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Ideas for Action Series - Idea #2

Submitted by: ERGO Members

 

The goal for this series of blog posts is to make a collection of quick and easy activities that can be shared to increase understanding, support students, build system capacity, and/or inspire growth and movement.

 

Assistive Technology To Support MLLs​

Using assistive technology supports multilingual learners by  honouring their full linguistic repertoire and by providing tools so that the students can reach their full potential. It supports the teacher to understand the assets and needs of the student while creating space for the learner to use their first language while developing their proficiency in English.

 

Connections

Using assistive technology to support multilingual learners creates greater opportunities for "integration into mainstream classrooms with appropriate instructional support." (ELL Policy, 2007) The use of assistive technology also supports a UDL approach that allows educations to adopt a "design thinking mindset that can provide educators with new tools and new approaches that often yield simple solutions to complex everyday challenges that they face in the classroom today." (Learning for All, 2013)

 

Action/Implementation Plan

Google Read and Write and Microsoft's Immersive Reader allows classroom materials to be integrated into various modalities (email, word, etc.) and allows texts to be read in mulitple languages, highlights parts of speech and attaches visuals to text. It also allows for the creation of a picture dictionary which also includes translated text or speech. Opportunities can be provided for students and teachers to learn about these tools in self-directed sessions, lunch and learns and tutorial sessions.

 

 

 

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Ideas for Actions Series - Idea #1

Submitted by: ERGO Members

 

The goal for this series of blog posts is to make a collection of quick and easy activities that can be shared to increase understanding, support students, build system capacity, and/or inspire growth and movement.

 

Google Earth Journeys

The student(s) takes the class or teacher on a tour of their homeland or take them on a journey. Explore their old school, neighbourhood, playground, surroundings or favourite places. 

 

Connections 

This supports knowing your learner and culturally responsive and relevant practices.

To dig more deeply into this, consider reading The K-12 Capacity Building

 Series monograph entitled "Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Towards Equity and Inclusivity in Ontario Schools."

 

 

 

 

Action/Implementation Plan

As part of the intial conversation when getting to know our student(s) and learning about where they have come from, we have the newcomer student take us  on a tour of their previous home, school, neighbourhood. This allows the student to be the expert and to use L1, prior knowledge and personal experience to share their journey story. This exercise can be started as an oral conversation, using guiding questions and letting the students take the lead on what is shared. A follow up can be to rehearse and use the conversation as part of a writing task to share the student's journey story through voice to text or handwriting, whichever mode the student is most comfortable with. 

 

 

 

 

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Part 4 of 4

By: Ontario teachers who are ESL/ELD school board leads and ERGO members as part of the ERGO Reading and ELLs working group as a subgroup of the Special Education and English language learners.  

This small group of ESL/ELD board leads has met throughout the 2020-2021 school year to explore the reading instruction and best pratices to support English language learners in Ontario school boards.  The purpose of the group is to report back to the larger group of ERGO members who have explored the resources and research focussed on the topic of special education and ELLs.  This is the fourth of a series of blogs that summarize some of their observations, research, best practices and resources available to Ontario teachers supporting ELLs in their journey to learning to read and write in English while participating in curriculum learning at their grade level.

 

What are the next steps for ELLs who are demonstrating persistent learning difficulties with reading?

Despite the  explicit teaching of reading strategies, daily guided reading instruction and varied daily opportunities to use new vocabulary and language structures, teachers sometimes notice an English language learner (ELL) may not be making consistent progress with reading across subject areas.  

 

In school boards across Ontario this is noted on the STEP Observable Language Behaviour (OLB) Continua or the STEP Observable Language and Literacy Behaviour (OLLB) Continua when the same descriptors are highlighted/checked multiple times over a couple months or more, even though teachers are using engaging levelled texts and the strategies outlined above.   Parents or families might have indicated through the registration process that their child demonstrated persistent learning difficulties in previous schools in another country.  

 

English language learners are as likely to have a learning disability as monolingual learners.  Though sometimes ELLs are over identified or referred to school team meetings or a persistent learning challenge is misidentified as needing more time to learn English.  

 

This leads educators in Ontario to wonder:

  • What strategies have been missed or could have been considered to better support the development of English reading skills for these students?  
  • What tools are offered to provide further considerations for this small group of students?  
  • While ELLs are in the process of learning English, how can teachers best determine if these students require additional English language learning or  if they would benefit from additional supports or identifications to better support their learning needs?
  • Are the specific needs of ELLs noted in board procedures  for special education teachers who may assist with team meetings?
  • How can the Ministry’s STEP resources help guide teacher conversations and the learning for English language learners?

 

Members of the English Resource Group of Ontario meet in working groups to explore answers to these questions to help provide their school boards with relevant information, research and insight to supporting the needs of all Engish language learners.  Feel free to add additional questions or insight you may have as an Ontario educator supporting ELLs in the comment section below.


 

 

 

 

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Part 3 of 4

By: Ontario teachers who are ESL/ELD school board leads and ERGO members as part of the ERGO Reading and ELLs working group as a subgroup of the Special Education and English language learners.  

 

This small group of ESL/ELD board leads has met throughout the 2020-2021 school year to explore the reading instruction and best practices to support English language learners in Ontario school boards.  The purpose of the group is to report back to the larger group of ERGO members who have explored the resources and research focussed on the topic of special education and ELLs.  This is the third of a series of blogs that summarize their observations, research, best practices and resources available to Ontario teachers supporting ELLs in their journey to learning to read and write in English while participating in curriculum learning at their grade level.

 

 

What can teachers of ELLs in junior, intermediate and secondary levels use to support the development of reading strategies as part of curriculum learning? 

This is the time that many students are reading to learn.  ELLs  in grades 3-12 require daily opportunities as part of curriculum learning to continue to develop their reading skills.  Teachers can begin to help students to read in English starting with what students already know.  In high school courses teachers can use a variety of instructional approaches and teaching strategies integrated into curriculum learning.

 

Choosing appropriate texts so that ELLs have opportunities to learn to read while learning about new topics is sometimes challenging.  There are a few published resources that schools could purchase to support curriculum learning of any student learning to read.

 

The Scholastic Talk About series was created and is based on Canadian curriculum and is intended for ELLs or struggling readers.  Though it is a levelled series the vocabulary may not be as controlled as books from some other levelled reading programs. This requires teachers to pre-teach or translate new words with students while reading to increase fluency, speed and understanding.  However, this series offers detailed images with labels and diagrams that support learning on science and social studies topics.

 

The Pearson Big Ideas series offers adapted texts for ELLs focussed on science and social studies curriculum from grade 4-6.  The pages of these texts include images, maps, diagrams, graphs and charts that provide opportunities for ELLs on STEPs 1-3 to begin to learn to use the language, attend to form and style and demonstrate understanding in English while accessing Ontario curriculum learning.  

 

The ERGO Financial Literacy series was written by Ontario educators and students.  It offers levelled texts that include numeracy and guided reading lessons.  They are free for schools to download and print.  They speak to the everyday questions students and their families have about using money and saving while living in Ontario.  They avoid the problem of reading levelled texts with stories intended for young kids.

 

In the same way, the Bowvalley ESL Readers offer levelled texts that can be accessed as ebooks or printed for free.  They are levelled and are intended for students in grades 7-12 or adult.  They are Canadian and offer insight for beginning readers into topics of Canadian citizenship, culture and social services.

 

Numerous blogs, twitter accounts and books provide teachers with more information on strategies, models for collaborative teaching (between classroom teachers and ESL/ELD teachers) and tech tools to engage ELLs in effective reading instruction.  Ontario educators could follow the @ergoontario Twitter account to participate in the learning and sharing among educators, researchers and organizations that support ELLs and newcomers to Canada.

 

Do you have any other recommendations for texts for teachers with ELLs in the junior, intermediate or senior grades?

 

 

Members of the English Resource Group of Ontario meet regularly in working groups to explore topics related to the Ministry’s ESL/ELD Policy document and related resources to help provide their school boards with relevant information, research and insight to supporting the needs of all Engish language learners.  Feel free to add additional questions or insight you may have as an Ontario educator supporting ELLs in the comment section below.

 

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Part 2 of 4

By: Ontario teachers who are ESL/ELD school board leads and ERGO members as part of the ERGO Reading and ELLs working group as a subgroup of the Special Education and English language learners.  

 

This small group of ESL/ELD board leads has met throughout the 2020-2021 school year to explore the reading instruction and best pratices to support English language learners in Ontario school boards.  The purpose of the group is to report back to the larger group of ERGO members who have explored the resources and research focussed on the topic of special education and ELLs.  This is the second of a series of blogs that summarize their observations, research, best practices and resources available to Ontario teachers supporting ELLs in their journey to learning to read and write in English while participating in curriculum learning at their grade level.

 


 

What are the considerations for ELLs using published reading texts found in schools?

Teachers must first get to know their students and their previous learning and life experiences (gr 1-8 doc).  This means building a trusting relationship and understanding the students likes, dislikes, former academic experiences, home language reading and writing skills, and comfort with reading. Creating simple books or texts that originate from the student’s interests or needs (ie. getting to know the school)  is a meaningful and engaging place to start with students who are beginning to read in a new language.  

 

Using a Google Slide template provides a teacher the place for a new student to see themselves in the text.  Teachers can take pictures of the student in the rooms of the school and replace the photos in the book template.  The student’s name and specific names of teachers could also be added.   Using simple, patterned texts with matching photos from the student environment offers an entry point for the student and opportunity to build connections between the teacher student and possibly other students. This photo book is also a great way to build a connection with the family if the student is encouraged to take the book home and share it with their family. 

 

When choosing a text to read, teachers will consider the background knowledge the student brings to the topic.  For example, if the story is about camping in a Canadian environment and the student has only ever lived in an urban setting they may not be able to guess at what is happening in the pictures because of a lack of prior knowledge.  Some cultures dislike animals in the house and so a story about a dog or cat in the house, if the student is not familiar with this North American practice, may cause them some discomfort or disgust that will be distracting while trying to read at an instructional level.  

 

Teachers will do detailed book walks prior to reading to ensure students are familiar with the pictures and main idea of the story.  The names of characters will be introduced and new vocabulary may be translated using Google Translate or Microsoft Translate or the Say Hi Translate App.  Students may predict what will happen in the story after looking at the first couple of pages or the title page.  This is valuable time spent to provide the student with  background knowledge and vocabulary that will increase their fluency and comprehension while reading the text. 

 

Considering the social language and academic language used in a text will signal to teachers what may best be pre-taught before reading a text.  Before meeting with students, teachers may highlight new academic vocabulary, idioms, or language structures if the text is on paper or electronically shared.  Pre-teaching the pronunciation and meaning of this new language will also increase student confidence, understanding, fluency and speed while reading.

 

 

How can these levelled reading texts and related resources purchased by schools be used to support reading instruction for ELLs?

Teachers of ELLs in the primary grades can often use the levelled texts in their schools with young multilingual students for guided, shared and  independent reading.  Students often have time to learn new words and stories as part of the classroom learning and small group instruction.  In the lower grades most students are learning to read.  

 

The strategies and tools listed in Ontario Guides to Effective Reading Instruction and the Think Literacy Cross Curricular Approaches are available for teachers to access and integrate into their programming for all students, including ELLs.  The Supporting English Language Learners- A Practical Guide for Educators Grade 1-8  and the Supporting English Language Learners in Kindergarten-A Practical Guide for Educators outline effective instructional strategies for ELLs to learn to read. 

 

There are many strategies and tools available to teachers supporting the needs of English language learners.  Which work for you and do you have others you can share?

 


 

Members of the English Resource Group of Ontario (ERGO) meet regularly in working groups to explore topics related to the Ministry’s ESL/ELD Policy document and related resources to help provide their school boards with relevant information, research and insight to supporting the needs of all Engish language learners.  Feel free to add additional questions or insight you may have as an Ontario educator supporting ELLs in the comment section below.

 

 

 

 

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Part 1 of 4

 

By: Ontario teachers who are ESL/ELD school board leads and ERGO members as part of the ERGO Reading and ELLs working group as a subgroup of the Special Education and English language learners.  

 

This small group of ESL/ELD board leads has met throughout the 2020-2021 school year to explore the topic of reading instruction and best pratices to support English language learners in Ontario school boards.  The purpose of the group is to report back to the larger group of ERGO members who have explored the resources and research focussed on the topic of special education and ELLs.  This is the first of a series of blogs that summarize some of their observations, the existing research, best practices and resources available to Ontario teachers supporting ELLs in their journey to learning to read and write in English while participating in curriculum learning at their grade level.

 


 

Imagine arriving in Canada  as a kid from a refugee situation. This means you’ve left your home country and were forced to move to a neighbouring country who has permitted you to live in some degree of safety.  Or you could have arrived in Canada by a choice your parents made to start their education again in an Ontario college or university program.  Or, your parents may have moved to Canada and you were raised in a home and possibly a community that spoke a language other English. 

 

Imagine all the hopes, dreams, fears, money, excitement and sadness that are wrapped up into this life in Canada for all of these students. 

 

Students are continually arriving at Ontario schools from countries around the world for a variety of reasons.  They may be joining our schools soon after arriving in the country or through secondary migration after living for a time in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) or another city in the country.  

 

Ontario educators welcome students born in Canada or who have arrived from other countries and speak languages other than English throughout the year into K-12 classrooms.  Learning to read in English is one skill these students begin to work on as soon as they join an Ontario school. 


Educators often post languages other than English on their walls to ensure multilingual students can make connections and see their linguistic identity reflected in the environment. These might be in the form of purchased or board made posters, but more often are hand-made by the students themselves or with the help of multilingual families.

 

Teachers begin to program for students by referring to the initial language assessment report and/or by using the STEP OLB Continua( for ESL programming) or the STEP OLLB Continua (for ELD programming) to document language behaviours across subject areas within the first week or two in the classroom.  Primary, junior or intermediate teachers who are new to using the STEP resources may refer to the Planning With The STEP Resource videos from Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario (ETFO).

 

This documentation for oral, reading and writing informs the teacher what the next steps for language learning are as part of curriculum learning. The STEP Continua is used as the assessment for learning or the diagnostic, but also a working document throughout the year.

 

Published Resources Purchased by Ontario Schools

Teachers in school boards across Ontario refer to the books or levelled readers provided in their schools to guide their reading instruction with all students, including ELLs.  There is a wide variety of published resources that schools and boards purchase.  These can include:

LLI Program

BAS Assessment - Fountas and Pinnell

Spark Reading

Raz Kids

Lexia

Empower

PM e collection - Nelson

Fluency Tutor

DRA - Pearson

 

These purchased resources from publishers have many strengths and challenges for ELLs. They are not often originally created for the needs of ELLs.  These programs fall on a spectrum that range from relying on where teachers follow a written script or prescribed set of lessons. School boards and schools make decisions to use these various programs that are purchased to support struggling readers, readers with learning difficulties and/or for guided reading lessons with all students.  Teachers are trained on the components of the purchased resources.  Though teachers often do not choose the texts and resources in their schools they can use them to support the reading instruction of all their students.  

 

Students with limited prior schooling (LPS) may have gaps in their education due to an inability or opportunity to attend school. These are often, but not always, students arriving from refugee backgrounds.  They could include students with special education concerns that were not permitted to attend school in their country of origin.

 

Students with limited prior schooling (LPS) may not have developed literacy and language skills appropriate for students their age. While students may lack academic experience, they bring with them many life experiences and knowledge.  Students with gaps in their education or limited prior schooling (LPS) require English Literacy Development (ELD) programming (elementary) or ELD courses (secondary) to support language learning as well as foster accelerated literacy and numeracy growth. Students with limited prior schooling benefit from focused early reading instruction and guided reading. You can learn more about guided reading here: guided reading videos with Ontario educators.

 

Reflective Questions for Teachers - 

There are many multilingual students who attend classes in Ontario via a face to face environment or virtual learning environment. 

  • Who are the English language learners in your class who are in the process of developing social and academic English language skills while they participate in curriculum learning with their peers and teachers?  
  • Do students see their linguistic or cultural backgrounds and history reflected in the texts in the classroom or school?

 

Questions About Teaching Reading With ELLs - 

  • How can teachers use an asset based lens to teach reading using the resources available in their school? 
  • Are there additional texts available to teachers who teach ELLs at the beginning steps of learning English, but are in junior, intermediate or senior grades?

 


 

Members of the English Resource Group of Ontario meet regularly in working groups to explore topics related to the Ministry’s ESL/ELD Policy document and related resources to help provide their school boards with relevant information, research and insight to supporting the needs of all Engish language learners.  Feel free to add additional questions or insight you may have as an Ontario educator supporting ELLs in the comment section below.

 

 

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By: Christine Ignas, ESL/ELD Lead Teacher at SMCDSB

 

Ontario primary teachers are tasked with teaching the skills and strategies for reading and writing in English as informed by the Ontario Ministry of Education’s Language Curriculum.  Primary teachers often follow the guidance of the Effective Literacy Instruction (4-6) and Guide to Effective Instruction in Reading (K-3) and provide time for word study so students recognize and can write and read common spelling patterns.

 

As Canadian born  and newcomer multilingual learners join primary classes, teachers must then consider the learning needs of students who speak languages other than English at home.  Some of these students may also not yet speak English and so are learning to use English vocabulary and language structures at the same time as learning to read and write as part of kindergarten, grade 1 and 2 classrooms.  

 

Teachers sometimes use the online interactive resources such as www.starfall.com’s ABC webpage to help young students develop phonemic awareness of the 26 letters of the alphabet.  Online resources offer easy to access, free games for young learners while at school or home.  It is important to note that these online resources are considered an introduction to the sounds and phonemes of the English alphabet not effective teaching on their own.  FlyLeaf Publishing is offering their e-books that are organized by their phonics scope and sequence for free for the 2020-2021 school year.  These materials offer educators another tool to provide ELLs opportunities to identify and use the sound symbol patterns in the English language.  Identifying the phonemes or sounds in the English language and connecting them to the symbol patterns of the written letters is requires a lot of practice and explicit teaching.

 

Educators in kindergarten and primary grades are aware that the English language has more than 26 sounds.  It is important to talk about this more so all educators are aware of the importance of explicit teaching of the sounds that letter combinations make in different words that are part of curriculum learning.  Drawing student’s attention to the various letter combinations, the pronunciation of these sounds and how to record them as standardized spelling is important learning for all students in primary grades and beyond. 

 

Source: http://www.eworkshop.on.ca/edu/resources/guides/Reading_K_3_English.pdf#page=272

 

In the intermediate and secondary grades, teachers follow the guidance of the Adolescent Literacy Guide (2016) to inform instruction of reading and writing. While it is detailed and intended for English speaking students, it does not offer direction for teachers who teach ELLs at the very beginning steps of learning English.  The intermediate and senior aged students can often benefit from explicit instruction about the sounds and standard spelling patterns found in the English language.  Teachers of intermediate or secondary ELLs can follow the guidance of resources Effective Literacy Instruction (4-6) and Guide to Effective Instruction in Reading (K-3) while adjusting materials for the interest and age of the older students.  Teachers can also refer to the guided reading lessons included with each of the ERGO Financial Literacy texts that were written for intermediate-senior age students.

 

The Ontario Ministry of Education’s STEP Resources for ELLs note that ELLs  will work on  “recognizing some sound/symbol patterns” in STEP 3 (primary) or STEP 1 (junior/intermediate/secondary) of the STEP OLB Continua.

This informs instruction for teachers of ELLs to integrate this learning as part of curriculum learning.  This means educators of ELLs in any grade must provide opportunities for students who are beginning to learn English to see and hear the various sounds and spelling patterns in academic words within the context of curriculum learning.

 

Source: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/social-studies-history-geography-2018.pdf#page=81 

 

In grade 2, while learning about talking and learning about community traditions a teacher may choose to focus on the ‘ur’ spelling pattern in the word turkey.  The teacher may write down other words that the student is familiar with or learning, such as Thursday, hurt, turn and burp.  


Source: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/social-studies-history-geography-2018.pdf#page=81 

 

The next day, the teacher chooses to focus on the spelling pattern ‘ea’ for the word eat.  The teacher chooses this word because she noticed that the student spelled it ‘et’ the day before in his writing.  So, today she spends a few minutes writing familiar ‘ea’ words and has the student practice writing, reading and circling the focus sound-symbol spelling pattern.  The chosen words are familiar to the student, can be quickly translated on an online translation website (such as Google Translate or Microsoft Translate) and only have 2-3 phonemes (sounds).  This ensures the new learning is within the the student’s zone of proximal development.

 

The teacher continues to build on this learning while using the student’s daily writing to inform the brief conferences the following day that are focused on word study and the sound symbol relationships in the English language.

 

 

 

In an example from a grade 7 teacher exploring Physical Patterns in a Changing World from the geography curriculum the teacher chooses to focus on the following expectation:

 

A.1.4: assess ways in which different peoples living in similar physical environments have responded to challenges and opportunities presented by these environments, and assess the sustainability of these responses.

 

Source:  http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/social-studies-history-geography-2018.pdf#page=181 

 

With a small group of English language learners working on STEP 1-3 from the STEP Observable Language Behaviours (OLB) Continua:

Source: Intermediate STEP OLB Continua

 

As part of this learning the teacher invites students to find a a place they know well or have visited on Google Maps.  The students find pictures of mountains, beaches or cities they have lived in or visited prior to moving to Canada.  The students write simple sentences in English or in their home language to describe the landforms in the location and how people live in these areas.  

 

The teacher decides that the word ‘sustainable’ is important for this conversation but acknowledges that though the multilingual learners can read and write in their home languages but also they are at the stage of learning to write’ high frequency words’ related to ‘key personal information’ in English.  The teacher chooses to invite students to translate the word ‘sustainable’, but also take a few minutes to explicitly teach the ‘ai’ spelling pattern.

 


The teacher returns to this spelling pattern the next day and asks the students to practice writing the same ‘ai’ words and use 1-2 of them orally in a sentence.  The teacher then models using the word ‘sustainable’ in 3 sentences using the information the students shared the day before about the locations they have visited.  

 

On the third day, the students are invited to write a sentence and a question using the word ‘sustainable’ to describe the familiar locations they found on Google Maps and wrote about 2 days earlier.

 

By taking few minutes each day to focus on the one big idea while starting with prior knowledge or experiences of the students, the teacher finds opportunities to acknowledge the current English skills of the students while continuing to build their knowledge of the English spelling patterns or sound-symbol relationships and key academic vocabulary that transfers between subject areas as guided by the STEP OLB Continua.

 

Using the STEP Framework and considering the importance of developing phonemic awareness and phonics skills while continuing to provide time for word study will guide instruction for ELLs of any age who in the process of developing academic English skills.  Responding to student needs within the context of curriculum learning provides the platform for engaging instruction where the student can build on prior knowledge of language rules.

 

What are other tools, strategies or resources that you use to build phonemic awareness, phonics skills (for more than the 26 letters) and for word study in support of the language development of ELLs in your classroom?

 

 


 

Christine Ignas is an ESL/ELD teacher and assessor in a medium size school board north of Toronto.    Prior to this role, she previously taught in the primary grades. She has worked in Egypt, Japan, Czech Republic and South Korea.  She is currently a co-chair along side 2 amazing educators for the English Resource Group of Ontario (ERGO). When not at work you can find her rowing, hiking, skiing, back-country camping and (before the days of Covid) travelling.

 

 

 

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Marroquin, R. (2020). Contact Magazine, Fall 2020. Retrieved February 19, 2021 from http://contact.teslontario.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Marroquin.pdf

 

This article depicts the different sounds that certain vowels and consonants acquire, either on their own or when put together with another one. Starting from this point of departure, the intention of the article is to support teachers, especially of English language learners (both as L1 and L2), specifically at an early step of language acquisition (in ESL program as step 1 and 2) but not limited to.  The English language has numerous language irregularities clearly visible when one reads it. For this reason, I find it important to help the teacher realize how to anticipate any language blocks that an ELL may incur, specifically with reading. Hence why this article was written. Though there are more that could be added to this document, it provides a starting point to the complexity of our English language.

 

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By: Ricardo Marroquín, Assessor at Reception Centre, HWDSB

 

Our Silent Journey was written with two specific intentions in mind: to tell a story with a common theme that most immigrants experience when coming to a new country, and to help educators understand the sacrifices that a newcomer makes when emigrating.  These two intended themes are brought together in this novel through a story told by an eleven-year-old boy from Peru.  

 

There are many reasons why an immigrant leaves his/her country; whether it is due to persecution (religious, political, or other kind), work, new opportunities or to provide a better future to the family. Nevertheless, it is certain that anyone who embarks in a new adventure, tends to leave a part of oneself behind.  

 

For this reason, it is crucial to open our hearts with no strings attached and genuinely help our neighbour, especially when he/she feels vulnerable in a new country. Our Silent Journey’s mission is to tell others of the emotional rollercoaster encountered as an immigrant and how a newcomer would deeply benefit from the new friendships made and the importance of how to give an “English” voice to those who cannot yet communicate in our Canadian society.  

 

As an immigrant and a second language learner, I wanted to encapsulate in a novel, my own personal experience and the various emotions felt throughout the journey of making Canada my new home. I also wanted to convey the message to other immigrants that in addition to Canada having so much to offer, so does one to this society. Furthermore, aside from the culture, language, and food, one also brings one's own dreams, perspectives, and skills, which in turn aids the new community in becoming more diverse, inclusive, and complete.   

 

While reading, teachers may consider:

 

  • What are the perspectives, skills and dreams of the students in your class?  
  • What space and opportunities do students have to share their voice (in English or other languages) as part of the learning in your classroom?  
  • What are the multiple identities of your students, that go deeper than the surface culture of language, food and clothing? 
  • How can culture be used as a resource for learning?
  • How can you support a student who has left his home country due to war?
  • How can you prepare an inclusive and safe space where all your ELLs can feel welcome to participate?
  • What ideas do you use to elevate the different cultures of your ELLs 

Here is my story:

 

Our Silent Journey – Summary

 

 

Our Silent Journey (English Edition)

El sobrino de las tías (Spanish Edition) 

 

Delving into this new and unexpected adventure in a new country, Canada, Martín did not know how to manage his emotions. Canada, a country that embraced both him and his family, was so very much different from his birth country, Peru. He grappled with mixed emotions. He was ready to explore this new place with anticipation, yet also feeling like he was falling into an abyss, as it also meant leaving his relatives and friends behind, and the life he was so accustomed to. Focusing on the new horizon and immigrating to Canada meant that he could finally be reunited with his dad, who had to flee his homeland in Peru.  

 

Martin’s journey is filled with many hurdles and obstacles that he must overcome, and adventures that often would bring him back to the past, reflecting on how it was and where his journey first began. Step into this journey with Martín and see how his life unfolds in a new culture and language, and how his greatest privilege comes from enduring many obstacles. Our Silent Journey takes you to another place and time and is a great reminder of the difficulties and challenges that a newcomer faces, as well as the blessings that also await. The greatest sacrifice of Martin’s dad was having to leave behind his beloved family, to embark on a perilous trek to Canada.  Nevertheless, his sacrifice will sprout new possibilities for all of them, and one that is filled with hope and new beginnings.  

 

Please feel free to visit the Facebook group for Our Silent Journey for reading posts and language comments by the author:

www.facebook.com/groups/oursilentjourney/ 

  

 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

About the Author:

 

Dr. Ricardo-Martín Marroquín has taught second languages for more than fifteen years. These include, English, French, Spanish and Italian. He is an adjunct professor at Redeemer University (Ancaster, ON) and the Assessor for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) in Hamilton, ON.

 

His passion for teaching second language learners is clearly visible in his work. He contributes his findings in professional development and in his writings of novels and articles. He has recently published two novels; one in Spanish called El sobrino de las tías and a second one in English called Our Silent Journey. Additionally, he has authored a couple of articles called Cinema and the Teaching of an L2 in the Classroom (Animo Quarterly Winter 2021); The Complexity of Recognizing the ABCs for English Language Learners: More than twenty-six sounds (CONTACT Magazine November 2020 – TESL Ontario); and written a review for ITALICA Magazine (Spring 2014). 

 

Ricardo enjoys teaching ELLs, in addition to helping them find their English voice in our Canadian community.

 

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Distance Learning During a Pandemic

By: Kimiko Shibata, ESL/ELD Resource Teacher (K-8), WRDSB

 

On March 13, 2020, on the Friday before March Break, educators received an email telling us that all schools in Ontario would be closed for three weeks. We sent our students home at the end of the day with their indoor shoes, emptied out desks, and went home for what most of us thought would only be a few weeks. Little did we know that our lives were going to change drastically over the next several months.

 

Once we got word that our schools would be moving to emergency distance learning, staff swung into action, trying to make contact with every family at our schools to figure out who had reliable internet access, who needed paper copies of work to complete at home, and who might need technology to access online learning. 

 

This was an especially challenging time for many families, including those who had recently arrived in the country. Some students had arrived at our schools just days before March Break, and many were scared and confused. Some did not yet know how to access necessary community supports, including food, clothing, and healthcare.

 

Some of the families with whom I was working had lived through traumatic experiences such as famine and war before coming to Canada. They were understandably upset by the empty shelves in grocery stores and shortages of basic supplies such as canned goods and paper hygiene products. Many expressed fear about leaving their homes or riding the bus to access the Food Bank, or nutrition support programs. Some were scared to answer their phones, especially if phone numbers were blocked or they didn’t recognize the phone number.  

 

Our school board, like many others in the province, prioritized relationships and connection during school closures, and this made all the difference in our ability to recognize and meet the basic needs of some of our most vulnerable learners and their families.  Frequent check-ins with our families helped to keep the lines of connection open and to proactively address needs. 

 

School settlement workers and interpreters diligently worked around the clock with ESL and classroom educators to help us get in touch with our families, address needs, and connect students and families to necessary supports in our community. Family and Children’s Services workers also helped to meet the needs of some of our more vulnerable families during school closures. A few of our interpreters used innovative methods to try to get through to families, including using social media networks to reach out to families who were not answering their phones. Many school staff volunteered to do drop-offs of clothing, food, and school/art supplies to students. The manner in which everyone pulled together to support our families in need was inspiring.

 

Across the province emergency distance learning ran from March until the end of June 2020. School staff did their best to get technology out to the families that needed it, and to provide nurturing, challenging, and developmentally appropriate online learning for our students while also caring for our own families and loved ones at home. Connection and student wellbeing were at the forefront of all planning and interactions with our students and their families. The hours were long and the learning curve was steep, as we all figured out new methods to connect, teach, and learn.

 

Engagement with online learning was a challenge for many families, especially those for whom the technology was brand new. For some families who had lived in refugee camps before coming to Canada, this was their first time using any sort of computer. I spent many hours on the phone each day with parents and students, helping to troubleshoot everything from how to charge an iPad to logging into a Chromebook and learning how to access various learning platforms and turn in online assignments.  Many families were easily frustrated by the new technology and virtual classroom platforms, especially when students from the same family were using different platforms and websites for their classes.  It was also not uncommon for multiple students and parents in one home to be sharing only one piece of technology, which often made scheduling synchronous sessions for multiple teachers quite challenging.  While other families expressed concerns about synchronous learning, and were worried about their children or their homes being displayed on the internet or recordings made of their children. This was of particular concern for some of our families with refugee backgrounds. 

 

In September 2020, we had roughly 1500 English Language Learners enrolled in our full distance learning program.  Many of us were shocked to find out that the number of students who had chosen distance learning was so high, especially among our newcomer populations with refugee backgrounds and those living in lower-income neighbourhoods. Racialized communities that often face greater barriers to accessing health care are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and some families were scared that they wouldn’t be able to get the healthcare they would need if their children were infected.  Some families from areas of conflict who had lived through trauma were afraid to leave their homes or send their children to school. Some of our newcomer students live in multigenerational homes with household members who are at higher risk because of their age or preexisting health conditions, and this was a deciding factor in their chosen mode of schooling. 

 

By the end of September, an additional 3,000 elementary students indicated that they would like to move to the Distance Learning program. This brought us to approximately 12,000 students enrolled in the Elementary Distance Learning Program in the WRDSB.  

 

We know that this pandemic has deepened and exposed existing socio-economic and racial inequalities that exist in our communities, and many of us are concerned about gaps in education getting wider, especially for our newcomer students with limited prior schooling. ESL teachers are working hard to make online learning as accessible as possible for our students, including helping our classroom teaching partners in both distance learning and blended learning environments to leverage technology and intentional teaching and assessment strategies to support the success of our culturally and linguistically diverse learners.

 

Encouraging students to leverage their first language skills to access curriculum has made a huge difference to their understanding, participation and engagement in online learning. The Google Translate Chrome Extension has been used in the Chrome Browser to translate whole web pages, including classroom and assignment details in a Google Classroom.  This has allowed our linguistically diverse students and their families to use their home language to access course materials, information, and instructions, and also to translate webpages for content area research projects.  The "Slides Translator" add-on for Google Slides has also been helpful for students who can use their home language literacy skills to access grade level content and activity instructions. It has also been advantageous to share instructions and front-load important concepts and information in a Google Doc, so that material can be translated by the student using the Translate feature of Google Docs. Many of our students have also enjoyed reading texts online in their home languages, using sites such as:

Using visuals to support comprehension has made content more accessible and comprehensible for ALL students in distance learning programs, but is especially useful for our ELLs. Some of our teachers have been experimenting with the Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM) to help students develop content vocabulary and an understanding of sentence structure through the use of teacher-labelled pictures on slideshows and virtual whiteboards.  


 

Many of our early STEP students have found success in communicating ideas visually using slideshows, visual creation apps such as PicCollage, or on a collaborative jamboard. 

 

 

Students have also benefited from creating and using visual word walls for content areas to help them remember important content area vocabulary.  Some of our students from the same linguistic and cultural group working at different STEPs were able to co-create visual dual-language vocabulary charts, to help scaffold each others’ content area writing in culturally relevant ways.  

 

 

The Wordsift website has also been helpful in pulling up visuals to help our students to understand and use content area vocabulary. In many cases, the students themselves have been the creators of the visuals, or have located them using royalty-free image searches on sites such as Pixabay, Flaticon or The Noun Project.

 

 

Students have made good use of the Voice Typing tool in Google Docs, as well as some of the tools from Google Read and Write, such as the picture dictionary, visual vocabulary list builder, text-to-speech and speech-to-text functions. 

 

 

Some teachers have also used sites such as Rewordify to change the complexity level of certain texts to make content more accessible for students at early STEP levels.

 

 

The last several months have definitely been challenging for educators, students, and their families… but it has also shown just how deeply school staff and our community partners care about students.  I have been moved by the passion and compassion educators bring to their work with students and their families.  Everyday, educators demonstrate their commitment to student wellness and academic success, and I am proud to be a part of it.

 


 

Kimiko Shibata has been an educator in childcare settings, as well as a classroom teacher in Kindergarten, Primary, and Junior divisions. She holds ESL Specialist Qualifications and Special Education qualifications and is currently an ESL/ELD Resource Teacher for K-8 for the WRDSB. She is married to an IT professional and is the mother of an amazing small human. She can be found on Twitter: @ESL_fairy. Her website can be found at: https://teachers.wrdsb.ca/eslresources/

 

 

 

 

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