REaChing for the stars
Empowering English Language Learners
This blog post was originally published on the on June 6, 2016.
This year, the Winooski School District family English classes took on a new project. Women in their third year of after school English classes explored the world of biography with the goal of writing their own autobiographies. ELL teachers and classroom teachers teamed up to create a year-long curriculum using processes of project-based learning (PBL). The fall semester was spent reading biographies on historical figures. Books were found through the school libraries and provided reading material for students at different levels. Students participated in a combination of shared read alouds, independent reading and choral reading. Characteristics and features of biographies were identified and discussed, such as sequential life events written in a timeline, or a central message to a person’s life story. The teachers used elements of responsive classroom, a greeting meeting and team building activity, to create a sense of community in the class and introduce elements that scaffolded biography work. For example, when discussing how stories often share memories linked to emotions, students might have played “feeling” charades to preview vocabulary and assess understanding. As stories were read in class, students were encouraged to make connections with text and extend their learning through speaking and writing.
In the second semester, the focus was on students creating their own autobiographies. The literacy levels of the class varied, so much of the preparatory work was oral. As students were asked to tell or write memories from different times in their life, the women found similarities between their tales. Each story showed emotion: sadness, joy, and laughter were all present as students creatively put all of their English vocabulary to use to convey their meaning. All students made incredible effort to put their words on paper, and then these were typed up into formal autobiographical texts. Teachers asked questions to make writing more detailed and encouraged verbal recounting and peer sharing. In the end, work was published into a book and each student chose one memory to tell for a movie. A public showcase celebrated their hard work.
The women graciously agreed to put their book up for sale in order to help the district raise more money for future family literacy work. If you are interested in supporting this cause, please follow this link.
The movie can be seen here.
For a curriculum guide and template, which was presented at the NNETESOL Conference in 2016, click here.