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Over a year ago, as we expanded into the classroom with Ellevation InClass, our district partners immediately saw the benefits of providing ELL-specific data directly to classroom teachers. With InClass, teachers can see their students’ proficiency levels, review the recommendations made by the ELL team, and provide information back to the ELL team on their students’ performance. InClass is a digital Individualized Language Plan - and so much more - cutting down on paperwork and keeping everyone in the district invested in the success of their English Learners.
But technology has a way of raising expectations. Having enjoyed the unique contextual data that InClass can provide, classroom teachers began asking us for instructional resources that could be personalized for their students. They also asked us whether InClass could provide persistent supports for ELLs, embedded in their lesson plans and curriculum maps. ESL/Bilingual teachers, the critical partners to classroom teachers in this work, helped us see the potential for InClass to extend best-in-class instructional practices across the district.
Introducing Ellevation Instructional Strategies
Featuring a digital toolkit of over 70 classroom activities, Instructional Strategies offers easy-to-find activities that can be used right-away by classroom teachers to incorporate language instruction into existing content lessons. Each activity is written by an expert ESL teacher or coach, and integrates the latest research and best practices on effective instruction for ELLs, all while remaining easily accessible even to those without formal ESL training.
These activities are organized into a framework of language instruction, seen below. The 6 Practices reflect the components of effective language instruction, while the contained 17 Strategies focus on a specific student skill within. Finally, the over-70 Activities put those Strategies into action, in the classroom, in a manner that can be repeated, extended, and reflected upon to improve an educator’s effectiveness.
What’s in an Activity
Each activity explicitly lays out a general Language Objective, any preparation needed pre-lesson, and the specific actions taken by the teacher and the students. In addition, each activity provides Quick Tips, What to Watch For, and Evidence of Success: all of which give the classroom teacher additional tips and suggested extensions to consider when working with those students acquiring English language. It’s like having an ESL teacher in your ear!
Effective instruction for ELLs isn’t something only English teachers are responsible for! To illustrate how all classroom teachers can integrate these activities into any content area or grade level we also provide Content Examples. These examples let content area teachers see how they might wrap a language activity into Math, Science, ELA, and Social Studies lessons.
For example, say you're teaching a unit on geology, and want to use the Ellevation activity Which Corner? in order to support oral output interactions. Well, as a science teacher, you might place Igneous, Sedimentary, and Metamorphic as categories in each corner of the room to facilitate a rock classification lesson. This is the power of Ellevation Instructional Strategies: they integrate seamlessly into any content lesson, regardless of content standard, and Ellevation shows how to bring these activities to life in real world content lessons.
Even better, we provide downloads such as graphic organizers, posters, sentence starters, and more to accompany each activity, making them even easier to try in your classrooms. You can even keep notes to reflect on what worked and what adaptations you made for your lessons!
But that’s just the beginning. Ellevation Instructional Strategies live within the larger Ellevation platform, full of each ELL’s comprehensive student data. Therefore, rather than just providing a bank of activities, we’re able to tie them to student data. How do we do this? Within each activity, the My ELLs feature lists each of the teacher’s students, and provides specific guidance on how to “support” the activity in different ways based on each student’s proficiency level and other assessment data, as configured by your district.
Think of it like a “heads up display” - a teacher can walk around their classroom while facilitating an Ellevation activity, and can adjust his or her instruction for each student based on their individual proficiency levels. Language instruction through content is important for ELLs, but the impact is really felt when the instruction is personalized to that ELL’s individual language capabilities.
With so many high-quality activities to choose from, Ellevation allows users to Save their favorites in custom folders. Planning a unit on the water cycle, and want to save activities that focus on academic language to try with your students? Simply create a new folder for your Water Cycle unit and sequence the activities you’d like to try, days or even weeks ahead of time!
Ellevation is focused on increasing collaboration between teachers: whether content area educators or ESL/Bilingual specialists. For this reason, we’ve introduced the ability to Shareactivities between educators across the district. Are you team-teaching a topic, and know that your colleague would benefit from an activity that focuses on varying their classroom assessments? Simply visit that activity, click “Share,” and pick that person’s name from the list. They’ll receive an email with a message from you, linking them to the activity. Better-yet, the activity will automatically save in their “Shared With Me” folder so they can access it at any time!
One of our favorite features of Instructional Strategies is one that will have a persistent impact on students’ mastery of language: the ability for a ESL Specialist within the Ellevation platform to “recommend” an activity for a specific student. Imagine this: you are an ESL Specialist in a school, working with a student every day. You identify that he would benefit from more language interaction with other students. In "the olden days” (well, today) you would perhaps send the students’ classroom teachers a friendly email, or hope for a opportune moment in the hallway, or schedule a meeting next week.
But now, with Instructional Strategies, you can simply visit that student’s record in Ellevation, “recommend” a couple activities for that student from the “Foster Interactions” Practice, and instantly all of the student’s classroom teachers will see that the activity has been recommended for him, and can start planning to use it in their lessons right away.
Just imagine how much more weight an ESL Specialist’s knowledge of a student’s instructional needs will carry when it can be visible, persistently, on a student’s record in Ellevation.
Enabling Professional Development
Ellevation Instructional Strategies are more than a collection of dozens of high-quality classroom activities for ELLs. Because the activities are organized into a framework of Practices and Strategies, we’ve worked with our board of instructional advisors to craft a “Framework Overview” page where teachers can build their own capacity on why each Practice and Strategy matter, especially when introducing subject area content for their ELLs. These materials allow for PLCs and other professional groups to gather around a language topic, learn more, discuss plans of action, and pick specific activities to commit to use in their classrooms going forward.
With Ellevation’s Practices and Strategies, all teachers can become teachers of language, while understanding the importance of each language skill they’re introducing to their students through content.
Helping all teachers become teachers of language
The Ellevation Instructional Strategies feature is ready for use with your district’s teachers later this spring. Here are some quick highlights:
In the coming months, educators around the country will join districts like Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Houston ISD, and Broward County in using Ellevation Instructional Strategies, bringing persistent and personalized language instruction to their content classrooms. We cannot wait to enable your district to help ELLs in achieving their highest aspirations.
If you’d like to learn more, check out this webinar recording where we recently introduced Instructional Strategies to over 100 school districts from across the country.
View the discussion thread.
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