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01.25.13Using TLaC with English Language Learners


Leanne Riordan is an ESL teacher at Holabird Academy in Baltimore.  She’s been to a couple of our workshops and is active and insightful in thinking about how to apply TLaC techniques in her particular setting—English language learners.

She recently wrote to describe how she applies a couple of the techniques.  It was so interesting I asked her if she’d let us share her thoughts more broadly, both because her thoughts on the application to ESL settings were so smart and because it’s useful to see how a smart teacher applies and adapts any useful idea.  So with thanks to Leanne, here are some excerpts.

On No Opt Out: “No Opt Out allows practice in both speaking AND listening. This is wonderful for my students. I co-teach part of the day with a general educator, and we often use this pattern: call on ELL, no response/shy/incorrect, call on proficient ELL or native speaker, then go back to the ELL. It also allows us to push the lower level ELLs , rather than relying on lay-up type questions in order for them to feel successful. When the whole class is used to No Opt Out as part of the culture, then kids who can’t answer right away are less likely to feel self-conscious or shamed about being incorrect.”


On Format Matters: “Teaching my ELL students, I am constantly correcting their grammar. When I’m co-teaching with mainstream students in the classroom, I provide corrections to the whole class. I don’t distinguish between ELL mistakes or others; I just explain that we all need to learn to talk or write in a lot of different ways. Our Spanish-speaking students are learning to speak English, and everyone is learning to speak and write in “Academic English.” I explain that even I do not talk at home with my family the same way I talk to my students or other teachers. Nor do I write school papers the way I text on my phone. It’s all about code-shifting and knowing who is communicating with you, and in what setting. I also tell my students that no one is born knowing how to speak Academic English; we all have to learn and keep practicing, whether our first language is Spanish, English, Urdu or whatever. My classroom area has a big quote on the wall that I got from Lilly Wong Fillmore, a language researcher at UC Berkeley: “There are no native speakers of Academic English.” I think that sums it up.”


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