Reaching Goals & Implementing Strategies in ELL classrooms Blog Feature

By: Margo Ensz on May 6th, 2014

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Reaching Goals & Implementing Strategies in ELL classrooms

Featured Topics: Differentiated Instruction | VariQuest Tools: Poster Maker 3600

Sherman Oaks School is a TK-6 Two-Way Spanish Dual Immersion School located in San Jose, CA, the heart of Silicon Valley. The school has 520 students enrolled, including many out-of-district families who enroll for the dual language experience. With 72% of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, the entire school is Title I funded. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this learning community, however, is the 70% of students who are English Language Learners, or, ELLs. This month we are thrilled to recognize Sherman Oaks for their commitment to student success and academic achievement. 

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library poster resized 600Three school-wide strategies designed for teaching English and to help students organize ideas were implemented at Sherman Oaks in order to increase academic achievement:

  • Project GLAD – Guided Language Acquisition Design
  • Thinking Maps
  • Systematic ELD (English Language Development)

In 2011, the school began using VariQuest tools to enhance instructional strategies for ELL students. Here are a few ways teachers use the Poster Maker to support implementation:

  • GLAD & Systematic ELD: Teachers enlarge grids, charts and graphs to poster-size for whole class instruction
  • Thinking Maps: Maps are enlarged to poster-size to help students organize ideas and ensure everything makes sense
  • Teachers leave these visual-aids up in the classroom throughout the year and students refer back to them on an on-going basis

Principal Donna Tonry shares how Sherman Oaks uses VariQuest Visual Learning Tools to support their rigorous academic program:

 “We have been using VariQuest [tools] in best instructional practices for many years to support our high percentage of English language learners and low socio-economic students. Teachers use the Poster Maker daily to enlarge Thinking Maps and other graphic organizers so that students can work in groups for writing and problem-solving.  They find the Poster Maker invaluable to support their GLAD teaching strategies.  The charts can be seen from all corners of the classroom and serve as interactive tools for students of all grade levels.”

chart resized 600Cognitive Content Dictionary (CCD) charts are used daily in every classroom. English learners attack difficult vocabulary words by discussing and predicting their meaning.  Throughout their unit of study, they come to understand the final meaning, supported by visual depictions of the words.  Finally, they learn to use the words in a sentence.  This large-group GLAD strategy promotes reflection, prediction and risk-taking.  Grouping words and definitions by colors helps English learners make meaning of content and organize information.

Math lessons also benefit from this GLAD strategy. Students learn math vocabulary by making predictions, determining the final meaning and using the words in a sentence.

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Sherman Oaks also shows commitment to community and family education. Their Parent Teacher Committee (PTC) uses the Poster Maker to create large, visible reminders of the school’s Parent Education classes, including the Sherman Oaks University Day, which includes classes such as “How to help your child with homework” and “Healthy Eating Habits.”

Principal Tonry shares the quantitative results of increased advertising for the PTC:

“Our Parent-Teacher Committee uses the Poster Maker to advertise special up-coming events.  This has greatly increased parent participation and fund-raising.  The posters also serve as large, visible reminders to parents about Parent Education classes on campus, and, as a result, enrollment in those classes has tripled. “

We at VariQuest are inspired and encouraged by the level of innovation and passion shown by teachers and administrators at Sherman Oaks School. Congratulations on your students’ successes, and we cannot wait to see what you do next! 

Read more about how Sherman Oaks cultivates a culture of academic success through student recognition here.

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