Month: June 2014

What Makes Professional Development Effective?

By MaryEllen Vogt

For the SIOP National Conference next month in Dallas, I’m presenting a keynote titled, “The Adventures of a SIOP Professional Developer.” I’ll be telling some humorous stories as shared by a couple of SIOP consultants, as well as an anecdote or two from my own experiences while teaching the SIOP Model to thousands of teachers and administrators over the past fifteen years.

But, I have a greater purpose for this presentation than just sharing a few funny stories. More importantly, I’ll be sharing information from a review of research about what constitutes effective professional development, and how we can use research findings to create effective PD that will lead to improved implementation of the SIOP Model. As an example, I’ve learned from a research review (and from my own experience) that effective SIOP professional development is:

  • Highly interactive
  • Respectful of divergent perspectives
  • Dialogic (dialogue is valued)
  • Goal-oriented
  • Ongoing (learning to implement the SIOP Model to a high degree takes time; it’s a process)
  • Sustainable (unlike other PD efforts, schools implementing the SIOP Model know they’re in it for the long haul)
  • Embedded in classroom and school contexts
  • Substantive (includes increased knowledge of learning and teaching)
  • Collaborative
  • Designed with adult learning theories in mind.


Teaching Content and Academic Language Concurrently

By  MaryEllen VogtImage

One reason that the SIOP Model has struck a nerve with so many educators, in addition to the proven academic gains for English learners, is that teachers see that we cannot wait until English learners are proficient in academic English before we teach them the grade-level content concepts they need to succeed.  Also, teachers have realized that just because students seem to speak English effortlessly when they’re on the playground or in the lunchroom, it doesn’t mean that they have mastered academic English, “the set of words, grammar, and organizational strategies used to describe complex ideas, higher-order thinking processes, and abstract concepts” (Zwiers, 2008, p. 20).  We now know that in order for English learners to succeed academically, they must be taught content concepts and the related academic language of that content concurrently.

What follows are some practical tips and ideas for teaching content and academic language together during your lessons. For this blog entry, I’m using science as the content but the principles certainly extend to any other content area (see Short, Vogt, & Echevarria, 2011, for more science ideas).  Remember that the SIOP Model has been shown to be effective for all students, not just English learners. (more…)

21st Century Academic Skills in School and Beyond

By Deborah ShortImage

Increasingly educators are realizing that the development of academic language skills among all learners is important for success in school, in college, and in a career. Academic language involves decoding meaning—determining what a text says, a question asks, or a task requires, and encoding meaning—expressing one’s thoughts so they may be shared with others. The skills needed for students and workers in the 21st century include analytical reading and writing, clear communication, critical thinking, and creativity. These skills are conveyed in the new Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics and in the Next Generation Science Standards as well.

Analytical reading and writing skills build on foundation skills of early literacy, basic reading comprehension, and simple sentence formation. Making inferences about what is read and crafting an argument in writing to express an opinion pull together a number of complex cognitive processes. We must sort through multiple ideas, tap background knowledge, provide details, elaborate, and justify.

Clear communication involves the use of precise words, planning for a specific audience, and the ability to be responsive to the feedback in a conversation. If someone does not understand an utterance, then the speaker must rephrase or provide an example or find another way to make the message clear. If the listener has a follow-up question, the speaker must think about a response and then provide it. (more…)

Starting out with the SIOP Model: Two Teachers’ Story

start 2

Below is a story shared with us by Patricia Bradley of the Western Academy of Beijing about her and fellow teacher Eleanor Brock’s experiences implementing the SIOP Model in their classrooms and school. We thought it might be inspiring to others just starting out with the Model and so wanted to share it with you.

My colleague Eleanor and I set a goal at the beginning of the year to implement the whole model in our classes. We soon realized that the whole model was too much to take on all at once so we decided to concentrate on the first two features, CO [content objectives] and LO [language objectives].

We saw such dramatic changes in our teaching and the student learning that we made a presentation to our faculty and invited those interested to join us in committing to writing a CO and LO for two weeks. Eleanor and I sent out daily emails to support our 16 colleagues—essentially, we made the content about objectives in the SIOP book comprehensible for our colleagues. At the end of the two weeks, we asked the teachers to survey their students. We also met as a group with the HS principal to share our experience.

The results of the experiment far exceeded our expectations. Of the 125 students surveyed, 94.4% found the COs helpful, 85.6% found the LOs helpful. In a follow-up meeting with the HS principal, the teachers spoke of the new clarity they have about their lessons, the increased empathy they have for students, and the changes they see in student work. Eleanor and I are amazed at the impact that just these two features have had. We think they might be the most important of the whole SIOP model!

I’ve been teaching for 32 years—10 in the States and 22 overseas. I will be leaving my ESL teaching job at Western Academy of Beijing in June for what my husband and I are calling our “extended sabbatical”.  My SIOP work has helped make this year one of the best in my teaching career.