I was invited to join an online pilot course on Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE) through the Carey Institute of New York (https://learning.careyinstitute.org).
I decided to sign up, even as I am completing a rigorous program for my M.Ed. in Multicultural Education and ESL through Northern Arizona University. I figure it can only help me with my capstone course, my final before graduation. Also, I am always looking for new ways to support my most at-risk students. I am going to document my findings here in a journal format.
- What resources are needed to support your work in identifying SLIFE within your context? Where might those resources be found?
The state English Language Learner Assessment is usually the first tool, but I definitely do not consider it to be the best: It is designed by corporate investors, curriculum developers, and politicians, and bears little resemblance to any measure given by actual ELD specialists. It was designed, after all, to find out what students don’t know, rather than what they do know.
If I was able to help develop a tool for identifying SLIFE ELs in my school or district, I would first solicit the assistance of Language Acquisition in scheduling translators and/or liaisons hired by the district to meet with students and families. I would also ask for help from Refugee organization reps and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy department.
Some kind of screener must be developed to determine students’ strengths and areas for intervention. I know it would need to have visual cues, places for students to show writing or reading skills, and a rubric for oral language skills. I would need administration and student success team members to help come up with the necessary language and format of a screening tool for these students and their families, hopefully with my input as an ELD specialist. It could be administered with the assistance of a first language speaker, such as a language liaison, to guide them through the process without answering key items for them. They would be there for general support, clarification, and two-way interpretation between myself (as the screener) and the students, as well as their family member. The family member could be part of the screening, as questions about formal schooling and general experience with literacy in the family will be integrated into the screening tool.
I would then arrange screening meetings with the students, their parents or guardians, and a first language interpreter. We would use the tool to guide questioning while practicing transparency about why we are using it. Gaining the trust of new families and students is essential if we are going to be able to apply special interventions. From there, it would be advisable to have lead teachers and paraprofessionals look over the results of the tool with the principal, the ELD resource teacher (myself), the classroom teacher who will support the student into the new school year. Hopefully, this would help us to determine the best course of the intervention.
Some questions we can ask ourselves after the screening: Can the student use additional phonics support? If they need primary skills, they could benefit by attending a morning group within a primary class. They could go before the bell rings, then return to their regular class after the phonics session. Could the student spend more time in pull-out, so ELD Resource can have a one-on-one session during a planning period, or have them work with different ELLs in different groups to gain skills they need at their level of understanding? Also, what skills and funds of knowledge do they bring with them? Can we utilize these in their classroom, and in small group intervention, to empower them and build on existing knowledge? Can we make sure they are always considered for afterschool programs, and not only summer school? After school should not just focus on kids just below “core” in reading–there should be a SLIFE/ELL support class every semester.
These are just some ideas off the top. More to come.