Submitted by Karli Walsh
Why Did You Start Using WIDA?
At the American Overseas School of Rome, we believe that all teachers are language teachers. With this as a school-wide goal, the EAL team embarked upon a quest to support mainstream teachers in developing a toolbox of strategies to support ELLs in their classrooms. Through research, we discovered that WIDA assessments, resources and standards provided alignment around the teaching of English. In addition, we discovered that WIDA provided the tools necessary to not only measure language proficiency but to support language teaching in the mainstream classrooms. We saw WIDA as offering a more inclusive and collaborative approach to language learning. Thus we began to explore using the WIDA Model and Can Do Descriptors with our students and teachers.
The EAL team at AOSR adopted the WIDA MODEL as a language proficiency assessment in 2015. We spent the first year becoming familiar with the WIDA Can Do philosophy and tools designed to support it. The following year, the entire EAL Department attended a WIDA training which provided clarification regarding how the WIDA MODEL could aid in our move to increased language awareness and language support across the school. Soon we were able to take our first steps toward a collaborative approach to teaching English language learners.
How Has WIDA Supported Learning and Program Growth?
Using WIDA school-wide has provided us with a common language and set of standards from which to work regarding English language proficiency at all levels. Through the use of the WIDA English Language Development Standards (ELD), language targets are developed collaboratively for each student. With the support of the WIDA tools, teachers are able to provide key strategies within unit plans and lesson plans. Currently, AOSR is striving to implement a co-planning and co-teaching model to better support the language needs of students within the mainstream classrooms. WIDA tools are helping to provide us with co-teaching models, subject specific language structures and important student data. As the EAL team continues to build a better understanding of the WIDA ELD standards, we recognize the importance of supporting all teachers’ understanding and comfort level with these tools.
Please join the American Overseas School of Rome this autumn: La WIDA Dolce! On October 17-20, 2019 AOSR will be hosting a WIDA Institute. You can visit the WIDA International Institutes page for information about this professional learning event.