Maggie Braswell

ENES 5140
ELL Instruction Rationale
June 12, 2017

The brown bag assessment helps students develop social and content-specific strengths
simultaneously through scaffolded instruction and partner discussion. The article, “Key
Principles for ELL Instruction” explains that, “Learning is a social process that requires teachers
to intentionally design learning opportunities that integrate reading, writing, speaking, and
listening with the practices of each discipline.” In this lesson, emergent ELL students are able to
access the linguistic modalities of writing, speaking, listening, reading, and viewing.

Gibbons explains the importance of clear instructions: “While a single instruction may
cause no problems, instructions that involve a number of sequenced steps are often far more
difficult” (Gibbons, P. (2015) 54) She suggests messaging your instructions in a variety of ways,
so in my brown bag lesson, the teacher gives the turn and talk instructions the first time, verbally
explaining the directions. Next, the teacher models instructions with the co-teacher, verbally
explaining the example. Then, the teacher projects the instructions on the board, step by step.
During the activity, the expectations are left up for students to refer back to.

A key aspect of this assessment is the idea that students are not tested on their memory
of the story or their individual critical thinking skills, but rather they are assessed on how well
they can communicate with others and gather the ideas around them to form a cohesive
argument. Gibbons explains that “Group work should ​require​, not simply ​encourage​ talk”
(Gibbons, P (2015) 56). In the brown bag lesson, students are required to talk during step 2:
turn and talk. There is a space in their worksheet specifically for ideas that their partner added
to their brainstorm list. They also must each orally present their object and ideas to the whole
class near the end of the lesson. This is mandatory because there is an option for other
students to use their item in their writing, so they must share about it for their classmates to be
able to write about it.

The built-in student talk in this activity moves away from the traditional IRE pattern of
student response. The teacher-initiated question requiring a single-word response from a
student does not promote “stretched language”. (Gibbons, P. (2015) 31-32). This activity allows
students to practice exploratory talk with a partner by sharing their initial brainstorming
connections between their item and their knowledge of ​The Giver​. After moving through
independent thinking time and low-stakes “think-aloud” with a classmate, students are prepared
to have a substantive conversation with the whole group near the end of the activity where they
share their refined ideas about the connections they have developed. The teacher will also
provide a “share-out checklist” on students’ handouts so students understand what to say when
they are called on to present their ideas. (Gibbons, P. (2015) 34).
Instead of reverting to the traditional style of teacher response to students’ answers, the
teacher will respond by prompting students to share more instead of saying “that’s right” or
“correct”. In order to allow students more opportunities for extended talk with the whole group,
the teacher will ask open-ended questions during the students’ presentation: “How did your
conversation with your partner help you think about your item in a different way?”, “What else
would you like to tell us?” or “What connection did you find most interesting?”. (Gibbons 40).

Gibbons explains how students need to understand the purpose of their group activity:
“there will be an outcome, a result, such as the solving of a problem or sharing of information”
(Gibbons, P. (2015) 58). In the brown bag exam, the goal of the group work is for each student
to gather more ideas about their individual item. It should be messaged that every student will
think of different connections because we all have different perspectives and think about things
in unique ways. After sharing about their items, students are expected to record the new ideas
offered by their partner.

Lastly, the brown bag task is cognitively appropriate and integrated with the broader
curriculum, which is recommended in the Gibbons article (Gibbons, P. (2015) 58-59) . Due to
the abstract nature of the assignment, students can be as literal or metaphorical as they want
with their connections. This task would be appropriate for a wide range of student abilities.
There is also the option of using teacher-created sentence starters for students who are still
developing writing skills or need to be able to visualize their essay before starting to write.
Another accommodation that teachers can provide is to pre-determine which items each student
would receive and which partners they would work with in the turn and talk. Students who need
more language support would be paired with students who either speak their same native
language (and would of course be allowed to communicate in their L1) or be paired with a
student who has stronger language development.

Overall, this lesson gives students an abundance of opportunities to understand how a
symbol or theme is developed in a text. This skill is messaged through a variety of ways and the
“information is amplified, not simplified” (Gibbons, 46). Students are invited to make personal
connections between their item and their own lives and cultures, comparing their knowledge of
the item with their understanding of the text. This opens the door for students to compare the
culture described in The Giver with their own, which is a practice suggested in the article,
“Classroom diversity: Connecting curriculum to students' lives.”

A follow-up activity to the brown bag exam could be for students to create a Venn
diagram showing the similarities and differences in how Jonas’s culture and their own culture
use or view their chosen item. For example, if a student’s item was a picture of twins, they might
brainstorm the viewpoints of their own culture toward twins and the viewpoints of Jonas’s culture
on twins. In a graphic organizer, they would show that their culture views twins as something
special and perhaps lucky while Jonas’s community does not allow both twins to live because it
would be confusing for two people to look so alike.
References

Gibbons, P. (2015).Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning: Teaching English Language
Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

“​Key principles for ELL instruction​” (2012). From Stanford University's Understanding Language:
Language, Literacy, and Learning in the Content Areas Initiative.

McIntyre, E., Rosebery, A., & Gonzalez N. (2001). ​Connecting cultural traditions: Making
comparisons (pp. 20 - 25​). Classroom diversity: Connecting curriculum to students' lives.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.