Posts Tagged ‘Bilingual/ESL’

Anchor Charts: Let the Walls Teach

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

AUTHOR: Esmeralda Alday, Bilingual

One of the first things I notice when I walk into a classroom is a teacher’s use of wall space. Having always taught multiple grade levels – in some of the smallest classrooms on campus – in one school year, I had to learn how to maximize the little wall space I had available. I learned a few weeks into my first year teaching that as glossy and sleek as the content-area and motivational posters (think that ubiquitous “Hang in There” kitten) I purchased for my classroom were, or how well-decorated my classroom was the week before school was even back in session, very little of what was on my walls was actually useful for my students in reinforcing the concepts, skills, and academic vocabulary I was working so hard to teach them. Sadly, it took a few more years for me to discover the magic of anchor charts.

What I’ve learned over a decade in this profession is that when used correctly, anchor charts are one of the most effective, engaging, and student-friendly ways to support instruction through reinforcing key concepts, skills, and vocabulary. One good anchor chart can not only replace an entire word wall, it can make the connections between concepts and terms visibly come to life for students. A great anchor chart can truly be like having another teacher in the classroom. Students can review the steps of a skill, strategy, or process during guided or independent practice using cues from an anchor chart (Harmon & Marzano, 2015).

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So what exactly is an anchor chart and what constitutes a quality anchor chart design? If an anchor is “a source of stability and security, used to hold something in place”, then an anchor chart is a sort of classroom artifact or record that provides a visual reference or cues to support students as they progress in their learning throughout the course of a unit or topic (Seger, 2009). Simply stated, anchor charts make the teacher’s instruction “clearly visible to students” (Newman, 2010). They are visual reminders of current learning for all students and are indispensable for English Language Learners who benefit immensely from visual cues for academic concepts and vocabulary.

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Above: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/559 1  

The following are some helpful tips for creating and maximizing the quality and effectiveness of your anchor charts. A quality anchor chart is:

  • Relevant – Include only the most relevant/key information to keep from confusing students.
  • Clear – Make the chart as clear, neat, and organized as possible.
  • Focused – Stick to one focus per chart to avoid overwhelming students.
  • Evolving – Allow the chart to evolve throughout the course of a unit by adding information learned as the unit progresses.
  • Integral/Useful – Refer to the anchor chart frequently to model its use for students.
  • Prominent – Display the chart where in a prominent place in the classroom where all students can see it.
  • Current – Focus on  only displaying charts that deal with what is currently being learned in order to eliminate clutter.
  • Vibrant – Make the anchor chart colorful and easily visible using dark colors.

Sources:

Newman, L. (2010, October). Anchor Charts: Making Thinking Visible. Retrieved from Expeditionary Learning: https://www.engageny.org/sites/default/files/resource/attachments/anchor_charts.pdf

Seger, W. (2009). Anchor Charts: The Environment as the Third Teacher. Retrieved from Cornerstone Literacy: http://www.palmbeachschools.org/ec/ElementaryCurriculum/documents/Reading_Elementary_AnchorCharts_Sept42009.doc

Harmon, K., Marzano, R.J., (2015). Practicing skills, strategies, & processes: Classroom techniques to help students develop proficiency. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning Sciences International.

 

Why We Filter Out: Understanding the Affective Filter

Friday, September 25th, 2015

AUTHOR: Seth Herrington, Bilingual/ESL Education Specialist

Educators spend countless hours developing engaging and interactive lessons for students. They pour over curriculum, participate in PLC’s, refine lesson plans through peer-review, and scour the internet for resources that will make the content delivery comprehensible for their students. Despite the deep level of care taken to plan a lesson, there are external factors that can hijack the learning process, rendering the countless hours of preparation useless. This is a phenomenon experienced by all learners and isn’t confined to education. It’s the basketball player that performs well during practice but freezes on the free-throw line under pressure. The business executive who fits the job description for an exciting new position perfectly, but doesn’t interview well due to social anxiety. The English Language Learner who sees themselves as intellectually inferior as a result of repeated failures in mastering academic content in English.

This imaginary barrier is called the Affective Filter. It’s a term developed by Stephen Krashen as part of his “Affective Filter Hypothesis” (Krashen, 1982). According to Krashen, there are three main sources of a raised affective filter.

  • Motivation: Learners who are highly motivated tend to acquire new content more quickly. When it comes to English Language Learners (ELLs), fostering motivation to acquire English is at times a difficult task, especially when a lack of motivation stems from an incongruence in the cause/effect relationship between content mastery and personal success.
  • Self-Confidence: Damaged self-confidence comes almost exclusively from repeated failures in mastering the English language for ELLs or from damaging experiences in attempting to master English. 
  • Anxiety: Stemming from circumstances inside the classroom or out, anxiety has an adverse effect on the acquisition of content. Students suffering from anxiety in the classroom experience triggers that render them emotionally hijacked and unable to truly process information presented, let alone demonstrate their comprehension of previously mastered material.

Students can suffer from an affective filter coming from more than one of the above sources. For example, an ELL with damaged self-confidence can also suffer from high levels of performance anxiety. Regardless of the source, a raised affective filter can diminish comprehensible input to the extent of eliminating it altogether.

Minimizing the Affective Filter

Maintaining a friendly, comfortable environment is ultimately the single most effective way to minimize the prevalence of a raised affective filter in ELLs. However, there are a number of additional practices that can help educators ensure that the lessons, units, and/or activities they plan for students result in content and language acquisition. Here are a few:

  • Elicit student performance only at the appropriate level.
  • Avoid public error correction and focus on the message being communicated rather than correct grammar.
  • Increase wait time and include “think time” for ELLs who are devoting an extraordinary amount of cognitive capacity to translating material delivered from English to their native language.
  • Allow for ample rehearsal time before student performance.

By implementing these and other strategies, educators can foster an environment where their students can easily acquire language and content — making the countless hours spent in planning instruction worth the effort.

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Pergamon Press.