Thursday, July 25, 2013

CLS: Kate Kinsella

at 11:52 AM
I recently went to a conference in Palm Springs to see Kate Kinsella speak. That was all we were told about the conference. But that was enough -- Anyone who teaches in California, or who works with EL Students, knows her name. Kate Kinsella conference? Yes, please!

It wasn't until I was at the conference that I realized it was sponsored by the California League of Schools. It was also the first time I'd heard of them.

Their mission statement is:
CLS is dedicated to helping K-12 educators improve student learning through useful, evidence-based professional development and other resources.

Basically, they're a non-profit organization that puts on conferences around California to offer professional development to teachers. Just another tool out there for us to be aware of. 

The conference was a Sunday-Monday conference. 

Sunday, after the introductions by someone from the CLS, we got to listen to Kate Kinsella for the entire day. 

Since she usually does two-day conferences, she was fairly rushed as she tried to get across all the information in one day. The morning was great. A lot of review for us, after the intensive CM training our district puts us through. That bothered some of the teachers I was with, but to me it made sense. Dr. Kinsella was the pioneer in EL support. She started the movement, that other people have jumped on-board with support for. She's the WHY, while CM and other programs like it are the HOW for EL Support.

Unlike CM and AVID (AVID presenters' information is copyrighted, because they want you to only learn from it by going to their summer institutes), Dr. Kinsella insisted we share the information she was giving us with our colleagues. To me, that means the entire teaching community. 

Dr. Kinsella has adopted two children from different cultures. Her daughter was adopted at a few months, so is a native English speaker, but her son is a second language learner. She uses anecdotes from their learning in her speaking. I thought it was interesting, and helped show why she is so dedicated to this cause. Other teachers disagreed. 

Common Core Readiness

She started out by talking about the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) and how they had a language-laden emphasis. Basically, with the implementation of CCSS,  if you don't understand English, all subjects just got harder. With our high populations of language learners, especially here in California, that means we need to remember to teach language specifically. 

Dr. Kinsella said that we would learn three different methods for teaching vocabulary, but I only saw two by the end of the day, and neither one was given enough of a focus for me to use the strategy correctly in class. One thing I did take away from her talking about vocabulary was that it's important for teachers to tell students which words are important to remember and which are just "need to know" for a certain reading. Teachers tend to just slam students with new vocabulary. We teach our bricks and mortar words for a unit, then we add all this other vocabulary into the mix with each reading, and students can't remember it all. By explaining which words they need to commit to memory, it will help students actually grasp and learn the vocabulary they need. 

We did get one of her vocabulary books from her published curriculum (you can buy through National Geographic, and Scholastic).

She started out by giving us a pop-quiz on some common words used in writing prompts (basically, Bloom's words). As an English teacher who has been studying EL strategies and writing strategies all summer, it was easy for me to answer, and to see why she gave the quiz. 

See how well you do. 

1. Why is asking a student to compare and contrast redundant? 

2. Why do career/college readiness standards emphasize justification rather than argument?

3. When drawing from informational texts in research writing, how does summarizing a text differ from synthesizing? 

1. You cannot compare without contrasting. To compare two things is to look at all the similarities and differences. [Side note: She also disagrees with using "same and different" type vocabulary in lower grades. She things saying Compare in first grade is not only perfectly fine, but necessary]

2. Justification is providing evidence to back up your claim. This type of evidence is fact-based. While argumentation can use fact-based justification, it also allows for ethical and emotional appeals. When working as a contractor, you aren't going to give your potential client an emotional appeal (think Human Society TV ads) and when applying for jobs you aren't going use pathos to get hired. 

3. Summarizing is the non-biased, concise rephrasing of main ideas and key points. Synthesizing utilizes multiple pieces of information. It is the combining of ideas from different sources to come up with a key topic or theme. 

She wanted us to look at these words, and to share them with our colleagues. Too many people have different ideas what these words mean, and they often don't explain them (or explain them incorrectly) to their students. Yet, all standardize tests (as well as businesses and colleges) use these words in the same way. Companies and colleges want our students to know what these words mean, and they have set definitions.
Dr. Kinsella has worked with colleges and companies to create tools that will help our students be better prepared for the real world. 

[Note: Despite being a college professor herself, Dr. Kinsella says she rarely tells students in lower grades "this will help you in college!" She says that students who think about college think about it as a necessary evil on the path to their dream job. Spend more time explain to students how things will help them at their companies, jobs, etc later in life, and less time telling them it will be useful in college.] 

These are the words and definitions we need to teach our students, and our colleagues, to use across curriculum. 

Overall, I think it's highly worth it to see Dr. Kinsella speak. If you're working with new teachers, just starting out at a school or district with a high EL population, or your school is just starting to implement more EL interventions, I think that seeing Dr. Kinsella speak before learning the tools to helping your students, will be a big help. As I said before, Dr. Kinsella is the why. Why do we need to support our EL students? Why does this type of support help all our students?

All students are Academic English Learners

CM, SDAI, CLAD strategies are all the how. How we help them, how we support them, and how we implement it into the classroom. 

She also suggests using those words (above) in the classroom all the time. When you ask a question, or check for understanding, use the actual term that you want the students to do. Don't say "What's your idea" or "Who wants to share out." Those terms are never used in the workplace. Ask them to do what the actual task at hand was. "What evidence did you find?" "How does that quote illustrate the theme?" Be specific. Be concise in your word choice. Ask the students for what you actually want them to do. And do it all the time. 

 Using Sentence Frames

One thing I thought Dr. Kinsella did very well was teach and model how to use sentence frames in the classroom. Through CM training, I'm fairly competent in creating them, knowing which ones to use for which writing, and I understand the idea behind them. Yet, no-one had taught me how to model them for my students. They told me I had to, or else students wouldn't understand what to do, something I found out last year, much to my chagrin when I got a sentence that looked like this:
(Topic:) Global Warming is very important because (idea one) ice caps, (idea two) polar bears, (idea three) trash.
Yes, that was in a final paper, after copying word for word what was on the graphic organizer. (I've got a ton of new ideas on how to teach that unit better for next year, don't worry.) 

Explaining what Dr. Kinsella did to show the modeling of the sentence frame is hard, but I will try. However, seeing her do it was amazingly helpful to me. 

Dr. Kinsella addressed the concern most teachers have with sentence frames. "When do I stop using them?" "Never." She said we are constantly teaching students new things, why would we stop giving them that support they need? Make them harder, yes, but don't stop using them. Maybe at the beginning of the year students start out saying "My opinion is..." and by the middle of the year they've moved to "My perspective on the subject is..." But they are still being given support. Also, if students take good notes, they can always go back in their notebook and find the easier frames if they need them.

The biggest (surprise?) to me was having students choral read. It's not something I tend to prefer to try at the upper grades. But the way she did it wasn't babyish at all. She called it echo reading. The teacher reads part of the frame aloud, students repeat it back. What made it useful, however, was the fact that you don't just read the whole sentence. Break it into parts where you would naturally pause. Focus on the inflections of the words, phrases, punctuation. Make sure the students know how to say the frame, not just mumble it all together. 
So I guess first: read it aloud, pausing and using correct inflections. Then, echo read. Break it down for them, have them repeat it. Do this without filling in the frame. 

[Side note: She mentioned sentence starters. "They're just that. Starters. They get you started and then leave you hanging.] 

Then, model filling in the frame. This is where I learned a cool new tip. Use different color markers (set colors) or pens. She used black and red. Black meant students could copy it down. Red meant students should not copy it, it was her idea and not theirs. 

Then, have the students fill in their own (on their own! No partners). 

Next, she had the students echo read her answer, to practice saying it.

Then, she had students read their own aloud to themselves twice. 

Partner time! "Turn to your partner and read your sentence twice. Once, just read it. On the second time, remember it's ok to look at the paper, but try to really present it to your partner." 
Then switch partners and repeat. 

Next, random volunteers to share aloud. 

However! Never have students share aloud without an Active Listening Activity. Make sure students are paying attention. Either, ask them to repeat their partner's answer, or have a graphic organizer where they write down one more good idea from someone else. Something that holds students accountable to listen to other students. She said AP students are the worst at academic listening. 

"Well, I did my sentence, so now I'm done," as they pull out math homework.

She said she uses this partner share and active listening tool at least twice a class. Most teachers right now are thinking, "but... but... but...! I don't have time!" However, if you take the time to teach the procedure at the beginning of school, it will go smoother throughout the year. Remember, we're continuously being told that there is too much TTT (teacher talking time) in the classroom. Students generally speak academic English less than 2% of their day. Using class time to get students to talk is worth the time. 

Dr. Kinsella also pointed out that the reason students find Academic Listening to hard is because they've had years and years where teachers didn't enforce it. She's taught freshmen college classes where students asked her, in November, "Are we still going to do that listening thing?" "Yes," she said, "every single day."

Overall Impression

I'll give Dr. Kinsella the benefit of the doubt, because I did learn from her, that the problems I had with her presentation were due to being rushed. I understand that trying to cram two days worth of information into one can be hard, and she did tell us she had just come from another conference. However, her presentation was a bit sloppy. She had a book of information provided to us by the conference (I think National Geographic sponsored our "goodie bags") and she used many of the sources in that book. However, we were constantly flipping back and forth. Nothing was in order. We would go from a page in the 30s to a page in the 50s, back to a page in the 20s, and then move onto the 60s ...all within about 7 minutes of the presentation. That's a lot of flipping around, and it's not a good way to model teaching practices. On top of that, her PowerPoint presentation had slides out of order, and missing slides as well. 

[Side note: at the CM institute they taught us a great way to avoid looking haphazard with slides. If you know the numbers of the slides, you can type in the number and press enter and it will skip to that slide, without showing the ones you are skipping over. It makes a very smooth transition, especially if you are going back and forth.

The main reason the slides confused us was because we were given a printout of the slides to take notes on. More often than not, the ones on our printout did not match what was on the screen.
I still suggest going to see her. She knows her stuff, she's done the research, and she's a great public speaker.


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