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Individual Learning Plans

Over the past few weeks we have received many new students. Some from other countries and others are from schools in MN and the greater United States. One of the hardest things to judge as an ELL teacher is how to support students when they first arrive from other schools. MN doesn’t have one reporting or grading system for either academic grades nor EL status. This causes many challenges when planning services for students who have yet to arrive, then causes delays in services that many students need.

There is a fix to this problem. In its entirety, it’s a grand undertaking that would absorb many resources that most school districts don’t have; however, just with anything new in education, I believe that implementing this in small segments is completely doable. What I am talking about is individualized learning plans or ILPs.

Much like their special education counterpart, the IEP or individualized education program, ILPs focus on creating a plan for each student that helps teachers and support staff focus their teaching to match the capabilities of each learner. The absolutely best part of giving our students ILPs is that it brings the learning of ELLs to the focus of the classroom teacher. The second best part of an ILP is that it creates the much needed paper trail that is lacking across districts and states.

Where can you get a sample ILP?

If you type in individualized learning plans into Google, you get many results. Even Teachers Pay Teachers has some great examples and ILPs for purchase; however, I recommend making your own. Just like with lesson plans, templates often times leave no room for modification or changes. What you end up with is a bunch of scribbles and notes on the side. When you make your own, you can adapt the form as your needs change. 

Components to start with

You don’t have to start with a fancy form that takes several hours of work to design and print. You really only need 3 things. A goal, a scaffold, and roles in achieving that goal. The goal should focus on a standard that is important for that time period, whether it be a week, a month or a quarter. It should be written together with the ELL and classroom teacher. The scaffolds should be things that the classroom teacher can do to ensure the lessons are meeting the student where they are in language demands. Finally, the roles should be specified. Which teacher is going to do what? 

How this helps

When students are transient and move from school to school, test scores are not enough, especially at the lower ELD levels. Having a paper trail for students that tells us what types of academic activities they have done in the past, what types of scaffolds have been necessary, and how often students are meeting goals can tell us a lot more than a bunch of decimals. 

Challenges

Time is something that all teachers struggle with. There never seems to be enough of it, especially if you are attempting to get two teachers, with two completely different schedules, to work together on something. This is where I am a firm advocate of states putting the pressure on districts to make collaboration time a mandatory part of education. I have been in districts with the time, and I have been in districts where there is no time at all. The differences are staggering. Our students deserve the best. 

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