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Lawndale Elementary School District: Insights and Burning Issues
The following observations are from Julie Dutch, one of our newest A+RISE trainers.
Situated at the southern edge of the Los Angeles basin, Lawndale Elementary School District is a kaleidoscope of peoples. Lawndale shares the same issues as some of its larger neighbors: increasing linguistic and cultural diversity in the student population, ever-rising achievement mandates, and limited in-district resources. Below are some of the insights and issues uncovered in the recent A+RISE training at Lawndale:
- The Kindergarten teachers realized that they should be using/teaching academic vocabulary as early as kindergarten. There was no reason to wait. The A+RISE strategies were flexible enough to use with even early learners.
- The special education teachers who work with ELLs realized that they need to focus on development of CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency), and not just BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) with their students. See Evelyn Arroyo’s article Why Academic Language for more on this topic.
- Most of the teachers learned how to better group students of differing languages and levels. They hadn’t realized the importance of putting the Level 1 and Level 2 students together for emotional support.
- Some of the most powerful insights are also the most obvious, but often forgotten — to reach our ELLs (and all students for that matter) it’s critical that we get to know our students. The A+RISE strategies are designed to not only help develop academic language, but also provide our ELLs the opportunity to share, in a structured and safe way, who they are and where they are from.
- The district staff developer purchased notebooks for everyone that are the same size as the A+RISE strategy cards; teachers could three-hole punch the cards and keep them in the notebooks if they wanted—clever!
- For the start of the new year, the Lawndale teachers planned to use Circle of Friends (A+Rise ELL Strategy – F02) when students introduced themselves to one another. ELL students who cannot read with fluency can be paired with a more experience partner.
- How do we deal with the lack of planning time to incorporate strategies in our lesson plans?
- How can we best meet the needs of the increasing numbers of newcomers at the middle school level?
- Language proficiency progress seems to stall for higher level ELLs. How can we help our more advanced ELLs get “unstuck” and reach a more advanced level of academic language proficiency?
Our differences are our strength as we celebrate our cultures, delight in our languages, and create community in classrooms, schools, and neighborhoods, with equity and excellence our goal for all — Lawndale Elementary School District
We strongly encourage community members to share their own stories, offer guidance or provide insight into how they tackled similar issues.