Friday, February 20, 2015

How explicit is my teaching?

Today I was a part of a panel discussion for teachers who may be embarking in a new direction of English as an additional Language or Dialect (EALD) teaching. I'm no expert, and funnily enough, that is the very reason I was asked to be there. It wasn't too long ago that I was given this wonderful opportunity to work with EALD students as part of the Intensive English Language Program (IELP) and so I can definitely relate to how these educators are feeling. 

I had 2-3 minutes to introduce myself and explain my role, which is no easy feat and it was after in the car (as it always is) I was thinking of all the other things I would have loved to say. I am a teacher in a Reception-Year 2 classroom of EALD learners. I have been teaching in IELP since 2011 and have had various roles in that time. 

Once I had finished my introduction I was asked the question "So how explicit is your teaching?" and I tried to reinforce how important this was but again, there were so many things that I could have said, given the time. This is what this blog post is about, for all those teachers out there who have EALD learners in their class. Being explicit with your teaching is key to how successful EALD learners will be. 

It is not about assuming that the EALD learner does not 'know anything' because they come with a wealth of knowledge and previous learning, whether this be from school, home or their community. It is about recognising that your learners may not understand the vocabulary you are using and asking them to use within the context of your classroom. Understanding that some learners have never been to school before. Acknowledging that some of your learners have had extremely traumatic experiences and may still be experiencing challenges in Australia surrounding separation of family, settlement, permanency, living situations and so on. 

These are the teaching practices that I incorporate in my classroom wherever possible to make learning explicit or to guide my planning in order to achieve this

  • Use photographs instead of cartoons. These should be relevant to students and depict behaviours that you expect of your students or photos representing specific vocabulary e.g. sitting on the mat, lining up at the door, cutting with scissors, book, pencil, car etc. 
  • Encouraging students to not erase during writing time. I use this to assess where my students are and what they may need more support with. 
  • Implementing the principles of Functional Grammar.
  • Seeing mistakes as a learning tool
  • Brainstorming with my students before a unit of work to determine the previous knowledge that they have about a particular concept. Mapping the various entry points of my students in the unit plan/curriculum.
  • Design a Teaching and Learning Cycle or Backwards Planning
  • Being very clear with students when they have achieved an outcome or when they are on the way of achieving that goal. Letting them know that they are successful.
  • Modelling behaviour and learning e.g. modelling reading strategies through big books or pair reading. 
  • Making learning visual e.g. making a journal of learning or posters, charts, photographs
  • Using peers and BSSOs in a positive way and encouraging students in both English and their home languages.
  • Allowing students to play and explore the classroom. Hands on learning offers a greater chance of cementing knowledge. 

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