Student Engagement

The Amazing Talents of Teachers

By Jana Echevarria, Ph.D.

Those of us who have the privilege of working with teachers know that there is a plethora of talent in our profession. In addition to being excellent teachers, many are also very creative and use their creativity in ways that benefit their students. In this case, a creative “student” amazed his “teacher.” What do I mean?

Aaron Reid is a teacher who was taking an online SIOP class, called a SIOP Virtual Institute. SIOP professional developer Amy Washam was his “teacher” or the facilitator of the Virtual Institute. As part of the week’s assignment, students were asked how implementation of the SIOP Model’s features lead to differentiated classroom instruction and language development for English learners? Here is Aaron’s a creative and poetic response.

A SIOP-less Class

by Aaron Reid

Are you surprised at the amount of teachers who don’t prepare lessons for their students…?  That’s not even fair. Now consider yourself a student whose is not a native speaker, listening to the inane prattles of an unprepared teacher!

Spouting facts and figures, clumsily put together, rather than intriguing content and meaningful endeavors. Imagine your background not considered, your culture ignored, strange vocabulary without scaffold written on the chalkboard.

Words approaching so fast, you can barely make them out. No models, no visuals, you’d definitely be filled with doubt. Only one way to complete tasks that you don’t understand. No scaffolding, no support, no one lending a hand.

Question asked…you’re thinking… but given no “wait time”, Teacher glares…you’re sinking… is thinking a war crime? Collaborative conversations don’t exist so you’re the “dumb” kid. Never speaking, in the corner, determined to stay off the grid.

Manipulatives make it easy but you don’t know their operation. The only time you see manipulatives is during your teacher’s observation. Unsure of what you’re supposed to know, terrified to do your best…Another English learner victim of the reading benchmark test…

 Whew…!  That’s a lot!  But that was just a nightmare. After all, that would be more than you could bear. 15 years of SIOP has made the classroom a brighter place so optimized learning English learners can embrace!

Helping Students Make the Most of Learning Strategies

By Andrea Rients

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The word “strategies” is thrown around in teaching like a hot potato. Strategies for tough kids, for good kids, for high flyers, for students who love video games, for students who don’t love video games, for kids who only sort of like video games! How do educators know what techniques to use in the classroom to gain the biggest impact on student achievement? Strategies are only helpful to students if students internalize them and are able to consciously and independently apply them to their own learning.

Too often, for example, we give students a graphic organizer, help them fill it out, and feel satisfied that we’ve provided our students with a tool to organize information.  The problem arises when we take away the graphic organizer and expect students to do this on their own, and we realize that students are lost.  This is due to a common misconception about teaching strategies. As educators, our job is not just to provide the graphic organizer and help students use it one time,  but to teach them in what instances this graphic organizer would be helpful and when it can be used again in the future.  In short, we need to teach students to internalize the strategies we use in the classroom. This means that giving students the declarative knowledge (e.g., draw a Venn Diagram in your notebooks and fill it out) is not enough for students to internalize the strategy and see value in its use; we must also explicitly teach the procedural knowledge (how to) and the conditional knowledge (why I would use this again) to our students.

By consciously planning activities and teaching the declarative as well as the procedural and conditional knowledge, teachers will see a dramatic increase in their students’ understanding of strategies, which will result in students  becoming better independent readers, thinkers, and learners.