Beth Skelton on Multilingual Education Success Strategies

Join hosts Justin Hewett and Mandi Morris on the ML Chat Podcast as they welcome Beth Skelton, a distinguished language educator and co-author of ‘Long Term Success for Experienced Multilinguals.’ Beth shares her journey, providing invaluable guidance for educators and administrators on multilingual education. Delving into essential strategies such as backwards design in lesson planning, objective setting, and cultivating inclusive, collaborative teaching environments, this engaging discussion offers practical advice and compelling anecdotes aimed at empowering multilingual learners.

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Beth Skelton: [00:00:00] Sometimes we run out of time where I’m walking in to co teach and here’s my humanities teacher that I happen to be working with and today’s lesson is on the Treaty of Versailles and there’s 14 points on it. And I said, are you going all 14 today? And he’s, I’m going to get as far as I can. I’m like, we have one hour.

And I said, what? Three things. Do you want to make sure the students get out of today’s lesson and he starts going on? We’re walking to class and I said, Oh, wait, too much. We have one class period. What? Three things. What’s the exit ticket? If I ask an exit ticket at the end of today, what do you want students to know?

And he’ll give me what I want him to. List the three most important whatever outcomes of the Treaty of Versailles. Okay, great. I’m like, if they answered in a way that was super positive, like you just thought it was awesome, they got it. What would it sound like? Literally, we’re walking into class as he’s talking and I’m just like, writing as quickly as I can, what he’s [00:01:00] saying, this becomes my guide for that lesson.

And I told my co teacher, if we get off of where this is going, this end of lesson exit ticket, I’m going to interrupt you and ask questions like to get us back on. Is that going to be okay for you? So again, just getting that goal, because I know for the language, my kids are going to be lost. My multilingual learners who are at different levels of language proficiency will be lost.

If I don’t like If I don’t keep the focus on where we’re going, both language and content. 

Justin Hewett: Hey everybody. Welcome to the ML chat podcast. We have a treat for you. My name is Justin Hewett. I am your host today. I’m joined here by Mandi Morris, my co host. Welcome Mandi. How are you today? 

Mandi Morris: Hey Justin. I feel amazing.

We had a fantastic conversation with Beth. I feel like I learned so much in that hour conversation. 

Justin Hewett: Yes, our cups are full. We are so grateful to Beth Skelton for [00:02:00] taking the time to come and join us on the ML Chat podcast here. So Beth recently was a co author with Tan Huynh on this amazing book, Long Term Success for Experienced Multilinguals.

She comes with just tremendous experience in the classroom, in leadership, international, domestic. She just has, A lot of really great experience and also great practice and ideas that we can take and incorporate. 

Mandi Morris: She was able to really give nuggets of perspective and advice that felt like I can take this and I can implement it.

And that is going to be a really powerful takeaway for the teachers and administrators listening to Beth today. 

Justin Hewett: Yeah. I don’t know if I’ll ever forget her talking about her first classroom of secondary English learners who are all beginners and deciding that they were going to move out to a trailer because they were being so loud as the students were practicing English.

[00:03:00] And I just love that. There’s some great stories, great conversation here. I think you’re going to really enjoy this wonderful conversation. And we’re so grateful to Beth for joining us here. Beth has over 30 years of experience as a language educator and holds a master’s degree in multicultural teacher education.

She has worked with early childhood, elementary, middle, high school and adult language learners in rural, urban, suburban and international school settings. She is the co author of Long Term Success for Experienced Multilinguals, a best selling book published by Corwin, and Putting It Together, Materials for Teaching Adult English Learners Using a Story Based Curriculum.

She is an active board member of Colorado TESOL, and Beth currently provides professional development, coaching, and consulting with schools around the world focused on providing equitable education for multilingual learners. Beth Skelton, welcome to the ML Chat Podcast! 

Beth Skelton: Thank you so much, Justin. It is an [00:04:00] absolute joy to be here today with you.

Justin Hewett: Oh, Mandi, we’re a big deal now. We’ve got Beth here with us. 

Mandi Morris: We are official, Justin. 

Justin Hewett: We are getting to be official. Beth, we’re so grateful you’re here. Thank you so much for taking the time to be here. We have so many people and we have just loved your book that I just mentioned, The Long Term Success for Experienced Multilinguals.

What a fantastic book. I know that probably took a lot of work and a lot of research to put together. And really, you were the perfect person to write it with your co author, Tan. Like, how fantastic. We’re excited to jump into some of that stuff. And we want to hear a little bit about your story as to how you got into serving English learners in the first place.

Can we start there? How did you get started? What brought you into this work? 

Beth Skelton: Sure, I can do that, but first I have to give a shout out to my co author, Tan Nguyen. I would never have been the author unless he had asked me to join him on the journey, and he can tell you that I said no a few times because I never feel like I really have [00:05:00] something to say, but he heard that in me and really brought it out.

So, cheers and thanks to Tan. 

Justin Hewett: Way to go, Tan. That is so cool. I love the persistence and how fantastic. So glad that he did that. We needed that book. That book needed to be written and I’m so glad that you two collaborated on that. That’s fantastic. Thanks for shouting him out. 

Beth Skelton: Yeah, thank you. And so your question about how did I get on the multilingual learner journey?

Probably started when I was very young, I grew up in a household with my grandmother who was an immigrant from Germany, and so she did not speak German in the house other than to say phrases like Gutenach, Schlaf gut, but when I was in high school and started language learning, that was the language I took in high school, and I.

Traveled as a ninth grader to Germany for the first time and realized how language and culture and that whole piece of [00:06:00] connecting with others, how absolutely important and critical it was for me. And feeling like I couldn’t communicate who I was without the right words or knowing how to do that within the culture.

So that became just an inspiration for me. And I remember one time my four year old host sister on my very first trip was my very best teacher. She would take me by the hand and drag me into the garden with her to play. And she would just. Pointing at things and she pointed the tree and say, and she pointed a bird and say, and that was my language teacher.

And I so appreciated that and thought if this four year old can do it, so can I can learn. 

Justin Hewett: That reminds me. So I served a mission in the Philippines after high school and I learned to speak Tagalog and I will never forget there was a little boy. He’s probably three or four years old as well. And he was on the side of the road, patting his tummy saying, chan, chan, chan, chan, chan, cha, cha, cha, chan.

And he was just like, Like padding is telling me, I’m like, [00:07:00] I turned to the person I was with, my companion, I said, does Chun mean stomach? He said, yeah, I was like, all right, this is great. It’s amazing what you can learn when you’re trying to learn a new language from these little people, just because there just aren’t the filters there.

Then they just are having so much fun with language. I love it. That is so cool. 

Beth Skelton: And Justin, if I can just say it’s a big picture, bring it into theory and practice. That four year old, those three year olds that we interacted with, they were doing everything right about how to teach language. They’re making it comprehensible, it’s in context, there’s repetition.

Think of all the things that they did without knowing any of the language, and in theory, they were teaching us through the best possible way. possible practices. So that was the launch of my journey. And I actually started out as a German teacher and then opened the world when I moved into English as a second language, which was a default.

Honestly, I was on my way to do a [00:08:00] PhD in German studies, but I was married at the time. My husband’s master’s took us to a university that at the time did not have a great German program, but they did have an awesome English language development program for TESOL. So I moved into that. In the meantime, I said, well, I wait to do my PhD in German, I will do ESL.

And I never went beyond it because that world is so So rich and so big. And I feel like it was a, an absolute gift and a turning point in my career. Instead of my world getting really small and focusing in on Kafka, I went huge. Like it’s like a whole world came to me and it opened up and the students that I’ve gotten to work with.

And so I, I just feel like that was the biggest gift and as life has it, our best laid plans change. And then suddenly we’re like, that was a better plan in the end. Wasn’t it? 

Mandi Morris: Man, Beth, I would love to hear you talk some about, we hear your passion [00:09:00] about where you became a passionate language learner yourself, and then your journey into transitioning your career into ML education.

What were those first years being an ML educator like for you? And what were some learnings or takeaways that you still think about today? When 

Beth Skelton: you talk about early years, that is actually a story that will never leave me. My very first teaching experience in working with English language learners was during my master’s degree and it was November and on the board of one of my classes was ESL teacher needed desperately.

So I’m using the terms at the time. Back in the nineties, we said on the board needed ESL teacher desperately. So I went and I thought I can give this a try doing my master’s degree. I’ve got some time on my hands and I didn’t have a full time job. So I applied for the position. It turns out that I. Was chosen for the position.

I was the third teacher. It was only [00:10:00] November and this group of students. They were high school, multilingual learners, beginners. They had literally chased off the 1st, 2 teachers, the teacher that left running out of the room the day before that posting was like. We need a teacher desperately. The students had thrown a desk at her.

She literally ran out of the classroom. So I didn’t know what I was signed up for. I got a call during the weekends and you’re starting Monday. We need to give you some background on this class. So I took a deep breath. I called my colleagues from my master’s course together and we brainstormed and The student that taught me the most was Lung and he was Vietnamese and I have so much gratitude for Lung.

I walked in the classroom that very first day in November and he greeted me at the door with this, we bad, we [00:11:00] very bad. 

Justin Hewett: Oh man. 

Beth Skelton: A deep breath. And I thought here, this is a group of kids and a student, particularly that self image. We’ve got to change that or no learning is going to happen. And realizing right from then, like Lung became my teacher, how do I get through to him, his worth as a human being, his worth as a language learner, his worth as someone in the United States?

States in this school, I’ve got to shift a lot and I can’t jump into any kind of quote unquote language development until we have made some relationships. We’ve made some communication bonding. And so I just basically started for the first couple of weeks with a lot of trust building activities, outward bounty activities, just working with that class.

My neighbors on both sides reported me to the principal. After the first day and said that I [00:12:00] had no classroom control because it was so loud, principal came to me and said, I heard you had some difficulties today. And I said, really? I did great class. What makes you think that there were difficulties? And she said, it was really loud and your neighbors on both sides were complaining.

And I said, Oh, what did you hire me to teach? And she said, English as a second language, and I went, we’re going to need to talk a lot in this classroom and that’s going to happen. And she said, would you like a trailer? And I said, I would love a trailer. And so we made the move to the trailer. The best thing that could, it wasn’t we were banished to the trailer.

Got the trailer and that meant we could decorate it. We could go outside whenever we wanted to. We didn’t have to go to any hallways. I had the whole like field around the trailer. So anyway, that’s just a brief introduction. Thank you long for helping me realize the power of that social, emotional [00:13:00] learning, that connection, the relationships, how key it was.

This became my very favorite learning lab. Ever. And they were my first experience with multilingual learners. 

Justin Hewett: I can only imagine. I, especially because you were working on your master’s, right? So you got to go get the theoretical in the evening or whatever that was. And then you got to go all day and go put it into work and figured out what actually was working and maybe what wasn’t as much.

And I have to really maybe call out the emotional intelligence that you walked into that room with. The fact that Lung could come over to you and say, we bad, we very bad. And for you to say, Oh, this is, there’s an identification challenge here that he’s misidentifying himself. Let me help him out here.

And we have some work to do here in this classroom that they need to understand that I’m on the same team with them and we’re working together towards something. And it reminds me of almost every other like great EL educator, ML [00:14:00] educator that I found that at the end of the day. Yes, we are teaching English, but more than anything, we are advocating for our students.

And I love that. Oh, there’s a lot of noise coming from your classroom today. It sounds like you had some problem. It was a great day. What are you talking about? Anyway, that was fantastic. What a great story. I love that. 

Beth Skelton: No, that’s young. And then a shout out to my cohort in my master’s degrees. We are at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and they just rallied around me.

And I was 1 of the few that had a classroom, and it became our lab classroom in that cohort from my master’s degree. And they would say, Hey, let’s do this. Why don’t you try free voluntary reading? And so then we went out as a team again, bless that group. And we went and hit every bookstore in Albuquerque and said, We’re teachers.

We have a group of newcomers. We need international books. We need multicultural books. What do you have to share? And I built a classroom library [00:15:00] in one weekend with so many books to kids to choose from so they could see themselves in the books that they were reading. We had Books at all kinds of levels.

And within a month, I had kids that would come into class, grab their book. And our first 10 minutes were free voluntary reading. And then I was conferring with students about what they were reading, what they were seeing in the room, what they liked about the reading, where they got confused in the reading.

And I remember my department chair coming in, And about that time in the month and she saw kids sitting all over the room and some with their legs up the wall and some when the corner on the floor and somewhere in death and she was appalled that they were not sitting in rows in the desk and she called me out on she pulled me outside of my trailer and she said, What is going on in here?

I said, they’re reading. This is different than what was happening a month ago. They’re all reading. So it’s like mind shift [00:16:00] also with colleagues, but. I had the backing of my cohort in the master’s program. Without that, I couldn’t have done it on my own. 

Justin Hewett: Yeah. Cause otherwise in the school, you’re one of one, right?

It probably felt like it was you against everyone else to some degree as you advocate for your students. And, but yet you could go back to your classroom with your master’s cohort and talk about these different experiences and what you were learning and the different takeaways. I can imagine that was really galvanizing to be able to have that group.

Beth Skelton: And Justin, it is. And that’s what I encourage. It’s so great that you have this podcast. This is a place to form that community. It’s a place to reach out and get support. We have all of our social media where we connect with each other across the country. Encouraging teachers, you’re not alone. Reach out, get others to support you, ask for help, and it doesn’t have to just be within your own department or within your own school because we now have access to the [00:17:00] whole world through media like what you are all providing here.

Justin Hewett: No, thank you. That is our goal here is to provide a watering hole of sorts where we can come and share best practices, give a place to, to learn frankly from amazing practitioners and people like you. Mandi, I know you want to get in a question. Okay. All right. 

Mandi Morris: Beth, I love your book, Long Term Success for Multilingual Learners, and I have to shout out Kathy, our VP of customer success.

She found your book and I think she was reading it over the weekend and then messaged the whole team and said, everybody ordered this book. We’re starting a book club. And it was, we all enjoyed it so much to anybody listening. If you are looking for a book for your PLC to go through or for your school or department to go through, this book is absolutely fantastic.

We enjoyed it so much. so much. And we have done a couple book studies and I have to say that this book energized us and really pushed us in our own [00:18:00] learning and discussion. So I just really encourage anybody looking for a book to go and get this book from Beth and Tan. I would love to hear you talk a little bit about, you’re talking about URIs with your cohort when you’re in your MA program and earlier in your education career.

In your book, you talk a lot about language through content. So we’re thinking about ML specialists working and collaborating with core content teachers. And I would love to hear you talk some I would love to hear you talk some about that relationship piece because we know we hear from educators. I don’t want to be on an island.

I don’t want to be alone in my work. It’s isolating. I feel drained. I feel like I don’t. I need a resurgence of ideas, but then collaborating with coworkers can sometimes come with its own challenges and struggles and I would love to hear you talk some about how you are encouraging teachers to broach those relationships and foster those relationships across content and language.

Beth Skelton: That’s a beautiful question about [00:19:00] how do we build that because it is so critical language does not exist in isolation and all of our content is taught through language unless we are talking to each other as individuals. I think the students are missing out. And so how do we come to each other and respecting our various lenses or our focus points, our backgrounds, our skill sets?

How do we do that? One is clearly that the. Teachers need time that comes from administration and setting a master schedule that allows for that collaboration to happen. Once you’ve created the connection, we know how we can communicate a lot faster, whether it’s through the Google Doc, or. Or through a voice message, but first, we need some time to get together.

Both teachers need to understand the purpose of it. [00:20:00] If the content teacher, if the science teacher understands the language that’s hidden in that curriculum, they realize that’s going to help. Everybody in the classroom do better. I was working with a social studies teacher, a humanities teacher who said, I’m really good about teaching the vocabulary that the students need.

And through 1 of the workshops or 1 of the trainings that I was doing with them. He was seeing that sentence structure was actually hugely important for the students to show the relationship between an argument and a counter argument and how that set up and it really wasn’t the vocab anymore. It was that set up of how do I introduce the counter argument and then come back in my humanities with the final paragraph and he said to me, Oh, I get it.

My kids essays just read like a pile of words instead of linked cohesive thoughts. And so as [00:21:00] language experts, we bring to that content, this idea of how do I start at the big picture of, I’m going to have to set up an argument. What are those sentence structures that fit into the big picture of the.

Paragraphs and then the vocab that fits in. I think it’s happening. Teachers are coming together, but we have to both appreciate our expertise when I work with one on one. Sometimes with students, I didn’t understand the content and I have to call up the content teacher. Right? I was a Hey. Can you help me understand this content well enough that I can now focus on the language?

Because the language doesn’t exist in isolation. So I have to rely on my content teacher as well for the content. Mandi, is that the kind of thing you are looking for? I’m not sure I’m going in the right direction. 

Mandi Morris: Yeah, I love that you pointed out that it starts with a master’s schedule because if teachers don’t have time to collaborate and coordinate and plan together, then It [00:22:00] just can’t happen.

It can’t happen when you’re in between bus duty and you have 15 minutes to eat something really quickly, and you have 45 minutes all day long to plan and grade and analyze data and all of those other pieces that teachers are doing. It has to be baked into this system, and I think that also speaks to schools, prioritizing a culture of community and collaboration.

And when it starts with the master system, schedule really sets a tone for everyone in the building that this is important. We share all of our students. We, I love how you said we are looking through a different lens, but we bring different expertise. So really building a community to foster that perspective is fantastic.

Justin Hewett: One of the things that I feel like I heard you say is. As teachers are meeting and talking about students, it can help if they have a common language or a common way of kind of understanding what they’re talking about for students, because on the one hand, as maybe an ELD teacher, you might [00:23:00] not know the content quite as well.

So it makes it hard to understand. Is the student using the right language per se here? Are they describing it the way that it should be described? And so it’s interesting because at Flashlight, one of the things that we’ve noticed is that there’s a lot of. Materials that are created to support our multilingual students that aren’t necessarily aligned with what’s going on in the classroom, right?

It’s almost like students work on something that’s independent. They’re, they get pulled out or they’re working on something with their ML teacher around volcanoes where, In class, they’re talking about synthesis. And so it’s just really disconnected. And one thing at Flashlight that we’ve really tried to do is build it in a way that we can align with what is actually going on in the classroom.

So that way, the language that the student is using in Flashlight, that they’re, For speaking and writing is something that frankly they’re either talking about today in their classroom or they’re going to be talking about next week in their classroom and it gives a teacher a chance to formatively understand that and have a way to capture that and then those teachers can [00:24:00] listen to it together in a PLC type environment.

Beth Skelton: Wow, Justin, you have absolutely hit one of the critical areas right now in the multilingual learner teacher space. What do I teach in my specialized instruction time and whether that’s a ELD, an English language development class, Or whether that’s a small group time at the elementary level, where I’m just working with my multilingual learners, there are curriculum out there, um, from lots of big publishers that often are put in place, but I have found exactly what you’re saying is that there’s a disconnect between that time, that 30 minutes to an hour that I might have just with my multilingual learners, and do they really need a different curriculum at a time?

Or my preference, like yours that flashlight is to connect with what they’re already learning in that the different content classes, science, [00:25:00] math, social studies. And we have a lot of different ways of connecting with that. And I find that is the area for growth for our students. If our classroom teachers, our general educators, also understand that in that time, I am supporting, I as the English language development specialist, I’m supporting what they’re doing in their content classes, and I’m teaching them the specific language that they need.

That means sentence structures, discourse level, the vocabulary, that those students need to be successful in your class. Kids can leave my English language development class, go into the science class, and science teachers are like, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen them raise their hand. It’s amazing.

They were the leads in that class today, and it’s because either they had that front load time or they felt confident with the vocabulary, they felt confident with how to answer questions because they learned the language of that in a separate, supported class that was connected. That, Mandi, is an answer to your other question about that connection right from the [00:26:00] beginning.

But I need to have time and ability to know what’s going on in those content area classrooms to make that happen. And so then back to master schedule or time, when are we collaborating? 

Mandi Morris: When we think about content standards, especially at the secondary level, but throughout, they’re in grade bands. So when, as an ELD specialist, you can get a little bit overwhelmed.

Are you telling me that I have to be responsible for science standards and math standards and my ELP standards, so on and so forth? But the way that I think about it is that those standards, they spiral and they build. So like your NGSS are going to be the, you’ve got your 6th through 8th grade band.

Students are going to be exposed and re exposed to those standards. Great. And I think about it also as. Find your willing partners. Like maybe your science teacher is the teacher that’s, yes, let’s do this. Let’s collaborate. Let’s work together. Or conversely find the subject or content class after class is really struggling and this eighth grade us [00:27:00] history class.

And like, how can we really lean into that and lean into those history standards? If you could speak some to your thinking, either theory and practice around standards and how ELD specialists can think about standards and implement that into the collaboration. I think it 

Beth Skelton: starts with planning. And this is a big one.

If you have time to co plan or if the master schedule allows it, even on a once a month early release day, That’s where that ELD specialist can come in and really help shape the whole unit. And I’ll give an example from a seventh grade social studies. Since you brought that up as a possibility, those social studies teachers have such depth of knowledge of history, right?

And they think. Everything is important, so the ELD teacher can keep coming back to that standard, and I’ll give an example from a content area, a social studies class, where the [00:28:00] goal was that students would understand our electoral process, right, the electoral college. I actually needed to be in that classroom.

So what happened is we were backwards planning. The outcome was that students would be able to describe. The electoral college and how that worked in an election year. So valuable. It went back to the state standards for the social studies unit. But when it came time to plan out the unit, one of the lessons that the social studies teacher wanted to do was have students go online to an online platform and answer a series of questions to determine if that individual student at seventh grade, 12 year old leaned more Republican Or more Democrat.

Now, in order to answer those questions online, they had to understand phrases like genetically modified organisms. So I’m looking at all the vocabulary [00:29:00] in just the questionnaire to determine, am I leaning more Democrat or Republican based on my answer to genetically modified organisms? And I asked the teacher, cause I looked at that thing, I said, how does this help?

The students understand the electoral college, right? Because that was our end goal. So this is in planning for the whole unit. And the social studies teacher said it really doesn’t, but it’s a fun activity. And I had to say what? That’s a great activity for another unit at another time. But in this unit for the four weeks that we have to understand the electoral college, which is difficult enough, let’s backwards plan and make sure each of our lessons help.

them succeed on where they’re going to meet that standard for both the language and the content. So we’re going to have to let that lesson go. And that’s probably one of the hardest things, especially for our experienced and really rich teachers. [00:30:00] They have so many activities and lessons and things that they love doing, right?

And they may fit in another place, but we have to be willing to let it go. Book have an analogy of an orchard. And that’s because you orchards produce a product, right? So let’s say it’s an apple orchard is the unit of the electoral college. That’s the apple orchard. And I would say that lesson about answering questions of whether I’m Republican or Democratic.

Those that’s a peach tree in my apple orchard. And it doesn’t mean it’s bad or it’s wrong. It’s just let’s put that in another place because right now it’s taking us down a different path and it doesn’t quite fit. So that’s where the specialist can come together and really shape. Our outcome and the success for the students right from the beginning, looking at the end product.

Justin Hewett: You have me thinking about peaches and delicious apples now, [00:31:00] and I’m thinking if you put a peach tree and maybe the apple tree and the peach tree could come together and make this amazing new fruit. I love that. I love that analogy, and I love what you’re sharing here is your E. L. D. Teacher in this situation is stepping up and being a specialist, and I think that one of the things that I’ve seen, and I think we’ve heard a lot through the years is our multilingual teachers are E.

L. D. Specialists. A lot of times they step into a P. L. C. meeting, and sometimes they come in. And they almost feel like the, like a second class teacher, right? And they come in many ways, they’re, they’re serving marginalized students and they feel marginalized themselves. And to me that it’s exactly the opposite of how they should feel.

They should walk into that room as a specialist, as an expert in language development. And I guess what I would love to hear from you, Beth, if you don’t mind is maybe help us understand, how does a teacher make that shift from feeling like they’re that second class teacher or that they are. A [00:32:00] supplemental teacher rather than the specialist or the expert.

I’m going 

Beth Skelton: to give one suggestion that might help all of them be more equity, everyone in the room feel more equity. I agree with you that it happens. What I found in a lot of the work I’ve done with teachers to help them with that experience of being the expert they are is to have protocols for planning.

When we come together, we are following a certain protocol, and I would recommend that protocol is let’s just check in. What is the end goal for this unit? Where are students going? What is that end assessment look like? What is the language expectation on that assessment? And what that means is that teachers that the content area teachers might have to write out a mentor text You might have to write out a model.

This is what I hope the student’s essay reads like, or this is what I hope the student’s answer on this [00:33:00] short answer response. I need to see that because I may not know the content as well as you do, but if you give me those model responses ahead of time, before I come into that planning session, I will have analyzed the language in it so that I know particularly what language we’re going to need to teach in this unit and whether that’s together or.

Or in my separate ELD class, right? Or I help you with how to introduce those language structures that the students are going to need to be successful at the end. Lots said protocol in place. Where are we starting? What do I need as a language specialist to be able to give my expertise? Where is my voice in the conversation coming out so that there is space because what I’ve often witnessed is the content area teachers get together.

They talk about the what and then at the very end, the teacher gets to say, oh, here’s a picture to add. And so that they don’t feel like they’ve been valued throughout the whole [00:34:00] process where they have a chance to ask questions. What would that sound like? If it were a good answer so that I can look at that language and analyze the language.

So protocols are key. And then knowing. Places in that protocol. What is it that I’m doing? How am I adding I meaning the English language development specialist? What am I adding to that conversation? That is a value add. 

Justin Hewett: I love that. And I think that’s, that is such a great point. And to the point that when you step in that room, make sure you’re bringing something.

That is going to provide insight to the classroom teachers or the content teachers. And it’s interesting. One of the things that with Flashlight that we’ve continued to hear is how valuable it is for teachers to share the recordings in Flashlight with those content teachers so that they can hear, okay, let’s listen to this student.

Let’s listen to this student. If we can focus on this type of language, it can help. This is what they’re, these, this is this student’s learning goal. This is that student’s learning goal. And I think [00:35:00] sharing some of those pieces, It really allows that ELD teacher to do what you’re saying is bringing some protocols, bringing some data to the table that shows the expertise of what it is that they’re doing.

Beth Skelton: You bring up another really important way of collaborating, which Mandi, your question, we’re coming back to that over and over is looking at student work and whether that’s listening to student work or reading student work. If we follow a protocol there, it might be we’re not using the content area rubric on this.

We’re going to use perhaps the WIDA proficiency level descriptors to look at this work. So, we’re going to take a different lens on the student work and focus both of us together on how together we can build the student’s academic language. In this setting in this content area. But the protocol again has to be very specific.

Let’s both look at just the vocab. What vocab is the student using? Great. [00:36:00] What sentence structures are we both noticing? What would be more grade level appropriate? How could we move students along that continuum from maybe more basic, simple sentences to more complex sentences? Is that, um, paragraph they wrote structured the way that you would expect?

Maybe, how do we move them along the continuum from a first grade first, next, finally, to a more embedded sequential format? What are the options for us? Those kinds of protocols, that might take to look at one student’s work, 15 to 20 minutes of our planning, but what comes out of it is, Impacts the whole classroom is that students work is representative of so many others and I come in with my expertise in that planning session.

You have your content that you’re trying to get across. I’m going to support the language and we’re going to move students along that social language continuum to more academic written expression together. In the content area, 

Mandi Morris: but you’ve talked about [00:37:00] backwards design and even in talking about how adults come and work together.

You’ve hinted at backwards design for those structures as well. And I think back to my 1st year of teaching, and I had my textbook and was like, I have this many units and this many quarters. I have to be on this page on this day. It’s just so broken down, which, of course, I failed miserably on being on that page on that day.

And then you get further in your career and you understand. Objectives and standards and backwards design, and you learn those pieces both in theory, but then in practice and understand how to implement them in your classroom. I would love to hear you talk some about how you think about backwards design as an ML specialist, and then how does that backwards design element even impact adults communicating and having structure together?

What’s an example of what that might look like in a PLC for adults? So 

Beth Skelton: I had two part question. I’m going to answer the first one with backwards design with teachers, and then we’ll go on with the adults. Thank you for [00:38:00] that. Let’s start with the teachers. Here’s a really simplistic answer on it. Sometimes we run out of time.

I’m walking into co teach. And here’s my humanities teacher that I happen to be working with. And today’s lesson is on the treaty of Versailles and there’s 14 points on it. And I said, are you going all 14 today? And he’s, I’m going to get as far as I can. I’m like, we have one hour. And I said, what? Three things.

Do you want to make sure the students get out of today’s lesson and he starts going on? We’re walking to class and I said, Oh, wait, too much. We have one class period. What? Three things can we what’s the exit ticket? If I ask an exit ticket at the end of today, what do you want students to know? And he’ll give me what I want him to.

List the three most important whatever outcomes of the Treaty of Versailles. Okay, great. I’m like, if they answered in a way that was super positive, like you just thought it was awesome. They got it. What would it sound like? And [00:39:00] literally, we’re walking into class as he’s talking, and I’m just writing as quickly as I can, what he’s saying.

This becomes my guide for that lesson. And I told my co teacher, if we get off of where this is going, this end of lesson exit ticket, I’m going to interrupt you and ask questions like to get us back on. Is that going to be okay for you? So again, just getting that goal, because I know for the language, my kids are going to be lost.

My multilingual learners who are at different levels of language proficiency will be lost. If I don’t corral it, if I don’t keep the focus, On where we’re going both language and content. So that’s a quick example of backwards design starting with what is the exit ticket? Where are we going today? And that everything for the language in that exit ticket, what I’m writing on the board, the sentence frames, the notes, the vocabulary that I’m listing and drawing on the board.

All of that is directed towards success on the end of lesson. [00:40:00] 

Justin Hewett: That’s so good. That is so good. Oh my gosh. Golden. Write this down. Rewind 30 seconds. Listen to that again. Oh, that’s fantastic. Beth. Thank you. 

Beth Skelton: So then, and that’s chapter four in the book, by the way, then how do I do that with adults is the same thing.

We have this hour together. What are our desired outcomes for this hour together? Those can be set before we ever meet. What is it that we’re getting out of this meeting? We are going to analyze student work for what the students already can do. And then what are our next steps in instruction? We’re using one student’s work to figure out.

How we can impact a lot of the students in the room or make a small group instruction, because we found that 8 kids have the same kind of pattern in their writing or in their needs, we’re going to form a small group of 8, but we have to figure out what is that next step. We’re going to take 20 minutes on it boy.

[00:41:00] Would we all feel powerful and empowered if we did that in 20 minutes? Because what that does is say, I know we want to talk about the weekend, and I know we want to talk about that student’s parents and how the parents didn’t show up at the last parent teacher conference. We’re not going to do that because we have 20 minutes and this is our outcome.

And those conversations might happen at another time. But that time we have together is so golden that I’m really a fan of protocols. I just, there’s so many through different areas. Like you don’t have to invent your own, but it’s just like, how are we going to get to that goal today in the time that we have, or do we have to break up into several different meetings?

Justin Hewett: Yeah, that is fantastic. I love that. I want to ask, I know that you do a lot of consulting and work with a number of different districts. And so you get to see a number of different approaches and how districts are looking at things. And some districts have growing multilingual populations and maybe some don’t as much, or you’re seeing shifting and dynamics.

There’s a number [00:42:00] of multilingual directors that I’ve spoken with recently that they’re over the last two or three or five years, their population has doubled. Their teachers have doubled. Things are changing a lot. But I’m curious, in your work, working with and consulting with school districts, what do you find ends up being the focus?

If as you’re building a plan, as you’re working together to figure out what it is that they could best, that where you can help the most, where do you end up helping the most? Like where does, you know, where does your work end up focusing on a lot of times with the districts you work with? 

Beth Skelton: As you mentioned, there’s been shifts and clearly, even in the last couple of years, the increase in secondary students who are new to the US and new to learning in English, that’s just skyrocketed and.

So just for example, in Denver public schools, I think 3000 new schools just in that one school district in the last six months. So this is a [00:43:00] huge transition and where now a lot of districts are saying, we just need help with how do we incorporate? How do we structure for all of these new students and learning in secondary, especially how do we build programs and systems around that?

So sometimes it’s around systematic and then it’s around how do we just help teachers to deal with newcomers in their classroom with beginning level language learners. But the reality on the ground is that there’s another subgroup of students that Tan and I call experience multilinguals in the book.

These are students that have been in the district since kindergarten, 1st grade. They’re now in 6th, 7th and 8th grade. These students are now, unfortunately, often being ignored because of the critical nature of working with students that are new to the country. Trying to balance supports for all of the multilingual learners from beginning levels, all the way up to transitioning into not needing any multilingual, [00:44:00] not needing any support.

We, I find that trying to balance that support across districts is one of the things as a consultant that I’m seeing a big need and that. Districts are asking me, How do we structure programming to meet the needs of all of them? And how do we upskill all teachers, including our content area teachers to manage that kind of difference and differentiation?

So, 1 thing that I do, that’s really, I think, impactful is often having for secondary specifically content specific workshops. Just having the math teachers together or just having the science teachers together with the English language development teachers in the room so that we’re focused on one content area, particularly the content that they are using, working on, whatever it is that next week.

So they can see it in action with something that I’m teaching, just like Flashlight is doing, saying, let’s connect to the actual content that you’re working on. That seems to [00:45:00] be the biggest way of finding transfer and making it work. Across the curriculum 

Mandi Morris: that you have a lot of fans. I’m sure we have a fan who works with us here at flashlight 360 who shared a Fan question for you.

So Gwendolyn asked, what advice do you have for educators who are navigating the challenge of differentiating instruction to meet the varying needs of English learners within a single classroom setting? 

Beth Skelton: And I was starting to hint at that. First, I’m going to acknowledge it is a challenge and I, I don’t have a silver bullet and that sometimes it is about, is there any way that we can reduce the amount of differentiation that is necessary?

And I’m not talking tracking, but it might mean that there is a way that we Sheltered class for a small group of students, rather than asking the humanities teacher to differentiate for a [00:46:00] student who arrived yesterday, all the way up to students who have been in the system, learning English for 456 years, plus students who go home and speak English.

We that’s a very large differentiation. And if that’s not possible to somehow reduce the differences that exist in one classroom, which I totally understand structurally happens here are like. Two very broad, but I think impactful ways of thinking about what are some differentiation strategies. One, make it comprehensible.

So anything that happens in that classroom, whether it’s a science, a math or a social studies classroom, is it understandable to everyone in the class? That’s easy in a sense, because You’re adding those visuals. You’re adding the gestures. You’re adding a video clip. You’re adding subtitles in the languages or allowing students to subtitle in the languages that they speak so they can get some more comprehensible [00:47:00] input.

There are so many different ways we can do it, but that is the starting point. Do the students understand what the content is? I used to joke with some of the teachers I worked with and said, so if I walked in and put you on mute as a teacher, just click mute. Would I get a clue? Would I still have a clue just looking at everything else in the room about what this content is?

And if the answer is yes, You’re probably doing some things that add comprehensible input, right? So there’s written clues. There’s visual clues. There’s gesture clues. There’s acting out clues. What are the other clues about what we’re doing in here? Have you added that? That’s one comprehensible input. The second is Any output that I expect from the students, either oral or written, is it supported?

And is it supported at different levels? Now, again, those supports, there’s tons of ways of supporting it. [00:48:00] Are we allowing students to talk with their partner in a heritage language that they share? Maybe they have different levels of language, English language development, but they’re sharing a heritage language.

Did I build in that support of talk time of brainstorm time of processing time? Did I support it with perhaps a sentence frame? Did I support it perhaps with some translation devices? Did I support it with some vocabulary word banks that are also with visuals? There’s just a myriad of tools that we have as a field now to say, did I support the output?

So. Two big frames for differentiation, make the input comprehensible for everyone and to support the output for everyone. 

Mandi Morris: That is so wonderful. I love Beth. You have a really special way of being able to package things to make them feel comprehensible to me and to all of our listeners. Like a real experienced ML educator does, right?[00:49:00] 

You’re also able to distill what can feel like quite complex needs down to actionable moments and actionable moves that like, okay, I can go and do this on Monday. I can have expectations and outcomes for my PLC. I can have a structure for how we have that conversation with adults that I’m working with.

In the same way, I can build out structures for talking within my classroom so that students are on topic and have the supports that they need for structured talk in the classroom. So I just so appreciate how you’re able to do that and share all of your experience and knowledge with us. 

Beth Skelton: I appreciate both of you adding so much to the conversation.

I feel like we went deep. A lot of different directions. I hope that somehow this is refined and useful to the variety of teachers and educators and leaders that are listening to this podcast. Oh my gosh. Thank you for inviting me on. It’s been such a joy and a pleasure to be with you today. 

Justin Hewett: [00:50:00] It has been our pleasure.

And what’s going to end up happening is that very group of listeners are all going to write in and say, Hey, next time you need to ask Beth this question or next time, ask this one. So we got one fan question out of Gwendolyn this time, but hopefully we can do a part two at some point and have some even more fans ask questions.

Beth, thank you. I know that there’s going to be a number of folks who want to reach out and who want to continue to learn more from some of these things that you’ve shared and are teaching us. What’s the best place for people to reach out to you? We’ve got your ex handle, formerly known as Twitter, right?

At EASkelton. And then also, I know you’re on LinkedIn and pretty active on LinkedIn. Is there any other places that people should think about following you or reaching out? 

Beth Skelton: My website is probably the best place. It’s just my name, beth, and you can contact me right through there. And that gives some background on other things I’m doing as well.

Justin Hewett: Oh, perfect. We’ll put a link to that in the, in our show [00:51:00] notes as well. 

Mandi Morris: And Beth, is there anywhere you’re going to be this year where people might be able to connect with you? Are there any conferences that you’ll be at this year or, um, anywhere that you’re speaking this year? Oh, lots 

Beth Skelton: and lots of places.

I’m doing a conference, I’ll be a keynote in St. Louis coming up in June. I’m working with the Colorado Department of Ed. We have a two day workshop coming up also in June. I’ll be down in Texas Region 10 doing a keynote in May. That’s just in the next couple of weeks and months. Yes, I am. Going to be working in all kinds of places.

I have a keynote in Amsterdam. So I’m not sure like how to even do that. A lot of those are sponsored by other people, but I usually post on the socials, if it’s an open enrollment, that’s the best place to find out that information is to follow me there on Twitter or LinkedIn, and I will post. Post when those are open enrollment opportunities.[00:52:00] 

Justin Hewett: Beth, thank you so much for all the work that you are doing to advance the work of serving our multilingual learners around the nation and really around the world. You’ve gone global. You’re going to be in Amsterdam. It’s fun to hear. And tremendous kudos to you and Tan for this amazing work. Resource the book, the long term success for experienced multilinguals.

I think this is sharing best practices that is really going to make a tremendous difference in the lives of thousands and hopefully millions of multilingual students and our educators that are deep in this work. So Beth, thank you. Thank you for all your work. And, and thank you for being here on the ML chat podcast.

Beth Skelton: Thank you so much, Justin and Mandi. I so appreciate this and I’m absolutely honored to be part of this community.


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