How we learned
from our conversations in English:
structures support English language development in my classroom?
do conversations between students support English language learning?
strategies do good English language learners use?
can video be used to give my students a window into their English language
Elementary School has a strong Spanish bilingual program that works to
maintain the primary language and culture of its students, while teaching
English through a differentiated English Language Development (ELD) program.
The school-wide data have revealed that despite our efforts, the ELD program
does not work for all of our students. The result of which is that students
are not sufficiently proficient in English by the time they go to middle
school. My current project evolved out of the research I have been doing
for the past four years in my classroom on my own ELD program and teaching
and the implications for our school wide program. I began the project
intending to use video as an additional source of data that I would share
with my teacher research group, where I was focusing on better understanding
the structures that support English language development in my classroom.
In the process of reflecting upon these video data, the idea of using
the video as a text for learning with my students emerged.
My ELD class consists of 18 1st and 2nd grade students for whom
Spanish is their first language. All of the students receive the majority
of their instruction in Spanish. The ELD class is one hour a day, five
days a week. Conversations that students are having amongst themselves
during the ELD hour are routinely videotaped, as well as planned presentations
and performances. Teacher selected pieces are regularly viewed by the
entire class for analysis and collaborative reflection. A number of these
conversations have also been taped for further analysis with colleagues.
This incorporation of collaborative video analysis has become a routine
part of my ELD program, and has come about as a result of earlier research
findings. All of the students have participated in this project.
As a primary grade teacher one of my goals is help students develop strategies
they can use when working with different subject matter (e.g. What do
good readers do when they come to a word they can’t read? Use the
pictures. Get their mouth ready to say the first sound, `etc.) Introducing
the use of strategies not only helps students solve problems but allows
them to think about and take charge of their own learning. Many of the
strategies my students use in the classroom are inherent in the subject
matter we are working with. However, my research on my ELD program and
practice has revealed that English is different. Not all second language
learners do the same things when they are learning a new language and
many students, as well as myself, are unclear of what they can do to get
better at English. The video data have developed into a text that the
students and I use to reflect on our learning and my teaching. My research
has enabled me to make this innovation in my ELD instruction and my research
methodology to both support students in developing and using strategies
while they are learning English and to help me teach this subject matter
At Melrose my project has contributed to a school-wide discussion
about English language achievement. As a result, we have decided to group
students differently next year and focus our professional development
on improving our ELD instruction and program. Further, teachers at Melrose
have begun to explore using audio and video as a source of achievement
data. For the larger educational community, I believe that my project
can provide a model of inquiry that is a tool for both student and teacher
reflection and learning.