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Another Career Saved Through Effective Professional Development

By Jana Echevarria, Ph.D.8170_lpd_HR_mod_Page_1_Image_0003

The title of this post may sound hyperbolic, but the truth is that teaching can often be an isolated and lonely profession, especially when teachers feel that they are not reaching their students or seeing the learning results that inspired them to become teachers in the first place. That’s where ongoing professional development comes in.

When teachers have the opportunity to learn and grow professionally, to try out research-validated practices that are effective in helping students make academic gains, and in the case of English learners, improve their language proficiency, it can be immensely rewarding.

Recently a teacher who took an online PD course emailed the instructor to express thanks for helping her to create lesson plans that incorporate features of the SIOP Model, features that ensure that lessons are comprehensible for English learners and concurrently develop academic English proficiency. She added, “ I am really delighted with the SIOP Model and will practice it until I have it down completely. I have applied all that I understand about it thus far to my lesson plan.”

After implementing the lesson plan the following week, she sent the update below to the instructor:

I implemented only some of the lesson to my freshmen class to try it out and it made me feel so much more successful than I have ever felt in the full 15 years I’ve been teaching. I think you and your colleagues are on to something with SIOP! T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U! You came into my life just in the nick of time. I was headed out of teaching all together after this year because I didn’t believe that I could help students anymore. SIOP has given me hope!:)

SIOP trainers often hear stories like this one about how the right PD at the right time has dramatically affected teachers’ practice and outlook.

 Effective professional development provides teachers with a setting through which to collaborate with other educators, acquire new knowledge to deepen their understanding of best practice, plan and analyze lessons, and discuss implementation successes and challenges. The process offers teacher the tools and support they need to work more successfully with students. Without it, they can become disheartened, and worse, leave the profession.

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…)

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