Culturally Mediated Writing Instruction for Adolescent English Language Learners

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Author: Leslie Patterson, Carol Wickstrom, Juan Araujo

Summary: Sites looking for examples of how to design a study and/or plan professional development focused on the impact of culturally mediated writing instruction (CMWI) for adolescent English learners may find this report by the North Star of Texas Writing Project a helpful resource. Findings suggest that positive effects are more likely to occur when inquiry-based professional development includes follow-up support as teachers learn ways to effectively mediate and differentiate instruction to meet particular needs of diverse learners in language and literacy learning.

Opening the Classroom Door: Inviting Parents and Preparing to Work Together in Classrooms

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Author: Lynne Yermanock Strieb

Summary: In this chapter from her book, Inviting Families into the Classroom: Learning from a Life in Teaching, Streib draws on an extensive archive of documents (e.g., letters from parents, class newsletters, and detailed accounts of student-family interactions) accrued over a 30-year teaching career as a first- and second-grade public school teacher in Philadelphia. Capturing the complexity and nuance of working with the families, she candidly shows what can go wrong and how to overcome misunderstandings. These honest and thoughtful depictions of crossing cultural barriers could provide food for thought within a school/community study group or for professional development focused on building partnerships between school and families.

Supporting English Language Learners: What Happens When Teaching in Students’ Native Language is Made Illegal?

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Author: Art Peterson

Summary: This inspiring story of Floris Wilma Ortiz-Marrero, a teacher-consultant with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and 2011 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, describes how she became a vocal advocate for her ELL students in a time when the state made it illegal to teach students in their native language. In addition Ortiz-Marrero’s story, there are several important resources referenced and linked within the article. This article and the related resources would be a great starting point for teacher discussion groups focused on the ethics of ELL and/or bilingual education and legislation.

When Third-Grade Writers Do Case Studies

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Author: Janet Kiddoo

Summary: Bilingual third grade students acted as helpers to first graders in a collaborative writing workshop. The third grade teacher guided her students through a process similar to teacher inquiry–to reflect on their own experiences as writers in order to help the younger writers, to take notes on their experiences as teacher/tutors, and to carefully think through the problems encountered and results obtained in order to improve their practice. This article models three useful practices in a writing context: 1) students as researchers; 2) older students as tutors to younger; and 3) reflective practice in writing and teaching.

The Ubuntu Academy: An Immigrant and Refugee Youth Writing Camp

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Author: Susanna Steeg

Summary: Ubuntu, a Bantu word that translates as “I am, because we are,” is the guiding philosophy behind the CT-Fairfield WP’s two-week literacy lab designed to invite immigrant and refugee youth into writing spaces that honor their heritage and promote academic success. This innovative approach to youth writing camps will be a valuable read for sites looking for ways to reach out to underserved populations who might not otherwise have access to youth writing camps & enrichment opportunities.

Writing in Home Dialects: Choosing a Written Discourse in a Teacher Education Class

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Author: Eileen Kennedy

Summary:In exploring how to encourage her Caribbean teacher education students to use their vernacular dialects (vernacular Englishes, Spanish, and Haitian creole) in narrative writing, Kennedy discovered reluctant writers who lacked confidence, in part because their use of home languages had always been suppressed. Over time she helped her students compose drafts in their home language(s) and use Standard English for final drafts. For teachers and sites wanting to explore political and sociological implications related to suppression of home language and devaluing of students’ cultures and identities, this piece provides a rich narrative of possibility, strategies and theoretical grounding.

English Language Learners, Classroom Drama

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Author: Dana Loy

Summary: Through a year-long drama and playwriting project with her bilingual class of 8th graders, Dana Loy and a visiting artist engaged her students in writing stories that could be dramatized, learning about playwriting and working together as actors with the end goal of developing a script that would be performed in a university theater. Along the way, these immigrant students drew on their experiences and strengths, improved reading and writing skills in both languages, discovered confidence and a sense of community, and increased their chances of remaining in school. An inspiring article filled with rich detail and examples that could be useful for teachers and sites interested in exploring intersections of writing and performance arts—in classrooms or other youth programming.

Creating Intentional Communities to Support English Language Learners in the Classroom

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Author: Judith Rance-Roney

Summary: How can teachers support English language learners, including recent immigrants, in language acquisition while also investing all students in creating a classroom culture that encourages shared experiences, knowledge construction and the integration of resources that ELLs bring? Judith Rance-Roney’s answer was to create the Culture Share Club as an intentional learning community within the classroom. Rich descriptions of many effective practices with solid theoretical and research grounding makes this article a must-read for study groups, professional learning communities, or professional development.

A Social Networking Space for Teachers of English Language Learners

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Author: Lynn Jacobs

Summary: This article provides the background story of the development of the Know ELL Ning. This article and the Ning, Know ELLs, could be used by PD groups, inquiry or study groups, or within a summer institute to explore content related to teaching English language learners, as well as to learn how such social networks are created and developed over time.

Bringing Hard Talk to Your Writing Project Site—with the Theatre of the Oppressed

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Author: Chris Tsang

Summary: When faced with difficult conversations and scenarios involving heated subjects such as race, class, gender, or language, role-playing can be used as a facilitation technique to create an entry point for dialogue and disruption. The author discusses how role-play inspired by Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed can be used to help educators navigate uncomfortable and troubling scenarios they have experienced or envision experiencing in schools.