In our previous posts on online teacher education, we have mainly focused on ways to build teacher candidates’ knowledge and dispositions for working with multilingual learners. While cultivating asset based perspectives and deepening pedagogical language knowledge are a foundational component of English language teaching (ELT) education, teacher candidates also need to learn to practice planning for, instructing, and assessing multilingual learners. However, this may seem challenging in remote teacher education courses. In this fifth post of the series, we ask:
How can we harness online multimodal resources for engaging teacher candidates in the practice of teaching?
Practicing Lesson Planning for Multilingual Learners
In our last post about content-area language demands, we discussed resources for writing language objectives. But teacher candidates need to, of course, learn to consider the unique needs of their multilingual learners when planning. In a previous post, we introduced Purdue English Learner Language Portraits, which are particularly useful for teacher candidates to view student reading, speaking, or writing samples and then plan a targeted mini-lesson to meet the profiled students’ needs.
To help teacher candidates in WIDA states consider different components of language and content instruction across a whole lesson, WIDA Standards in Action can be a helpful resource. Teacher candidates can view a teaching video and use the discussion questions provided to identify promising practices. Similarly, standards-based lesson videos are available for Arizona, New York (use the search term “English Language Learners”), and California.
Practicing Teacher Collaboration
Teaching should not happen in isolation and so providing opportunities and expectations for collaboration should be an important part of teacher education. In both our face-to-face and virtual classes, we utilize a professional learning community (PLC) model in which teacher candidates practice effective collaboration. These PLCs not only work together and learn from each other, but also establish and follow team norms for their collaboration. These groups then work together in a host of ways, including discussions of content, sharing of lesson ideas, and practicing instruction.
If you have a partnership with a school or a school district, PLCs can also include practicing teachers, who will bring a wealth of experience as well as a measure of authenticity to virtual collaboration sessions. These practitioners can include both English language development specialists as well as mainstream teachers, because teacher candidates will likely collaborate with both types of teachers once they begin working in schools. Besides sharing best practices for teaching, practitioners can also share how to ensure teacher collaboration is successful. In the absence of such partnerships, you can also have teacher candidates read posts on the topic by Simply Ieva and Judie Haynes.
Practicing Delivering and Analyzing Instruction for Multilingual Learners
For a practice lesson, we suggest having teacher candidates prepare an instructional activity or strategy that is fairly brief, known as a micro-teaching activity. As an example, teacher candidates can first watch a video of the 7-step vocabulary strategy being used in a real elementary or secondary classroom, then plan a micro-teaching activity in which they try it out with a vocabulary word they select from a text they would use in a lesson.
In synchronous classes, teacher candidates can practice delivering their lessons to their PLC members in breakout rooms on Zoom or Google Meet. Then, PLC members provide constructive criticism on specific, actionable elements of the lesson. For asynchronous classes, teacher candidates can be asked to record themselves using FlipGrid, an online platform that allows students to post a video up to 10 minutes in length. PLC members can then view each other’s mini-lessons and provide feedback in an audio-visual format. Teaching videos can also be used in synchronous classes, where this format offers the added benefit of pausing the lesson at a critical juncture to provide targeted feedback on a teaching move. We recommend focusing peer and instructor feedback on a handful of specific areas.
Practicing Providing Feedback to Multilingual Learners
In both synchronous and asynchronous classes, it is fairly easy to provide teachers with opportunities to practice providing written feedback to multilingual learners. For example, teacher candidates can view students’ writing samples, which we discussed in our post about language portraits, and practice writing feedback that is targeted, specific, and timely.
However, practicing providing oral feedback and conferencing with multilingual learners is not as straightforward. One way it can be done online is to have teacher candidates use the aforementioned samples, but instead of responding in writing, candidates prepare a brief video where they provide feedback to the student on their work. This activity also allows teacher educators to evaluate candidates on the language they use to communicate their feedback, which is particularly important when working with multilingual learners.
Practicing Family Engagement
Family and community communication has always been an important component of working with multilingual learners and families, especially during the 2020 pandemic. Prioritizing family engagement and communication that focuses on the well-being of multilingual learners is especially important. One way to practice communication is through an asynchronous activity where teacher candidates write a welcome letter to families; this letter can be in a traditional word document, infographic format (we recommend Piktochart for greeting infographics), or in an audio-visual format (FlipGrid can be useful here, too).
Additional audio-visual assignments can include presenting teacher candidates with scenarios and asking them to record a video where they practice speaking with the family member. Examples of scenarios can include explaining a student’s English Learner classification (for those in WIDA states, the “My Child is an ELL” series is a useful model) and discussing the importance of home language maintenance. In synchronous classes, teacher candidates can also work in PLCs to practice discussing shared understandings for family engagement using the WIDA Discussion Tool for School or District Teams.
Teacher candidates can also role-play difficult conversations with families with the help of written scenarios and a simple discussion template. We recommend the following checklist for the role of the teacher:
- Validate the family member’s concern.
- Ask questions to understand the situation.
- Explain steps that can be taken and resources that can be accessed.
- Decide on a solution and a follow-up plan together.
This activity can be done in breakout rooms as a variation of the fishbowl strategy, in which teacher candidates not engaged in the role-play observe the discussion and then give feedback on it.
Creativity Is the Key
There is no doubt that replacing actual face-to-face teaching experiences, especially those with actual multilingual students, is the hardest part of moving ELT education to a virtual space. However, with a little bit of ingenuity and a lot of trial and error, teacher candidates can still experience the everyday tasks of teaching.
What other ways have you used to engage teacher candidates in teaching practice online? Please leave suggestions in the comments, below.