Submitted by: Shefali Jhaveri (Head of Department) and the CIS EAL Team
The Canadian International School began its WIDA journey this academic year (2019-20). The implementation of WIDA was part of a complete overhaul of the EAL program at the school, that included placing an EAL teacher for early childhood classes, and one EAL teacher for each grade level 1-8. Additional support for English language learners (ELL) is also given to high school students.
The current EAL model includes an “English as a World Language” class that ELLs take while other students learn other world languages, like Mandarin or Spanish. The 11 member EAL team push into their respective grade level classrooms to support ELL and all students in language learning within the classroom context. The use of the WIDA language function and support function materials has played a key role in designing Language Objectives for these Co-taught classes.
Early in our implementation of WIDA, two teachers from the EAL team had the opportunity to attend the WIDA Institute, and have since brought back a clearer perspective on the implementation of WIDA. Teachers from the EAL department have already begun to use the WIDA Model to assess student progress at the end of the first semester, and at the same time, have used the WIDA Screener to assess students who have joined us recently. The online training available for these assessments made it possible for all teachers to access materials and succeed at conducting the assessments.
At the WIDA Institute one of our attending teachers, Ms. Trinindita Shalihat, had the opportunity to showcase her use of Student Portraits, and recognizing its connection with WIDA has led to her facilitating workshops at our school on ‘Utilizing ELL portfolios and language profiles to develop lessons and co-teaching strategies.’
Ms. Trinindita Shalihat says, “WIDA Can Do Descriptors have helped me explain my students’ progress and expectation to parents. It gives easier understanding to parents about language acquisition and language use in academic context.”
Our use of WIDA has begun to have a noticeable impact on the change in the structure of the EAL program and the students it supports. WIDA has provided a common approach and understanding of ELL needs, research-based sets of assessments, and a new sense of cohesion to our dedicated EAL team. No longer is EAL taught in isolation and just through the lens of the four language skills. There are now stronger connections to academic content, a focus on what students can do, and a means for all teachers to assess and understand student progress throughout their language journey.