Exploring Gibbons

Today I stumbled upon a SPELTAC post about supporting language learning for basketball, where Marcelle discussed how she supported the language learning that happened in PE for upper elementary students. The original idea and post came from Ben Wiggins, where he discussed using Gibbons Intellectual practices to help students develop language and thus use strategies to improve on invasion game play.

Both of their strategies and ideas seemed very useful to any PE teacher, and thus I was thinking it might be time for me to explore Gibbons further. Which led me to this document, which breaks down Gibbons 7 Intellectual Practices, and helps apply them to ELL learning (though some were applied better than others to actual language learning).

The big idea that I took away from Gibbons is to use more of an apprenticeship type of model (rich tasks) so that students can engage with the material and use the language as professionals of sorts. With that, we need to include our EL Learners in this. As they work on a collaborative project with a group, if given a real-life role with language supported in ways such as what Marcelle and Ben did, then we will find their academic language improving quite quickly!

Makes another case for more push-in support, and really for making the classroom more focused on contextualized learning in our real world within that!

Start of our Feb Project

We have decided to make EALAdvisor (like TripAdvisor, hope no copyright issues! ;))

Anyway, the hope is to have a blog of sorts that has little boxes of useful strategies. I have tried to make the first one, so only time will tell if this takes off and is successful, but we thought a resource bank of non-written strategies for EAL students (and students in general, lets be honest!) would be a good idea.

Link to EALAdvisor is here: http://ealadvisor.blogspot.com/

Setting my goal

Thought I would just take my professional development doc and post the main ideas here to share and keep track on here, and with others.

Goal: Supporting EAL learners (all language learners) in the mainstream classroom.

In our SPELTAC group, we have specifically states that we want to incorporate non-written strategies that we can turn into routines that allow students to show understanding (perhaps in different ways). We will also focus on some written strategies, the key for us is to have less writing though, and to really focus in on how to help these students show what they know and to scaffold formative work (and maybe summative) in a way that allows them to do this perhaps without writing. Our group wants to share this best practice collaboratively in order to all bring something to the table that others can use.

  1. Keep up on the SPELTAC readings and collaborate with the use of my blog and with group members via the community, and readings, etc.
  2. Look into Gini Rojas strategies as a starting point for ideas
  3. Also want to look at Harvard Project Zero for some ideas, though these are often writing and more of thinking skills, am curious if any could be adapted to allow others to show understanding in different ways for different language learners (this may be a stretch, but visible thinking strategies is something I also want to work on, so going to put it in here.)
  4. Go through other research to find good ideas, such as this from ASCD
  5. Attempt to use certain strategies if they seem as if they would be useful, and gather information on effectiveness
  6. Share these strategies with other group members and hear about theirs as well.
  7. Start taking a few strategies and make them routines in the class, so that students know them well, and they don’t have to be taught, but they are just a regular part of what we do.
  8. Reflect on the progress.

Teacher reflections:

Mid-year: Mid-October As of part way through this semester, I think I am struggling with this, as I find it going in two separate directions. Alas, we have some good strategies that we are trying to implement, but it is not as effective as we might have hoped. I am also currently supposed to be using pictures with my students (team focus), but I am actually doing more just demonstrating. Had a good conversation with Keijiro the other day, where I just acted out some parts and he showed me his understanding through signals, some words, and him acting out what should happen. 

Early November – I have recently changed my individual focus. As we started to look at pictures and images, I attempted this but it was mostly a failed experiment… Since that time, I have found some course work in SPELTAC connected to teacher – student talk and student – student talk that is much more relevant to what I am currently teaching (and feedback I am giving to teachers when doing walkthroughs). This still fits into my goal above, but I am going to work more on scaffolding language and discussions in my class. This will be much more relevant, as we are in a play-based environment, so will be working on helping groups have better discussions. Some ground rules I might implement from Thinking-together  are:

Ground rules for Exploratory Talk:

  • everyone in the group is encouraged to contribute
  • contributions are treated with respect
  • reasons are asked for
  • everyone is prepared to accept challenges
  • alternatives are discussed before a decision is taken
  • all relevant information is shared
  • the group seeks to reach agreement.

Still a work in progress.

Powerful Questions

Powerful Questions – I recently read this article, given to me from another participant in an IB Online workshop. It seems to connect quite well with changing the teacher-student dialogue in the classroom, to get to some of that higher level thinking. Things Dawes (2007) seems to reference. We all know about these open ended questions in the MYP, and put them regularly on Unit Plans and task sheets, but I guess the bigger question is, what is the dialogue in the classroom look like. Are we inquiring to the kids to get one specific answer, or are we actually “Asking questions that encourage students to take extended turns to express their thoughts?”

Connected Learning

This post is a bit different, as not connected to the current module, but more on my own professional growth. I continue to seek out and get connected, sifting through things is always difficult though, and time consuming. Some people feel twitter helps them do this, others use different platforms to navigate the world of blogs, etc. I do not have the best practice yet, and this is one area I need to work on, especially as I delve into G+ Community, Twitter, LinkedIn, and different blogs. Personally, I don’t think I use Twitter enough to vet the information for me, and I will continue to work on that, as I suppose it would/could be quite useful.

Here is one blog that I have just grabbed onto though, and I love this quote: “I really believe that classrooms need to be learner focused” (George Couros). I think we all believe this, but he has 8 strategies that really help to do this. And having a Learning Portfolio for students is part of this. To me, this is our students’ blogs, and something we are working towards them using in a more engaging way to be part of this connectivity. So, not just a place that they post their past learning, but also a place where they comment and learn and get feedback from each other. We are hoping to open this up to our school community first, bit by bit, and hopefully get it out there more.

And as I write this, I realize that it is equally important for educators to do this. I do a bit on LinkedIn and G+ Communities, but perhaps I need a bigger platform to do this, as when I had a blog a few years ago and slowly let go of. We all say we are busy, and I really dislike this culture of busy, as I see it as an excuse, and as George says, we must schedule time to blog (or reflect on our learning, etc.). I hope to make more time for this, starting now. (Finding the long-term platform to use is next…)


“Reading and writing float on a sea of talk” (James Britton, 1983) – Oracy – I had never heard of this word, but seeing the quote above, and knowing that the term was coined over 50 years ago, shows how important it is to truly delve into this type of learning.

We especially see how oral language develops sooner in our ELL students, as they build up a communication language with their peers. As teachers we need to build on this language of talk to help our students be more successful in all aspects, as well as in language learning.

I am thinking now how to best incorporate some of these ideas. Our groups main goal was to focus on non-written techniques to help our students. Our initial idea is to make pictures to help students share ideas. I have struggled with this in PHE, as bringing out pictures to show when a touchdown happened is not easy. Demonstrating it is much more useful. More importantly, I think this small group discussion idea is a lot more useful, as this group makes plays and whatnot in PHE, especially in my current Grade 8 Flag Football teamwork unit. So, how can I incorporate strategies to help them be more successful with this?

This resource to help students focus on how to have useful conversations with what they are doing is where I might start, re-creating this to focus more on my subject could be good. What do others think? I have done guiding principles for group work, but this seems more focused on just the conversation, have others used something like this? I have done a bit with debate skills in this regard, but would like to incorporate this more in my current unit…. stay tuned – any feedback that others have tried, greatly appreciated!

Our first trial

A lot of what I am reading involves putting in images with the information you are trying to do. That is below and some other ideas in some of these articles.



And here is the premise of mix and match :

4. Mix and Match
Purpose: To practice reading and defining academic vocabulary Grouping Format: Interactive whole class

Teacher role:
 Prepares two card sets. Set 1 indicates an academic vocabulary term. Set 2 defines the term or pictures it
 Provides each student with one of the cards from either set
 Directs students to walk around the room (Mix) reading
and trading cards with other students
 Alerts students to stop exchanging cards and to Match
themselves with another student to form a pair: a term and its matching definition

Student role:
 Walks around the classroom reading and exchanging cards with other students
 At the teacher’s signal, stops Mixing and begins to search for a Match for the term or the definition on a card
 Reads the term and the definition with a partner


This post I will dedicate to back channels… I used Todaysmeet at the MYP workshop I ran last week in KL. Was working with a group of ELL, who were implementing the MYP at three different schools around Malaysia. The workshop itself was quite interesting, but using the back channel allowed for even more engagement from participants.

While they were often out of their chairs doing activities, I was able to quickly get them links to resources and materials, and at the same time they were able to ask questions without stopping the lesson. Often our ELLers, who are students, don’t want to interrupt for a language based question, so opening up channels like this is a nice way to get them more connected and willing to inquire!

Learning is Social

Learning is Social – I think this is an interesting concept, and obviously not a new one. Clearly that is why so many educators in the past have supported schools vs. home school education. And in today’s age, that means a much larger social group that we could easily connect to.

I realize that this is geared towards a teacher’s need to get connected across the world, but I also wonder if it is something we should be doing more with our students. Skype in the classroom, etc., there are many platforms out there to connect our kids all over the world. Curious what others think about that?

And then, are schools going to become obsolete at some point? Not sure how many have seen this TEDx video of a student “Hackschooling” that was made a few years ago, but is worth seeing. And begs to question the necessity for schools, if we can engage (get connected with others, including experts) and do so much research, etc. on the Internet.

Curious to hear what others have to say…