After School EL Program a Success at Riverside USD!
“My EL students are super engaged! Even if they can’t speak about what we are doing in complete sentences or grammatically correct sentences, they can do it. I can tell they can understand from their drawings in their science notebooks and discussions,” explains a second grade Riverside Science Renaissance Project teacher.
Administrators and teachers began noticing that EL students, who are usually hesitant to speak up in the classroom, are much more engaged during science instruction based on inquiry and hands-on activities provided by project teachers. “Having students do investigations first with a lot of hands-on led to a marked and very observable difference in engagement,” notes Shannon Dadlez, Ph.D., Project Director.
The district, impressed with the grant’s impact on EL students, decided to begin branching out with science beginning with their summer school program. The program is held at 14 sites with a lower SES population. In previous summers, they had issues with students coming for the first couple of days and then attendance dropping off after that. In an addition, they were seeing a “summer slide” with students returning in the fall with lower reading scores. With the help of Jennifer Ivey, Instructional Services Specialist, ELA and Intervention departments, the program was revised with an interactive science focus with Shannon assisting in materials and resources. As a result, Shannon explained, “Attendance went up, and 75% of program students retained their reading levels. I guess it was worth me having 1,500 mealworms in my refrigerator and 5,000 lady bugs in my living room. I did learn a lot about critter management!”
With the success of the summer school program, the EL Department became interested in offering more science in their EL afterschool program. Marie Coover, and Patty De Robles, Ph.D. Staff Development Specialists in Academic English Learners and Student Support designed and sought out curriculum, such as CAMP Invention units, to include in the program, which was renamed Language Acceleration Brainiacs (L.A.B.). Many teachers from the Science Renaissance Project had volunteered for the program and were able to take their experience with science and incorporate it into L.A.B.’s curriculum. The two days a week 90-minute program now provides a rich context for language development with students eager to talk about and explain their ideas. Teachers are building background knowledge and vocabulary development through activities and investigations. “Once they have that vocabulary that has meaning for them they put that vocabulary to use immediately by discussing what they are thinking and finding out. Then, by having discussions, they understand the concepts, which flows into writing into their science notebooks and students want to share them,” Shannon explains. Science provides a more even playing field for students as one teacher notes, “They aren’t afraid to make mistakes in science so they participate more. Science experiments are trial and error. They are more likely to attempt to do or say something. They know it’s okay to make mistakes.”
The district has 5 Dual Immersion Schools (DLI) that are now looking at using NGSS science for their ELD program because of what they have seen in other programs. One of the DLI teachers is a grant participant, and she has noted that students understand the content with the hands-on activities and are able to discuss their findings with each other. Furthermore, the RSP department is seeing higher engagement and student achievement with science.
Click HERE to download the PowerPoint about these programs.