Voices of NABE: Promoting Oral Fluency

This week on the ML Chat Podcast we get a chance to hear directly from the ML Community who joined us at the 2023 NABE Conference. 

We asked them “how are you promoting written fluency in your program” and their answers are fascinating and insightful.

This is our first in our series of episodes from our interviews at NABE. We’re excited for you to hear directly from your community!

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[00:00:00] Justin Hewitt: Hi everybody. Welcome to ML Chat. We are gonna have a lot of fun today unpacking some conversations that we had at NABE. NABE was in Portland this year back in mid-February. And I, for the first time got to meet Tim in person

[00:00:17] Justin Hewitt: And so we had a lot of fun. We’ve worked a lot remotely together and, via Zoom, but Tim, it was so fun to be in person with you at the NABE conference in Portland with icy roads all over the place.

[00:00:30] Tim Blackburn: I had no idea You were so tall.

[00:00:33] Justin Hewitt: The camera takes away eight inches or something. 

[00:00:38] Tim Blackburn: Yeah. The NABE experience I don’t think anybody foresaw the impact of the snow and basically practically canceling the first part of the conference. But, for those that made it, it really was a great experience.

[00:00:53] Justin Hewitt: It was a great conference. And there was, we heard from a lot of people who couldn’t get there, right? Or by the time they got there, it was gonna be time to turn around and go back. And a lot of folks from the East coast, we ended up, our flight from Salt Lake to Portland ended up being canceled.

[00:01:08] Justin Hewitt: So we flew into Seattle and drove down that night so we could be there first thing in the morning. I can’t remember if it started on a Monday or a Tuesday, but it was quite the travel excursion. We made it. That was the important thing. But I really couldn’t believe that.

[00:01:23] Justin Hewitt: Like four inches of ice that were on the road everywhere you went. You literally were on ice skates. It was crazy.

[00:01:30] Tim Blackburn: Yeah, we don’t have the the infrastructure here for really like treating the roads or we’re cleaning them up after the snow happens, and so it’s just, Freezes and if you have a pattern of weather that just hangs over the city and it doesn’t melt it it’s kind of a recipe for disaster.

[00:01:50] Justin Hewitt: How long have you lived in the Northwest now, Tim?

[00:01:53] Tim Blackburn: This is, uh, year 10 for me.

[00:01:55] Justin Hewitt: And have you ever seen a snowstorm like this in Portland?

[00:01:58] Tim Blackburn: Yeah. We had one in I wanna say it was like 2017 and those conditions lasted for the better part of two weeks actually of the like, like the frozen streets. And so I remember my kids being outta school for 

[00:02:12] Justin Hewitt: My goodness.

[00:02:13] Tim Blackburn: long while and it actually coincided with the tail end of winter break.

[00:02:18] Tim Blackburn: And so we were off of school for some time back, certainly to send your children off to school. We

[00:02:26] Tim Blackburn: were 

[00:02:27] Justin Hewitt: At the end of winter break, you’re ready to go. You’re like, oh man, aren’t you excited to get back to school? I’m excited for you to go back to school and then to get two more weeks on that. That is 

[00:02:36] Tim Blackburn: It was about, yeah. Yeah.

[00:02:38] Justin Hewitt: But I guess this was the largest snowstorm in what is that, 80 years, 70 years?

[00:02:43] Justin Hewitt: Like 

[00:02:44] Tim Blackburn: Mm-hmm. 

[00:02:45] Justin Hewitt: inches, which is not a lot up in the mountains and in some places in the country. But that’s a lot for Portland.

[00:02:50] Tim Blackburn: No. Just an hour and a half from here. It’s something that happens, all winter long. But down here in the valley it sure was disruptive.

[00:03:00] Justin Hewitt: Wow.

[00:03:00] Tim Blackburn: when you think about it, if you were the one of the conference officials for NABE, that’s stressful.

[00:03:08] Justin Hewitt: This was not what they were expecting. However, it was an amazing conference and we had so much fun connecting with people from all over the nation who are deeply committed and engaged in this work of serving multilingual students. And so what for those of you that weren’t there, we actually recorded live.

[00:03:26] Justin Hewitt: We had a bunch of opportunities to interview amazing people and uh, recorded some of those interviews that we’re gonna share here with you. today. We are going to jump in and unpack some of the best practices regarding building oral language fluency from educators, teachers, really across the nation. I’m excited for this. There’s some amazing stuff in here. I can’t wait to find out where we go from here, Tim?

[00:03:54] Tim Blackburn: Yeah, you know, what I really appreciate about the like is just the voice here and hearing from the perspective of colleagues, , really all across the nation, and so I’m anxious to hear what they had to say.

[00:04:06] Justin Hewitt: let’s dive in. 

[00:04:07] Justin Hewitt: Our first interview is with Dr. Sarah Schmidt de Carranza, the executive Director of multilingual learners in St. Paul Public Schools. Let’s hear what Sarah had to say.

[00:04:18] Interview: Sarah Schmidt, Decar St. Paul Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, and what district? St. Paul Public Schools. St. Paul Public Schools. See anything where you can build in opportunities for them to talk to each other in class. Small group discussions. Pair discussions, giving them scaffolded questions that they can, sentence frames that they can respond with.

[00:04:42] Interview: Or like types of questions like to. Elicit more information, use these to further along or get additional context about your perspective to disagree in a like academic way versus a social way to agree in an academic way versus a social way. So giving them the tools and then just giving them so many opportunities to use it. 

[00:05:07] Justin Hewitt: Well,

[00:05:07] Justin Hewitt: Sarah walks through a number of different strategies and ideas there. Tim, what, what jumped out to you the most?

[00:05:14] Tim Blackburn: I, I think, three come to mind, Justin. One, you might remember how we talked about redundancy and redundancy.

[00:05:22] Tim Blackburn: And, something that captured my attention from Sarah’s comments is just the importance of offering students lots of opportunities for talk and in a variety of ways.

[00:05:32] Tim Blackburn: And you think about that sort of redundancy of opportunity and then connecting to the second part in a multitude of ways. Sarah called out all the different forms of academic language that really the language functions that are so important to exercise. Across academic contexts.

[00:05:53] Tim Blackburn: So supporting students as they agree or disagree or cite text evidence or use specific talk structures to analyze texts and make connections. This is the sort of talk that’s so critical in supporting students not only academically, but with the communication tools to actually express their understanding of content.

[00:06:17] Justin Hewitt: That was what really jumped out to me as well, is just the idea of giving students different tools for academic and for social situations. Breaking that down, differentiating between the two and then putting them in those, different groups or whatever it might be to give them a chance to have a redundancy of redundancy.

[00:06:35] Justin Hewitt: I love that. That is so good. But just lots of opportunities to use that language and that is a best practice. For

[00:06:43] Tim Blackburn: sure. And then I guess the third thing that struck me is, and sort of implied in Sarah’s comment, but, our role as teachers in creating that space. And so much of that has to do with the ways in which we design tasks, with intention for a talk or a talk is a principle ingredient in negotiating new content for meeting in, in expressing, understanding of, or class concepts.

[00:07:11] Tim Blackburn: And then thirdly, there’s a real connection to formative assessment that what you hear in class is valid evidence of student learning. And it, you know, makes me think about episode two, Justin, when we talked about eliciting evidence and the importance of including talk specific tasks, in our lessons that afford students the opportunity to chew on the content to collectively make meaning of it.

[00:07:39] Tim Blackburn: And then, finally use academic language and of course their social language as well to express their understanding.

[00:07:46] Justin Hewitt: I love that you went back to some of our previous episodes, cuz I did the same thing. I was thinking of clear intended learning, right? If you don’t have that clear intention of where you’re trying to go, then it’s hard to allow the space. For the, who knows what might happen in the conversation, right?

[00:08:02] Justin Hewitt: Instead you want to control that situation so that things don’t get outta hand or you don’t know where it’s gonna go, and you want to keep control. Where if you have that clear intention of where you’re trying to go, it allows you to have that space and provide students with that opportunity to, include talk, specific tasks like you

[00:08:22] Tim Blackburn: Sure. Yeah. When you think about who’s, between the speaking and the listening, it’s like, within that interaction, who’s doing the cognition, who’s doing the thinking, right? And it’s within those interactions and that active zone of proximal development, that construction zone, that’s where you, you really see evidence of the learning.

[00:08:40] Tim Blackburn: And, you know, when we think about this and, the. The dichotomy between us, how we remember school is sort of sitting passively at a desk, at a desk and to, and to juxtapose what Sarah’s describing. That’s a pretty big gap. I actually have a picture, and I know this is not a visual medium, but I have a lithograph by an artist actually of my same last name, Blackburn from the Bronx.

[00:09:04] Tim Blackburn: And it’s just students, passively, at desks in neat and tidy columns and rows. And that’s an image that I often think about that stands in contrast. To what Sarah’s describing, where students are actively making meaning, through tasks that are intentionally designed with the purpose to get students connected and actively, speaking and listening and sorting through, a problem or making meaning of texts.

[00:09:34] Tim Blackburn: And I think about all the myriad ways we can design tasks with the intention for students to talk.

[00:09:41] Justin Hewitt: Yep. Dr. Sarah Schmidt. Dick Carranza from St. Paul Public Schools. Thanks for giving us so much to talk about. That was great. Love unpacking that with you, Tim. All right, let’s jump into our next interview. 

[00:09:51] Interview: We are here at NABE with Tamika Moten. I am from Houston, Texas, a part of Aldi, i s d independent school district, and I serve as a district literacy coach. So I really work closely with the teachers and instructional specialists on campus, and so I give them different strategies that they can use in their classroom to support oral language fluency.

[00:10:12] Interview: One of the main things is the opportunity to talk and engage in different conversations. So students need time to process and then to be able to turn and talk, they need opportunities to share out. And so we do that through a lot of different strategies. For example, we do something called Four Corners, and they pick their answer and they go to the corner, and during that corner they explain why they pick that answer and give some information.

[00:10:37] Interview: So that allows them to not only use their regular language, but include academic language.

[00:10:45] Justin Hewitt: Well, Thank you Tamika from Aldine I s d. We’re so grateful you joined us at NABE and thanks for sharing, sharing those thoughts. fun to hear a very specific strategy, Tim, in, in what Tamika’s sharing about the four Corners in getting students talking.

[00:11:01] Tim Blackburn: And did you hear the reference to using all of their language to explain their why? That’s something that I really appreciated from Tamika’s comments that, you know, yes, specifically calling out the associated academic language and how that academic language is going to be specific to the context and, really, have to explicitly teach it.

[00:11:22] Tim Blackburn: While also recognizing and availing, this space for all of the students, you know, language in the space. And Four Corners is really just a very cool way to, in a very dynamic way, to get students up and moving and then expressing themselves. And thanks to Tamika for bringing us that, that specific example.

[00:11:42] Justin Hewitt: Yeah, I love the idea of getting students moving and you know, talking is an active thing, right? Like in order to use our productive language, we’ve gotta be active and getting our body moving, actively, I’m sure can, really help with that.

[00:11:56] Tim Blackburn: Yeah. And then when you think about the types of questions though that are required, for pushing students to greater depths of knowledge. And these aren’t questions that start with what or when. These are questions that start with why or how. And, creating the space for students to actually like, push them to, to to depth.

[00:12:17] Tim Blackburn: Right. And so why is it that you feel that way or, give me reasons, that, explain, how it is that you got to that conclusion. In order to substantiate that sort of thinking, students really have to pull on all of their linguistic resources to express themselves.

[00:12:35] Tim Blackburn: So again, like Four Corners is a, a really neat, strategy to get students up and moving, but further using their full linguistic repertoire to explain themselves.

[00:12:48] Justin Hewitt: Yes, using all their language. I love it. Okay. Thank you Tamika. Great breakdown. Tim. I love

[00:12:53] Tim Blackburn: Yeah, thanks Tamika.

[00:12:55] Justin Hewitt: Our next interview is with Zdi Gonzalez out of McKinney, I s d. Zdi is the senior director of English Learner Support. 

[00:13:03] Interview: I’m Zab Gonzalez from McKinney Texas. McKinney Texas. And what district are you in? McKinney, I S d, McKinney, I s d. So one of the things that I’ve found the best way to develop that oral language fluency is just giving them opportunities to talk to each other about themselves. So I’m giving them conversations.

[00:13:20] Interview: They can talk, and then that just builds their comfort level. Then also during the lesson or anything like that, then you develop stems. So the sentence stems, so that you can give them a starting point. So they’re not so focused on everything. So they can only really, truly focus on the content. Yeah. Instead of everything else.

[00:13:37] Interview: So that has worked to develop that. So you’re giving them time to practice, given time to practice. They also hear it, they hear from each other, they learn from each other, and they learn words from each other through those conversations. 

[00:13:49] Justin Hewitt: Tim. I love what Zdi says here about giving students a chance to talk about themselves as a warmup.

[00:13:55] Tim Blackburn: Yeah, I was hoping you would call that out, Justin. I appreciated that comment too. And it actually, not to be too nerdy, but it made me think about our English language proficiency standards and, you know, kind of irrespective of, of your state’s consortia, and your specific standards.

[00:14:13] Tim Blackburn: And there’s a notion of, starting with what is local and familiar, right. And building from what is local, immediate and familiar. And that really resonated with me. I appreciated how culturally responsive that is and creating the space for students to start close and proximally to themselves.

[00:14:31] Tim Blackburn: And then to build from there. Thinking about that in terms of honoring our students, like linguistic and social funds of knowledge, that’s really a core principle, a core foundation, a culturally responsive teaching practice. But then building on that and creating the space for it I, I really appreciated this comment.

[00:14:49] Tim Blackburn: And how saddi, starts from that orientation.

[00:14:52] Justin Hewitt: Yeah, so did I and it’s really something that we’ve tried to embed into Flashlight 360. When we are creating the art that students are working off of or talking to, or we’re looking and sourcing different photos that we’re gonna include. That’s one of the things that we’ve really tried to be mindful of is that we are meeting students where they are, we want them to see themselves, right?

[00:15:12] Justin Hewitt: We want them to be able to talk about their life and their experiences, because that is the familiar, that is what the local, that is what they know. And to be able to get started there allows us to have a foundation to build on as we move forward. so Zdi also talks about sentence stems and how they can free students up, to go access the content and talk through that. I know that there’s a couple of different ideas and beliefs on sentences out there in our broader educational world.

[00:15:38] Justin Hewitt: Tim, can you compare and contrast the ideas around sentence stems for us?

[00:15:43] Tim Blackburn: Sure. Yeah, absolutely. I think that we have to start from the understanding that no one is born with academic language. We’re all academic language learners and sentence frames uh, sentence stems or one of my favorite ways to say it is the way IA Valki says it, she calls it formulaic expressions.

[00:16:05] Tim Blackburn: That is when we. Use the sentence stems. . They are, you know, designed to teach explicitly the language, to communicate often an academic idea or to make connections between ideas. But when do we use sentence frames? When are they helpful? And, often as a, you know, in my own teaching practice, I like to think about those sentence frames as an ultimate target, but rather, The space for my students to negotiate new text for meaning to connect ideas to express their understanding, at least initially, and their first thoughts.

[00:16:40] Tim Blackburn: I, I tend to actually not use many sentence frames in that case. And the reason why is that I don’t want to constrain their thinking in any way upfront, but rather avail the space to negotiate new ideas and new texts, for meaning. And once we get to a place where our students feel comfortable with the concepts, it’s then to introduce the academic language to, to make those connections.

[00:17:05] Justin Hewitt: So it’s interesting. So some teachers might be using sentence stems as a form of scaffolding earlier on for a student in their language development journey, if you will, but it sounds like you would like to use it more as an instructional tool. Further along the line, what maybe when a student has the social language and they’re building academic language, am I reading that right?

[00:17:27] Tim Blackburn: Not necessarily in terms of like their own progress because we can’t really bifurcate the social language and the academic language, that is we wait to introduce academic language, after they have social. Like, We can’t do that. We don’t have the time, our students don’t have the time for that.

[00:17:43] Tim Blackburn: But rather I think about it more in terms of moments and a lesson. As our students are actively building understanding of new concepts I choose not to, introduce many new sentence forms or language, structures in there that might say limit their ability to make meaning of the new text, but rather create the space for them to interact, create the space for my students to read to make meaning of text, to practice concepts.

[00:18:12] Tim Blackburn: And then, once we’ve had those discussions, we offer academic language to them in the form of sentence frames to connect ideas. So in the context of say, lesson moments, Justin, this is basically A question of the space to negotiate, the space to connect. And then once our students have had the opportunity to access the content, is to then offer a frame or formulate language that pushes them to actually apprenticing in those academic talk structures.

[00:18:44] Justin Hewitt: Okay, so then to kinda walk back what I had said earlier, then just from a summary standpoint, this is more from my learning than probably anything else here but what you’re saying is you like to see sentence stems, not necessarily as a scaffolding early on to get students talking about it, but instead to use it further in the lesson to help them go further.

[00:19:04] Tim Blackburn: That’s exactly right.

[00:19:05] Justin Hewitt: I like that. I like that. I think that’s awesome, Tim. And thanks for working through that with me and thinking about that. I think there’s tremendous value in that and frankly I, I, uh, I think there’s a number of people that are gonna benefit from them. For our next interview, we’re gonna head down to the Land of Enchantment, even though we’re in Portland. That was anything but enchanted. It was just frozen. And we are gonna hear a little bit from Bridget Ou, who is an instructional coach in Gaon, I s D. 

[00:19:32] Interview: Bridget Polis. Bridget Poulos, where are you from? Coming from Gaton Independent School district in New Mexico. What we use is the Project GLAD strategies, and one of the strategies that we use, but we also learned about here, is using the tutorial input chart and using a lot of visuals for students that are learning a second language, not just visuals of pictures, but doing hand gestures and being able to really give them a big picture of what they’re learning. 

[00:19:59] Tim Blackburn: Two, really solid, Jedi ESL moves. When you think about the importance of pictures, and keeping an image rich environment for our students and. You know, That’s really the space for students to map what they already know in their home language and make connections to their new language.

[00:20:18] Tim Blackburn: Right. Um, you know, Those pictures and using pictorial charts from like project lab strategy is just a brilliant way to basically create the frame for students to start talking and apprenticing in that language. The second part of what I heard from Bridget that I really appreciate is the use of total physical response of actually connecting that language with some sort of a gesture.

[00:20:43] Tim Blackburn: And Project GLAD does such a great job at bringing songs and gestures into the classroom. And so it should be said that those strategies really do create the space for students to, to practice language and in a light way. But again, Bridget, bringing to us crucial, language rich teacher moves and using imagery for affording , just the space to make connections from one language into another and then to associating new language with gestures.

[00:21:15] Justin Hewitt: I love this. Thank you for unpacking and thinking about that, Tim, we obviously feel really strongly and understand the importance and the research behind using lots of visuals and allowing students to use all of their language and kind of talking to that. Just for those that don’t know, I’m, everyone’s probably pretty familiar with Project glad it’s out of the National Training Center and Glad.

[00:21:36] Justin Hewitt: What, let’s see, I was just going to tell everybody what GLAD stands for, which is the guided Language acquisition design. They’ve worked hard to cultivate SEL competencies of self-management, self-awareness, and a lot of different things. But also around language acquisition and, there’s a lot of, you know, great strategies that we can unpack, just diving into that tell me a little bit more about hand gestures and how those might be used, Tim, in the classroom.

[00:22:01] Tim Blackburn: Justin, it really goes back to I guess an important principle of language development that was referred to as total physical response. Have you ever heard of TPR?

[00:22:12] Justin Hewitt: I haven’t No,

[00:22:13] Tim Blackburn: Yeah. Yeah. So TPR is like a tried and true ESL strategy. And, the premise of it is that we can learn a new language by associating it with a particular gesture or a particular movement.

[00:22:26] Tim Blackburn: And so, you know, for instance, if you’re learning the verb jump right and jumping , that you do so by jumping

[00:22:35] Justin Hewitt: Yeah, that, that makes so 

[00:22:37] Tim Blackburn: or, or run and running and you’re running in place, right? Or you’re reach, you’re reaching And of course, it’s not just limited to verbs. Actually, another great way to teach prepositions is through total physical response.

[00:22:51] Tim Blackburn: You are thinking about, like on top of the chair, under the chair, actually physically moving objects associated with particular prepositions. But the notion here that Bridget brings us is by, starting with imagery and then moving students along to associating the new language generated by the imagery with an associated movement.

[00:23:16] Justin Hewitt: Total physical response. I love it. And so she just mentioned hand gestures, but man, there’s so many different ways that you could use that. I love that idea of, if you’re teaching an action, like jumping to. Actually jump like this is not neat and tidy.

[00:23:31] Justin Hewitt: Rose. Sit and get into the classroom. This is chaos, jumping, reaching. I love this. That’s a classroom I want to be in.

[00:23:39] Tim Blackburn: Oh yeah I, I, I guess I take issue with chaos. Yeah. In the sense that TPR is really meant to be and, and Project lab in particular really does offer teachers routines. And so I’m not, being a contrarian in the least , to offer to our colleagues that what we’re after here are predictable routines and reliable routines for building language throughout the school day.

[00:24:06] Tim Blackburn: That’s what Project LA is all about.

[00:24:08] Justin Hewitt: . I love that. Yeah. That’s fantastic. . Chaos is probably not the right way to, to describe that. 

[00:24:16] Justin Hewitt: All right, let’s jump into our next interview with Leah Johnson. Leah is an elementary school teacher in Aldeen, I s D in Texas. So we are going back to Texas.

[00:24:26] Interview: Leah Johnson, where are you from? Houston, Texas. Woo. Awesome. What district are you in? I’m with Alden. I d. I have my students talk out loud with it. So they read it and then they dev, they say their answer out loud first. We have a lot of discussion within our classroom. I like to, I’m a fifth grade teacher, so they’re big on just reality, what’s going on in the world.

[00:24:48] Interview: So having those discussions. But also there’s this resource, and it is called Flipgrid. Flipgrid is a resource that we use. It’s basically students are able to record themselves and, but they’re talking and so they can do audio or video, but they’re able to talk. And even with us talking about those real life situations or events that are going on, able to come do it like a newscast.

[00:25:12] Interview: Oh, wow. And so that allows for them to also be able to speak and learn and speak out more as pertains to. The things that they see going on and their opinion. So it’s like just a free for all. Like I’m not gonna tell you your opinion, you tell me your opinion in the Flipgrid, you make it like a newscast and then we’re able to go back and watch it as a class or either individually and students are able to go and independently talk about, give their comment to it and everything.

[00:25:40] Interview: So I think that’s been the best strategy that I’ve used so far in my seven years for oral language fluency just talk. Yeah, exactly. Just talk. Just get them to talk and get them to share out with other students. I’m big on letting my students lead the class. I’m only a facilitator. I’m not the teacher, so I let me facilitate and they lead the class.

[00:26:01] Interview: And I think that’s the best way is letting them lead the class, talk things out, talk to their peers, talk to each other, share out their opinions on what’s going on, have that open dialogue and that open conversation. Allow them to use their home language while also still trying to learn English at the same time, which then also builds community within the classroom.

[00:26:23] Interview: It’s just, I like when they’re able to leave, but also just letting them just talk, letting them just have it out. Now, of course as teachers we get, they gotta be required sometimes, but just allowing them to just have fluidity in the classroom. It’s their learning space to let them lead with. And I usually let my kids leave with talking and discussion. 

[00:26:41] Justin Hewitt: I’m not the teacher. I’m good. I’m the facilitator. Boom man. Leah Johnson over here dropping amazing ideas and knowledge and man, she is. Next level, Tim.

[00:26:56] Tim Blackburn: Yeah, actually there were a number of moments that really, it just warmed me. It felt uh, just like an immediate connection to Leah. Firstly I am the facilitator and that really resonated with me is, , thinking about our roles as teachers, as, creating space for students to make connections and, she went on by saying how she even does so to create community with the purpose of creating community and that culture of safety and, within that, that safety, like the, having the space , to process and the students, home language using all of their language , to communicate in class.

[00:27:31] Tim Blackburn: And boy, that just, really resonated with me from a classroom culture perspective, in thinking about culturally responsive practice in so far as creating spaces for students to make meaningful connections. But then she prefaced that, that classroom culture conversation with a discussion of relevance.

[00:27:52] Tim Blackburn: And that is, you know, having topics that students want to talk about. When we think about culturally responsive practice is having topics having themes that our students want to engage with, right? And in that meaningful space, having that meaningful dialogue just gives all of the reasons for students to share what’s on their mind. Finally, using tools, when we think about the role as a facilitator in having novel, clever ways for students to grow and apprentice in academic talk, having a tool like Flipgrid or perhaps your school district might use Seesaw.

[00:28:32] Tim Blackburn: Or Hey, how about, flashlight 360 , as another tool, that teachers can have that. Effectively offer the space for students to share their thinking. And then, what Leah described as having tasks, within Flipgrid that push students to, to share their understanding of class concepts. She mentioned having a, like a news broadcast, right? And so think about all the different types of talk structures a student could practice within that context. And then all of a sudden, Elia has. A bank of tasks that show what students know and are able to do. Yes, in the content, but also in the associated language.

[00:29:12] Tim Blackburn: And so when we think about those in terms of formative assessment, you’ve just turned the speaking and listening standard into basically a rich, bank of evidence of what students no one can do.

[00:29:26] Justin Hewitt: I love that you call that standard out, just like right off the bat. I love Leah’s energy, amazing energy and you can tell that she really does approach her work , as a professional. Like she has the confidence to facilitate instead of just teaching right.

[00:29:40] Tim Blackburn: How, How lucky are her kids?

[00:29:42] Justin Hewitt: That’s what I was thinking. I actually have a fifth grader, so I’m thinking, man, I wish, actually my son has an amazing

[00:29:48] Tim Blackburn: I was about to say the same. I have a fifth grader too. And she has a great teacher, but boy Leah, thank you. Just wonderful comments.

[00:29:55] Justin Hewitt: Yeah, wonderful comments. And I loved how she said, look, I’m not trying to tell them an opinion that they need to discuss or that they need to bring their own opinion. Tell me your opinion, and then we can keep talking from there. Yeah, that was fantastic.

[00:30:07] Justin Hewitt: As far as, Flipgrid and Seesaw worked so well for just getting students talking. Really that was, in many ways, that’s where Flashlight 360 came from. A lot of teachers just wanted something that had more of a framework and more structure that was geared around prompting students, getting them talking, and then.

[00:30:23] Justin Hewitt: Having a rubric and an understanding to be able to provide feedback to students, provide them with learning goals and maybe give a score of some sort. And that’s what we built in the back end of the flashlight. So now it’s not just students talking, which is actually fantastic, we just want students talking as much as possible.

[00:30:40] Justin Hewitt: But it also gives a framework to understand and measure, you know, speaking and writing that productive language. 

[00:30:46] Justin Hewitt: Next guest at NABE was Lillian Ardell. Dr. Ardell is actually the founder and lead staff developer at Language Matters. Let’s jump in.

[00:30:55] Interview: My name is Dr. Lillian Ardell and I’m with Language Matters. Since I work with teachers, mostly I work with the teachers that support students. I help them think around Biliteracy practices. Or C is certainly one of the fundamentals, that students should be speaking more than teachers is one fundamental that I often message with teachers insofar as writing, that there are inextricable relationships between what you think, what you say and how you write, and that there should be equity around those three spaces as well.

[00:31:23] Interview: Fluency is nice, but it’s not the end all in the be all, and sometimes you need a little productive struggle in those spaces too. 

[00:31:29] Tim Blackburn: Something that I appreciate that I heard was around the value of productive struggle. And it makes me think about our, you know, prior conversations we’ve had about students just having the space to apprentice and grow in language. And hearing the first part of our comments around, biliteracy and having that active biliteracy zone students using all of their language and the productive struggle right?

[00:31:55] Tim Blackburn: Of using that language for a particular purpose. And so, you know, All this to say it brings me back to the prior conversation around the value of that space and the kind of freedom , to use language for a particular purpose without constraining it so much with a firm sentence frame.

[00:32:15] Tim Blackburn: What I heard in this comment is really, the importance of student talk and the relationship to thinking. So when we think about who’s doing the talking and the listening is really a question of who’s doing the deep cognitive thinking, who’s doing what I like to refer to as the heavy cognitive lift.

[00:32:33] Tim Blackburn: You know, I don’t know if you’ve ever been into a classroom Justin, where it just looks like the teacher’s working too hard and often that person is doing most of the talking. And then if you’re to cast your gaze out onto the students. What are the students doing? And all too often, it’s students sitting pretty passively, taking information in.

[00:32:53] Tim Blackburn: And I like to think about classroom discourse like a highway. And so, you know, Lillian and calling out, the, this really important, point that she shares with colleagues around who’s doing the work, right? Who’s doing the thinking? And really the, the, the speaking, the listening the, interaction is just great evidence of that.

[00:33:15] Justin Hewitt: Yeah. And I love how she’s talking about needing that space to think, speak, and write. And I just love the way that you talk about that opportunity to apprentice in the language.

[00:33:25] Tim Blackburn: That’s not me. Remember, that’s Dr. Aki. It’s

[00:33:28] Tim Blackburn: me. 

[00:33:29] Justin Hewitt: I love the way that Dr. Ada walkie talks about apprentices needing the space to apprentice in developing the language. It’s beautiful. Great imagery. 

[00:33:39] Justin Hewitt: Gosh, I just would like to thank everybody who, uh, took the time to talk with us at NABE and share these amazing ideas and thoughts. This is some gold, this is some good stuff. Tim, what jumps out to you the most from our interviews today? What are you gonna take with you to the Tiger Toton School District?

[00:33:58] Tim Blackburn: Sure. Thanks Justin. Firstly just appreciation of our colleagues, not only for sharing their perspectives, but also for the great work that they do. And additionally, I guess , there’s three things that really jumped out at me from these perspectives.

[00:34:13] Tim Blackburn: Especially like just the intentionality around the task design, like being very mindful upfront of all of the language development opportunities there are throughout the school day. And the second part about, that is like when we think about those language development opportunities, there is just the connection to students, Ory that is, exploring moments in our lessons for our students to connect and collectively make meaning.

[00:34:40] Tim Blackburn: And, we heard colleagues call out their role as facilitators of that space. Finally, It’s just the relationship to formative assessment. We heard, wonderful ideas about just the value of student talk and how it illustrates where students are and certainly their learning of class concepts, but also in the development of all of their language, and really underscoring that last part of all of their language, using their full linguistic repertoire to connect with their peers and also to connect to ideas in class.

[00:35:15] Tim Blackburn: So those are the three things that came into mind. Justin.

[00:35:18] Justin Hewitt: Oh, I love it. And one of the things I learned today about total physical response, TPR I love that, and I think there’s great value in that. And as we’re building Flashlight 360, that’s one of the things that I’m gonna try and think a little bit about is how we can include.

[00:35:33] Justin Hewitt: More opportunities for students to use their bodies as they’re learning some of these words and learning language and using that language. It’ll probably end up living in our offline materials more than in the actual platform. 

[00:35:45] Tim Blackburn: Just as suggestions, right?

[00:35:46] Justin Hewitt: Yeah, exactly. 

[00:35:48] Tim Blackburn: Mm-hmm. 

[00:35:48] Justin Hewitt: love that thinking.

[00:35:49] Justin Hewitt: I’m still blown away. , Leah Johnson’s just declaration that I’m the facilitator, not the teacher. And that just really resonated with me and I love the energy that she had around that and the confidence that she had in that. And I just think that is the sign of a teacher who has gone pro.

[00:36:09] Justin Hewitt: I just love that idea of people Going professional, right? Like just because you are a teacher or you are an author, or, you do writing, or you do whatever it might be. I love this idea of deciding that you’re gonna go pro, you’re gonna go professional, and I think there’s a next level you get to when you make the decision that you’re gonna be a professional and be the very best that you can be.

[00:36:31] Justin Hewitt: Which obviously Leah has done that here.

[00:36:33] Tim Blackburn: And like really challenging, prior notions of what an effective classroom looks like.

[00:36:38] Tim Blackburn: You know, When we think about the power of our mental models, right? For, . Being of a certain age, I grew up at a time in school where a passive classroom was the marker of an effective classroom.

[00:36:49] Tim Blackburn: And challenging that notion and designing a language rich environment requires a significant shift. And I think that’s what we really heard there.

[00:36:58] Justin Hewitt: Exactly. Hey. Amen. Amen. Hey, Tim, thank you so much for joining me today

[00:37:03] Tim Blackburn: likewise, Justin. Thank you

[00:37:04] Justin Hewitt: interviews. This was so fun to hear all of the great work going on around the nation. Thanks again to everybody who participated. We actually have a few more episodes like this that we’re gonna do where we ask everyone a few more questions and, and so we’ll unpack some of those here in the up and coming episode. So anyways, thanks Tim. Great to be with you. Thanks everybody. See you later. 


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