This means that all languages spoken by students are welcome and valued.

In our classes we allow students to use the languages they feel most comfortable with in order to show their understanding and develop their skills, while we try to methodically use their languages to support the development in English, as well. For this purpose, children can read, write and do research in their own language, while teaching staff guide them to create links between their languages for deeper and effective acquisition.

Moreover, we often use the children’s languages in various aspects of school life, such as greeting them in the morning, asking children to translate keywords in their languages for us to learn or even learning to sing ‘happy birthday’ in all the different languages we have in school.

The smile, confidence, and safety that the children feel in our school by feeling included, respected, and valued is what fuels our teaching and learning. The results in children’s academic and personal development are outstanding as they can be themselves, navigate through their cultures and identities, while being respectful and tolerant of others.

Multilingualism is an asset and we, as a school of multilingual and intercultural educators, are committed to promoting and improving our multilingual approaches in order to support happy, respectful, inquisitive global citizens.

 

References:

Bartolotti, J. and Marian, V. (2012), Language Learning and Control in Monolinguals and Bilinguals. Cognitive Science, 36: 1129-1147. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1551-6709.2012.01243.x

 Brainscape Academy. 2021. The cognitive benefits of being multilingual. [online] Available at: <https://www.brainscape.com/academy/benefits-of-being-multilingual

Craik, F., Bialystok, E. and Freedman, M., 2010. ‘Delaying the onset of Alzheimer disease Bilingualism as a form of cognitive reserve’, Neurology, vol. 75, no. 19, pp. 1726-1729.

Cummins, J., 2017. ‘Multilingualism in Classroom Instruction: “I think it’s helping my brain grow”’, Scottish Languages Review, vol. Winter 2017, no. 33, pp. 5-18.

Goossens, F., 2019. Monolingual Practices in Multilingual Classrooms. EAL Journal, [Online]. 10, 16. Available at: https://naldic.org.uk/publications/eal-journal/issue-10/ [Accessed 19 January 2021].

Keysar, B., Hayakawa, S. L. and An, S. G. (2012) ‘The Foreign-Language Effect: Thinking in a Foreign Tongue Reduces Decision Biases’, Psychological Science, 23(6), pp. 661–668. doi: 10.1177/0956797611432178.

NALDIC. 2021. EAL Journal E-Issue 10 – NALDIC. [online] Available at: <https://naldic.org.uk/publications/eal-journal/issue-10/> [Accessed 22 February 2021].

https://www.rutufoundation.org/language-friendly-school/

 

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

 

 

“Ever since I remember myself I wanted to be a teacher. My studies include specialisms in English Language and Literature, SEN, EAL, and SpLD. I have over 12 years of experience in education within various roles of teaching and middle management in Greece, the UK, and the Netherlands. I have always worked within multicultural environments and with students of different ages, linguistic and cultural backgrounds. I am currently working as a Group teacher and EAL Specialist at The Optimist International School in Hoofddorp and I am loving every moment of working with students and colleagues from all around the world. Education is my passion and I always strive to support my students and colleagues to feel welcome and safe to be who they are, explore their identities, and develop their talents. I love reading, cooking, and enjoying the company of my friends, while recently I have taken up painting and discovered that I am actually really enjoying it.”