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Field Notes 2- 2/7/13

mschoyer's picture
Sorry for the delay! I'll be posting my field notes on Wednesday nights since I go to my placement on Wednesdays.
  • Elementary school in a suburb of Philadelphia
  • Tucked into a neighborhood, surrounded by trees, grass, etc.
  • School goes from K-5th, all in one building
  • No businesses, schools, religious buildings, etc. near the school, but primarily houses
  • My placement is with Nina Smith, an English Language Learners (ELL) teacher
    • This is the second semester in a row that I am working with Nina
    • She is the ELL teacher for both Elementary Schools in the district
      • Last semester I only went to one of the Elementary Schools (Elementary 1)
      • This semester I will be doing 2 ½ hours/week at each school
        • The schools are in the same district and similar communities- how will they be different? How will they be the same?
      • Nina is at Elementary 1 every morning and Elementary 2 every afternoon is small- consists of a chalkboard at the front of the room, many book shelves with a lot of books (great for ELL students), Nina’s desk, and a central table with chairs surrounding it
      • It is colorful and often has students’ work displayed around it
  • Last semester, at Elementary 1, I stayed for all of Nina’s three classes- I will be doing the same this semester.
    • Class 1= 2nd grade= 4 students
    • Class 2= 1st grade= 5 students
    • Class 3= 3rd-5thgrades= 11 students            
      • 11 students is approximate- there are usually only 7-10 in class each day due to the fact that sometimes certain students can’t go to ELL because there are more demands of being in a higher grade level, Often times these students, especially those with higher English proficiency, miss a day or two a week since so much is going on in their actual classroom.
    • Between the 3 classes, there are around 20 students and approximately 10 different languages
      • Very interesting dynamic.
    • Each student goes to about 30 to 45 minutes of ELL per day, everyday
  • Although I will be going to both Elementary Schools this semester, today I only went to Wayne as the students are currently in the midst of ELL state testing (ELL Access Test) and Nina is at Elementary 1 all week. Next week she will be only at Elementary 2.
    • Going into today, I was a little disappointed to not be able to get back in the traditional classroom with my students (I had them all last semester) but I was excited to see what their testing is like.
  • The test they take has four components: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
  • They don’t all take the same test (there are six different options):
    • Grade 1-2 Tier 1, 2, or 3
    • Grade 3-5 Tier 1, 2, or 3
      • One of Nancy’s classes is a Grade 3-5 class. I used to think this was only because of scheduling and time constraints, and it was too many grades for one class, but perhaps it is due to the fact that all 3rd to 5th graders take similar tests (depending on their tier.)
    • Speaking is not tiered, only categorized by grade level
  • The test the students take is determined by their proficiency on the first test they take before entering ELL, past Access Test results, and also the teacher’s assessment
  • In order to be released from ELL, a student must pass their grade level Tier 3 test, and additionally, be considered “bridging” (the highest level of ELL) by their teacher.
  • Before testing began, Nina and I first went to meet a new student who just arrived directly from China (3rdgrade boy)
    • Hard to communicate with parents because of language barrier- even harder with the child.
      • How hard will it be to transition him into an English-speaking environment? What pedagogical methods will my mentor teacher use, especially given the fact that he will be in a class with students with stronger English proficiency than he has?
    • Later on, we told another student, who is also a 3rdgrade boy from China, about the new student who would soon be in his class. His excitement was very evident.
      • Out of any students I have worked with, ELL students get the most excited about having other students to identify with and make friends with.
      • This could only be true in an environment like my school, where the ELL students do not all speak the same language as one another and are often the only student in their grade who speaks their individual language. It could be different in other schools where the ELL students all speak the same language (for example, schools that are 95% Spanish, etc.).
      • The excitement shown by this student makes it clear how important socialization and belongingness in school is. The student clearly desired a friend who is “like” himself.
      • I am excited to see how the relationship develops, and perhaps they will be able to help one another in both social and academic situations.
  • Testing began- first we had Grade 3-5 Tier B.
    • 2 girls are in this level, 1 3rd grader and 1 4th grader. The 3rdgrader was absent.
      • Absent students cause issues for testing. Make up testing is hard when there is only one ELL teacher and already a limited amount of ELL time each day.
    • The child who was testing did both listening and reading. She had completed speaking on another day and would do writing at the end of the week.
      • Listening consisted of Nina reading a prompt and the student answering multiple choice questions either choosing a picture, sentence or word that went along with the question asked.
      • Since it is a standardized test, Nina could not answer any questions. She could also only read the prompts once (occasionally twice).
        • The student was a little confused by this. She wanted to ask questions a few times. Nina’s normal class is usually focused on allowing the students to ask as many questions as they want and telling them to make “real world” connections. Is this actually as beneficial as I originally thought now that I’ve seen the testing format?
      • After speaking, the student did reading. It was reading comprehension questions or questions based on pictures/charts that were answered through multiple choice.
  • The next group we tested was Grade 3-5 Tier A
    • 3 students are in this level, and one was absent.
    • The children did writing.
      • One student, who is ELL and is also being considered for an IEP, really struggled with not being able to ask questions.
        • This student got visibly frustrated and left large portion blank.
        • I saw that the teacher was struggling with not being able to help in the way she wanted to. He was absolutely capable of completing the work with slightly more assistance.
        • As a Tier A (the lowest level), should some level of questioning be allowed? I think teachers should have a list of types of clarifying questions they can answer.
  • There was a slight overlap of test periods caused some focus issues. Directions were read to students taking one test while another group of students took another test
    • While I don’t think this is ideal, there is not another way to do this as the students’ ELL schedule depends on what their classroom teacher is doing.
    • This is beneficial, however, in terms of students not missing valuable class time that could set them behind grade level wise.
  • The third testing group was Grade 3-5 Tier C.
    • 2 students, 1 fifth grader and 1 fourth grader.
  • They did the writing portion and both seemed to do well.


jccohen's picture

ELL students and testing


Your notes really give us the 'lay of the land' in terms of both what your field placement will look like this semester and the testing scenario.  Especially helpful are your breakdowns in terms of individual students and their responses to the testing situation.  You ask some probing questions about what might be helpful to particular students both in the testing situation and during regular classroom time in light of what you now know about this testing.

You could paint more of a picture of the classroom -- spatially (arrangement of chairs, what's around the room, etc.).  You might also give a more detailed and layered 'thick description' of a few instances, e.g. one of the interactions you describe more broadly between teacher and student, in this case around testing, or more of an individual student, e.g. more about the new student -- what did he look like, how could you tell he was excited, etc.?  All of this will be helpful for you to recall in greater detail, and will also give your readers a fuller sense of what you're encountering in the classroom.

mschoyer's picture

*Pseudonyms were used

*Pseudonyms were used