Back at P.S. 182, our math PLC has been hard at work. This post highlights how the PLC is tackling the language demands embedded in math lessons and the actionable steps that are helping the teachers make sense of this complex work. Come on in!
After taking a deep dive into the ELSF Specifications, the teachers were eager for next steps. Prior to the third math PLC meeting at P.S. 182, the assistant principal considered informal feedback from PLC members and exit card data to inform the team’s focus and direction moving forward. She knew that teachers were eager to implement hands-on strategies and tools that address the needs of their English learners. In particular, the educators wanted to try out some new ways to support their students in learning both math and language simultaneously. The teachers value maintaining momentum, and the assistant principal wanted to capitalize on this teacher-led enthusiasm for their own learning!
Furthermore, the team determined that they wanted to address Focus Area I, Guideline 2 (Interdependence of Mathematical Content, Practices, and Language; Explicit mathematics and language learning goals and pathways) since these subject area teachers recognized their need to build their awareness about language demands in mathematics. She realized that this would require a great deal of teacher learning!
In response to the teachers’ need for professional development and their drive to move forward, the assistant principal decided to tackle Guideline 2 and implement an ELSF research-based tool that would support their English learners.
The teachers chose to tackle one lesson in each of the fourth and fifth grade curriculums and mine that chosen lesson for language demands. The assistant principal, a former teacher of English learners, provided the math PLC with Unpacking a Lesson for Embedded Language Demands in Mathematics: An Analysis Tool for identifying language demands in math.
The tool gave the teachers a focus for examining the lessons and directed teachers to:
Teachers perused the lessons using those lenses. The purpose of the activity was to build teacher awareness, not necessarily to identify strategies to address those needs for English learners.
The assistant principal noticed that many of the teachers were landing on tricky vocabulary and gravitated towards such words often. She recognized that more practice was necessary for teachers to understand and recognize the other items in the analysis tool that carried so much weight. What other opportunities could she provide for teachers to further their understanding of language demands?
In order to maintain teacher engagement, the assistant principal set up a fishbowl activity for teachers to unpack language demands in a math game and monitor those demands from beginning to end. What a success it was!
Two “student” teachers played the game, rehearsing as if they were students in their class, while other members of the PLC looked, listened, and determined the language demands necessary for student success. They used the Analysis Tool to maintain focus. In the end, teachers requested additional opportunities to practice mining the lessons, tasks, and math games since they had never considered the specific needs of their English learners in that particular way.
The Assistant Principal wanted teachers to walk away with an actionable strategy to try out in their classrooms. To cap off the PLC meeting, teachers examined the resources provided by ELSF and chose one resource to implement that would support the specific needs of their students: Anchor Charts for Synonyms (for students to collect, use, discuss, and share mathematical words and phrases (Tier III and their associated Tier 1 and Tier II terms). Teachers committed to trying out Anchor Charts for Synonyms and planned to share out their successes and challenges at the next meeting.
During the follow-up PLC at PS 182 teachers reflected on their implementation of Synonym Anchor Charts. The teachers discussed successes and challenges in their implementation of the Synonym Anchor Charts. While they had only a couple of weeks to implement the resources, they jumped right in and brought artifacts to share with their colleagues.
Synonym Anchor Charts:
Where to next? Keep posted to see how this group of thoughtful educators continue to develop their skills and expertise in unpacking their lessons for language demands in math, and how the ELSF tools are enabling them to support their English learners develop their math content knowledge and English proficiency!