Oregon Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages

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  • 5 Aug 2018 8:22 PM | Anonymous

    What is HB 3499? 

    According to Representative Joe Gallegos, “In Oregon, 34 school districts have a student body population composed of at least 15% English Language Learners (ELL). In many of these school districts, there is a significant achievement gap between English-speaking students and ELL students. Under current Oregon law, school districts receive a 0.5 additional weight per ELL student. However, other than the additional funding weight, little consistency in accountability, curriculum, benchmarks and programmatic standards exist among ELL programs. HB 3499 (-2) addresses three main capacities of ELL policy: Uniform coding & budget transparency, a system of supports & interventions, and long-term strategic development.”

    House Bill: https://www.oregon.gov/ode/studentwills-and-family/equity/EngLearners/Documents/ELHouseBill3499.pdf

    The benchmarks that will be set can dramatically impact districts, schools, classrooms, teachers and students.  It is important to be informed, to speak into best practices for English language learners and advocate for appropriate steps to improve education in Oregon.

    Who was involved in the new EL Advisory Group?

    The Oregon Department of Education’s website states that, “Having a diverse group of community and district stakeholders is an important part of the Oregon Department of Education’s (ODE) decision-making process and effective implementation of the EL Strategic State Plan. This new group is comprised of district and school administration, teachers, students, parents, and community members.” (2017)

    To represent Oregon teachers, ORTESOL Refugee SIG Chair, Susan Kaller was a representative in this important group. 

    Since joining the ORTESOL board in 2016 she began to attend some state meetings and was asked to continue her work with ODE (Oregon Department of Education) on the EL Strategic Plan. The EL Advisory Group prepared a presentation for the COSA (Confederation of Oregon School Administrators) EL Alliance conference on February 8th, 2018. Susan attended the conference March 7th-9th in Eugene and presented on March 8th.

    Kaller reflected, “The EL Alliance conference was extremely well attended with many sessions, so much so it will likely require a different venue next year. For K-12 ESL teachers and administrators, it has become the big “go to” conference in Oregon. The focus of the conference was on SPED/ESL coordination and newcomers in the classroom. There were 13 sessions per breakout covering everything from instructional strategies, program set up, licensure, professional development, recent legislation and regulation, trauma, understanding and accessing information ODE makes available, and research. Jeff Zwiers of Stanford gave the keynote on ‘authentic communication.’”

    Participating in and advocating for English language learners has been a significant part of my role on the board explained Kaller. Throughout the process, the group has made an effort gather feedback from as many as possible in state board of education for approval. 

    What can you do to advocate for English language learners and teachers?

    1)    Educate yourself and clarify the issue.

    2)    Attend a public meeting.

    3)    Continue to understand rights and policies for ELLs.   

    4)    Identify who your allies are. 

    5)    Organize and educate others.

    6)    Identify your outlets for change.  Consider asking the following questions:

    a)    What can I do in my classroom?

    b)    What can I do in my school?

    c)    What can I do in my district?

    d)    What can I do in my community?

    e)    How can I collaborate with other non-school-based communities?

  • 5 Aug 2018 8:18 PM | Anonymous

    TESOL International Association has defined a core set of principles for the exemplary teaching of English learners. The 6 Principles are universal guidelines drawn from decades of research in language pedagogy and language acquisition theory. They are targets for teaching excellence and should undergird any program of English language instruction.  Here are some highlights...

    Principle 1: KNOW YOUR LEARNERS

    Teachers learn basic information about their students’ families, languages, cultures, and educational backgrounds to engage them in class and prepare and deliver lessons more effectively.

    Some Practices for Principle 1
    Teachers gain information about their learners.
    Teachers collect information about their students’ linguistic and educational backgrounds to determine correct placement for students. They also seek to learn a new student’s cultural and geographic background as a resource for classroom learning .

    Teachers embrace and leverage the resources that learners bring to the classroom to enhance learning.
    Teachers tap their learners’ prior knowledge purposefully in their teaching. They try to determine what gifts and talents students bring to the classroom, what interests motivate them, what life experiences they have had that are curriculum-related, and what else in their backgrounds has influenced their personalities and beliefs.

    Check out these Classroom Activities That Support Principle 1.


    Teachers create a classroom culture so students feel comfortable. They make decisions regarding the physical environment, the materials, and the social integration of students to promote language learning.

    Some Practices for Principle 2

    Teachers demonstrate expectations of success for all learners.

    Student achievement is affected by teacher expectations of success. Teachers must hold high expectations and communicate them clearly to all their students—English learners and other classmates, which will motivate them to perform at a high level.

    Teachers plan instruction to enhance and support students’ motivation for language learning.

    Language learning is difficult and takes a very long time. Learners may not see the benefits of spending time and energy in learning English if the effort does not have an early payoff or it feels outside their own comfort zone. However, we know that motivation is an important condition for language learning, so teachers need to engage their learners and motivate them to work persistently at learning the new language.

    Check out these Classroom Activities That Support Principle 2


    Teachers plan meaningful lessons that promote language learning and help students develop learning strategies and critical thinking skills. These lessons evolve from the learning objectives.

    Some Practices for Principle 3

    Teachers use comprehensible input to convey information to students.

    Comprehensible input is of primary importance for progress in the target language. Whether oral or written, comprehensible input helps English learners understand the meaning of the communication. Teachers scaffold the language input in multiple ways to aid learner perception and promote understanding.

    Scaffolding for ​Comprehensibility

    Teachers communicate clear instructions to carry out the learning task.

    Teachers use and teach consistent classroom management practices and routines throughout the school year in an effort to help students understand what is expected of them in a classroom and throughout a lesson. Teachers use simple directions with patterned language that they repeat each time.

    Check out  these Classroom Activities That Support Principle 3


    Teachers continually assess as they teach—observing and reflecting on learners’ responses to determine whether the students are reaching the learning objectives. If students struggle or are not challenged enough, teachers consider the possible reasons and adjust their lessons.

    Some Practices for Principle 4

    Teachers check student comprehension frequently and adjust instruction according to learner responses.

    To teach effectively, teachers need to evaluate what students know and what they do not know, in real time. We do not want to wait until the end of a lesson or the end of a unit to discover that our students have misunderstood a key concept or have incorrectly learned critical vocabulary.

    Classroom Example: Teachers check comprehension with group response techniques.

    Teachers can use quick comprehension checks during a lesson to gauge how the class is doing. Some group response activities include

         Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down

         Response Boards (all students respond individually on a dry-erase board or sheet of paper and show the teacher)

         3-2-1 for Self-Assessment, and

         Technology options (websites and apps) using handheld devices or tablets.

    Teachers adjust their talk, the task, or the materials according to learner responses.

    If teachers notice student confusion or misunderstanding during a lesson, they make adjustments so that all learners can meet the learning goals. They may vary their oral language input, use home language or alternative texts, present visual aids, or arrange peer support. They might adapt a task by adding more time, finding supplemental resources, or pulling a small group of students together for reteaching.

    Check out these Classroom Activities That Support Principle 4


    Language learners learn at different rates, so teachers regularly monitor and assess their language development in order to advance their learning efficiently. Teachers also gather data to measure student language growth.

    Some Practices for Principle 5

    Teachers monitor student errors.

    By interacting frequently with our students, we can acquire a great deal of information about their progress. Some teachers record the results of their interactions (e.g., correct and incorrect uses of English) in an anecdotal way, use a check list, or change student grouping patterns and/or partners, depending on their newly developing proficiency.

    Classroom Example: Teachers reteach when errors indicate that students misunderstood or learned the material incorrectly.

    When errors are not part of the language development process, teachers plan for reteaching or additional practice. They may present a mini-lesson on the topic for the whole class or work with a small group of learners who need the support.


    Teachers provide ongoing effective feedback strategically.

    To be constructive, a teacher’s feedback in response to a learner’s error is delivered strategically and in a timely manner but it must also suit the age and language development level of the student. The feedback can be positive or corrective. It is important that the feedback be specific and related to what learners are doing well in addition to what they can improve.

    Classroom Example: Teachers deliver feedback in a timely manner.

    Students may be more able to use feedback if it is not delayed. Timeliness is more important with oral feedback than with written feedback. Private feedback is appreciated by all students, no matter their age.

    Check out these Classroom Activities That Support Principle 5


    Teachers collaborate with one another.

    Exemplary teachers collaborate with others in the profession to provide the best possible support for their learners. They meet with colleagues to co-plan and share their expertise about second language acquisition as well as instructional techniques appropriate for students at different levels of proficiency.

    Example: Teachers meet with colleagues regularly to co-plan for future learning.

    ESL/ELD teachers need to become co-planners to ensure their students’ success in developing English language and content proficiency. These planning opportunities permit ESL/ELD teachers to become aware of the extent of the content learning required for students. They also allow ESL/ELD teachers to share information about students’ language proficiency with content teachers. The school administrators can help by making certain that scheduling allows teachers to collaborate with colleagues for planning.

    Teachers are fully engaged in their profession.

    Teachers participate in continuous learning and ongoing professional development and they also reflect critically on their own classroom practices. They develop leadership skills so they can be a resource in their school and get involved in designing programs and developing curricula.

    Check out www.tesol.org/the-6-principles for additional videos, resources and information on The 6 Principles.

  • 12 Jul 2018 7:29 PM | Anonymous

    Brooke Kaye, Oregon State University

    Received 2018 International TESOL Travel Grant, along with a coworker.

    A few weeks ago I was working with Iman, an international ELL student, on an essay for her reading and writing class. She had come to the Undergraduate Writing Studio at Oregon State University because her instructor had highlighted sentences that were confusing and she didn’t know how to express her thoughts more clearly. I encouraged her to talk through her ideas while I transcribed what she said. Sharing her thoughts aloud helped her to compose several beautiful sentences full of meaning. I read the sentences back to her and she was pleased with the results and relieved to have moved through this roadblock in her writing. Iman confessed to me that she had been feeling very stressed – midterm exams were looming, and on top of school demands she had a newborn baby, a 3 year old and a kindergartner to care for. She was also busy getting ready for the holy month of Ramadan. I was in awe of how much she was managing, all in an unfamiliar cultural landscape with no extended family support.

    This interaction made me reflect on the excellent plenary talk that Mary Helen Immordino-Yang gave at the 2018 TESOL International Association conference in Chicago in March. Immordino-Yang presented research showing how a person’s sense of emotional well-being has a strong impact on their ability to learn. Essentially, emotion is the driving force behind thinking – meaningful learning always involves emotion. When we feel safe and connected we are motivated and able to create meaning and learn.

    In life as in writing projects, connection and meaning are built at many levels - from vocabulary choice and sentence-level grammar to discourse level and audience analysis. At the TESOL conference, I learned tools for using theme and rheme to help create cohesion and meaning at the discourse level. I also learned how ELL teachers are using corpus tools to help students analyze word choice and see patterns in academic writing. I have been excited to use these strategies to help second language learners improve their writing. Immordino-Yang’s lecture, though, reminds me that before we strive to create meaning in text we must first create connection through meaningful interpersonal interactions.

    I wanted to help Iman create meaning, not just in her writing, but also in her life. I knew from Immordino-Yang’s lecture that the more connection and support she feels the more successful she will be in school. I empathized with her as a mom who was also trying to manage my own work/life balance. Iman mentioned to me that she didn’t have many other mom friends, so I told her about an international mothers’ group and gave her the contact information. She seemed excited to connect with other women who shared that aspect of her life.

    After attending the TESOL conference, I now have more strategies than ever to help students like Iman. The most important of which is tuning in to their social-emotional landscapes. As Writing Studio tutors, we are trained to look at a hierarchy of rhetorical concerns in student writing – addressing issues in purpose and content before grammar and punctuation. Immordino-Yang’s lecture reminds me that the first order of concern should be to meet the writer at an interpersonal level, to create meaning and connection in that interaction, before diving into the complex and beautifully surprising world of second language writing.



    The James Nattinger Travel Grant for the TESOL Convention gives an ORTESOL member the chance to attend the international convention when they might not normally be able to due to finances. TESOL Convention provides a wealth of opportunities for networking, learning and growing professionally. For more information about grant opportunities check out the membership tab on the website or e-mail info@ortesol.org

  • 12 Jul 2018 7:24 PM | Anonymous


    ORTESOL monthly blog is a place to grow professionally by writing and reading about relevant ESOL news.

    Kara Sappington

    ORTESOL President

    The mission of ORTESOL is to promote scholarship, disseminate information, strengthen instruction and research at all levels in the teaching of English to speakers of other languages, and to cooperate in appropriate ways with other groups having similar concerns. We are continually looking at ways we can equip, challenge and support ESOL educators in the state of Oregon.

    The ORTESOL Newsletter has historically been a place to hear about ORTESOL news, teaching tips, research theories, and relevant information on different special interest groups (K12, Refugee Concerns, Adult Education and Higher Education) from Oregon. We are shifting our quarterly newsletter to an the ORTESOL blog. This online format will allow more up to date information to be shared and allow us to link relevant articles from other education forums.

    The ORTESOL membership is rich with varied perspectives, backgrounds and expertise. We would love to have members share their voice on the ORTESOL Blog!

    There are many possibilities for articles, but here are a few ideas:

    ● What activity have you done in the classroom recently that had great success?

    ● What fun field trips or active learning projects have you done around the region?

    ● Do you have a book or resource review?

    ● What reflections do you have to new ESOL teachers?

    ● What advice would you give to planning an outside learning task?

    ● What content-based teaching ideas do you have?

    ● How do you use technology in the classroom?

    ● What highlights or knowledge do you have on a specific student language group?

    ● What is student perspective or story you could share? (You could interview them!)

    ● Who could you interview in the field of ESOL?

    ● Did you attend or know of an upcoming cultural event that would be relevant for members?

    Be creative and tell your story! Check out our Newsletter Guidelines for additional tips on how to make your blog a success.

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