Carlos Torres, Masters in Spanish, Endorsements in TESOL and Bilingual Education
School District Background
In Carlos’ school district, Newcomer, Level 1 and 2 English Language Learners (ELLs) at the middle school level receive the majority of their instruction in sheltered classes in English Language Arts, Science, Math and Social Studies with an intervention class for ELL instruction offered daily for 90 minutes.
Carlos has taught middle and high school Spanish and ELL for 15 years in Colorado. He currently teaches both Spanish and ELL, and serves as the ELL support for the seventh grade content team.
Sixty percent of Carlos’ ELLs are from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries or Central/South America. The remaining 40 percent are primarily of Asian descent or Karenni or Kayin refugees from Burma. Students in Carlos’ classes are primarily Level 1 and Level 2 on the Las Links assessment and are no longer considered entering Newcomers. Carlos teaches students English every day in a 90-minute block, and supports the sheltered seventh grade team daily during two 90-minute blocks.
Challenge & Solution
Carlos tends to focus his classes on supporting students to build academic English skills, as well as middle school study and social skills. Many of the students have had interrupted formal school experience and are working hard to catch up with their peers and be active participants in the classrooms. Carlos is a participant in a cohort of teachers implementing a new centers-based, ELL intervention program using blended learning strategies. The teachers were invited to participate at the onset of the school year. Their professional development included an intensive day-long workshop at the beginning of the year, followed by intensive building-level and district-level coaching support. Carlos’ district chose Middlebury Interactive ELL because, as a task- and project-based set of supplemental curriculum units, the themes provide an engaging curriculum, aligned to grade-level topics.
The curriculum is also aligned to essential proficiency standards, such as ELPA21 and WIDA, as well as Common Core and Expeditionary Learning. The units also provide opportunities for students to learn about the cultures of their classmates while sharing their own experiences. Carlos integrates the various print resources that accompany the online curriculum to support academic and literacy skill development. Thanks to the centers-based teaching approach, Carlos personalizes scaffolding and teacher-led intervention for small groups and individual instruction.
Middlebury Interactive ELL Course Usage
Carlos integrates the Middlebury Interactive modules primarily within his own intervention classroom using whole group instruction or in centers where students work on focused independent lessons, typically with online activities, in pairs or in small groups. As an ELL teacher for the seventh grade team, Carlos also aligns the theme and project-based Middlebury Interactive curriculum in collaboration with the seventh grade team. Carlos and the team meet during shared planning periods to discuss how he is using the curriculum and the crossover opportunities (e.g., vocabulary, writing assignments, projects, etc.) to support ELL students in the content classrooms as well.
During the intervention classroom, Carlos usually starts the day with whole group instruction, using the welcome theme activity or module introduction to brainstorm and help students identify clues and build inference skills. Carlos then assigns the students to classroom centers to address vocabulary, reading, writing, listening and speaking target objectives, including including small-group instruction with him. Typically, one group of six to eight students works with the Middlebury Interactive online modules, while the others work individually or in small groups on aligned off-line activities in support of the ultimate Middlebury Interactive project.
Students working with the online modules find report that they are able to progress at their own pace or work on activities, including review and repeating of activity content, to build, understand, and reinforce language skills and comprehension of content. Students may rotate through the centers with a minimum of 20 minutes in each center. Each class period concludes with a large group check-in or teacher-led integration activity. Carlos integrates the SMART board for teacher- and student-led activities. Students keep a project notebook as part of their learning.
Middlebury Interactive provides 20 themes per course for teachers to choose from. These themes are aligned with grade- and age-relevant Science, Math, Social Studies and English Language Arts priority topics, approximately five themes per content area focus. Because the themes are supplemental and do not need
to be completed in sequential order, Carlos works with the content teachers in the seventh grade team to identify the themes that are closely aligned with the academic focus of their classroom. The team recognizes that they have the option to use some or all of the themes based on time and relevance. Therefore, the team revisits the scope and sequence every other week to confirm or reprioritize the themes over the course of the grading period.
Time Allotted to Middlebury Interactive Courses
Carlos meets with students in 90-minute blocks for ELL intervention, using the Middlebury Interactive online modules for approximately 20 to 30 minutes per class period. On average, students complete each theme (four modules plus the project module) within about four weeks. Each semester, Carlos schedules an afterschool night with parents for students to present individually and collaboratively their projects and for parents to experience some of the online and project activities students have been working on. Carlos’ record of 100% participation by parents at these meetings exceeds any record the school experienced in any preceding parent activity for any group of students.
The cross-district cohort of 15 teachers met for a day-long intensive professional development session at the beginning of the year to learn how to access the online modules and define how they would set up centers in their classrooms. They followed up with a second day-long intensive in January. District- and school-based coaches provide weekly support to the teachers in the use of the online courses as they evolve their blended learning ELL intervention programs.
In addition, the teachers and coaches regularly visit the Middlebury Interactive Community of Practice to share questions or best practices, and they access supplemental documents and extension activities on the Middlebury Interactive Professional Development website each week. These resources support the teachers in providing personalized teaching and scaffolding for students. The team also has access to online professional development webinars. The professional development modules that the team found the most useful were “Blended ELL Learning Environment,” “Project-based Learning” and “Differentiated Learning.”
Carlos has noticed that his students enjoy their Middlebury Interactive time, are more engaged and have a sense of pride in their growth and accomplishments. He also believes the students have developed confidence in the use of English language among ELL peers and other students. The students love doing the projects and sharing their culture through them with the class and have even presented their projects to groups of students and parents. Their projects are showcased both in the ELL and seventh grade content classrooms, and in school hallway display areas. Carlos has also developed a renewed sense of joy in his teaching, recognizing the gains kids have made and enjoying his own learning as he develops—and now leads—blended learning strategies in his school.
*Please note this scenario is based on possible implementations not actual usage.