Vickie Virginia, Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, Endorsement in English for Speakers of Other Languages
School District Background
In Vickie’s school district, English Language Learners (ELLs) at the elementary level receive the majority of their instruction in an inclusive general education classroom with support from an ELL teacher. At the secondary level, entering and beginning English Language Learners receive sheltered classes in English Language Arts, Science, Math and Social Studies.
Vickie has taught middle and high school ELLs for 21 years in Virginia. She currently teaches both English and sheltered History to seventh grade ELLs.
Seventy five percent of her ELLs are from Mexico or Central/South America. The remaining 25 percent come
from a variety of areas around the world such as Nepal, Iraq, Burma, China and Sudan. Students in her classes
are WIDA proficiency Level 1 or Level 2 and are no longer considered Newcomers.
Vickie teaches these students English every day in a 90-minute block, and their sheltered History class two
to three days per week (AB schedule) in a 90-minute block.
Challenge & Solution
Vickie realizes that her students have significant challenges with needing to learn academic English in all content areas. Many of them do not have a strong academic background in their native language to draw from, and she wants to keep them engaged and prepared to potentially take grade level History the following year. Vickie also knows that the students can get “sick of” being in her classroom so much.
Vickie chose Middlebury Interactive because she likes the project-based approach and the respect for students’ culture and background that is embedded in the content. She appreciates the variety of themes that align with both WIDA and the academic content students learn in middle school, as well as the scaffolding that is already in place for students. Vickie felt that the Middlebury Interactive courses would be a way for ELL students to engage in learning academic English in a blended environment in both of her classes.
Middlebury Interactive ELL Course Usage
Vickie uses Middlebury Interactive in two ways.
1. In her sheltered History class, Vickie supplements her classroom instruction with Middlebury Interactive content. She pulled out several Middlebury Interactive themes that align with the History content she is
teaching this year. When they use the program, has students working together as a class to go through
the lessons. For example, Vickie supplemented her Greek and Roman History unit with the Middlebury
Interactive “Mythological Heroes” theme.
During the Middlebury Interactive time, Vickie projects the day’s lesson on the SMART board, introduces the lessons and uses the Middlebury Interactive learning goals and brainstorming activities at the beginning of the theme and module one in order to set expectations for what students will accomplish that day. Her students work through the lessons individually, in small groups that Vickie sets up during the class introduction or all together as a class depending on the lesson and content. She then has a class discussion about what they learned and what points of clarification they may need. Students keep a vocabulary and project notebook to keep track of key History vocabulary and plan their Middlebury Interactive projects.
2. In her English class, Vickie uses the Middlebury Interactive content to supplement her instruction. She has created a centers-based approach that has half of her students working as a group in Middlebury Interactive while she works with the other half using other curriculum to support their academic needs.
The groups have “sub groups” of mixed abilities so that classmates can help struggling students during independent centers with Middlebury Interactive lesson assignments that Vickie posts on the board. Vickie has mapped out Middlebury Interactive themes to support her students’ various language and academic needs through differentiated instruction. The two groups switch after 30 minutes. After the student groups have finished, she brings the class back together to share what they learned that day and what areas they still need further review.
In both of her classes, Vickie places a great deal of emphasis on the projects that students create
and present. Students use notebooks to build their project ideas through the modules,
which culminates in a final project. She expects students to incorporate the academic vocabulary that they have learned both through written and oral work into their projects. Additionally, Vickie takes the self- and peer-assessment components of the Middlebury Interactive course seriously and grades the peer feedback and the self-reflection activities at a higher percentage than the embedded quizzes. She finds that these activities allow students to reflect on their own learning and what knowledge they gleaned from their peers’ comments.
Time Allotted to Middlebury Interactive Courses
In Vickie’s History class, students spend 40 minutes one day per week. In her English class, students spend 30 minutes, three days per week on the curriculum.
The professional development modules from Middlebury Interactive that Vickie found the most useful were “Blended ELL Learning Environment," “Project-based Learning" and “Differentiated Learning”. Although Vickie has many years of experience working with ELLs, she appreciated the support on how to develop a blended learning environment. She also utilizes the Community of Practice for ELL Teachers on the Middlebury Interactive Professional Development website to share ideas and tips with other ELL teachers.
Vickie has noticed that her students enjoy their Middlebury Interactive time, are more engaged and have a sense of pride in their growth and accomplishments. The students love doing the projects and sharing their culture through them with the class, and have even presented their projects to groups of sixth grade students. Their projects are showcased both in her room and in a special section of the library. Her students have told her that they feel like they are learning so much more and really like the videos of students from all backgrounds. Vickie also appreciates that the Middlebury Interactive themes are academically solid, comprehensive, and do not require significant preparation on her part.
*Please note this scenario is based on possible implementations not actual usage.