Setting the Stage for Student Talk

    The increasing numbers of students in our classrooms for whom English is not their primary language and the mandate to prepare them for the rigors of the Common Core State Standards and 21st Century careers has created a need for effective professional learning to build teacher capacity for working with culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Not only must teachers be equipped with research-based strategies for ensuring access to core content for English language learners, they must also understand how to build English proficiency through structured activities and multiple opportunities to practice the language in meaningful, authentic dialogue with peers.  Research shows that many teachers lack an understanding of the “cultural capital” that ELLs and linguistic minority students bring to the classroom and the role of these student resources in promoting academic success. This action research sought to address the need for research-based, high impact strategies to support facilitation of academic discussion. With a focus on strengthening oral English language development and increasing student output, a professional learning series was designed to bring familiarity with best practices and to build upon current practice for peer-to-peer dialogue around content.  Teachers were asked to select a PLC focus strategy and then consider student resources as a leverage to enhance engagement. Results showed changes in teacher perceptions and proficiency in promoting student talk and increasing awareness of cultural and linguistic resources that can fuel instruction.

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