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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My BEAM Symposium Workshop: Teaching Poetry with the ELPS

Years ago, I was asked to present an in-service workshop for other ELA teachers in my district, and I did it because I do not like (or know how) to say no. Years and years later, this is becoming a thing, and I am really starting to enjoy this thing. I have now presented at my school and in-district for ELA and district-adopted instructional model workshops, as well as at two state ESL/bilingual conferences for English language learner strategies. Last weekend, I presented my first ever, out-of-district, solo workshop presentation at the 31st BEAM Symposium (Bilingual/ESL Education Association of the Metroplex, Texas). 

For my BEAM proposal, I actually reworked that very first workshop. After winning a copy of Kylene Beers' When Kids Can't Read at  a district training, I was asked to present one of her strategies. I conducted a Tea Party experience with the poem "Grandmother Grace" by Ronald Wallace. Because it has been so long, all I remember about this presentation is that it was my birthday, I brought cookies, I made people cry with the poem, and the feedback was good. 

For the English Language Learner presentation, I started with the basic premise - Tea Party with the poem. This is an activity I use frequently in my classroom in various ways, and it is always a success. It gets kids thinking and engaged with poetry (and other genres) before they even see the poem. And getting middle school students to do anything but glaze over at the mention of poetry is success in my book. 

In my revisions of the presentation, I added more activities: Get the Gist from ReadWriteThink, understanding metaphor from Kelly Gallagher's Deeper Reading, and a final word activity, again from Kylene Beers. Although these strategies are not written specifically for English language learners, they work very well for this specific population. 

I did modify the activities to focus specifically on reading, writing, listening, and speaking, the four components of Texas' ELPS (English Language Proficiency Standards). The reading was a given; we had a poem. For writing, I worked with sentence stem responses to the different activities throughout the lesson. Participants shared their sentence stem writing with partners, allowing them to work on both listening and speaking skills. 

Overall, the workshop went very well. I received positive written and verbal feedback. The teachers in attendance were appreciative of the ability to take something directly back to their classrooms. As a teacher, I know that is something that I always want from sessions I attend. 

I have submitted a proposal to present this same workshop at another state organization conference, and it looks like it could be going to a third based on my ESL Teacher of the Year award. My goal is to wear the mess out of it as I practice my presenter skills, and then I will start working on a new one. Because I believe in sharing/stealing in teaching, it is all here for you, as well. 

I considered leaving the classroom last year, but I am glad I did not. I feel like I am in the best possible place. I get to do what I love and work with goofy children every day, plus I get to go outside of the classroom and share what I do with other teachers. Watch out world. I'm comin' to get ya! 

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