During that period I spent most of my time working for a national organization called the Industrial Areas Foundation, founded by legendary organizer Saul Alinsky in the late 1930's. Local groups of religious congregations, labor unions and community groups would come together in different cities and contract with the IAF for training and staffing needs to help them build an organization to improve their neighborhoods and change the power dynamics of their cities.
In other words, vocabulary.
Acquisition vs. Learning
Most researchers acknowledge a distinction between language acquisition and language learning. A simple, rudimentary explanation of the difference is that acquisition involves being able to easily use the language to communicate, while language learning might place more emphasis on filling out grammar worksheets correctly. This does not mean, however, that the two are mutually exclusive.
Many schools, especially those with small English Language Learner populations, do not create separate classes for Beginners and Intermediates. What are a few instructional strategies that we can use in such an environment that provides an effective learning environment for our students and that doesn't drive the teacher insane at the same time?
Here are a few:
Facilitating learning is now expected of modern teachers, but what does that actually mean? What are the key features of being an effective facilitator and what do we learn from our students by teaching in this way? How can we use our students to help us become better teachers?
After deciding to answer it, I looked-up how the dictionary specifically defines the word "facilitation" and found it means "to make easier or less difficult."
In my mind, though, it means the exact opposite. Let me explain...
The roots of the word "introduction" mean "bringing into existence" , and that's what we're doing with our classes at the beginning of a new school year. And, as we bring them "into existence," one challenge we face is will be help develop a "community of learners" or a "classroom of students."
Our school year ended in mid-June and our District had little money for actual summer school. We used to have over one thousand of our students attending for at least six weeks — not because they were failing and had to retake classes, but because they wanted to get ahead. Now, we’re down to four classes for students who have failed a class and have to take it again. And there are no classes for English Language Learners.
The Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM) is my favorite, and central, instructional strategy for teaching Beginning English Language Learners.
What can we do instead of counting down the days until the end and be energized for our students and for us?
I was a community organizer for nineteen years prior to becoming a teacher eleven years ago. Here are a few ideas that are modified versions of what organizers are often urged to do when they are feeling “burned-out”:
Work Fewer Hours: By this time of the year, “throwing time” at school doesn’t pay dividends. Cutting back on outrageous work hours per week can often result in feeling more energized in the classroom.
Unfortunately, all too often we teachers talk about motivation as something we have to do to students instead of helping them identify ways they can motivate themselves.