DIESOL Podcast Interview! & the Evolving Role of the EL Teacher

It was a fun time being interviewed by DIESOL hosts Ixy Reyes and Brent Warner on the DIESOL Podcast, which highlights #edtech for ESL. Listen HERE to episode 74!

We talked across the country coordinating three time zones! The message emphasized how accessible it is to integrate coding in EL instruction and why we in the EL community should open up to computer science integration.

I enjoyed particularly talking about why EL teachers. We traditionally come from world language and ELA backgrounds, and computer science seems techy, mathy, and left-brained.

We EL teachers are a unique set, on the forefront in the education community with supporting language development and content knowledge to speakers of other languages. This means we are particularly positioned to forge new pathways of accessibility for our students in areas of study where they would historically have had limited to no access.

Forge New Pathways

Crosscurricular Nature

Important for EL teachers to realize is computer science and coding is crosscurricular. And we teach language through content. Coding itself integrates with and enhances the core subjects ELA, science, social studies, math, and more! (Social & Instructional language, art, and marketing anyone?) The WIDA standards are the language of ELA, the language of science, the language of social studies, the language of math.

Let this grab your attention, EL community!

With such a connection, there is opportunity. Let’s break open opportunity for our students. When you include coding in your instruction, you are not just integrating coding–you are teaching language in the subjects. Our students leave our class with extensive language practice, increased content knowledge, and have explored a new discipline.

Computer Science-Like Language-is Crosscurricular

Advice to Start

Become the student again. Explore. Try. Fail. Succeed. Positioning ourselves in this role is powerful for us and our students. As learners, and can share this learning experience beside our students. We can! EL teachers, let’s go, let’s code!

Lesson Sequence- Unplugged to Plugged

How do I incorporate coding into my lessons? Is it a replacement? Is it an extension? It can be both- the field of computer science supports integration. Let’s look at this practically. Let’s look at lesson design.

We can take a lesson from the field of computer science with the lesson sequencing approach from unplugged to plugged.

An unplugged activity is just that– unplugged from a digital device. It is a real world application or problem that introduces and practices the concept later to be used in coding.

Stay real!

An unplugged activity is often what we would think of as a traditional EL language activity. For example, write directions to a place in the school or community. “Turn left,” “Move forward,” “Pass the library.”

A plugged activity is the digital application or problem to be solved in coding.

Now plug in!

For example, code a digital sequence that moves your sprite from one location to another. Also, “Move forward,” “Turn left,” etc.

Sound familiar? Maria Montessori talked about a similar instructional sequence for math. “Concrete -> Representational -> Abstract.” She’d have her students manipulate physical items before expecting them to write representations and then work equations.

See this in action!

Unplugged– Write directions to a place in school. In groups of 3, my students had to write specific directions to a place in the school. Their instructions would tell them where they needed to end up and some told them where they could NOT go. For example, “Start at room 207. Go to the clinic. Do NOT pass the library.” They had to write out each physical step. “Move forward.” “Move forward.” etc. Then when complete, they exchanged directions with another group and had to follow them. Upon arrival, they had to take a group selfie in the location. Successful algorithms, directions, would lead the group there, and ones that needed work would, well, need work.

Plugged– Write directions (code) for your robot to reach the finish line. Students select and sequence the appropriate blocks to help their robot reach its destination.

Their unplugged experience gave them vocabulary exposure, problem solving practice, and interaction to be confident as they approached coding! And, it was super fun! Great job guys!


CodeVA Featured Educator

It was an honor to be a featured educator for CodeVA this October! CodeVA is a nonprofit based in Richmond, VA which partners with schools, parents, and communities to bring computer science education opportunities to all students. All should follow CodeVA for CS news, engagement, training opportunities, and more!

CodeVA was a sponsor at #SETESOL22, where I presented Leveraging Coding & Computational Thinking to Learn English. I had the best conversations with Kristin Hott, their engagement strategist on CS in EL education. Finding like-minded educators is explosive! We talked about how Scratch listens to educators for feedback, Virginia’s CS SOLs, and how block based coding with its collocations and phrasal groupings in blocks mimics how the brain learns language, making it a must-use tool for EL educators. From these conversations came the connection which led to the spotlight.

Read the spotlight here! Thank you, CodeVA! CS for all, especially multilingual learners!