Submitted by Codie Chaudoin
Date: July 2022
Photos courtesy Codie Chaudoin
The International School of Latvia was founded in 1992 as an independent, non-profit, college preparatory day school. Since our original inception with a student body of 35, we have grown to serve more than 400 students in grades Preschool 3 through 12. We have offered the full International Baccalaureate program since 2004. Located just outside Riga in Pinki, Latvia, our school community is composed of students and staff representing more than 40 nationalities.
We joined the WIDA International Consortium in Spring 2020. Our decision to join was the result of careful consideration of our school’s strategic plan and our need for resources that supported the language development of multilingual learners. With a wealth of research about best practices in language acquisition, assessments, standards and professional development opportunities, WIDA offered us a centralized support system for multilingual students and their teachers.
With encouragement from leadership, our team of five EAL teachers immediately began taking advantage of the learning opportunities that WIDA presented. In addition to MODEL training webinars and some of the deep dive webinars, we took part in the virtual collaboration course: Stretching Your Co-Teaching with Andrea Honigsfeld and Jon Nordmeyer in fall 2020. This course, along with the release of the WIDA ELD Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, jump-started our move towards a co-teaching model of service delivery. Our elementary EAL specialists worked with K-2 and grades 3-5 teachers respectively to support students using primarily team, station and circuit teaching models during literacy and unit of inquiry blocks in the elementary schedule.
In secondary, what began as a coalition of the willing, developed into more deliberate co-teaching partnerships as we began to use data to analyze where our students struggled. Our subject area teachers benefitted from looking at their content with a language teacher who understood how to evaluate the language demands of tasks. Our language teachers gained a better appreciation for the language students needed to access content and express understanding across the curriculum. Teachers felt that an unexpected benefit of co-teaching partnerships was a cross-pollination of ideas from different content areas. For example, our grade 8 teachers conceived a “Periodic Table of Dystopian Elements” project that grew out of their collaborative partnership.
The students also spoke of the benefits of having two teachers in the classroom.
“It helped having two teachers teaching the same topic. We were able to learn the content from two different perspectives. Our English language teacher really helped us make our science presentations, reports, essays and citations better.” – grade 8 student
The 2020 Edition was key in helping us identify the language demands of our content standards and develop targeted instruction to bolster student achievement. Our leadership team has supported the integration of the WIDA ELD Standards Framework into our teaching across the division.
“The WIDA ELD Standards Framework provides clear guidance for content area teachers to support the integration of reading and writing skills into their instructional practices. Teachers who haven't taught language functions intentionally don't necessarily think about the discrete skills involved in argument or informational writing. Having the guidance of the WIDA ELD Standards Framework gives the necessary structure for teachers to co-plan and co-teach these skills, which while designed to support students with identified needs, actually strengthens the language skills of all of our students.” – MYP Coordinator Joseph Szalay
Our EAL team also had the pleasure of being a part of the inaugural WIDA Global Community of Practice. This year-long opportunity allowed our team to connect with other educators from around the world to explore the schoolwide systems that support multilingual learners. After identifying a problem of practice, we researched our activity system (collaboration) and connected on the Canvas platform to learn how other international schools address some of the same concerns. The COP culminated in a capstone presentation, which allowed us to showcase our work and hone our presentation skills. The Global Community of Practice was a perfect professional learning experience for our team, as it aligned closely with our strategic plan and gave us just the right balance of support and freedom to develop our own solutions. We look forward to implementing the product of our efforts, with the provision of training on the collaborative teaching and learning cycle for our colleagues at ISL in the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. WIDA is helping us make the IB philosophy of “we are all language teachers” a reality at our school.
Watch teachers from International School of Latvia practice collaborative planning:
To learn more, please look for their presentation in the WIDA Global Community of Practice Capstone Celebration recordings.