Education StudentsPresenters at a recent Tennessee conference on Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages were, from left, Dalton State education students Rica Cobb, Michelle Ackley, and Ashley Baker, and Associate Professor of Education Dr. Sharon Hixon.

Dalton State Education Students Present at Conference

Three senior education students from Dalton State College recently presented at a conference of Teachers of English to Students of Other Languages in Tennessee.

The students were participants in a research project directed by Dr. Sharon Hixon, Associate Professor Education. The project, according to Hixon, used the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP model) to prepare teachers to work with English language learners. Developed by Drs. Jana Echevarria, Mary Ellen Vogt and Deborah Short, the model has eight elements: lesson preparation (containing a key feature of writing a lesson with a language objective), building background, learning strategies, lesson delivery, comprehensible input, interaction, review, and assessment.

Ashley Baker of Calhoun told the group of Tennessee educators that she has found literature to be helpful in teaching students of other languages. “I recently taught a unit on the Civil Rights movement and used the book Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry to provide background knowledge,” she said. “By doing this, my students were all able to understand the reasoning behind the importance of the Civil Rights movement because they were able to see the conditions of the Jim Crow laws.”

“My portion of the presentation focused on how I incorporate the use of graphic organizers as a learning strategy to help students organize and better retain newly-learned knowledge,” said Michelle Ackley, of Tunnel Hill.  “This is a strategy addressed in the SIOP model designed for English language learners, but I find that it benefits all students.”

Students were pleasantly surprised at the feedback they received from the veteran teachers attending the conference.

“I received an overwhelmingly positive response when I shared my experience of how the fifth grade students in my placement created their own graphic organizers to complete an assignment,” Ackley said.

“It was really exciting to be presenting to veteran teachers and watch them scribble notes about what I was saying,” added Rica Cobb of Dalton. “They would interrupt me to ask questions, and they asked me to email my notes and lesson plan ideas. It was encouraging to be seen as a colleague rather than ‘just a student teacher.’”

Cobb addressed the group on strategies she uses to include student interaction into lesson plans in order to facilitate language practice. “I talked about how I use student engagement to gauge the success of my lessons,” Cobb said. “If a student is fully engaged in a lesson, then I know that learning will occur naturally and fully.”

“The students fielded questions from the veteran teachers as if they, too, were seasoned professionals,” Hixon said. “It was very gratifying to observe; they did a great job.”
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