Tuesday, November 11, 2014

From PD to Action

Last Tuesday we had a professional development day at school. I was given the task of talking about SIOP and WIDA.

I had seen a picture on twitter that showed English language proficiency levels on a poster. I decided to modify that idea and use the WIDA proficiency levels that my teachers are familiar with on my poster.

But first, I posted the WIDA levels around the room, and asked teachers to stand in front of the level they feel the most comfortable teaching. Seeing the teachers around the room was very telling. When the majority of secondary ELA teachers are standing in front of the proficient sign (=reaching), I can understand their frustration with lower level students. Or when only two teachers were standing in front of the Entering sign (the lowest level), it showed that even teachers who have years of experience teaching ELLs in their classrooms, finding ways to help the newcomers is not easy.

Then we moved into looking at tasks in the classroom; based on science, math, social studies and ELA common core standards. We looked at where those tasks would fall in the continuum. What tasks English Language Learners would be able to do at what levels of proficiency.

The table discussion where very interesting. Here are a few snippets of conversation:

  • if this task had a word bank,  lower level students could also do it
  • does this mean it needs multiple paragraphs-like 5-or would just three also work?
  • could the students use a dictionary while doing this assignment?
  • do they just have to do the math or do they have to explain how or why they did it in certain way?
  • what grade level are we talking about? Writing a paragraph in third grade is very different than writing it on ninth grade. What level should we give this task?
  • If I added visual could lower level students be able to do this task?
  • "describe the characters"--how do we know what vocabulary they need to use? Are the names of the characters enough or do they need to use more academic language like protagonist and antagonist?
Teachers were talking. Conversations were happening. Everyone was thinking. Isn't this what good teachers do? They are trying to find ways for everyone to participate in the lesson.

I also had a chance to give a lesson in Finnish! I did it to demonstrate to the teachers what a student might feel like who has no idea what the teacher is saying. It was interesting. And also a bit challenging for me as I don't usually talk in Finnish much less teach in Finnish. (Good thing nobody understood my mistakes .)

Learning was still happening the following day. I went to pick up a group of elementary students, and their teacher showed how he had materials ready for me--including the visuals. I had had at least one teacher who had heard my message on how to teach ELLs. Job well done?

(In case you are not familiar with either, SIOP stands for Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, and WIDA stands for World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment.) 


  1. Janna,
    It sounds like your PD time was very productive. I love having teachers sort themselves into groups based on their perceptions. As you said, "so telling!" It's easy to get swept up in the "proficient" side of the world!
    Thanks for explaining SIOP and WIDA - I had guessed but was not accurate!

  2. Looks and sounds like a rich PD meeting. Good questions and discussion. If even one participant took action, yes, job well done! (I believe there were more, just they didn't come to you.)

  3. Yes, job well done! Getting the conversation going is a huge step in the right direction.

  4. Yay for visuals! I would have loved to try the Finnish lesson. Great work Jaana. zo

  5. Love the visuals, Jaana - and the fact that you filled us in on those acronyms!

  6. Sounds like a very productive and engaging PD, Jaana. I have been using post-its a lot to help create visuals. Glad it was well received.

  7. Sounds like you got your point across in a very effective way. I always felt that the first step to solving a problem is to get people to talk about it. Sounds like you did just that.

  8. Conversation always deepens the understanding. I bet your lesson in Finnish opened some eyes as to what it is like not to understand the language. Great job!

  9. I love this, Jaana: "Teachers were talking. Conversations were happening." It always feels so critical that teacher colleagues share what they're doing and question/help each other. You brought some rich detail to the table for everyone to partake and ponder. Nice to hear, Jaana. And I love the Finnish lesson, excellent idea.

  10. Jaana, sounds like you are the perfect PD presenter. I love it when we actually get to work at a PD and come away with a useful tool or strategy at the end of the session. Good job on promoting great conversation in your school. Loved that you did a lesson in Finnish. :)

  11. BRAVO! You and I were on the same wavelength yesterday and working on the same philosophy. Expertise in the participant audience needs to be respected and panned for gold.


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