Mark Montgomery, Master's in Secondary Education, Endorsement in Science & Maria Martinez, Master's in Teaching, Elementary Education
School District Background
In Mark's and Maria's school district, most English Language Learners (ELLs) at the elementary level receive the majority of their instruction in the general education classroom. At the secondary level, Level 1 and Level 2 students receive sheltered classes in English Language Arts, Science, Math and Social Studies. Students at Level 3 or higher are served through a co-teaching model in the content areas.
Mark has taught middle school science for 14 years in Minnesota. He currently teaches all levels of eighth grade science. Maria has taught all ELL levels in middle school for 12 years and has co-taught science with Mark for four years.
Fifty percent of two of their science classes consist of ELLs. Fifty percent come from an Asian country (mainly Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and China), 20 percent are from a Spanish-speaking country, 15 percent come from Sudan or the Democratic Republic of Congo and 15 percent come from a Middle Eastern country. Students in
both classes are WIDA Level 3 or Level 4.
Mark and Maria co-teach and meet weekly to plan their lessons. This collaboration allows for planning, teaching and assessment of content and language objectives for ELLs in the mainstream classroom. They teach their science class two to three days per week (AB schedule) in an 80-minute block. Maria pre-teaches science vocabulary for all students and provides graphic organizers and notes to the ELL students. She also modifies the assessments that they give and scaffolds the in-class readings. Mark teaches the majority of the science concepts, and together they have students work in pairs and groups to complete labs and projects.
Challenge & Solution
Mark and Maria want their students to improve their understanding of science concepts, as well as their scores on the end of year state science test.The end of year science test is comprehensive and covers concepts taught over grades six through eight.
They chose Middlebury Interactive because they like that the four to five science themes at each level are aligned with WIDA and the Common Core. Additionally, they like that there are some themes specific to the science being taught in class. Mark and Maria felt that the Middlebury Interactive ELL curriculum would be a way for ELL students to enhance their science vocabulary and comprehension.
Middlebury Interactive ELL Course Usage
During cooperative learning activity time two days per week, ELL students work in the Middlebury Interactive's online course. These activities are organized by ability level which both Mark and Maria decide on in advance.
The Middlebury Interactive themes that Mark and Mary have selected are based on the science content that they teach throughout the year, as well as what they know will be on the state exam. At the beginning of the school year, they selected a theme that would introduce new academic vocabulary before they covered it in class. As the year has progressed, the themes either correlate directly with what students are learning or allow them to revisit material that needed further review before students take the end of year state science exam.
Time Allotted to Middlebury Interactive Courses
35 minutes two days per week are allotted to the Middlebury Interactive courses. The first week of the year was devoted to showing students how to use the program and how they would be assessed on their projects.
During their cooperative learning activity time two days per week, ELL students work in Middlebury Interactive in their appointed theme. As they complete the modules, they start working on their projects. ELL students have a project notebook where they keep track of their key vocabulary, graphic organizers and notes provided by Middlebury Interactive that they will compile into their projects. Maria works with the ELL students during this time and does verbal and written checks or understanding, while Mark works with the non-ELL students. Student participation and projects act as a lab grade. Outside of this time, all students work in mixed groups on in-class labs in order to ensure that everyone has collaboration time with native English speakers.
ELL students are also given homework to work on their Middlebury Interactive projects outside of class. Since some students do not have internet access at home, there is not a requirement for them to access the online program outside of class. However, students have access to the computer lab before and after school as well as during lunch. They are encouraged to access Middlebury material during these open lab times.
The professional development modules that Mark and Maria found the most useful were “Best Practices for Content Area Teachers,” “Blended ELL Learning Environment" and “Project-based Learning.” Maria had previously shared many strategies to help Mark with scaffolding academic language.
Mark and Maria appreciate that the Middlebury Interactive course they use to supplement instruction in class provides their ELLs with an opportunity to practice and see science vocabulary from a different perspective. The ELLs enjoy learning new vocabulary and concepts sometimes before the rest of the class. They say it makes them feel “smarter” that they know the answers before the other kids, and they like being able to explain and teach the material.
*Please note this scenario is based on possible implementations not actual usage.