Episode 402: Reaching English Learners: Creating Relationships And Supportive Communities
How can we address the differing needs of English-learning students in our classrooms? Join us in conversation with ESOL educators Jessica McLaughlin and Lauren Fogarty to find out!
How can we address the differing needs of English-learning students in our classrooms? Join us in conversation with ESOL educators Jessica McLaughlin and Lauren Fogarty to find out!
Ashley Mengwasser: Hello educators. You're tuned in to season four of Classroom Conversations, the platform for Georgia's teachers. I'm Ashley Mengwasser, the host of this wonderful platform, a place for teachers to share and learn. Educators from across the state congregate around these mics at GPB Studios in Atlanta to bring you always insightful, ease filled conversations that elevate your classroom instruction. Classroom conversations is brought to you by the Georgia Department of Education in tandem with production partner Georgia Public Broadcasting. Are your limbs loose and warmed up? Today's episode centers on reaching our English learners or ELSs. Pardon my reach, but I'd like to extend an offer if you haven't yet. Go and listen to episode 110, which includes ESOL instructional strategies and episode 210 about dual language immersion. And all of these episodes we touch on a key question, how can educators address the differing needs of English learners in the classroom? Why? We ESOLve it, of course, with specially designed teaching tools and dynamic teacher tips from a couple of ESOL experts, and here they are. My guests today have both taught in Costa Rica and have women immigrants to the US in their family trees. Moreover, they have a natural gift and real heart for understanding our English learners. Jessica McLaughlin teaches fifth grade at Montclair Elementary School in DeKalb County. Jessica is the 2023 ESOL Teacher of the Year for DeKalb County Schools, being named Exemplary ESOL Teacher. Lauren Fogarty teaches mostly ninth grade lit and composition at Riverwood International Charter School, which is in Fulton County. Lauren's the ESOL Department Chair and Riverwood's Teacher of the Year last year. And combined, these two have nearly 30 years, that's three decades, in the classroom. Welcome to the show, Jessica and Lauren.
Jessica McLaughlin: Thank you.
Lauren Fogarty: Thanks for having us.
Ashley Mengwasser: How are you?
Lauren Fogarty: Great. How are you?
Ashley Mengwasser: Wonderful. How are you?
Jessica McLaughlin: Fantastic.
Ashley Mengwasser: How would you greet your class? What would you say? Would it be Spanish or English or a mixture?
Jessica McLaughlin: Probably English.
Lauren Fogarty: I greet my class in English.
Ashley Mengwasser: In English. Yeah. Awesome. I like that. You never know with all of your background. I just had to ask. Let's start at the beginning, shall we? What led you into teaching? If you'll get us started, Jessica?
Jessica McLaughlin: Sure. So I actually never wanted to be a teacher. I'll be completely honest.
Ashley Mengwasser: Thank you for your transparency.
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah, I never wanted to be a teacher. I actually wanted to be an architect. But in college, my mom, who has been teaching almost 30 years, actually started teaching ESOL. And I've always been interested in multicultural things, whether that's reading or having friends from different cultures or whatever. So when she became an ESOL teacher and I actually volunteered at her school and saw what she did every day with these students and just how amazing they were and the stories they had, I was like, "Wow, she's actually making a difference every day in these students' lives." And I just thought it was amazing and just really changed my trajectory.
Ashley Mengwasser: And here you are. You saw that light. Lauren, what's your story?
Lauren Fogarty: When I was in college, I was an English lit major and I really had no idea what I wanted to do. I honestly can't remember how I got involved with a volunteer program through my university teaching English to a family that had recently immigrated to the United States. I was like, "Oh, this is really cool. I'm enjoying this." And then when I graduated, I moved to Costa Rica for a year to decide to do the same thing, to teach English and kind of get a sense of is this something I could see myself doing long-term? I loved it and I came back and got my certificate and my master's and the rest is history.
Ashley Mengwasser: You did it for real.
Lauren Fogarty: I did.
Ashley Mengwasser: You did it for real. Now you're in the classroom. But to be clear, you're teachers and you're hobbyists. Tell our audience about yourselves. Lauren, you speak so many languages.
Lauren Fogarty: No, I would not say that.
Ashley Mengwasser: It feels like it to this English only speaker.
Lauren Fogarty: I do speak Spanish and a little bit of French. The French has been very slow going. I've been trying to teach myself.
Ashley Mengwasser: You're working on that.
Lauren Fogarty: In English, obviously.
Ashley Mengwasser: But you have some other interesting pastimes?
Lauren Fogarty: Yes. I'm an avid runner and I do triathlons and I also dance. Mostly ballet now. But over the course of my life, I've studied many genres of dance.
Ashley Mengwasser: That is fascinating. So you're really into moving the bod.
Lauren Fogarty: I am. I am. Yes.
Ashley Mengwasser: That is really healthy. And Jessica, what about you?
Jessica McLaughlin: So, like I mentioned, I did want to be an architect, and so I've always enjoyed real estate and architecture. So I actually am a realtor and real estate investor on the side, and I just bought a quadruplex that I rent out. So I plan on doing that.
Ashley Mengwasser: Is there a relatable or driving quote that each of you can think of that really conveys what it's like to be a teacher of English language learners?
Jessica McLaughlin: Mine would just be that it takes a village to raise a child. It's just a go-to for me because you can't just do it alone. I think it's very important, especially for ELs or English Learners, to know that they have a community around them that supports them.
Ashley Mengwasser: Beautiful. What about for you, Lauren?
Lauren Fogarty: And I would say for me, I've seen this as a proverb from many cultures. So clearly, it's a universal idea, but just to know another language is to have another soul or another life.
Ashley Mengwasser: Yes. I think I've quoted that on this podcast before. Is that Charlemagne?
Lauren Fogarty: It has been attributed to Charlemagne, and I've also seen it pop up in, like I said, Proverbs from all over the world.
Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah. That one's been around for a while. And I'm sure that is the experience because even learning another language, you feel like a different person.
Lauren Fogarty: Absolutely.
Ashley Mengwasser: You are stepping into a different identity and that's part of the magic of it, I think. What do you think you receive? We know how much you pour into your ELs. What do you think you get back from this
Jessica McLaughlin: Love. Every single day. Lots of it.
Ashley Mengwasser: That's a pretty great transaction.
Lauren Fogarty: Yeah.
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah. Definitely love. I would also say a new appreciation for English as well. It not only gives me an appreciation for my kids and the cultures that they come from, but you look at your own culture and your own language in a slightly different way too. I find myself learning things about English that I'm like, "Oh, I never would've thought of that if I had not been teaching ESOL."
Ashley Mengwasser: That's an unexpected discovery. More appreciation for what we do know. You both have traveled so much. I know you probably collect memorabilia on your trips. So I've asked you to participate with me in a little segment that I'm calling scavengers. I've asked you to each bring three items from your classroom work or think of three things that you'd like to share. So I'll start with you, Jessica. Can you share with us something that reminds you of the value of teaching English learners?
Jessica McLaughlin: Yes. So I brought a couple different things. So, this is a glass jar in a heart shape with tiny little papier-mâché stars that a student made.
Ashley Mengwasser: I see that.
Jessica McLaughlin: I have no idea how many are in here or how long it took her, but when I was teaching ESOL in high school, actually in Macon, she made this for me just to show her appreciation.
Ashley Mengwasser: Oh my gosh. Is the message that you're a star and I love you? I mean there's a whole lot of shapes in there.
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah, they're all little, tiny stars. I'm not sure. She just wanted to give it to me and was so nonchalant about it. When she came to me, I was like, "These are little, tiny papier-mâché-"
Ashley Mengwasser: I papier-mâchéd these 400 stars. Thank you for all you do. That's beautiful.
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah. But she was amazing. And then I just have little notes from other students more recently from elementary school like, "You're the best teacher. Thank you for preparing me for the sixth grade and for being a good teacher."
Ashley Mengwasser: Lauren, what can you think of that reminds you of the value of teaching ELs?
Lauren Fogarty: A lot of my notes are actually packed away in my classroom, but I know I have one that I've saved over the years. A student that I taught thanked me for teaching her and she said, "I learned so many things in your class, even English," which I thought was really funny. And I choose to interpret that as the life lessons she learned in my classroom were so valuable that the English was just the added bonus.
Ashley Mengwasser: Just a part of it. Exactly.
Jessica McLaughlin: That's cute.
Ashley Mengwasser: That's really funny. And plus, students are hysterical. Okay, here's the next one. I'll let you start with this one, Lauren. Share something that reminds you of the struggle of teaching English learners.
Lauren Fogarty: What I actually was thinking of my cell phone when you asked me that, mainly because I think it's a struggle not just with English learners, but with students in general. It's trying to find a way to reach them and be more interesting than whatever they can find-
Ashley Mengwasser: On their devices.
Lauren Fogarty: -on TikTok or YouTube. And I also feel like in some regards, it becomes something that they lean on too much to translate or to look up information rather than relying on the language that they do have.
Ashley Mengwasser: Yes. You make a really good point. What about for you, Jessica? The struggle.
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah, the struggle. I know, the struggle is real, trust me. But it makes me think of conversations with teachers. Some teachers who just don't understand the opportunity that they need to give the students to show what they know.
Ashley Mengwasser: Yes. That's a really good point. And then our last one in scavengers, something that you're each looking forward to doing with your English learners this school year?
Jessica McLaughlin: More growth, like I mentioned, reading especially. I'm super excited about the growth. I've made a lot of really good progress the past couple of years and I'm just excited to see more.
Lauren Fogarty: I did a language exchange with one of our Spanish teachers at my school and it went really well, better than I was expecting, to be honest.
Ashley Mengwasser: Cool.
Lauren Fogarty: I want to try to do more of that in the coming year.
Ashley Mengwasser: How did that work?
Lauren Fogarty: It was almost like speed dating. So we-
Ashley Mengwasser: Who doesn't love that?
Lauren Fogarty: Right. So we provided them with some questions and then we had them write some of their own questions that they were going to ask the students in this other class. So my students would be asking questions in English and their students, them being native English speakers would answer in English. So they'd do that for two minutes and then we'd swap languages. Then they'd have basically the same conversation again in Spanish, and then they would move partners.
Ashley Mengwasser: That sounds fun.
Lauren Fogarty: After four minutes like you would in speed dating. And I was really nervous. I was like, "This could be great. This could be a disaster, a big hot mess." But it went really, really well. And I would like to do that some more in the coming year.
Ashley Mengwasser: Now we have a lot of acronyms in this discipline. Would you two agree?
Lauren Fogarty: Absolutely.
Ashley Mengwasser: We have ESOL referring to teachers, we have English language learners, ELLs, we have ELs. Can somebody illuminate the differences here for us?
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah. So ESOL is English Speakers of Other Languages, which is talking about the program that the students are in. So you can be an ESOL teacher or you can be in the ESOL program as a student.
Ashley Mengwasser: I gotcha.
Jessica McLaughlin: But ELs, which is what we commonly refer to as the ESOL students, are just English learners.
Ashley Mengwasser: Nice. And ELL is if you want to throw the word language in there, English Language Learners.
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah. I think nowadays they prefer ELs because-
Ashley Mengwasser: That's just redundant now.
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah, and they could have more than one language. They used to have ESL, English as a Second Language. It's all English learners. They're all learning English, so they just made it simple and said English Learners.
Ashley Mengwasser: Oh good. I can't wait to hear about your amazing ideas for working with ELs. I know we're going to get into it. By looking deeper into your classrooms, teachers have a lot to accomplish. And as you know, English learners, they're not all the same. They come into your classrooms with different instructional backgrounds, different proficiency levels, and academic English. So for the classroom teacher listening, the non-ESOL teacher, how can you be supported and trained to differentiate instruction to meet all of those varying needs? Any thoughts on that?
Jessica McLaughlin: Yes, I'll go first.
Ashley Mengwasser: A few thoughts.
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah. So actually for me, I think it's really important for the teacher to understand the perspective of the EL and where they're coming from, English Learner.
Ashley Mengwasser: Yes.
Jessica McLaughlin: And I think they need to understand how extremely difficult it is to learn a language, and not only learn a language, but learn content in that language that they do not know.
Ashley Mengwasser: Right. Yes. You're learning two things at the same time.
Jessica McLaughlin: Exactly. Exactly. And this is all brand new to them. Moving to a new country is already huge in itself, much less not knowing the language and going to a new school with nobody you know. And a lot of times these families are broken apart. They may not have both parents. I know a lot of students at my school don't and they just don't have that extra support that you would think of. "All students have this" or whatever. So I think it's for me, no matter what kind of student you're teaching, the most important part of being phenomenal, the best teacher is just having a caring and positive relationship with your students. That's huge no matter what you do. I mean, we'll give you lots of instructional strategies I'm sure today, but that is number one, the priority.
Ashley Mengwasser: Foundational.
Jessica McLaughlin: Yes.
Ashley Mengwasser: I think that makes perfect sense. Lauren, what would you say, especially in terms of the training up piece, in order to differentiate instruction?
Lauren Fogarty: Yeah. I can't emphasize enough how much building relationships is key, but if we're getting into more of the nitty gritty of the teaching, helping the content teachers understand what the WIDA Can Do descriptors mean. So WIDA is the governing body of how we measure English proficiency. And just understanding if my student is at X level in reading and Y level in speaking, what is the student capable of doing and what should I be focusing on with them in small groups or in terms of writing expectations, that kind of thing? Because I don't think that the content teachers always necessarily understand what their access scores mean, the way that ESOL teachers do.
Jessica McLaughlin: Right. That's something I had thought about as well. Definitely sharing those access scores with them and explaining to them what it means is huge. And then just assuring them that the ESOL, English Speaker of Other Languages, teacher will be helping the classroom teacher, assuring them that you'll be supporting them, the teacher, as well as the students.
Ashley Mengwasser: That's good. It's a team dynamic. And you're provided a wealth of information from those WIDA access scores, which we will get into later in this podcast because I know primarily you're wanting to ensure that your ELs develop listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. So how do you think teachers can incorporate multiple modalities to develop students' interpretive and expressive language?
Jessica McLaughlin: This is so simple to me, or I figured out that it is so simple, I should say. But in everyday lessons, the teacher just needs to make sure that those students have an opportunity to do those four different modalities. So listening to content in different ways, reading content and writing about content and speaking about content. If they do those four things every single day, there's going to be significant growth.
Ashley Mengwasser: That's the checklist.
Jessica McLaughlin: Huge.
Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah. Okay.
Jessica McLaughlin: You have to give that opportunity to them to do those four modalities that you mentioned every single day. And if they do that in all of their lessons, you're going to have major growth.
Ashley Mengwasser: Okay. And how do you attack that?
Lauren Fogarty: Agreed. I would say to be really deliberate about, like in reading, how to approach reading the type of text in a given subject area. So if we're in math, a math textbook looks very different than a Shakespeare play. So thinking about how to read the different types of texts. I would say in writing, I think a lot of teachers who are not language arts teachers seem to be very afraid to teach writing. My advice is don't be afraid. Just get them writing. I mean, just any kind of writing practice and getting them more comfortable taking risks and expressing themselves. You don't have to grade everything for a million different points of grammar and this, that and the other. What are the key pieces? If it's social studies, is it a thesis statement? If it's science, is it a topic sentence? And just the more opportunities for practice, even if it's not necessarily structured or formal.
Ashley Mengwasser: Right. They know how to write a caption or they know how to write certain things for certain platforms, so maybe even that's an access point into your instruction.
Lauren Fogarty: Absolutely.
Ashley Mengwasser: That's really cool. What types of activities would you say engage students the most in terms of purposefully using academic English? We know this from the Department of Education, we want to narrate, we want to inform, explain, and argue. How are you getting them to do that? What are the activities that are the vehicle for this?
Jessica McLaughlin: Go ahead, Lauren.
Lauren Fogarty: I would say I really am big on providing sentence stems and sentence frames with some of that key academic vocabulary built into there. I guess for those who might not know a sentence frame or stem might be the start of a sentence that they will then complete if the students are engaging in a conversation or a debate, ideas to get them started so that some of that academic language is embedded and they have something I guess to build upon, if that makes sense.
Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah. That sounds like a good activity. You're giving them a little bit of a starting point and then they can pitch in with what they know.
Lauren Fogarty: Exactly.
Ashley Mengwasser: What do you use, Jessica?
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah. No, just piggybacking off of that. So the four, narrate, inform, explain and argue are definitely all good opportunities for teachers to use. But I think having, like she said, opportunities to do that, whether it's formal or informal, doesn't matter, but just giving them that practice and every lesson is super important. So if they are doing a strategy where they're explaining... For me, I often use leveled reader books in small groups. They listen to me read, so they're listening, for one, and then they're going to read it. They're going to at least practice reading it.
Ashley Mengwasser: Aloud. Yes.
Jessica McLaughlin: And then we can use different modalities to talk about the content. But also those four, if they're going to narrate it, connecting it to their own life experience, maybe they'll label what happened in the story. So labeling is just like if you're drawing a picture of a boy and a girl walking down the street, you have to write boy, girl, street or whatever it is that they-
Ashley Mengwasser: All the components. All the pieces.
Jessica McLaughlin: Exactly. Because they don't know the words, even though these are smart kids and sometimes they're not native in their own language, which is more difficult, but sometimes they are really bright kids and they know a lot, but they just can't express it. So using these different strategies for those four things, narrate, inform... Inform is just summarizing, practicing speaking about it, writing about it, like I mentioned last time. But within those four ideas of academic English is super important.
Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah. Do you have a favorite EL instructional strategy that you like?
Jessica McLaughlin: I, for me, particularly love slow, simple, concise, verbal instructions.
Ashley Mengwasser: I like that.
Jessica McLaughlin: Most teachers do not ever think about that when they're teaching. But that is huge for ELs because that gives them time to comprehend what you're saying and it takes away all the fluff, all the extra stuff that you would normally say to kids. Even if you're just babysitting or you're taking care of some kids, you say all this stuff.
Ashley Mengwasser: Oh, that's true.
Jessica McLaughlin: But it's not necessary.
Ashley Mengwasser: No.
Jessica McLaughlin: It's not needed.
Ashley Mengwasser: It's extraneous in a lot of ways. You're just giving them the point. Yeah.
Jessica McLaughlin: So, if you take away all of that, the English Learners can really focus on what it is exactly what it is you want them to know and what you're trying to teach them. So that's definitely by far my favorite. But also giving pause time is huge. So pause time is just when you wait a few seconds to give them time to comprehend and understand and allow them to formulate a response. Because a lot of times if you're not used to working with ELs, you just keep going and going and talking and talking. You don't give them that time to think about it or respond. And of course, visual aids like graphic organizers and anchor charts are huge. And you can see me talking with my hands. Nonverbal cues.
Ashley Mengwasser: Yes. Gesticulation.
Jessica McLaughlin: Yes, exactly. Because it actually helps if you don't know the language. If I point over here and I say, "TV," they're going to know I'm talking about a TV.
Ashley Mengwasser: Exactly.
Jessica McLaughlin: They start picking up words because if they don't know any vocabulary, obviously at first, they're going to be very low. But the more vocabulary they start to grasp, the more ideas they're going to understand.
Ashley Mengwasser: Right. I think we forget in our practice of using English how very demonstrative we are in our use of English, and that can help these students. I love the speed dating, Lauren. I bet you have some other clever strategies.
Lauren Fogarty: Yeah. I'm also a big fan of visuals. I always have open on my board an images tab where we'll start talking about something. The kids are like, "What's this?" And I'm like, "All right, I'm going to pull it up and show you a picture."
Ashley Mengwasser: That's cool.
Lauren Fogarty: Which is super helpful. Got to love the internet for that.
Ashley Mengwasser: Got to love the internet for lots of great things.
Lauren Fogarty: I'm also a really big fan of the Frayer model for vocabulary, because I think vocabulary is really the foundation of language. So it's where to represent a word, you have a working definition of the word. In my mind, it's not necessarily the dictionary definition. It's a definition that the student understands. An example of the word in a sentence, a picture of the word. And then I forget what the fourth traditional Frayer model is, but I usually allow my kids, either they can find an example of the word or if it's helpful to them to write the word in their own language.
Ashley Mengwasser: Oh nice. So they can make that association.
Lauren Fogarty: Right.
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah, a picture.
Lauren Fogarty: So, I like to give a choice because sometimes the student may not know what that word is in their language either. If it's a vocabulary word for the general ed ninth grader, that student probably doesn't know what it is in their language as well. So I give them the option and I'm like, "Hey, if you look this up and you're like, I don't know what that Spanish word means, then let's look for another example that means something to you."
Jessica McLaughlin: We use that too, the four corners. That's a good point. Even non-academic language, like you said, will be helpful. Please, classroom teachers if you're listening.
Ashley Mengwasser: If you're listening, if you can hear me.
Jessica McLaughlin: Anyone out there. You have to meet them where they're at. You have to meet them at their level. Please don't try to get them to understand the concept of something at grade level if they don't know basic English.
Ashley Mengwasser: Right, right. Very well said, Jessica. Thank you. Just a quick take to this next one. I know we're talking about models and modeling and visual aids and all this stuff. Speaking of which, tell us about the new Georgia Student Growth Model for English Language Proficiency, and if you've used it, how. Or if you haven't, how you might plan to use it.
Jessica McLaughlin: So, I look forward to using it, and I plan on using it to help me with planning for instruction, like identifying levels, supporting needs, giving me a complete picture of the student's growth, where they're at now, and what their future growth would look like. So it sounds really cool. I could make those plans more personalized depending on if they're a low growth student versus a high growth student. Low growth students might need more strategies and high growth students will need more opportunities for enrichment.
Ashley Mengwasser: The Georgia Student Growth Model is very new, it sounds like.
Lauren Fogarty: It is. Yeah.
Ashley Mengwasser: What is your reaction to it?
Lauren Fogarty: I'm really excited about it. I think it's a great tool for all of the ESOL teachers at my school to really sit down and look at who do we have and in what areas are they making growth and in what areas are they not? And just to plan more targeted, more deliberate instruction. I would love to have a chance to share it with the content teachers who are not necessarily ESOL teachers, but just to give them a more holistic picture of who's in their classroom.
Ashley Mengwasser: Yes. You have shared such creative and clever ways to approach the instruction. Now, let's get to the assessment piece of this. So to assess academic English proficiency, you've mentioned we have WIDA's access test, and that's something that K-12 English language learners take every year in the spring. And we sometimes see that language growth can stall during the middle grades. How might teachers encourage their middle schoolers to get involved in understanding their WIDA access results so that they can move toward that proficiency as they're approaching high school?
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah. I think in middle school, students feel very overwhelmed. And you probably have more experience on this than I do for middle school because I know you taught there for eight years, right?
Lauren Fogarty: Yes.
Jessica McLaughlin: But I do think that it's very different than elementary school. Elementary, middle and high school, I've taught all three, they were all very different, but middle school, it can be very overwhelming. There's a lot of personal changes in their life, physical changes.
Ashley Mengwasser: Oh yeah. Oh boy.
Jessica McLaughlin: Instructional changes. So I think it's, going back to what I said earlier, super important to have those positive relationships where you can talk to them and they trust you with advice and what you tell them. But bringing those access scores in and actually explaining to them what each means for listening, speaking, reading, writing, what their growth are, what their strengths are, showing them how that can relate to their future career paths maybe, or whatever their plans are.
Ashley Mengwasser: Oh, that's a nice connection.
Jessica McLaughlin: To get them excited about it, get them thinking about the future because they are growing, and they will be in high school soon. And actually giving them that encouragement so that they can be more confident and maybe if they have strengths, they can show that in the classroom, whatever that strength may be, having them help out and practice that more and show other students how to do something. If they're really great at math or drawing something through the class if they're a great artist, whatever it is.
Ashley Mengwasser: It grounds that assessment result.
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah. It kind of just cements it in their mind like, "Oh, I am good at this." That's huge for them to have that confidence.
Ashley Mengwasser: They're taking this test in the spring and then at the start of the next school year would be our opportunity to really cast vision.
Jessica McLaughlin: Exactly.
Ashley Mengwasser: So how are you doing that with your students, Lauren?
Lauren Fogarty: I would say individual conferencing, just kind of sitting down with them and explaining what their scores mean and setting a personalized goal that they have a part in-
Ashley Mengwasser: In reaching.
Lauren Fogarty: Actually, really asking them to set a goal for themselves versus like, "I want you to do this. Here's your goal." Right? Tell me what do you think is realistic for you? What area of the language domains do you feel like you could make the biggest improvement? Or what do you really want to work on, and what do you feel strong in? So again, it's all just about having those personal conversations and relationships with the students.
Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah. And they'll find those memorable. For sure. Let's look at some resources. There are many. You guys are going to have to explain what some of these are to me and maybe to our classroom teachers listening. How do you plan to use the WIDA English Language Development Framework, this is the 2020 edition, to plan content-driven language lessons for your English Learners? And this framework is the new WIDA Standards. Is that right? Okay. Are you using it or are you planning to use it? Where are you with the WIDA English Language Development Framework?
Lauren Fogarty: We are using it.
Ashley Mengwasser: Yes.
Lauren Fogarty: And the ESOL team at my school delivered a training on it to our teachers this fall. So we're definitely using it in the ESOL department. I'd like to see it elsewhere, I guess adopted more widely throughout our school, which it takes time to understand. But I really think that it helps to focus instruction and help teachers be really deliberate about what specific language skills are needed for this task or for this unit or on a particular assignment. I think it can help the content teachers feel, I guess, more empowered and less overwhelmed by trying to reach the ELs that are in their classrooms. So I really look forward to using it with teachers outside of the ESOL department.
Ashley Mengwasser: Okay. I think that's really good. What about you, Jessica?
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah, so I use the WIDA framework to keep... So I have a summary chart and I give it to the classroom teachers as well with their WIDA scores, so the access scores that we talked about earlier. But what's new for this edition is the KLUs that we talked about earlier, the narrate, inform, explain argue. So that's going to be super helpful for the teachers to be aware of the individual needs, like Lauren was just saying, to plan activities using those four things based on their strengths and weaknesses.
Ashley Mengwasser: I also love your reactions to the new Georgia DOE Inspire and Georgia DOE SuitCASE, which are language and content standards. How might you use these to support your lesson and unit planning with your ELs?
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah, so these two tools are also new. Georgia DOE Inspire is a digital resource showing curriculum maps that include resources like lesson plans and activities that can be personalized and printed.
Ashley Mengwasser: Oh, that's useful.
Jessica McLaughlin: That is very useful. The SuitCASE is another digital resource showing the standards,. It's in a new spot now, and it has links to the WIDA Standards that go with those specific standards. So if you're teaching English language arts in high school or science or math or whatever the subject is, you can go and see which WIDA standards for the ELs connect or relate to those specifics for that lesson that you're doing.
Ashley Mengwasser: To prepare them for that WIDA assessment. Ah. Very smart.
Lauren Fogarty: Yeah. I really think both of them are going to be great for cross-curricular planning because it's set up in such a streamlined way that you can see how the WIDA Standards correlate to all these different content area standards. So I think it's going to really facilitate planning between teachers across different content areas, which I think is huge. I think that'll do a lot for our ELs.
Ashley Mengwasser: Right. So much of an online digital resources about the usability of it, as we know from the internet and everything else. That all sounds very promising. In addition to these great resources, you need the support of some other people, namely parents who undergird success, especially when you're working with ELs, I'm sure. So what do you believe schools can do to build families' capacity to just help their children learn English and content simultaneously? How involved should these parents be? Lauren?
Lauren Fogarty: I would say, again, it comes back to building relationships. If we can build relationships with the parents, honestly, I think the best thing that a parent can do is just send the message at home that education is important.
Ashley Mengwasser: Yes.
Lauren Fogarty: I understand that parents are working, especially a lot of parents of ELs don't work necessarily standard hours. A lot of times they're leaving for jobs as their student is coming home from school.
Ashley Mengwasser: Another important consideration.
Lauren Fogarty: Right.
Jessica McLaughlin: Oh yeah.
Lauren Fogarty: And that if they don't speak English themselves, they're not necessarily going to be able to sit down and help their student with his or her homework. But just if they can send the message that education has value and also that you can really learn in any kind of a situation. And if they can start having conversations with their students about what they're learning at school, what are they learning at their job if they go to work when they get out of school, just talking about what the students are learning, I think, is huge.
Ashley Mengwasser: That totally aligns with the mission in the classroom to have that parent support. What do you think parents can do and families can do to support the capacity for English language learning?
Jessica McLaughlin: Well, I definitely agree with what Lauren just said. If parents have the capability and availability to come in and volunteer at a school with their child, that's awesome. That really shows that they know learning is important, and the kids will learn that from seeing their parents.
Ashley Mengwasser: Yep. Get the message.
Jessica McLaughlin: Yeah. But teachers and schools just need to show that they care about parents as well as the students by providing a welcoming environment with resources and showing the parents and telling the parents what those resources are. There are many different online resources for students to use, especially for ELs that are very helpful. But any student can use them like Imagine Learning, Lalilo, Reading A-Z, BrainPOP, Epic, Istation, iReady. But not only those online resources, schools also need to provide information on the local library and how to get a library card, which-
Ashley Mengwasser: I just did that this weekend actually. Yes.
Jessica McLaughlin: Awesome. We had a meeting with our parents recently at our school about this exact thing, and actually the Chamblee Library here in Atlanta next to our school has bilingual services and English classes that the community needs to know about, and the parents had no idea, and they don't even know how to get a library card or what significance that is. It opens a whole new world to these students. But things like that. Community English classes, parent meetings with handouts, available financial assistance for these families, because a lot of them don't have internet. And if you don't have internet, you can't use these free online resources that are so awesome.
Ashley Mengwasser: Excellent point.
Jessica McLaughlin: But interpretation and translation services and milestones, resources like study guides, which you can also find online, but you can also print them out and give them to students.
Ashley Mengwasser: You two are a wealth of information. Thank you so much for being here today. We really appreciate it.
Jessica McLaughlin: Of course.
Lauren Fogarty: No, absolutely.
Ashley Mengwasser: Anything else you want us to know before we say goodbye here?
Jessica McLaughlin: I feel like we covered a lot.
Ashley Mengwasser: We sure did.
Lauren Fogarty: We covered a lot. Yeah.
Ashley Mengwasser: I hope you notes of this. I hope no teachers were driving while listening to this awesome episode.
Jessica McLaughlin: Right.
Ashley Mengwasser: Well, thank you for helping us reach our English Learners in our classrooms. You guys are doing an excellent job. For all of you out there stretching and doing your academic calisthenics to extend your reach to this student population, know that we admire the sweat of your brow. Truly. They say teachers are true rock stars. Think about it. You work to hold the attention of an oftentimes distracted crowd. You hear your name called out hundreds of times a day, and your student fans freak out whenever they see you in public. So even when they could be a tough crowd, rock on out there because you are a great teacher. This host now needs to stretch her legs. I'm Ashley, back next week with more Classroom Conversations. Bye for now. Funding for Classroom Conversations is made possible through the School Climate Transformation Grant.