The influx of English language learners (ELLs) into public
school systems across the country, combined with the shortage of support for
English as a second language (ESL) classes, has created challenges for U.S.
primary and secondary education (Villegas and Lucas, 2002; cf.
Rubenstein-Avila, 2003). Particularly
in school systems across the Southeastern U.S., the enrollment of large numbers
of language-minority populations over the past decade continues to overwhelm
content-area teachers and administrators.
Foundations and federal agencies are well aware of the challenge. In
2001, the U.S. Department of Education funded Project MORE, an initiative at the
University of North Carolina-Charlotte (UNC-Charlotte). Project MORE is
designed to help content-area teachers better understand and address the
language, educational and cultural needs of ESL students mainstreamed into
their classes. The project ran
from 2001-2005; it created a web-based resource to support a multi-pronged
approach for training and outreach. Training initiatives included:
sustained mentoring to practicing ESL teachers to support their delivery
of training to content-area colleagues;
case studies of content-area teachers’ attitudes towards, and
instructional practices with, their ESL students;
with university-level instructors in several disciplines in order to
infuse their teacher-preparation courses with a range of materials and
techniques for supporting instruction of ESL students;
content-area and ESL teachers in the creation of classroom materials for
use with ELLs;
ESL-based professional development in-services for teachers from a variety
of content areas.
This article focuses on a year’s delivery of in-services
keyed to Project MORE resources.
Rationale for Designing ESL In-Services for Content-Area Teachers
North Carolina licensure for content-area public school
teachers does not require any coursework or practical experience in
understanding the needs of ELLs, despite exponential growth in the numbers of
school-aged ELLs in the state. Consequently, content-area teachers find their
frustration mounting along with the increasing numbers of ELL students in their
classes. Many ELLs are unprepared for the language demands of content-area
instruction. In order to help
content-area teachers better understand and assist their ELL students, we
designed a year of in-services to aid teachers in further developing their
technology skills while they were learning ways to recognize and address the
needs of their ELL students. Using technology to present materials on
linguistic, educational and cultural diversity, with a 1-hour license-renewal
technology credit upon successful completion of the in-service, became one way
that we attracted a range of teachers across disciplines and grade-levels.
The Training: Participants, Aims, Approaches
The training was primarily implemented by three faculty at
UNC-Charlotte. Boyd Davis,
Principal Investigator of Project MORE, is a professor in Applied Linguistics
with long experience in teacher training; John Gretes, Professor in the College
of Education, served as the Design and Technology Consultant for the project;
Lisa Russell-Pinson, postdoctoral fellow in Applied Linguistics and instructor
in the TESL Program, was Project Manager for the grant. Others at the
university and in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) gave valuable input on
how ESL in-services could best attract and offer opportunities for professional
growth to content-area teachers.
We designed a day-long in-service as a series of technology-supported
activities related to discipline-specific content and language. Our technology
emphasis allowed us to target content-area teachers needing technology credits,
while remaining available to all teachers and administrators throughout
training was offered twice at UNC-Charlotte, a semester apart, to 24
teachers each time. Training
incorporated a range of technology-related skills. Teachers began by reviewing and discussing online
materials on the most frequent cultural backgrounds of ESL students
enrolled in CMS. Next, teachers practiced with computer-based tools such as
concordancers and corpora to examine vocabulary and grammatical structures
prominent in the teachers’ disciplines, and identified new ways to instruct
this language-based material to their students. The post-workshop culminating
activity, which the teachers had one month to complete, was to develop an
original instructional activity linked to the state-mandated
curriculum for their content area. The activity had to draw upon the
techniques and resources covered during the in-service, including a corpus of
spoken language material, the Charlotte Narrative and
Conversation Collection (CNCC) hosted by New South Voices. The corpus includes more than 500 oral
narratives, interviews and conversations and represents first- and second-language
speakers from greater Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. We chose to use the CNCC
resource materials for ELLs for these reasons: Not only can oral language be used to promote cultural
understanding, student retention and literacy for new language learners and
low-achieving students (Fenner, 2003; Fine, 1987; Heath, 1982; Piper, 2003;
Saracho, 1993) but also, mastery of speech is seen as crucial to language
development and can affect literacy (Hadaway, Vardell and Young, 2002). In addition,
effectiveness of using materials designed to draw on students’ cultures,
languages and experiences has been well noted (cf. Freeman and Freeman, 2003;
Gambrell, Morrow and Pennington, 2002).
Participants completed anonymous evaluations of resources
and of training both during and after the in-services. A few teachers commented
that they were initially somewhat overwhelmed with the amount and kind of
technology applications presented in the in-service; this was unsurprising,
given that a number of the participants reported having no regular access to
computers. However, most feedback
centered on how useful the in-services were for practicing web-based materials
and applications, as well as generating ideas that teachers could implement in
their classroom; for example, when asked about the best parts of the
in-service, the teachers’ remarks included:
interesting and hands-on”
enjoyed learning new ways to use applications”
concordances and corpora…these are tools that I will be able to use in a
myriad of ways”
activities, we actually went to websites and accessed information”
teaching strategies, activities and web communication”
[corpus] materials provide a different perspective of events.”
In addition, participants uniformly remarked how the
workshop activities helped them to better recognize and respond to the needs of
their students by creating subject-specific classroom materials and activities
of their own. The teacher-created activities and materials included:
constructing a classroom “word wall” keyed to collocations in science; using
materials from corpora with multicultural speakers to deepen students’
understanding of world events; developing social studies PowerPoint “booklets”
on different countries; and creating cartoons depicting new understandings of
language arts vocabulary and collocates (Davis and Russell-Pinson, 2004; 2007).
We feel that our technology-based ESL in-services
activities such as Tarra Ellis’s “Open Sesame” (see
slide 16) soon became showcased at conferences and good additions to our
collection of exemplar activities for content-area teacher training. Teachers
tell us that they continue to use our online oral sampler
of different varieties of (international/national) English, and our thematic galleries;
in 2007, a new group of teachers began adapting selected resources for
mainstream learners with reading or writing problems. Since all the materials
and resources are web-hosted and web-deliverable, they continue to have impact,
and we hope readers will devise new uses.
Davis, B. and Russell-Pinson, L. (2007). One corpus,
two contexts: Intersections of content-area teacher training and medical
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Davis, B. and Russell-Pinson, L. (2004). Corpora and
concordancing for K-12 Teachers: Project MORE. In U. Connor and T.
Upton (Eds.), Applied corpus linguistics: A multidimensional perspective. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
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Villegas, A.M. and Lucas, T. (2002). Educating
culturally responsive teachers: A coherent approach. Albany,
NY: State University of New York Press.
Boyd Davis studies language use in socio-historical
contexts; she develops digital corpora and portals to conversation and
narrative, which support projects on training and materials, most recently in
medical and nursing English. <
Since completing her
postdoctoral fellowship at UNC-Charlotte, Lisa Russell-Pinson has founded Linguistica Consulting, located at http://linguisticaconsulting.com/, which
provides expertise in ESL/EFL materials preparation, curriculum development,
assessment and teacher training.