Developing a Culturally and Linguistically Responsive School:

Professional Development to Highlight Assets ELs Bring to the Classroom

Alexis Davis and Daniela Rodriguez, Monett Early Childhood Center, Monett, MO

Developing a Culturally and Linguistically Responsive School:

Introduction

The Monett R-1 School District serves a large population of English Learner (EL) students; out of 2,346 students, 48% identify as a minority. Many students come from low socio-economic backgrounds and have minimal literacy exposure. About half of the students in each Monett classroom are ELs, and educators often believe they lack the training required to efficiently serve them. For this reason, providing professional development to educators, as well as resources, is crucial in developing a culturally and linguistically responsive school which works to "understand how learners construct knowledge through cultural lenses, learn about students' experiences and cultures, be socioculturally conscious by being aware of the school context, hold affirming views about diversity, use appropriate instructional strategies, such as tapping the students' home language and community resources, and advocate on behalf of all students” [Gottlieb, 2016, p. 8]. This professional development session is designed to shift educators’ perspectives from one in which ELs are seen as a deficit to one in which they are valued as assets and to prepare them to work with ELs by providing them with the resources to support them in the classroom.

Step-by-Step Plan

Before the Professional Development Day:

  • Find an EL consultant to present to teachers. Coordinate with the school administrator to schedule the date and location of the professional development session.
  • Decide who the audience will consist of (general education, special education, special teachers, etc.).
  • Create and send out a form asking teachers about their experience with ELs and what they would like to learn more about when working with ELs.
  • Prepare a 3–5-minute presentation to give in a language other than English to allow teachers to experience what an EL may feel when they are being taught in class.
  • Find multicultural books to be purchased and gifted to general classroom teachers to help them start a multicultural library.
  • Find textbooks that provide educators with strategies to support ELs within the classroom.
  • Provide an information sheet to hand out during the presentation with resources for educators to support ELs.

During the Professional Development Day:

  • Deliver the 3–5-minute presentation in a language other than English.
  • Be available as needed by the speaker.
  • Give each classroom teacher the multicultural books and the information sheet.

After the Professional Development Day:

  • Send out a Google Form to teachers, allowing them to provide feedback on the session.
  • Deliver the textbooks to the library for teachers to check out as needed.

Timeline

See plan above.

Budget

| Book Title
| “The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi
| “Duck for Turkey Day” by Jacqueline Jules
| “Hats, Hats, Hats” by Ann Morris and Ken Heyman
| “Shoes, Shoes, Shoes” by Ann Morris and Ken Heyman
| “Houses and Homes” by Ann Morris and Ken Heyman
| “Bread, Bread, Bread” by Ann Morris and Ken Heyman
| “The ELL Teacher’s Toolbox” by Larry Ferlazzo
| “The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide”by Larry Ferlazzo

What did it look like?

Sustainability

This project can be sustained by following the step-by-step plan above, which allows other educators to replicate it and bring multiliteracy into their school districts through professional development. Additionally, EL textbooks added to the building’s library provide continual opportunities for educator growth in supporting Els with innovative instructional strategies, tools, and activities. Furthermore, to stay within budget, a helpful tip is to utilize an in-district resource (ELD coordinator, ELD director, ELD educator, etc.). If an outside presenter is preferred, the number of texts provided to teachers can be reduced.

Reflections

Overall, Developing a Culturally and Linguistically Responsive School was very successful and benefited many educators. As we reflect on this project, we acknowledge its many challenges: scheduling, presenter conflicts, and budgeting. Although embarking on this plan to equip our building educators to support ELs came with many hurdles, we maintained focus and persevered.

After this project was approved, we scheduled a meeting with our building administrator the following month to discuss our project idea and implementation. Our principal favored our idea and agreed to follow up with possible dates/times. We then searched for an outside presenter, found one within our budget, and forwarded her agenda to our principal. Unfortunately, our professional development session by an outside presenter was rejected by our upper district administration which resulted in a significant shift in our project.

Not only was our outside presenter rejected, but we were also facing limited time and dates for our session. It was decided that we could follow through with our project if our district EL coordinator presented. Furthermore, our original request time of 2 hours was limited to 45 minutes. Our multiliteracy professional development session was then added to the PD calendar.

Since our presenter works for our school district, she was not able to be reimbursed with the grant funds. Therefore, the money that we had allotted for an outside presenter could not be used accordingly. We scheduled a meeting with the Show Me Multiliteracy project consultants to discuss ideas for the unused presenter funds and, after many suggestions, agreed to spend them on additional texts to support EL development.

Despite the many obstacles we encountered throughout this process, the benefits made it worthwhile. Based on the participants’ high engagement during the session, paired with the post-session survey feedback, the main takeaway listed was an increased efficacy towards working with ELs. In addition, the teachers appreciated the resources provided, such as classroom multiliteracy books, EL textbooks, and handouts. As future educators review this plan, we recommend starting this process as early as possible in the school year (preferably in the summer before the school year begins in case of any setbacks). Also, communicate with your building and upper administration regarding presenter options (in-district or out-of-district) before the school year begins. Lastly, remember that although implementing this project can come with its trials, the positive outcomes outweigh the negatives.

 

Resources

Gottlieb, M. (2016). Assessing English Language Learners: Bridges to educational equity (2nd ed.). Corwin.

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