The idea for this blog struck me when I tried to google “ESL science resources”. This is what I teach–multiple science classes for students who speak English as a second (or third, or fourth) language. Of course, there were resources created and compiled by some amazing teachers. But there weren’t as many as you might think, and the vast majority were geared toward very early grade levels. I don’t need to teach about the life cycles of a butterfly. I need my high schoolers to learn about the periodic table. The endocrine system. Climate change. Cells.
Of course, there are resources and strategies for teaching these topics and more anywhere you care to look, but they are decidedly not ESL-friendly. I’ve had to heavily adapt or simply create nearly everything I’ve use for class. Science and English language learning are both intense fields on their own, and combining them forms all kinds of weird and new challenges that I frequently didn’t anticipate. When some students have been in the U.S. for six months and others for six years and they’re in the same class, how do you teach so they’ll both learn something? (Answer: differentiate and scaffold. A lot.) How do you have students follow a lab procedure when some can’t read yet? (Answer: model. A lot.) These are the types of things I’ll be talking about; maybe it’ll save you some trouble or cause you to think of something you can do in your classroom.
In all my searching (and I consider myself a pretty good Googler), I couldn’t find one ESL science education blog. It’s a pretty niche area. Still, it’s an important one. English language learners are tested in a subject they’ve just begun learning in a language they’re also learning (more on this in a future blog), and science is important for everyone to grasp to be informed global citizens. I don’t pretend to be the expert in this field, just the first person to think of documenting my successes, failures, and questions in blog form. (The still-available snappy title was a bonus.) As the school year ends, this seems like a perfect time to get started.
A lot of this blog will contain things like “interactive notebooks in ESL science”, or Kahoot, or some other educational tool or strategy. As a scientist by training, I’ve done a lot of experimenting in my classroom the past few years. Many of these have gone well from the get-go, a few have gone badly, and even more have panned out after some tweaking. Putting my ideas and experiences into blog form will force me to reflect on what is and isn’t working for my future teaching, and hopefully it can help you out too. Even if you’re not strictly an ESL teacher, you probably have some English language learners in your classroom. Maybe you have some language learning experience yourself to contribute. I hope that this blog will come to have an active comment section where we can talk about education in our respective fields and help each other grow.
Teaching is hard. Let’s work together and make it a little bit easier.