Happy Wednesday Teachers of Emergent Bilinguals! It’s September 14th, and officially the 5th day of school. How are you doing? Hang in there – things will settle down and you will get into your routines soon. Speaking of routines! Today I’m going to talk to you about classroom routines for foundational literacy in Stand Alone.
Why routines? We have rock solid evidence that routines that enhance student engagement and minimize distractions and wasted time lead to stronger academic outcomes. For the mother of all efficiency researchers, see Anita Archer’s Explicit Instruction: Effective & Efficient Teaching.
I’m laser-focused on routines that get our students speaking, reading, and writing English this year, so I’ve been designing ones that I hope will maximize engagement and learning.
OUr goal is to utilize every minute of stand alone to advance language & literacy – that’s why we need classroom routines for foundational literacy in Stand Alone.
We have no time to waste, especially when we consider the instructional time sacrificed to testing. Our students need to acquire English and access content urgently. We also want them to love learning English, and become independent and enthusiastic bilingual learners.
You can introduce these routines in the beginning of the year, as your students get more comfortable in class.
routine #1 name, date, & alphabet warm-up for upper grades
Our older students need strong alphabetic knowledge so that they have a chance of acquiring literacy in English! Alphabetic knowledge – letter naming, letter recognition, and sequenced stroke formation – is a precursor to fluent reading and spelling. This routine is not for babies! Your students want explicit instruction so they can feel successful! You can’t be successful if you don’t know the letters of the alphabet in your new language.
Remember that I’m focused on a secondary Stand Alone classroom – however, adjust these routines for a younger classroom. For example, instead of having students write out their names, date, and alphabet, have them recite the date and alphabet orally.
OK, for our secondary students who already have some (we hope, a lot) of literacy in their home language, here’s what I’d love for you to try out these classroom routines for foundational literacy in Stand Alone.
1. Your students come into class, sit down, put their things away, and take out a pencil (yes, we want them to learn to correct mistakes).
2. Next, print and pass around an alphabet tracing worksheet like this . Another option, download specialized fonts to create your own worksheet (see below).
If your students give you any push-back, or already have beautiful handwriting, allow them to just write it out in a notebook or go straight to alphabetizing words (see routine #2) and working on vocabulary.
3. You, or another student who can be the model, will demonstrate proper writing posture: sit up straight, feet on the floor, right elbow and forearm resting on the table, tripod grip, paper angled to the left (to support right-handed writing; and the opposite, to support left-handed writing).
Why do I care about handwriting & Alphabetic knowledge, especially in older students?
In a nutshell, we know from research that good handwriting leads to better written expression, both in terms of the length a student can write, as well as the complexity. Handwriting reinforces the neural pathways in the brain between fine motor skills and phonemic awareness, which leads to more fluent reading and spelling!
If you suspect a student has a writing disability, called dysgraphia, read about it here.
4. Next, put this video on – thank you Super Smart Club! It’s a quick and simple video that demonstrates for your students how to correctly form the letters of the alphabet with the correct strokes. As your students watch the video, they go along and trace the alphabet out on their worksheets.
5. Lastly, they write out their names (after they’ve had practice learning how to correctly form the letters) and the date in words: September 14th, 2022.
6. Once they’ve completed everything, they recite the alphabet chorally as a class. Alphabetic knowledge is a foundational precursor to fluent reading.
7. Optional: If you have a classroom full of Spanish speakers, have them write out the Spanish alphabet for a couple of weeks, then ease them into the English routine. Or, once this routine becomes more automatic, have them do both!
As the routine becomes more and more automatic, and it takes less time, take away the scaffolds!
Remember, our goal is independent and enthusiastic students. We’re aiming for a routine that, with consistency and practice, will eventually take less than 5 minutes at the beginning of class.
When you feel your students can do the worksheet without the video, take it away. Next, we’ll take the arrows on the worksheet away, and give them a less scaffolded one (use KP Primary Ruled Dashed). If your wondering about fonts, the ruled tracing font with arrows is from Lewis Creative (worth $12 if you want to create your own worksheets). Otherwise, KP Primary Fonts (free) allows you to do ruled lines and tracing, or simply create a worksheet with ruled lines for independent writing.
When you feel your students are ready, take that worksheet away and have them write out the alphabet in their notebooks.
If you have classroom funds, please get your students a notebook with a dashed ruled midline like this one or this one from SHOP DOE or Amazon. Put a name label sticker over the front where it says ‘Grade 1’ or ‘Grade 2’ to avoid having your students see this.
Unfortunately, ruled lines notebooks are not even used in elementary school anymore, much less secondary. They are are an effective visual scaffold to help students develop good handwriting and spatial print skills. They’re also a great way for your students to keep all their writing in Stand Alone in one place.
OK! That was a very detailed description of the routine. Here are a few more options (with shorter explanations).
ROutine #2 vocabulary picture match and alphabetizing
Your students will match their vocabulary words to a picture and put the words into alphabetical order. This is a good Do Now routine for pairs to activate prior vocabulary learning. Again, if you have an all Spanish (or other Home Language) class, don’t be afraid to let the kids alphabetize words in Spanish! Strengthening alphabetic knowledge in the Home Language transfers to English, especially if both alphabets are Latin!
Don’t do everything at once. Let your students ease into their new environment. Slowly, but surely, get them used to these classroom routines for foundational literacy. Pretty soon you and they will be running on automatic pilot and your Stand Alone period will be a well-oiled, fast, efficient learning machine!
Good luck Teachers! Don’t forget to stick to the aebll ENL Stand Alone Scope and Sequence_Fall 22!
Stay tuned for next week, when I help you get started on lesson planning! If you need a lesson for this week, see This is My School! An additional lesson is coming this week I promise!
Please leave questions or comments below!