Submitted by: Eddie Spencer, Head of EAL at TASIS The American School in England
Date: January 2021
Photos courtesy of TASIS The American School in England
TASIS The American School in England is a co-educational, independent, boarding and day school with a student body representing over 50 nationalities. The school offers an American curriculum in grades Pre-Kindergarten to 12, together with Advanced Placement (AP) courses and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program in grades 11 and 12. The school believes that every learner has the gift of innate curiosity that can be nurtured into life-long learning, and a strong commitment to building a vibrant, joyful, and healthy community of principled, open-minded, and compassionate global citizens is central to its overarching mission.
Why TASIS England decided to join the WIDA global network
Our decision to apply for membership of the WIDA International Consortium in 2018 came in the wake of our school’s commitment to launching a three-year curriculum development plan with the aim of establishing a vertically articulated K-12 standards-based curriculum that can deliver a coherent and unified body of knowledge and academic skills. With the use of our new dynamic and integrated online curriculum management platform, all faculty members are now expected to work towards prioritising the standards applicable to the courses for which they are responsible and use them to inform the shape and content of their revised unit plans. The EAL department was attracted to WIDA after learning that it provides developmentally appropriate academic language standards and assessments that neatly coalesce with a K-12 American standards-based curriculum - and which are capable of complementing and supporting our schoolwide curriculum development aims. This discovery served as the catalyst for refashioning our EAL program and instigated a shift towards a more inclusive model of support that not only aims to integrate language development and content learning, but to also exploit the assets that our English Language Learners possess to help support learning and academic advancement across the whole school. This coincided with the creation of our first comprehensive EAL Handbook, the main purpose of which is to present our latest operational information and guidelines to effectively implement the English as an Additional Language program at TASIS England in line with both the TASIS England Mission Statement and the WIDA Can Do Philosophy.
How working with WIDA resources has impacted teaching and learning at TASIS England
Although our school has only had a short affiliation with WIDA, we feel that we have made significant strides in applying the WIDA Standards Framework to our whole-school curriculum. The use of the WIDA Screener and WIDA MODEL assessments for placement, identification and progress-tracking purposes, the creation of a new multi-tiered system of support for ELLs in our Lower and Middle School divisions, the introduction of a partnership teaching model in our Upper School division to support our most vulnerable ELLs in our sheltered content classes, the increased level of engagement with the families of our ELLs, and the practice of teaching English through pedagogical translanguaging are just a few examples of how WIDA resources have had a positive impact on teaching and learning in our school community. Here are some further examples:
- EAL Learner Profiles
Inspired by the 2018 WIDA Institute in Brussels, the EAL department now creates EAL Learner Profiles that are designed to capitalize on the interests, strengths, and cultural and linguistic backgrounds of our ELLs to support language development and academic success.
- WIDA K-12 Can Do Descriptors
The WIDA Can Do Descriptors are now integrated into our new online curriculum management platform, and they are easily accessible to teachers across the three divisions of the school. They are used by teachers and EAL specialists to assist with differentiated instruction and assessment, but they also form the basis for conversations about language for learning as our ELLs move along the language development continuum.
- Parental Involvement
TASIS England strives to establish rich and enduring relationships with all parents, and the EAL department regularly organizes parent meetings for the parents of ELLs. Meetings focus on explaining the program, basic school procedures, questions, and queries, how to support children at home with their schoolwork and reading as well as developing their mother tongue further. Parents are actively encouraged to participate in the community life of the school, embracing the Mission of the school and promoting international-mindedness. To ensure all parents feel part of the community, we now offer Parent English Classes for parents who do not speak English as a native language.
Moving forward, we very much hope to continue collaborating and networking with associate members of the WIDA International Consortium to assist us in developing our EAL program further in the years ahead.
“Our daughter joined TASIS three years ago with hardly any knowledge of the English language. As parents, we have seen our daughter flourishing through the TASIS EAL program, where the WIDA MODEL for assessing her level of English was used. The different stages of the program and the constant active support from her teachers have not only increased our daughter’s confidence in the language but have also strengthened her linguistic ability. The parent coffee mornings/meetings with her EAL teacher, the presentations and the discussions we had, have always been extremely helpful in understanding and tackling different language –related issues such as bilingualism. As our daughter is now moving to the monitoring stage of the programme we are confident that she will continue to progress, aiming to reach the same level as her English proficient peers.” – TASIS Parent
“The EAL program in TASIS has made my understanding and further development of the English language. Without it, my writing skills would have been a struggle to improve and therefore learn from. The EAL program let me expand my understanding of the IB program and even go more in depth when in TOK because of the small topics we discussed in the class, such as TCKs and digital technology. I’m glad I ended up taking that program because without it I would not be in the same position that I am now.” – TASIS Student
Visit the EAL Program Features on the TASIS England website for more information about the program.