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Safe Learning Environment

Students know that teasing and bullying are not tolerated in my classroom. It is stated in my syllabus which is read on the first day of school, and is a standard I consistently maintain.

Because students feel safe in my classroom, we can engage in thought-provoking units like the religion unit the advanced class recently finished. Students asked questions about each other’s religions and did a research project for extra credit about their religion or the religion of their choice.

Standard 6, Criterion E: Creates a safe and purposeful learning environment.


Routines, Instructional Time, and Student Responsibility

In two of my classes, students know to begin working on an activity written on the board as soon as they come in the door. Often, for beginners, I’ll hand out a strip of paper divided into three boxes and give instructions for what they should draw in each box and what type of labels they should include. This is useful for science review, quickly sharing what they did over the weekend, or preparing them to answer questions about any topic. (Learned from after school professional development with ELL department.) For my advanced class, journal questions that are thought-provoking or are related to the unit are on the board for them to begin answering when they come in.

Conversation cards are good ways to practice speaking in an odd few moments of a class period. Teachers and students can work together to use response frames (learned at ICLC) so that students produce quality answers.

Oral literature is an engaging way for students to practice listening. In fact, students have enjoyed one book I read aloud so much that getting to listen to me read aloud for five minutes was incentive to work hard and pay attention during the last period on a Friday afternoon!

In some classes where students developed habits of coming in unprepared or not speaking, I added a few participation points to the grading system. Students receive points when they come to class prepared, when they share an answer in the whole group, small group, or with a partner, or when they are actively working and being attentive throughout class. Although this accounts for only a small portion of their grade, it sends the message that they need to be responsible for themselves. Below is the chart I use to record points.

Standard 6, Criterion C: Develops and implements classroom procedures and routines that support high expectations for learning

Standard 6, Criterion D: Uses instructional time effectively to maximize student achievement

Standard 7, Criterion C: Aplies research, knowledge, and skills from professional development opportunities to improve practice


Pre-assessments that use pictures and words help us to find out what science and language knowledge students have. The science co-teacher and I work together to discover these skills through a pre-assessment.

During a unit, it is important to find out if students are picking up important concepts. Daily journals allow teachers to see if students are picking up on all the items they need to know in order to gain the big understandings of the unit.

Standard 5, Criterion C: Understands and uses the results of multiple assessments to guide planning and instruction

Standard 5, Criterion F: Works with other staff and building and district leadership in analysis of student progress

Varied Experiences

Current brain research tells us that varying student experiences allows them to remember more of what they learn. When possible, I try to incorporate creative activities that don’t feel like learning, but often allow students learn much more than they would with a paper and pencil.

In sheltered science, students learn about the concept of interdependence by holding hands across a circle and trying to untangle themselves. This allows students with spatial strengths to take leadership, when they might hesitate to participate in more traditional academic tasks.

Students in the intermediate class practice using imperatives in a how-to speech. The girl on the left taught the class how to put on a Muslim head scarf.

In an advanced unit based on music and art, students answer journal questions with their opinions about art and about historical figures from the reading. This unit culminates in students choosing to take a traditional test, write an essay, or do a powerpoint presentation. The favorite option is to do a power point presentation on the musician or artist of the student’s choice.

Standard 3, Criterion C: Uses students’ developmental needs, background, and interests in planning for instruction

Standard 3, Criterion D: Selects strategies to engage all students in learning

Standard 4, Criterion D: Engages students in varied experiences that meet diverse needs and promote social, emotional, and academic growth

Standard 4, Criterion E: Connects students’ prior knowledge, life experiences, and interests in the instructional process

Teaching Science and Language

Co-teaching a sheltered science class gives me many opportunities to relate ideas across content areas. Often, we use engaging, memorable experiences to facilitate understanding of a concept. When students understand a concept, they can connect the English word to the concept and construct real meaning. In the picture above, students are demonstrating that there needs to be more producers than consumers in order for the consumers to survive.

Many words used in science also have a separate meanings in mainstream settings. The worksheet above was used in a unit on body systems.

Students practice academic English by asking journal questions. Students are asked to use the language skills they learn in class, and may be asked a content question about language in the journal. Otherwise, science based questions are asked.

Standard 2, Criterion C: Relates ideas and information within and across content areas.

Collaboration for student learning

I have enjoyed collaborating to co-teach a sheltered science class for ELLs. I have learned many things about classroom management, inquiry learning, and differentiation through our work together.

This summer, I look forward to collaborating with a Reading Strategies teacher and an English 9 teacher to make our courses work together effectively.

Standard 7, Criterion B: Works collaboratively to improve professional praactice and student learning.

Differentiated Instruction Presentation & Building DI Team

During the 2010-2011 school year, a colleague and I prepared and presented a two-part series addressing differentiation for ELLs. When we discovered that a team was being compiled to create DI profesional development for our building next year, we joined. I look forward to continuing to learn about DI through the advanced summer workshop, reading Tomlinson’s books, and reading other relevant works, such as Mindset, by Dweck.

Standard 1, Criterion F: Participates in and contributes to a school culture that focuses on improved student learning.

Standard 1, Criterion G: Communicates with students, families, colleagues, and communities effectively and accurately.

Standard 7, Criterion A: Demonstrtes habits and skills of continuous inquiry and learning.

Standard 7, Criterion B: Works collaboratively to improve profession practice and student learning.

Standard 8, Criterion C: Contributes to efforts to achieve district and building goals.

Standard 8, Criterion E: Collaborates with students, families, colleagues, and communities to enhance student learning.