Biome Science Project

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Unetheladyteacher, Feb 12, 2019.

  1. Unetheladyteacher

    Unetheladyteacher Rookie

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    Feb 12, 2019

    Hi everyone. Hoping I can get your advice on a project. I am currently a K-12 English as a Second Language teacher. I teach students whose native language is not English how to speak English.

    I push in to a 4th-grade science classroom to co-teach with another teacher. They are doing a project where the students have to work in groups, research a biome, build their biome, write information about the biome on a card, and then write a letter about their biome. Every student has to write a letter, but the rest of the projects are to be done in groups. The students are having a hard time with the project. Most of the research and work, apart from building the biomes, has been done on the computer. It is going slowly. Some groups have more work than other groups because behavior has made my co-teacher allow only certain groups to complete all aspects of the project -- the groups with behavior problems only have to complete a card about their biome, write a letter, and fill out a research sheet. The rest of the groups have to write a card about their biome, write a letter about their biome, create a physical model of their biome, and then fill out a research sheet about their biome. I have three English as a Second Language students in 4th grade, and they are all in this science class. Two of them are going to be absent at least two or more times this week for personal reasons, and they are very behind. Most of my ENL students don't misbehave, so they have to do all aspects of the project. We have been working on the project for about two weeks, with three days where the kids couldn't work on the project due to time constraints or weather.

    The deadline for the project is this Friday. I am already planning to use English as a Second Language class time to work with the students on all the writing portions of the project, but is there anything else I can do to address the time crunch?

    Working on the project outside of school is not an option for most of my 4th grade English as a Second Language students due to limited resources.

    -edited for clarity of terms-
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
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  3. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Feb 12, 2019

    I'm not familiar with the term ENL
     
  4. Unetheladyteacher

    Unetheladyteacher Rookie

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    Feb 12, 2019

    I edited the first post for clarity.
     
  5. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Feb 12, 2019

    "English as a New Language". It's a more precise term than ESL ("English as a Second Language" for more than a few students: for instance, a kid from Mexico whose home language is Zapotec or Nahuatl may already have learned Spanish as a second (or third, or in some cases fourth) language.
     
  6. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Feb 12, 2019

    So the students are supposed to write a LETTER about their biome? Interesting choice on the science teacher's part; I hope it's because the teacher assumes that fourth graders have no idea what a research report would look like.

    Would this teacher object if your students were allowed to write their letters using a template that you provide? If so, do you think you could provide templates for paragraphs or sentences? (I'm thinking along the lines of "A ___ is a kind of ___ in which...")
     
    Unetheladyteacher and vickilyn like this.
  7. Unetheladyteacher

    Unetheladyteacher Rookie

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    Feb 13, 2019

    I did provide the students with a friendly letter template, which is just the beginning and end of a letter with the template for writing a paragraph put in the middle. I love your idea for the sentences, Teacher Groupie, and I think I will use that with my high level beginner ESL student, who is also in this class.

    I have no idea why she picked the letter. In the letter, the students have to describe what their biome is like in terms of plant life, animal life, seasons, soil, temperature. However, the students were not originally asked to research the seasons in their biome when they completed their research worksheets, so I know of at least two students who just didn't realize they also had to research extra information for their letter. They also have to write about the items they would need to survive in their biome, and she asked them to do that in list format, which confused all of the ENL students (and a few others).

    I realized that some of the students, especially my Spanish ENL students, did not have the research skills to complete this project in the time frame she gave them, so I went and got as many picture-heavy books as I could on the subject. I even tried to get books in Spanish for the students, so that my non-speaking student could at least look at the pictures and have his cousin, who is in the same class and can read in Spanish, help him with the project. His cousin and him have been grouped together for the purposes of this project.

    My ENL students are not behaviors, so she hasn't punished them by taking away certain parts of the project. Instead, they are in one of the only groups that is being made to complete all four parts of the project. I need a game plan by Friday because at this rate, they will only have the research sheet done and nothing else. Plus, I briefly mentioned it to her at the start of class, and I'm not sure she wants to give me extra time to work with them after break. I'd be willing to put in the hours just so they have something to present.

    At this point, I am most worried about how they will be graded. I don't want them to suffer because they have been out for so long (and most of the ENL kids in 4th grade have yet to show up to school this week, which makes me even more worried). I am going to email the teacher and see if we can sit down to discuss how they will be graded. I would like for them to be graded only on what they can get done by Friday if she won't give them extra time. If she gives them extra time, maybe we can take out parts of the project and just have them complete a letter or something small from the project.

    What are your thoughts?
     
  8. vickilyn

    vickilyn Guru

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    Feb 13, 2019

    Advocate like crazy for these students. They should not have to exceed what the groups with behavior problems have to turn in. That group has just worn down the teacher, and she has caved. By contrast, your ESL students actually have valid reasons for doing less other that being trouble makers. Even with your help, this is a group that traditionally lacks home resources and support, since the parents don't usually speak English. In addition, these students may well have significant interruption in formal education, making them ESL students who are also SIEF's.. They don't need to be penalized with more work, but, rather, supported at the level where they currently are, with the very real possibilities that they are the first Enlish learners coupled with interrupted formal education. They are playing catch up and they need more support, not overwhelming assignments that don't match their skill levels. If you are the ESL teacher, you should have the right to format their assignments to meet their levels. This is a situation where co-teaching isn't working as well as it should be. Sorry for the lack of supports.
     
  9. Unetheladyteacher

    Unetheladyteacher Rookie

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    I format and differentiate all of their assignments. I am often at school until at least five pm doing so. For this particular assignment, I had to change the format of the research sheet so that it had actual questions the students had to respond to instead of statements they had to research. I then created a letter frame for my students and am having them fill that out. Two out of three of the ESL students in that class can write paragraphs, and I have asked them to just write a paragraph about their biome in the letter. My highest level student also has to include the things she needs to survive in her biome. I emailed the science teacher and asked for an extension of the project. We sat down and decided to have the ENL students only write the letter. They are doing nothing else, because the project is too overwhelming for them. I have received extra time for them, so next week I will be using my spare time to work with them to write the letter. My newcomer will just use a differentiated word bank with picture clues to write the words he knows in a letter frame I am giving him. That is all they will be graded on. There will be no time to present the projects. Everyone else who is not ESL will just turn in whatever they get done on Friday, which will be only one or two things at this point.

    I can't wait until this project is over.
     
  10. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Feb 17, 2019

    I think writing a letter is a great choice for a product. I'm a science teacher and I have my students create things outside of research papers/reports all the time. It's good teaching practice to mix things up in a while. A letter for 4th grade is a great way to get into the project. I'm assuming that the letter is first person and in it the writer pretends he is an entity that exists in the biome. Maybe an animal or a river, and he has to describe how other aspects of the biome affect him.
     

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