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Developing Educator Expertise to Work with Adolescent English Learners

Module 3 – Shifts in Our Understanding of Second Language Learning: From the Teaching of Oral Skills to the Development of Oracy: A Focus on the Conversation with Alice Stott

By Aída Walqui

OVERVIEW    |    INTRODUCTION    |    PART 1    |     PART 2    |     REFERENCES



Video Clip: Oracy Book Club


Alice Stott: Let me introduce our speaker, Aida Walqui. Aida, we're so lucky to have her joining us because she is a leading expert in this area globally. She's actually joining us from Peru, which feels extremely far-flung and it brings a bit of color as well to what is a dreary afternoon in January here in the UK. Aida directs the National Research and Development Center for improving the education of English language learners in secondary schools. Working for an organization called WestEd which is based in California. And she developed the first program of its kind that focused specifically on quality English teaching or quality teaching rather for English language learners. So looking particularly at the role of teachers in teaching both subject content and curriculum content alongside language learning and not creating a kind of separation between those two areas of teaching practice, which is so important if English language learners as they're termed in America or EAL students as we termed them here in the UK, are to succeed at school. And as I say, Aida is internationally renowned expert on multi-lingual learning. She's published like numerous things. And recently, in fact has a book out that looks really fascinating. I noticed that its tagline or subheading rather is, Promoting Equity Through Dialogic Education, which I thought really resonated with us at Voice 21. And I know really kind of resonates with the conversations that lots of us are having with each of you in the schools that we work in. But the book that we're looking at today kind of in depth is a chapter from this one, so this is a handbook for teaching English as a second language. And K to 12 is American obviously, kindergarten to year 12. So I'm going to stop sharing my screen in a moment because it will enable us to actually see each other and we can kind of get started from there. So thank you, Aida, for joining us. It's really -


Aída Walqui: Thank you very much for the invitation, Alice. It's a pleasure to join you and your colleagues and teachers from around the UK.


Alice Stott: Right? Well, yeah, we're really thrilled to have you. I guess I've given a bit of introduction but it'd be really useful I think probably there's a lot of interest in the room as it were, just about your background and, I guess a bit of context around the teaching of English language learners in the US. I guess because it's a bit unfamiliar for us even that terminology of an English language learner. Could you just tell us a little bit about, I guess you and your kind of way you've got to with this, if that's not too broad a question?


Aída Walqui: Well, certainly, I mean, I have been in the field of inviting students to learn via the medium of a second language for almost five decades now. In multiple contexts. So, I am Peruvian, which is where I am right now, in Peru. And I worked in the teaching of Spanish, the national language to indigenous speaking students. Indigenous language speaking students. Quechua, Aymara. I have also worked in Mexico. Actually in the UK, I spent three years in Lancaster. And then I have spent the larger part of my career in the United States. So first teaching in universities, I taught at Stanford and the UC, Santa Cruz. And then for the last 20 years I have been working at WestEd, which is a research and development agency, and focusing always in trying to transform a profession that always thought that the role was only to teach language into what you already alluded to. An enterprise that invites students to develop their expertise conceptually, analytically and linguistically at the same time. My office is in San Francisco, as you said, but I lived in New York City. And because of the pandemic it's possible to work from anywhere. So right now I'm working from Peru. But many lessons that I have learned have come from this very rich background, working across a wide variety of contexts. Where the languages were different and the faces looked different but still, the issues were basically the same. And I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to elaborate a little bit more on that later on.


Alice Stott: And it seems kind of as an from an outsider perspective that English being learned is a second language or an additional language in the US has become more I guess, more talked about and perhaps more prominent because of the number of, like Hispanic students in particular that arrived into the US school system. Is that right? Is that where the kind of -


Aída Walqui: Well more than 10% of the population of students in the United States are what we call English Learners officially. And of these students a third are in middle and high school, but what is really tragic is that of this third or secondary English Learners, more than two thirds of them are students who actually started their education either in kindergarten or in first grade in English and in the United States. So we have this terrible situation in American middle schools and high schools where students are still trapped in the category after they have spent nine, 10 years in American schools. And because of that, opportunities to take on ambitious coursework, opportunities to go into tertiary education are foreclosed to them. With very serious personal family and societal consequences. So that is a situation that I have worked to really change and transform, but it requires more than simply learning to do strategies. It really requires understanding very deeply what the situation is, how to tackle it and to develop knowledge that is generative. So that, that knowledge can be used in flexible ways across a wide variety of situations, courses, schools, etc. So I said that more than 10% of our students are English Learners in all schools. However, in some States in California and New York for example, the percentage is higher than 25%. And in other states it may be 3 or 4%. So we do have a very large and a growing population of students who need to learn English as an additional language. And it is growing not because of immigration. It is growing from within the United States. So we have English Learners who are first generation, they were born elsewhere and move to the United States sometime when they're two, three or four. But those are the minority. The large majority of them are second generation students. That means it was their parents who migrated to the United States. And now these are native born citizens, and we have still about 20% of them who are third generation. So, it was the grandparents who migrated to the United States. And so you begin to see the terrible inequities of the system that perpetuates a situation, and that, unfortunately, because we tend to teach language in reduced ways and some being detrimental, not just to our students, but obviously to the whole of society. Because it's been calculated that for example, 40% of the growth of the population to the year 2030 is going to be by Spanish speakers. And right now The United States has more native speakers of Spanish than Spain. So the United States is the second country in the world with the highest number of native speakers of Spanish after Mexico. And Spain is only third.


Alice Stott: Yeah. I mean it just show - it's slightly puts in perspective as well the size of the US compared to European countries. But that point that you made about, you know we're talking about students, like generations of families where they've come through the US school system potentially and they're still classified as English language learners. I guess there's a different stages just to clarify for teachers in the UK, where in the US they're tested and they're given that status, aren't they? Whereas here we have a slightly different way of classifying that. So people don't kind of necessarily lose that, the title of being EAL at any point, if English is not their main language spoken at home, that's a label that is given to those students throughout their schooling regardless of how fluent or proficient they may become. Whereas in the US you have a slightly different system where students are tested at different points and then they're kind of given that label and then they can lose that label if they're sufficiently proficient.


Aída Walqui: Exactly. Not only that, but when you look at the nature of the tests, they are language specific tests. So while students may be able to speak and talk about, you know, ideas and seems incoherent they may have a little mistake here and there, you know if you test them grammatically then they just don't know the grammar. They don't know it explicitly to recite it and to do it in the kinds of tests that are given. In fact, my contention is always that if you gave those tests to students who are native speakers of English we will have a whole nation of English Learners. We wouldn't be able to pass the test either, right? So it's, you know, those things need to change and we hope they are going to change. We have a good person, Mr. Cardona, who is being proposed for being our new Secretary of Education. And he has very good ideas about what may be done about English Learners.


Alice Stott: Well, we can await his ideas but we'd probably rather hear yours at the moment. So I guess to that point about, you know, what is it that's caused, bought the US to this point where, there's generations of students who are coming through and is still not grasping English language despite you'd hope the best efforts of the US school system. So what is it then that really good high quality kind of interactions in a classroom to support English language learners? Like what does that look like? And what's the value of dialogue for those students? Because in the extract you shared you showed that example of that quite mechanical and formulated type of questioning that you often find when you're learning a language for the first time and you're slightly talking nonsense, you're listing off all these hobbies that you don't have because you're just trying to learn the hobbies list or whatever it is. And clearly there's a potential pitfall there. But what does it look like when done really well?


Aída Walqui: Well, as a whole, what happens now, something that, Guadalupe Valdés, calls, the curricularization of language. In other words, where you think that language is the curriculum and where you assume that language is developed in a linear way, moving from simpler to increasingly more complex grammatical structures. What one needs to think of, is that language is a social practice that is developed precisely through interaction with others. It is developed when the invitations to engage in activity are enticing. Are found worthwhile. How worthwhile can it be if I ask you to say, you know, the table is and then there's a blank, you know, whatever, you'll have to fill it in with a grammatically appropriate word. Well, that's not exciting. And when you are tested again and again, on that, you keep repeating the course and falling behind academically. So instead we propose that students need to be invited into activity that they find valuable. Activity that is so carefully planned that it really takes gradually students into increasingly more complex endeavors. And that there are supports, there is not only high challenge presented to them but the high challenge is matched in inseparable ways by the high levels of support that teachers offer them. And these supports have little to do with language but have a lot to do with the way in which, for example teachers structured the activity in order to facilitate processes that in themselves constitute developmental processes. Oftentimes here, it is felt that students are not ready to read those tests. Students are not ready to discuss those things. And we say, well, they're not ready because they haven't been given the opportunity to do so. And the support embedded in those opportunities. So it is our firm belief following socio-cultural theorists that it is engagement and participation in activity that drives development. So if students do not engage, if they don't talk they will never be able to develop. In fact, we know that students develop in two different planes. First they develop interactionally and what they practice time and again interactionally in meaningful and powerful contexts, they begin to internalize. And as they appropriate those processes then new ideas, practices, language comes to them. And so it is not a linear progression that we follow when we are working, well actually even in our mother tongues, right? We don't learn to, for example justify an idea once in third grade and that's it. We keep enhancing our ways of justifying things. Even when we go into a graduate program at the university we still learn new ways of using language. We learn new ways of participating. And so we don't develop linearly. We develop in spiraling ways. And so different practices are enhanced but they are enhanced as a result of being provided opportunities and scaffolds in order to accomplish them.


Alice Stott: And that idea of, yeah, high support and scaffolds is something that we continually return to too, because whether a child is learning English for the first time, or whether it's their mother tongue if they haven't been modeled, if they haven't had it scaffolded if they haven't been kind of shown what it is they're trying to achieve with that language they may well not just do it, you know, just pick it up. They need that explicit and deliberate teaching. And as teachers we need to think about, well, what is it we're trying to get them to? And how do we support them?


Aída Walqui: Exactly. And you talk about models, and models are very important. Teachers and classmates are modeling for students who are learning English as an additional language, what it is. Problem is, if you believe as in the paradigm that we want to shift away from if you believe that students can learn are learning only in a very locked step progression of grammar then teachers simplify their own way of talking to them. You know, in the States, there was a role with the term comprehensible input, which said, you talk just a little bit over what students understand. And so where are those models? I mean models need to be present to be able to have students envision where they're headed and then they're supported through activities in getting there, right? As I said before, I've been very fortunate that I've lived in many different countries. But when I was in the UK, the communicative revolution was involved in language teaching. And so my ideas about language learning and the power of language, I mean, I just love the work. There are some colleagues from the University of Birmingham there. Well, the work done in Birmingham was fabulous. And the work done by Basil Bernstein and others in alerting us to the symbolic power of using language and how language really exercises social control over people. Right? So I came to the States or I went to the States and then I started teaching in a high school and I had wonderful ideas. And I just did what I was doing. And all of a sudden a teacher kind of opens my door and says, it seems you don't realize, you're not teaching in a university anymore. And I didn't understand what he meant. But what he meant, then I went, what are you talking about? And what he said is, well you need to talk to them in simple ways. You're expecting too much of them. They'll never, you know, and actually my students initially, this was high school, protested a little bit but eventually they became like the stars of the school, right? So it was, I saw that what I always believed, practiced and taught in universities was actually perfectly realizable in schools. So, it works. But there are other conditions that are equally important. And one is that students must be legitimate. So when you look at students, when teachers look at students, they need to see students not for their past, a grade that is not good, but rather for who they are at the moment with immense potential and who they will be able to become because of the kinds of supports and invitations that teachers offered them. So it's that proleptic or future oriented attitude that has to be there. And that legitimizes that student presence as opposed to, oh, you are a remedial student, then that totally de-legitimizes students. And if we don't want to, if we perceive that we are not wanted or not received as equals, why make the effort? Right?


Alice Stott: Absolutely. And yeah, all of those things that you're saying kind of really ring true to what we're always saying as well, you know around high expectations around modeling about the value of the language that students absorb through listening as well as through speaking and the role of the teacher and thinking about that as much as the kind of output of reading or writing, also thinking about, yeah speaking and listening too. I guess you said here about the idea of, you know it's about the role of the teacher then is to look at the student as who they are now and give them invitations and enable them to access and participate in the conversation of the learning of something that is engaging and curriculum driven. What does that actually look like in practice? Can you give some kind of concrete things for the teachers that are joining us this evening. What would be the kind of things, if you walked into a classroom and you saw a teacher doing that really well, what would you see?


Aída Walqui: If you walked into a classroom where students are perceived as immensely capable, you would see that in spite of the fact that their English may be really reduced, the structure of the activity does not enable anybody to be silent. This is why I said, and if anybody has had a look at the article that I sent, scaffolding has two aspects, there is a structure, the structure are kind of the rules of the game, how you participate. And the structure is there only to facilitate the process, which is the interaction. And so in that sense, the structure is removed, as students appropriate the ways of engaging. A new structure then have to be introduced in order to push them forward. So some people sometimes say, yeah, but you know my students are very shy. They don't want to talk. They don't like to talk, what do I do? Well, you just make it impossible for them not to talk. That's what you do. But you do it in ways that are enticing and rich. And that do not necessarily begin with them talking a lot. You have a video there that perhaps we can begin to show. But let me first explain what our colleagues are going to see.




Start of video segment for Activity 2.3


Aída Walqui: The video that you will see is a typical ESL class or English as a second, you call it additional language. And the students in this class are at the level of beginners. So they've been in the States for three months, two months, three months, four months. And there is one student in that class that actually at the other end of the continuum, she has been there for a year and three months. So there is a range, three months, a year and three months. And in this class students right now in this first step are learning to describe a picture. And the teacher has scaffolded the activity. By first of all, giving students an outline of what a description is. That begins with, what is the purpose of a description, because, and this we learned ages ago from the work of Bernstein, if you show a student a picture and say, describe it. The student says, why would I describe it when you can see it too? There's no purpose for me describing it. But here, the teacher explains that she's going to give students eight minutes to jointly, students in groups of four, to jointly describe a picture. And then she's going to remove the picture and they will join now new groups of four where each one has seen a different picture and they will just rely on their oral production to make the picture clear to everybody. So let's see what happens as they are describing.


Alice Stott: Shall I show the pictures first as well? So everybody can see.


Aída Walqui: Oh sure, why don't we do that.


Alice Stott: I'll do that and then -


Aída Walqui: So there are four pictures going on around the classroom and each table of four sees just one. So here you see these two kids. And then in the other picture, well do you have the other pictures?


Alice Stott: I've got a few.


Aída Walqui: You'll see one of the children that you saw before, but he's in a very different place and doing something very different. Here is that same child in the third. And now let's look at the fourth picture. Once again.


Alice Stott: No, I don't know I -


Alice Stott: I don't know if I got the fourth one, but we've got this one.


Aída Walqui: Don't worry, we have, don't worry in the other one the same child is in a very different situation. It's a dark street and he's alone and he looks very sad. That's all.


Alice Stott: Okay. So if I now get this video, in fact I'll just stop sharing my screen in order to -


Aída Walqui: You'll notice, whether, you know that everybody is talking although not everybody's talking in the same amount.


Alice Stott: I'll just turn up my volume. There we go.


Student #4: There are two boys. They're like at age old, same with us, 14. They like their phone, they look like phone. And then they call and they hold three cartoon books. They are happy to have it. And a smile on their face. That they like to - They like this book. And the scene take place outside the house. It's at night. Even the star on the black sky.


Student #2: Blue. Blue.


Student #1: It looks like even more like at night.


Student #4: Yeah, but you see the star?


Student #4: Yeah.


Student #3: Do you think it's winter?


Student #1: Yeah, 'cause the clothing they wear.


Student #3: Maybe not like -


Student #2: Winter, yeah. Winter. Maybe.


Student #4: I think it’s fall. It’s fall.


Student #2: They're wearing, see this guy, this one.


Student #2: He's wearing a hat. But the forest is not so cold.


Student #1: What do you think this story is about?


Student # 3: Two boys reading book. A cartoon book.


Student # 4: Cartoon book? Then, what they so happy about?


Ms. Ng: They look happy?


Students: Yeah


Ms. Ng: You’re not going to worry about “why.” Let’s think about what you see first.


Student # 1: We just think about the detail in the...


Ms. Ng: Just the detail what you see in the picture. Don’t, you know, don’t worry about why. Did you kind of answer all these questions?


Student # 1: We couldn’t answer the height, because we didn’t... Ms. Ng: Okay, you don’t to have to, right.Any developments after here?


Student # 4: They still, they still read the cartoon book, I don’t think they are like–


Student # 1: (interjecting) Not very old


Student # 4: Fourteen– fourteen years old don’t read that kind of stuff. Right?


Student # 1: Uh–huh.


Student # 4: So they must be of age of ten.




Student # 1: Right?


Student # 3: Yeah


Aída Walqui: So the teacher is concerned here that the students stick to a description. And when she hears them say, why are they reading cartoon books? She thinks they're going to explore a story. And she says don't. But the interesting thing is that teacher leaves and the kids go back to the issue of why is he reading? Because if he's reading a cartoon book he is not 14 like us. And so it's still at the service of a description. And we see that the four kids talk although there's one that dominates the talk. But then the teacher is going to explain, just like there are descriptions, there are narratives. And a narrative is told with a purpose of either entertaining or teaching a lesson. And so in a narrative, it always takes place in a setting. And there is a character and the character begins one way, something happens to the character and then it ends another way. And so she gives them some useful phrases or formulaic expressions that you read in the article. And now they go back, they go to a new group, leaving the pictures behind. So now they rely exclusively on their oral description of the picture. And then they begin to construct a story. And so what we are going to watch next is students working in trying to construct a story.


Student # 12: Lucky boy, lucky boy, lucky boy.


Student # 4: Lucky boy?


Student # 15: No lucky boy


Student # 12: Yeah, he’s lucky. Everyone wants–


Student # 15: Just think about it.Why he have to be Lucky Boy?


Student # 4: You know, like, ten–dollar bill.


Student # 12: Everybody walking down the street, nobody saw it, how come he saw it?


Student # 4: Yeah, he saw first, right, walking on the street, found ten–dollar bill, then go to market and he, they buy books–


Student # 12: Yeah, buy some–


Student # 4: Buy cartoon books–


Student # 12: No I think, I think this is the first one, the one on the street, and he saw ten–dollar bill, and then he went to market and–


Student # 4: How about sad first, sad first–


Student # 15: No, not really–


Student # 4: Sad first–


Student # 15: Not really–


Student # 4: Walking on the street–


Student # 12: Yeah–


Student # 4: Yeah, on the street, right? He sad, he sad, right, and he on the street. On the street he found–


Student # 12: Ten–dollar bill


Student # 4: And...


Student # 12: Went to the market to buy something


Student # 4: Buy the books!


Student # 12: To buy books and, happy ending! There, lucky boy.


Student # 4: He had, the sad first, found money – sad, money, market, books.


Student # 15: No, it’s like–


Student # 12: I don’t think it’s a market


Student # 5: Yeah– A lot of people selling stuff on the street.


Student # 12: It makes, bookstore, isn’t it?


Student # 4: Uh, book market–


Student # 5: They sell different kinds of stuff


Student # 4: Okay. Book market.


Student # 15: No! No, it’s not book market!


Student # 4: What’s it about? That’s where you’re selling a book


Student # 15: It’s about something. It’s not book market


Student # 12: Write the title first,“Lucky Boy.”


Student # 4: Okay,“Lucky Boy.”


Aída Walqui: So in the task now students have create a jointly. And once again, the jointly is not equal. And that is what is unreal in a class. You cannot expect all students to produce the same amount of ideas and language and expression when they all started from very different points. But the idea is that through that interaction they are gaining conceptual, analytic and language competencies. But it's the scaffolding is not evident unless you really understand the nature of the task, how the teacher has constructed it. And you can see there that all students now have to write the story. So while not everybody may have contributed as much verbally, they all write the story and next step they are going to be reading their stories to the class. So Alice, can we see a couple of stories that came from the class.


Alice Stott: I'm just gonna skip it.


Student #3: The title for the story is “Lost in the City.” And the setting is a crowded street, and the characters are Danny and John.


Student #11: Danny and John are best friends. One day they

were reading comic books in the park.After they finished reading their comic book, they decide to go to market to buy some food to eat.


Student #8: They are surprised that the street is too crowded. When they got, then they got separated in the crowd while they were walking, John found a ten dollar bills.


Student #16: Danny was lost. He didn’t know anything about this city. John was looking for Danny. Danny was very unhappy because he couldn’t find John.


Ms. Ng: So that’s the end, right? Okay, very good... (students clapping)


Student #15: Our title is “Lucky Boy.” The setting is on the street in the neighborhood. Character is Danny and Robby. One summer they, Danny go out to buy a gift for, for his brother named Robby.

They are twins; today is their birthday.


Student #12: Okay. Meanwhile, Danny is walking on a street. He saw a ten–dollar bill, and he was so surprised.


Student #5: He’s thinking about to use the money to buy a birthday gift for his brother. He goes to the outdoor market to look for a gift.


Student #4: Then he buy book, he buy comic book and bring the book to his brother.And the, his share the books, and they are very happy to have these books.


(class applauding)


Aída Walqui: Every story that comes out from one of these groups in the class is actually full of wonderful details. I mean the idea that the two kids are twins and today is their birthday. So one is looking, that's such a lovely detail. And what we heard was really the beginning of understanding that a narrative has a purpose, has a structure and then has typical language, once, suddenly, and all of these connectors that are present there. Not only is it important to really understand the structure of the task, but if we were to walk into that class as I did, I was there actually, when they did this, you would see that every child is really working at the edge of their competence. They are pushing and they are really stretching their abilities and they're all engaged. It is exciting. The description is not very challenging. They all have the picture, but as they begin describing and doing other things it becomes increasingly more complex. And we saw that some language is definitely new to the readers. They cannot pronounce well neighborhood or separated, because these are words they have never encountered before. So they are beginning to appropriate that language. And that is why heterogeneity is so important. The modeling that we discussed before, but I gave Alice a graphic that helps explain even in more detail the complexity of this very apparently simple task.


We see that initially the task is static. In other words, the students are describing the scene and the scene doesn't move. It doesn't move. So they just have to capture in oral language what the scene is about. But then students move to next groups and now they need to rely on the description of others to get a sense of the picture they did not see. And it becomes dynamic because your understanding of what is going on moves around as different participants share their ideas. And immediately after that, in that same second group the task becomes abstract. Because now students have to construct a narrative. And the only requirement for the narrative is A, that it follows the structure of a narrative. But secondly, that it makes sense. It must be coherent. That is something that the teacher stresses and indeed all the narratives that we can, if we could see the whole video we could see wonderful narratives coming with incredible little details. And you can see how one child provided the language that others are beginning to appropriate. Because first they heard it, then they wrote it down. Then they had to rehearse before they went in front of the class. And finally they had to read it to the class. And everybody in class is very excited because they all saw the same four pictures but they want to see what their classmates did with the same tools they all had. So the task is enticing, challenging and it drives accelerated development of language. Now this class was 40 minutes long and what we saw happen in 40 minutes. If we compare that to what typically happens in class, students will be working with phrases like, I should have written a letter. I should have gone to the market. I should have gone, and you know, how exciting is that? And no wonder poor students get stuck and unfortunately fail those grammatical tests. But let me stop there with this slide and see, Alice, if you have a follow-up question or if any questions have come from your audience.


Alice Stott: Yes. Well, I would encourage, I can see we've got one question from the audience, that has come up which we will come to a moment but I'll give everybody a chance to put them in. But I think one question just on that, 'cause that was a really brilliant example. And I think that way of thinking about the progression in challenge, like each of those on its own is a talk task. Isn't it? The description, the building of the narrative, the sharing of the narrative. They're all brilliant talk tasks, but thinking about it in that progression as a sequence is really powerful. And I was just wondering if you could say a little bit more about how that might look in areas of the curriculum in other subjects. That same idea of progression through talk but in different subject areas.


Aída Walqui: Yes. And it becomes much more complex conceptually and analytical of course. When I taught, I taught five different subject matters, five classes to teach a day. I used to teach social studies, language arts, ESL, Spanish, and I even taught math in high school, which was totally a crime because, you know only took math in high school myself. But anyway, in the social studies class for example, we would read all kinds of wonderful primary sources, full of details about the event that we would spend a couple of weeks on. So for example, we would discuss the French revolution and read details about how the guillotine was first conceptualized and what ended happening to Dr. Guillotine. Who went to the guillotine himself and anecdotes around that. Or we would read fully about the Storming of the Bastille. Or the ideas of the philosophes, Rousseau and Voltaire and Montesquieu, and the conversations they will have on how all these wonderful ideas came about. And then of course they will read primary sources and would look at, you know, cartoons from the time about the Storming of the Bastille. And they would connect all of these ideas and discuss and talk but a final task that I would give my students would be to have them sit in groups of four. And I would give one group a picture of the Storming of the Bastille. The other group would get the guillotine. The other group would get the philosophes. The other group would get the National Assembly, and how people towards the left clustered to fight for change, dramatic change and how people towards the right cluster for keep their king and queen in place. And so how we call people rightists or leftists from the time of the revolution, but they knew all of these details because they have read it. So now first they have to describe what event of the revolution, of the French revolution is depicted here? Who were some of the main actors and what did they propose? And so they would, for 10 minutes discuss, bridging and building all of the work they had done for a couple of weeks. Then I would remove the pictures and they would go to new tables where four pictures had been seen. And so they start telling the others what they saw and what they remember. And the final task is to put it chronologically together and then write an essay about an aspect of the French revolution that they found had significance in contemporary time. So now they don't just stay there but they take what they learned and see how does that illuminate issues today. So, you know, that's an example of how you may adapt at a very different in a very different context, the same structure.


End of video segment for Activity 2.3



Alice Stott: Thank you. Yeah. That's pretty helpful. 'Cause I think that's something that teachers are often looking for is kind of a principle that you can apply into lots of different parts of the curriculum. And once you have that kind of structure for it you can use it in lots of different ways. I've got a couple of questions. So we've got one question that was asking, do you have any strategies about how you can support children who have very little or a completely new to English? And I guess this relates perhaps to one of the questions we did a poll I mentioned to you earlier and we did a poll about kind of questions for you. And we had another, the top question there was also, how can you support an EAL child who is completely silent? How can you support them to speak? So I guess they're probably related, those two questions. But do you have any thoughts on that?


Aída Walqui: Well, there are multiple strategies to invite students who have little language to really be into appropriate the language of others and begin to feel much more competent about talking. For example, one task that is very simple, it's called or we call it round-robin. And in a round-robin, and it's a different, because people call round-robin different things. So our version, my team and my version of the round-robin is that, and we love groups of four. I know that with RSE, you do a lot of triads. But we don't tend to do triads but we tend to do groups of four very well-structured. So you ask students to share their response to a question about which students have been learning or that projects into new learning and they take turns but when somebody has the floor, nobody can interrupt. And so you go to the group and you say, you know Jorge is going to be last. And so you have explained to the whole class that you don't have to come up with new ideas, but you can actually say, well just like Carlos said, I also think that. And so they have to pay attention to what others say and decide what is it that they are going to mimic in that context. So that's a very simple structure and it enables everybody to talk. I also, another idea is you have novel ideas only. And novel ideas only is a strategy where you give something to students to brainstorm. And the brainstorm is in the form of a listing. So for example, you may say, in the history class some historical figures we have read and really liked in this class are, and just, you give students one minute and in one minute, one person throws out an idea. So for example, they may say, Oh Montesquieu. And somebody else echoes it, Montesquieu. And everybody writes it. Number one, Montesquieu. Number two, let's say Danton. Okay. Then, who is Danton? And you know, Danton. And it's very trivial. But what you do is, there is a stem, some of the people we have studied or historical figures, right? So now you choose the student who speaks the least to stand up with the list that he created collectively and reads the whole thing. So he says some of the historical figures that we have studied and that we were really captivated by include, Danton, “triquitín,” “tracatán,” right? So they feel like they shine and you say, Oh, very good, thank you. Please sit down. And you go onto the next person and you say, now please novel ideas only. So Montesquieu and Danton cannot be repeated again. And so, I mean the example that I'm giving now, is kind of trivial but you can make it really complex and sophisticated but it's not an activity that you can use every day. It's one to be done once in a while. And it works great as review or as anticipation.


Alice Stott: So if they can only come up with novel ideas only then the whole class does that exercise again.


Aída Walqui: No no no, if they don't come up with novel ideas, then you say, so who has novel ideas? And then it's done and you move on to something else. Yeah.


Alice Stott: Uh-huh, I see, yeah. We've got a couple of other questions and comments coming in the chat. So let me just put them to you. So we had someone saying, I really like the fact the way that you said the structure of the activity doesn't allow for students to be quiet. And that's what we're aiming for in an RSE rich classroom. Do you think that English language learners need something different or extra from non English language learners? Or I guess if you're doing lots of things that Voice 21 does, so, you know, language modeling, sentence stems, scaffolds for talk, do you think that's tends to be or?


Aída Walqui: Yeah, I think, we call them formulaic expressions because they're expressions that enable you to move into a conversation and get started, but without content to follow, they are good for nothing, right? And eventually you drop them. Those can be really helpful. But I think there are contextual aspects that are essential. And those are the fact that whatever the student says in whichever way he or she says it, needs to be listened to with respect and understanding. I have seen videos that you show me Alice and students seem to listen to each other a little bit more naturally than they do in the United States. In the United States we have a very serious structural racism and classism. And so it's not unusual to have a student says, you cannot even talk to the other one. Right? Or teachers thinking, I don't understand their accent. And I always, my work is to work also with teachers in professional development. And I always tell them, accents are in the ears of the beholders because how is it that if we love somebody or like somebody and find, oh, so exciting, we are willing to pay attention and go through their accents. And yet some accents are very different or differentially value than others. And so I tell teachers, you need to create the environment in class where everybody understands how complex it is to develop a second language. I mean, after all the students you have in class already speak a language well. And they're learning. Imagine if you went to China and you had to study this course when in China. How would you feel? And how would you feel if they say, I don't understand you. So try, try. And the more you try, the more you will understand them. And one day you won't even notice they have an accent. And so it's conditions like that that legitimate students that are absolutely indispensable but pedagogically, there is a lot that one can do. And understanding always that the structure or the supports are there only as long as they're needed. That the structures are there to build student autonomy. So once student doesn't need it, you remove it. But that doesn't mean you remove scaffolds forever. That means that now observing students contingently in responsive ways, you need to build new supports so that they can keep developing and accelerate.


Alice Stott: Yeah. And what you said there about every student understanding like the point of listening to each other and, you know, as you say, like listening, like to students, regardless of the accent or how they might formulate ideas at first and so on. Yeah, definitely. It's one of the things that we can see return to with one of our kind of benchmarks for what really great practice looks like is around valuing every voice in the classroom. And that recognition that means in how listening is taught, in how students like respond to each other and how the teacher responds and how the teacher listens, listening, wanting to understand all of that is kind of wrapped into that idea. We've just got one more question that's come in that I think is an interesting one. So if it's okay, we'll do that. And then we'll finish up. But it's just a question, because again, on this question about Yale students who sometimes don't talk or don't speak and I don't know if it's kind of conceptualized in the same way in the US but certainly here in the UK there is often when you were kind of taught about supporting those students. That kind of stage of their development which is often termed the silent phase or the silent stage where students are so new to language and they're just kind of taking it all in and they've arrived in the country with very little language. And so I guess, I think the question here is really just like how to kind of balance that off I guess, like what can you do to support those students obviously recognizing, you want to create a classroom where silence is not a huge option but there might be some students for whom, they're not ready to talk. How do you kind of think about that?


Aída Walqui: I think initially it is a matter of even thinking about who you sit students with. So, you know, having taught in high school has made me so wise. I learned more teaching high school than I learned in my PhD at Stanford. But one thing I learned and that is that while all students can learn to be collaborative and patient and good listeners, there are some that are more apt at doing that. And so initially I would sit the student who doesn't speak any English with the students that were the most collaborative. And in fact, I would even call them after class and say and once he gained renew the same spiel and how you need to help them and how you need to be patient and how you need to encourage and invite and do. And so, but that's transitory, you do that for two weeks and then you rotate. So redesigning who sits with whom and what they do is essential in class. And then just really encouraging them to keep because after all students don't only talk, they talk and read and write at the same time. That's why the term oracy is such a wonderful term because it's not just oral skills but it is really the use oral language in academic endeavors. And so we do that to discuss what we're reading to ask questions about what we're ready to problematize what's happening at the moment. So oracy then has to develop in all students. And as you said, listening is essential. And so not interrupting, because we have tendencies that are counter to what should be the case. We tend to complete the sentences of students who are struggling to formulate them. And we think we're being so generous. And in fact what we're doing is we are blocking the opportunity for that student to engage in formulating, finishing. If we only pay attention and wait. So that wait time is not just wait time by the part of teachers, it is also wait time by the part of students. So to keep talking to everybody and saying I'm so proud of all of you, everybody has moved so much. And having your students who are English Learners keeping products, so that at the end of each month you ask them to compare what they did at the beginning of the school year and look at how much you've accomplished. Isn't that wonderful. So always not just valuing the teacher value in student work but helping the student autonomously understand that they have made progress.


Alice Stott: That's a lovely note to end on, and a great positive. And again, something that we, yeah, that I think lots of teachers do kind of a second nature provide that praise, that support which is so important for talk as well as for written work which is often what praise gets directed at. Thank you, Aida, so much for joining us. It's been really fascinating. We appreciate it.


Aída Walqui: Thank you everybody who participated.


Alice Stott: Thank you. Thank you everybody who has dialed in and joined us for the afternoon as well, we'll be sharing the recording. So if you have colleagues that you think might enjoy this or could benefit from hearing from Aida then you can share the recording. We'll put that up on the Voice 21 Exchange. And we've got a couple of events coming up next half term and you can find out about those on the Voice 21 Exchange as well. But we will leave it there for the evening. Thank you again, Aida.


Aída Walqui: Thank you. Bye bye. Come and visit Peru when all of this terrible thing is over.


Alice Stott: Indeed. We'll all be there. We don't need telling twice. Thank you, Aida. We'll see you soon.


Aída Walqui: See you, Bye.


Alice Stott: Bye bye.

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