Tuesday, November 1, 2011


"Go ahead and start on your math sheet," EL teacher Amber directed. "I'll be with you in a moment." She scooted over to the other table with the other students' needs. 

Multiple students, multiple levels, multiple needs. Such is the life of a teacher.

Pound, pound, pound. Amber was interrupted by the harsh sound of pencil meeting textbook. Little eyes glanced back and forth between distressed student and concerned teacher.

Teaching reaches far beyond pure academics.

Eduardo had zoned from the classroom. "Eduardo," Amber began. No response. "Eduardo!" Still the pound, pound, pound of hopelessness. "Students, you may go back to class," Amber directed, sending the three scurrying from the room. She crouched down on all fours next to his spot on the carpet. "Eduardo!" she called. Fingers snapped, zone broken.

"I just don't understand, Mrs. Cotherman." And difficult it was. Multiple step problems with a new skill set.

New language, new content. Big words, big risk of failure. 

"Don't worry, Eduardo, we can do it together."
"But it's due today!"

Amber was able to pour confidence into the frustrated sixth grader by reminding him of what he did know, what he was capable of. And by reading the questions to him, helping him dissect the many words that he did know but that had jumbled themselves all together, and looking for those key words (in this case, "percentage" and "total"), he was able to complete his assignment. Even on time.

There are lots of modifications for ELs in mainstream classrooms. One of them is extra time (time-and-a-half). Another is being read the material. But it is never dumbing down the content. Make content accessible. Amber did.

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