English Language Learners (ELL) at Cherry Crest are gaining ground in their English proficiency because of the support and strategies being implemented by the school’s ELL Facilitator, Anjali Sengupta.
“My role as the ELL facilitator is to make sure that I meet the needs of all the students in the class, especially for my ELL students,” said Sengupta.
Sengupta and classroom teachers work together to provide appropriate strategies and scaffolds for each ELL student. The teachers bring content knowledge, while Sengupta uses her observations, previous work with the ELL student and knowledge of their proficiency.
“First we meet and talk about what lesson is coming up. Then I ask the teacher what’s the content and what do students need to know,” said Sengupta. “I discuss the teacher the levels of proficiency, she or he plans the content and I plan about the language scaffolds.”
Sengupta and the teacher then plan activities for the classroom, and Sengupta asks about partner work, individual work and table groups. They identify potential language gaps they may see in the classroom and then select a scaffold to use. Afterwards, they reflect on their teaching and provide feedback to one another.
“I have a very high rigor for English Language Learners,” said Sengupta. To her students Sengupta says “I’ll give you all the scaffolds, and yes you’ll do it a little differently, you’ll show it to us a little differently. I do not water down the content, but provide scaffolds for the same content.”
She holds students to this high standard because she knows that they are capable of completing the task, even if they are not able to do it in English. Her goal is to ensure that students have the opportunity, the practice and the strategies to be successful.
Sengupta supports all students, including ELL students, in the classroom with the strategy and scaffold implementation. This makes learning more engaging and active in the classroom, said Sengupta.
“She (Sengupta) helps us understand new, big words,” said first grader Hisui Sasaki. Her favorite part of having Sengupta in the classroom is “when she comes and helps us do partner work.”
There are a variety of scaffolds that can be used to support students, said Sengupta. These include: turn and talk, question frames, and visual strategies such as posters.
Sengupta said that the benefits of these strategies, such as turn and talk are that “ELLs are getting an opportunity to practice speaking and listening in smaller groups and they’re not nervous about presenting in front of the class.” Sengupta and teacher are also able to listen to students engage with each other and gauge their level of proficiency.
“They are getting double the support and we are able to reach the needs of every student in the class,” said Sengupta. “And we are making them aware of how they can be successful. A lot of teamwork that we do in the classroom is what they are going to do when they are adults.”
First grade teacher Melissa Hayfield often works very closely with Sengupta to support her students, and recognizes the benefit of co-teaching.
“She (Sengupta) has helped me build a capacity to plan in a way that is cognizant of all students’ backgrounds and learning needs,” said Hayfield. “I have always differentiated in my instruction, but thanks to Anjali, I have become more confident with supporting ELL students and my ability to incorporate the use of tools and resources in lessons across multiple subject areas.”
To track ELL students’ progress formative and summative assessments are used. Three times a year, Sengupta uses a continuum where she goes into a classroom and observes the students. She highlights their abilities in each proficiency level and then discusses her observations with the classroom teacher.
Sengupta also uses an oral rubric and collects language samples, this helps especially for students who may not be able to write in English, but can speak some.
Additionally, Sengupta also encourages classroom teachers to use leveled questions for beginners and early intermediate ELL students. With this model, teachers have students ask questions, and the teacher tracks what questions each student asks. By doing this the teacher is able to see student growth based on the questions being asked.
Last year, there were 36 ELL students at Cherry Crest, and 29 of these students moved up one level on the state’s WELPA assessment. Seven students received a higher score in the same level. The goal of instruction for ELL students is to teach comprehension skills across content areas, which Sengupta believes is what resulted in these student successes.
Students recognize Sengupta’s presence in the classroom. First grader David Qin said, “She (Sengupta) helps me ask questions.” Qin is a beginner ELL student who is making great strides with his English proficiency as a result of his efforts and because of Sengupta’s support and expertise.
“One reason I’m really passionate about this work is because I’m an ELL too,” said Sengupta. “English is not my first language. Coming from a different country I understand that for students, especially the families, it’s not only the language they are dealing with. It’s also the culture that is different, the school system is different and the expectations are different. I feel I can connect with them and be their advocate and a voice for them.”