Student History: K.B is a 17 year old male who comes from Mexico. He has been in the US for 3 years. According to his ACCESS scores, which were retrieved from the school's ESL coordinator, his cumulative reading, writing, oral, lit, and speaking scores place him at a 1.9. He is a student in my Junior Language and Literature course. For the past three years he has received pull out services for ESL II and has had access to an interpreter. As a result of the fact that his ACCESS scores have not improved while at our school, he has also been placed within the Special Education field. He receives minutes from a paraprofessional and the classes SPED teacher. Throughout the year I have been focused on integrating this student more completely into the classroom. As a result of being somewhat isolated from peers for a large part of instruction, the student demonstrated a stymied level of acculturation. According to Herrera, Murry and Cabral (2013), "The honeymoon stage is frequently followed by one of hostility, as reality dampens idealized dreams. During this stage, the behavior patterns of students either are misinterpreted by others or are ineffective for interacting within the norms of the new culture" (p. 71). I focused on understanding the student's level of acculturation as a pre-instructional assessment because I was so concerned that after three years the student had not made many friends and was still hesitant to be a member of the class. By observing the negative behavior patterns of K.B. and how even students who spoke Spanish were hesitant to get involved, I decided more needed to be done to manage the negative acculturation that was taking place.
A second step in the process was to determine what K.B. was already working on in relation to sentence crafting so I could determine how their writing level would impact their success in this course. We began the year focusing on diction and syntax. I knew those words might be confusing for the student so while they labeled their work with the same heading as the other students, I asked them to focus on picking out sentences that were interesting to them and to be able to explain why those sentences were interesting. I gave the student some choices: the length of the sentence, the words in the sentence, or the way the sentence sounded. Their task was to choose one of the three options and to try to explain why.
Rubric for Understanding a Sentence
Based on the student's work (the first photo above) I realized that the directions I gave were unclear and even the feedback that I gave was too wordy. The rubric needed to be simplified, maybe even a checklist, so that the student could understand what they did well and what they needed to work on. At this point in the year (and still at times) I was trying to have the student be viewed in the same manner as their peers because I felt they were self conscious of the language barriers. This was not a good assessment to really determine what focus the student needed. It's clear that the student does not understand the basic parts of the sentence so diction and syntax are going to be concepts that are too advanced and don't have cognitive foundation for this student.
Document 1 is an authentic assessment. I gave the student a graphic organizer as a way to help them with a performance based task. Herrera, Murry, and Cabral (2013) state, "If we think of assessments as snapshots of student learning in time, performance-based assessments (PBAs) provide a longer exposure with a panoramic lens, or real-time video. PBAs typically involve the 'actual doing of a task'...and encompass a variety of ways to observe and monitor student learning over various spans of time" (p. 26). The student (and their classmates) saw several documents around the room that were short excerpts from different text types as we were trying to build our understanding of how texts differ from each other. I gave the CLD student the chart below so they could have a head start on what would differentiate texts, including the style of writing and how that impacts an audience (larger purpose). The student went around the room with a group of peers and filled in their chart. Although the chart is not complete the student was able to start looking at different types of sentences and also lots of language. This wasn't a comprehension activity but more of a noticing activity and the student seemed to be more engaged in this one as it wasn't assessing their reading and writing but more so their ability to see the difference in length of sentences and word choice.
Authentic Assessment (Document 1)
Document 2 is a writing sample. The student was asked to read a short excerpt from a story and then pull out a sentence that they believed helped them to understand the story. Using this writing sample, I was able to gather important information. The student struggles with subject/verb agreement as many CLD students do. Also the student struggles at the comprehension level. This is made clear when the student pulls a sentence out that is misquoted and then just repeats the idea of crying. I had chosen a text that was at a 3rd grade reading level and that appears to be above the student's current level.
Writing Sample (Document 2)
WIDA rubric for Writing Sample (Document 2)
K.B.'s writing sample was scored at a level 3 Developing on the WIDA Writing Rubric. This is because the student doesn't always vary their sentence length but they are beginning to develop some complexity in their ability to see something in the text (the young kid crying) and then connect that to a piece of evidence later on (mom and dad dying). The vocabulary is often simple but gets more specific with the connection to 'culture' and 'understanding' throughout the sample. As well the language control is generally comprehensible although there are occasional lapses as identified previously. The student uses the word 'chosed' instead of chose and also 'that's the way how they use it' instead of that's how they use it. These are issues with sentence construction but the larger meaning of the paragraph is still clear.
K.B. Observation (Document 3)
Document 3: As mentioned in the history of the student, I was focused on the acculturation level of the student as that was impeding their ability to be interactive in class. Above is an observation of aspects of acculturation. The student most often scores a 3 out of 5 which shows that they aren't totally withdrawn from class but often struggle with true engagement in the learning process for themselves and with their peers. This also helped me to identify that I need to find more ways to observe the student during classroom learning activities to see if their engagement is always the same or if there are specific tasks that we do that are more in line with their current skills. I would like to find more ways to have the student involved and active instead of constantly seeing their head down on their desk.
Student Summary: After collecting the above data, and also conducting a parent interview during our school's conference night (4/20/17) I concluded the following in terms of strengths and weaknesses.
Language Acquisition: The student struggles with basic interpersonal communication (BICS) because they are often not engaged with their peers fully in class activities. This was drawn from the anecdotal notes I took during the acculturation assessment. Because the student does not speak to their peers during group work, there is a lack of a language exchange. The student is able to take notes while in the group so their listening skills are developing, but this isn't always turning over into verbal skills. This tells me the student understands more English than they can speak which is often the case with language acquisition. As for their cognitive academic language proficiency, this too is falling behind. The student usually uses the interpreter for communicating with me and also with their peers and this makes it hard for the student to include CALP in their everyday thinking and talking.
Writing Acquisition: This is shown to be the student's strength. Although there is clear issues with verb conjugation, this is to be expected when the student has only been in the US for three years. As an ESL II, the student is building their written language proficiency. This is being done by providing reading material in L1 (Spanish) but requiring that the student do the writing about the texts in L2 (English). The student is currently reading The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros while the rest of the class is reading Sula by Toni Morrison. This is because the language level of Sula is too high. The formal diction of the narrative along with the colloquial and vernacular language of the dialogue would prove complicated given the student's current written and oral expression. However when the student is presented with a text that tackles similar concepts (growing up and identity) they can follow along with their own text written in L1. The student's writing level is developing and can be improved with very focused grammar instruction. Include a holistic summary of the student drawn from the assessment data gathered. Identify specific strengths and weaknesses of the student are identified.
Parent Interview: Parents do not speak English. This really helped me to understand that the student does not have L2 support at home and is currently lacking support at school as well because of their connection to the interpreter. Student often texts the interpreter even when not at school so has formed a very close bond. This is excellent in helping the student to develop a connection to the school and to the new culture, but it also hinders their progress in gaining needed language skills. In speaking with the parents with the help of the interpreter, they expressed concern about the student's affect. They mentioned that prior to this year the student was often boisterous upon coming home from school and now retreats to their room. This could be a product of decreasing comfort with their environment. I am also concerned about this information and am trying to work with the ESL coordinator to create a new plan for push in and pull out services.
Educational Plan: 3 Recommendations for scaffolding based on needs in areas of instruction.
1. The first thing I am planning to do is a philosophical inquiry. I recently went to a training on how to use philosophy in the classroom to create better peer to peer culture. I think this is one of the big areas that needs improvement for K.B. If I can help this student to work with their peers more often, I do believe their L2 will develop more fully and they will then engage more with the classwork. This activity, which is described in the image below, asks students to do some ice breakers, to connect with a stimulus that is usually a picture (good for this student who has a lower reading level) and then to create open ended questions with their peers for class discussion.
2. The second thing I am planning for this student is more focused attention to subject verb agreement. I am planning on giving the student a worksheet for this that is leveled for first graders. In this way it is below the students current level and will provide a basic idea of what this skill is and what it looks like. Then I will work with the ESL coordinator to pull out specific passages from our class text that highlight a more complex level of subject verb agreement. I will have the student then create a comic strip of one vignette in the text that highlights how the author uses subject verb agreement.
3. The third thing I am going to do is read with the student. I think I need to spend more focused time taking observations of the students oral and reading skills since I didn't have a chance to do this already. This will allow me to pinpoint which vocabulary is giving the student trouble and then I will be able to create more focused vocabulary instruction for the student with the help of the ESL coordinator.
Authentic Assessment 1: The excerpt below from Herrera, Murry, and Cabral (2013) is a peer assessment (p. 35). I have determined that one of the reasons the student is struggling with language acquisition and acculturation is the lack of peer engagement. Students will be doing a creative writing project where they need to create their own blog post that shows their understanding of themes in the books we are currently reading. I am going to assign K.B. a partner and have them do peer assessments no less than three times. I am hoping that if K.B. has the same partner for all three assessments that they will feel more comfortable talking and engaging. I have a student who does not speak Spanish and this will be the partner. I want to make sure that K.B. is trying to practice L2 since they don't get this opportunity at home. Also working with their peer will give them access to BICS and CALP.
Authentic Assessment 2: As I noted earlier the student struggles a bit with sentence construction. As we are working on reading the text House on Mango Street and trying to focus on theme, I would like to also employ a scaffolded essay for the student. Herrera, Murry, and Cabral (2013) show that this requires a break down in steps of what you hope to gather about the reading and put into the writing (p. 42). I do think this will help the student to be able to focus their writing, to develop their ideas more and to use more focused vocabulary. I am hoping to move them from a level 3 on the WIDA writing rubric to a level 4. This will require course specific wording and the scaffolded essay will allow me to do that. I might also modify the information below to include word boxes for each point in the essay so that they have a clearer idea of what i'm looking for in their writing.
Reflection: I am still struggling with understanding how to best assess this student. I know that I haven't done enough observation of their skills and rely heavily on anecdotal information instead of more formal checklists. I know it would help me, especially in talking with the parents, to have something to refer to. This would also allow me to connect the scaffolds to observation and assessment information. The student is currently not growing even after almost an entire year in my classroom and continues to put their head down. I am wanting to feel more effective in the classroom and i'm sure the student would like to feel that too. I need to reach out to the ESL coordinator more often and possibly co plan lessons so I understand more how to integrate language and content skills into every lesson that relate to K.B. while also accessing the other students' skills. This is a very challenging case study and it continues to feel unfinished.