Authored by Kathryn Manning, VATESOL K-12 SIG Leader
As we recalibrate ourselves to adding 23 to the end of the year, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the previous years and the value of change. It’s hard to believe it's been three whole years since COVID shifted instructional norms. At the same time that we dove into virtual learning, the ELL world also saw the introduction of new WIDA language standards, yet another change to be navigated.
As an educator, getting a 200+ page book packed full of shiny new standards can be a bit daunting, not to mention hefty. Once I got to work perusing the grade clusters and appreciating the color-packed and visual layout (WIDA never disappoints) it ended up being a refreshing and welcome change. With the latest 2020 ELD Standards update rolled out by WIDA, the task shifted to not just revamping my own instruction to be more intentional about language features and uses, but also getting my fellow teachers onboard the language standards train as well. To this end, I’ve found that the standards not only inform my own instruction and assessment of ELs, but also that of my content teacher colleagues as well. As demonstrated in my presentation at the Title III Consortium Conference last year, having ELD standards embedded within instruction benefits not just ELs, but all learners, a fact that my co-presenter and content co-teacher gladly hammered on at least five times (we kept mental tally marks) during our sessions.
In our co-planning we found that crafting authentic tasks (e.g. delivering a final verdict on a murder case) most easily facilitated incorporating language use within units. Once a language use was identified, we could then hold all learners accountable for academic language features through explicit instruction and modeling. By utilizing the ELD Standards bible (as I now call it), ELs were held to high expectations and academic rigor within each unit with supports embedded to further encourage and support language growth. With the continued chant of “good for all learners, but especially ELs”, K-12 educators can embrace the ELD standards in conjunction with Standards of Learning in our new era where all teachers support language standards, not just ELL teachers.
As we step into this new year, with some of us leaping while others may shuffle forward, still testing the waters, I encourage all of you to take a moment to reflect on the change that has happened up to this point, perhaps even finding new opportunities for growth. Three years ago as a newly-minted ELL teacher establishing the first LIEP at my school, collaboration with the standards seemed near impossible, as I was introduced at my first staff meeting not as a resource for supporting lessons, but as essentially the “ELL test giver”. Since then, through small, yet intentional steps, I have established norms for co-planning and coteaching with the ELD standards. All this to say, we are all working continuously with our learners, administrators, and content teachers to enact positive change. While sometimes it can feel like we’re stuck and not progressing, often all it takes is a little more time and the grace to accept that the work we do does have impact.