Thursday, May 9, 2013

What do ELLs appreciate?

For Teacher Appreciation Week, I wanted my ELL students to thank our whole staff for their hard work and support.  Last year, the ELL teacher I co-taught one class with at my spring middle school had students write thank-you statements to their teachers, which he then put on the school video announcements.  When he was presenting the assignment to his students, he asked them to consider the best ways their teachers supported them in their other classes.  Thus, it was more than just a nice thank-you gesture: it was a reflective exercise for students and an opportunity to remind teachers how they can best support ELLs.

I always love chances to get feedback from my students, and I really wanted to know what THEY appreciate about their teachers.  By thanking their teachers, my students would have to reflect on WHY they like certain teachers and what teaching strategies help them learn successfully in their different classes.  And if we really shared their messages with the teachers, like we did last year with the video announcements, it would be a truly authentic task, which I believe is so crucial to student learning.

With all these goals in mind, I decided to create a Padlet wall so my students could all add their thoughts to a public display simultaneously.  I knew that my students have always enjoyed using Padlet and other similar web tools to collaborate and share ideas in real-time, and it would be easy to send the link to the staff when the wall was complete.  However, I didn't anticipate how excited my students would be to thank their teachers.  Many students wrote note after note listing activities they enjoy and thanking specific teachers for the special things they do.  They mentioned ELL-specific strategies like teaching vocabulary, speaking more clearly, alternate explanations, and extra time.  They remembered special projects, class activities, and ways that teachers made class fun.  Most of all, they wrote about teachers being kind and showing they care by smiling, attending after-school events, helping them through tough times, and making class fun.

Please take a few minutes to read their thoughts! (Or visit the full page, since the formatting seems to be a little goofy on the embedded version!)

When I saw the honesty and truth in their thoughts, I couldn't wait to send the link out to the staff!  After I did, several teachers stopped by to say how much they enjoyed reading the students' notes. I even got a few emails from teachers that demonstrate how meaningful my students' words were to them:

(from a history teacher)

(from a reading & credit recovery teacher)

During class today, I showed the emails to my students. They were so proud and happy that their messages really touched their teachers' hearts.

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