Leaning Forward Together

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Sociocultural Aspects of Schooling for English Language Learners

First and foremost, I think struggling students sometimes stay in school because of the connections they have with their peers in classes, clubs, and school activities.  When school and classes are hard and students are struggling with issues at home, the students who have somewhere they feel like they belong, I think they have a better chance of getting through difficult times.  I will encourage all of my students to find an activity they feel like they can belong in so that they have a support group on campus.  I will go over the various clubs, sports, and activities they can join.  In addition, I will have resources posted in my room which explain the various campus involvements.  For the ELLs specifically, I will help them find something that fits their needs.  If there is nothing, I will start an International or Language club where students of all languages and backgrounds can come learn about different cultures.  I will make sure my students have a place to belong, whether they are an ELL student or not.  In addition, as activities like football games and homecoming come up, I’ll spend a few minutes in class going over the history of those traditions so everyone learns how they were started and why they stil exist.  By doing so, I will provide insight for my ELLs to learn about American culture.  


Accurate Assessment for ELL Students

“Barbie Doll” by Marge Piercy

This girlchild was born as usual
and presented dolls that did pee-pee
and miniature GE stoves and irons
and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs.

She was healthy, tested intelligent,
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.

She was advised to play coy,
exhorted to come on hearty,
exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.
Her good nature wore out
like a fan belt.
So she cut off her nose and her legs
and offered them up.

In the casket displayed on satin she lay
with the undertaker’s cosmetics painted on,
a turned-up putty nose,
dressed in a pink and white nightie.
Doesn’t she look pretty? everyone said.
Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.

Paragraph Grading Rubric:
Prompt: “What implications does this poem have for you and what does it tell you about the things you do not like about yourself?”
10 points possible: Respond completely to the prompt and use the theme of the poem to relate to something in your life.
8 points: Response does not tie incorporate the theme of the poem.
5 points: Only answered half of the prompt.
0 points: Not addressing the prompt or not turning it in.

I chose to grade the paragraph in this manner because we had talked about the poem in class and spent time going over the theme and vocabulary. The purpose of the paragraph is to have students make the connection between their personal lives and the text they read in class. I do not expect it to be a fully polished piece, so I am grading them on the content, not the mechanics.

SDAI Strategy

An English teacher would know that when he or she asks the class to “compare your shoes with the shoes of your partner,” the students would be expected to state the similarities and not the differences.  Defend means to give reasons to support your argument.  Explain usually means to tell how one arrived at a conclusion…and you get the idea.  These instructional verbs have significant meaning and tell the students how they should respond to the prompt.  

Many students struggle with academic vocabulary, and this is an easy way to help boost their knowledge in all subjects.  



This is a cube you can make out of a single page of paper.  You cut around the outer edges and then fold on the solid lines until it makes a cube.  Tape it up and put one instructional verb from the following link on each side.  The words you choose should be ones you have been practicing in class or are starting to learn.  Have a student toss the cube up, and whichever side is facing up when it lands will start a writing prompt.  Either the student can make up the whole prompt or you can do it for them.  Have the students take a few minutes to respond and then do a think-pair-share.  This is a simple activity and it can be a warm up for some days.  

Instructional Verbs



We were asked to post a photo of an injustice.  At one point, I would have said this is a blessing, but it’s truly an injustice and it makes my heart hurt.

I had the opportunity to observe a cycling P.E. class and I was ecstatic because I love going to cycling classes at the gym.  I was disappointed to see two bikes not working.  Here’s a picture of just one.


I was further disappointed when I discovered the class was over-enrolled by FIVE bikes.  So, there were seven students without bikes since two were broken.  The students sat and talked to their friends while they waited for other students to finish with their routine so they could start.  Here are the kids just waiting.


The last picture is the class cycling.  I couldn’t even count how many bikes were in there.  It was hot, swampy, and kind of gross.


I said that at one point I would have thought that this was a blessing, but my mentality has changed. Being active reduces stress, increases endorphins, and provides a sense of accomplishment–something acing a test can’t do for a person once they’re out of school.  These kids are missing out on precious P.E. time and I’m really sad, but I doubt they are.  I hope they learn to love, or at least find the value in, cycling by the end of the class.

Alpha and Omega: the beginning and an end

I start my student teaching tomorrow at Vista High School.  I have no idea what class I will be placed in, and until ten hours ago, I thought I was going to be at Orange Glen High School.  I had helped the English department at OGHS set up their classrooms as I became acquainted with the school, its goals, and its values.  The sudden change was disappointing, but I started getting excited after I received a welcoming e-mail from the on-site liaison for VHS.  I realized, at that moment, that I’m blessed beyond all measure.

This summer I ran a tennis program, taught swim, and met the most amazing coworkers.  Summer ended and I had to leave the town I’d lived in for seven years while I completed my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.  I left behind friends, sorority sisters, a fraternity I am Sweetheart for, a job I was obsessed with, and a church I had come to call my home.  I hate goodbyes and I wish I never had to say them.  I overuse this quote, but Jack Kerouac said it best:

“What is the feeling when you’re driving away from people, and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? -it’s the too huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

I feel empty without the familiar faces and places, but I’m leaning forward.

When I walk onto VHS’s campus tomorrow, I know I am going to fall in love with those students. When the semester ends and I move to a different school, I know I will be back to this empty feeling.  But this is my joy—to positively affect as many students as possible.  The purpose of education is to lean forward against adversity, challenges, and preconceived notions to recognize the brilliance each student has within.  As an educator, it is my responsibility to never stop leaning, learning, and networking to give all students a chance to succeed.  We’re in this together, my students and me, and we’re leaning because school and the future is a crazy adventure.  I can’t wait to meet my students tomorrow.

Since it was their last day of morning tennis, they had a water fight complete with squirt guns and water balloons.  I love summer.