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MELED 2017; What I learned (Part 2)

During one of the sessions I attended, there was talk about how to fully utilize the WIDA standards in literacy instruction. Going to this session, I didn’t know what to expect. I was fumbling with my notebook and some papers when one of the presenters said something that stopped me. I can’t quote it, but she said something like, do not confuse cognitive ability with language ability when forming questions for your students. It was like a lightbulb had gone off in my head. Finally, someone had put my feelings and angry reactions into words. It was like a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders. 

I can’t even begin to count how many times I have heard a classroom teacher look amazed at what their ELL students are doing, as if they are somehow seeing miracles. In fact, within the last 24 hours, I have seen that face when someone told me that the student can understand. In my head, I’m like “duh.” It’s not about the task, it’s about how you bring the task and content to their level. How do you do that?
For starters, use Bloom’s Taxonomy. Even yes or no questions can be higher on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Let’s just ask the question, “is Bloom’s Taxonomy compatible with y/n questions at the higher order of thinking skills?”  Is that a higher level question? What types of knowledge did you need to apply to think critically, and then answer, even if you said no? And, whether you said yes or no, it doesn’t matter. Either way you are analyzing and evaluating prior knowledge to determine an answer. 

This was just an example in Y/N format. There are many other ways we can frame questions so that all our learners can think critically and apply what they know and have learned. Let’s not make the mistake of confusing language with the capacity to learn and participate. The only way we can do that is simply to be mindful of the questions we are asking and plan for those questions in advance.

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