Submitted by: Jamila MacArthur
Date: October 2022
Photos courtesy of Jamila MacArthur
Working together with people from other backgrounds and cultures is an integral part of life at Canadian International School (CIS). With approximately 3,100 students from more than 70 nations, we celebrate both our diversity and our connectedness. We cultivate a warm and collaborative environment because we believe it builds community and brings people together to make exciting things happen. In this environment, we get the best out of everyone. Nearly 20% of our students are learning English as a second language and are enrolled in our school’s ELL programme. In addition, all CIS students are learning a second language as part of the school’s curriculum.
With more than 290 qualified teachers, from more than 34 countries, we are perfectly positioned to deliver on our vision to students aged two to 18. We believe that the diversity of our teaching body is important as we deliver a curriculum – not exclusively Canadian – that draws from the best curricula globally.
CIS joined the WIDA global network because we are a school that is committed to educating multilingual learners. We value linguistic diversity and are committed to promoting multilingualism. We implement innovative practices to support our language learners’ development with an asset-based, hybrid model designed to meet each and every student’s individual needs. WIDA has been an integral piece of our strong foundation through its assessment, teaching resources, and standards. WIDA has guided our practice and served as a roadmap for implementing high-quality, data-driven instruction.
Once we know where our students are starting with us in their language journey, we can develop the scaffolds students need to access our curriculum by deeply understanding the WIDA Can Do Descriptors at every level. We are all speaking the same language about our students and aligning more closely on the instructional methods that will support their growth. The descriptors help all of our teachers understand where our students are performing independently, and where they may need some scaffolds to access the learning happening.
In secondary school, our ELL teachers have partnered closely with our individuals & societies and science teachers to ensure the vocabulary and content are accessible to our ELL students. We’ve produced units to frontload academic vocabulary and supported content teachers in building the necessary scaffolds in their classrooms. In doing this, the ELL team created quick “BML Bytes,” (Bilingual Multilingual Learners) to give teachers a quick strategy or skill overview that will make a deep impact. To kick off our teachers’ BML series, we opened with WIDA Can Do Descriptors so that teachers understood what a student’s WIDA level actually meant for them in Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. We are very data fluent in knowing our students’ levels and scores, but until we focused on examining what those levels meant, they were just a number. Now, all of our teachers have a better understanding of what a student is capable of accomplishing independently and what they may need a boost with.
“WIDA has provided our school with a consistent voice, we are all speaking the same language when we discuss our students' levels and progress. We are able to track and show student growth to homeroom teachers and parents, and this helps to continue to encourage our students. The Can Do statements allow teachers to understand and create curriculum to suit the students' levels; we can meet the students exactly where they are.” – Jacinta Stones, ELL lead, Lakeside Primary
Canadian International School in Singapore is one of the WIDA international schools hosting in-person WIDA professional learning this year. Registration is now open for WIDA Institutes and Stretching your Co-Teaching: Collaborating with WIDA workshops.