As schools reopen, educators want to do all they can to accelerate learning and rebuild momentum for their students. This summer, WestEd offers a series of virtual workshops to inform educators’ efforts to ensure English Learners receive the high-quality education they deserve to thrive in school, career, and life.

In this two-part Q&A series, we explore virtual professional learning offerings for educators of English Learners. Jennifer Blitz is a School and District Improvement Facilitator at WestEd specializing in support for English Learners. She works with state education agencies and site and district teams to bring about instructional improvements for English Learners. She is one of several facilitators of these summer courses.

What is the purpose of the Accelerating Writing Development for English Learners course, and why should I attend?

The Accelerating Writing Development for English Learners course offers a unique opportunity for educators from around the country to come together in a virtual setting and build their expertise around developing English Learners’ writing proficiency.

We’ll be exploring several overarching themes. First, we look at how teachers can provide and facilitate opportunities for students to listen, speak, and read in ways that simultaneously develop content and language and ultimately lead to writing. We also illustrate how planning and scaffolding writing instruction can maximize language development. Last, we show educators how to gather evidence of where students are in their oral and written language development to adjust their instruction appropriately.

Throughout the four-module series, participants will engage in many lesson exemplar activities within the context of a complete interdisciplinary unit about pandemics. The elementary unit compares the 1918 Flu Pandemic with the present-day COVID-19 pandemic, ultimately leading to a compare-contrast informational report culminating in a writing task. The secondary unit will support students to develop a factorial explanation about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected some groups of people disproportionately.

Can you tell me more about the course activities?

The course is engaging, interactive, thought-provoking, constructively challenging, and practical. There are four modules, all of which will have the same structure and flow — asynchronous preparation, a live session, and asynchronous application and reflection.

Before each live session, participants will engage in readings, video analyses, and online discussions about significant themes of the module to prepare them for the live session. In the live session, they’ll engage in synchronous lesson exemplar activities from a student’s perspective to experience how educators can translate the module’s themes into powerful learning opportunities for students. The participants will continue to engage in exemplar lesson activities in an asynchronous setting and analyze ideas and tasks from the exemplar lesson activities experienced during the live session.

Whether you come as an individual or as part of a team from a school or district, you will collaborate and share ideas with other participants in both the synchronous and asynchronous environments.

Will you address how to use the strategies introduced in the course while teaching in distance learning environments?

The instructional approaches in this course will apply to all instructional settings, and we will take care to explicitly debrief application for in-person, virtual, and hybrid learning environments.

Who participates in the course? Is it appropriate for pre-service and new teachers?

This course is appropriate for all educators that work with English Learners, including teachers, teacher leaders, and instructional coaches in grades 3–12. All educators at all experience levels are welcome and will be supported to participate.

One of the best parts of these open enrollment online courses is getting to meet and get to know educators from across the country. We had participants from as far west as Hawaii and as far east as Oklahoma during our last cohort.

How do you address different areas of participants’ expertise?

There are two sections of the Accelerating Writing Development for English Learners course — one for upper elementary educators of English Learners in grades 3–5 and one for educators of secondary English Learners in grades 6–12. While both courses support writing development, the ideas and instructional examples are specific to the elementary and secondary grade spans.

Additionally, within each cohort, we work to develop collaborative relationships among participants. Educators are grouped in various ways to capitalize on their expertise and provide support as needed, both in the live Zoom sessions and during their asynchronous work between sessions.

Who are the instructors?

All of our course instructors are WestEd staff with expertise in best practices for English Learners and academic language and literacy development for the grade span course they will facilitate.

They are all former educators who have a range of teaching and coaching experience, including supporting educators of diverse students from across the country.

Meet Your Instructors

Kathia Romo Ben Sadok, English Learner Specialist, supports schools and districts to improve instructional practices and educational outcomes for English Learners/Multilingual Learners. She specializes in English Learner support, elementary literacy, and dual-language. Romo Ben Sadok guides and supports schools to implement the Common Core State Standards, California’s English Language Arts (ELA)/English Language Development (ELD) Framework, California’s ELD Standards, WIDA Standards, and related state and locally adopted curriculum frameworks.

Ruth Sebastian, English Learner Specialist, provides support and assistance to schools and districts to improve the instructional practices and educational outcomes for English Learners/Multilingual Learners and diverse learners. She specializes in leading professional learning sessions for teachers and coaches, collaboratively developing school improvement plans, and supporting schools and districts to implement their EL Master Plans. She coaches site leaders and leadership teams to increase capacity at all levels of the system and plan for strategic, sustainable change.

Melanie Packham, English Learner Specialist, specializes in English Learner support, family engagement, and elementary literacy. She works with school sites, districts, and state education agencies to improve instruction for English/Multi-language Learners, focusing on language and academic discourse.

Jen Blitz, English Learner Specialist, works with state education agencies and site and district teams across the country to bring about instructional improvements and improved outcomes for English Learners. Blitz has supported state education agencies in developing and implementing English language proficiency standards, creating assessment tools to reclassify English Learners as proficient in English, and generating outlines and support materials for recommended English language development instructional models.

Kim Danson, English Learner Specialist, provides professional learning and technical support to internal and external partners around school improvement, standards-based instruction, assessment, and culturally responsive pedagogy. In addition to her work with priority and focus schools around school turnaround practices, Kimberly also provides specialized support and expertise at the state, district, and school levels to implement research-based practices and policies for meeting the needs of all learners.

Sessions begin on June 21. Register today!