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A new style of teaching

Program boosts student confidence and test scores

Posted: July 19, 2009 9:06 p.m.
Updated: July 20, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Fourth-graders Oscar Barron, left, Angelica Gonzalez and Chyle Villaceran share information they gathered about puffin birds during a summer school class at Old Orchard Elementary School on Tuesday morning.

 
It's a new style of teaching and reaching out to English-language learners.

It uses charts and chants and turns students into "super scientists" and "experts," putting them in control of their education, proponents say.

The teaching style is known as Guided Language Acquisition Development, or "GLAD," and Newhall School District employed the program for the first time this summer with about 500 summer school students in 19 classrooms at Old Orchard Elementary School.

"These are the kids who struggled a bit in their grade level," said Ken Hintz, summer school principal. "A little academic support will catch them up."

Another 120 special education students are also part of summer school, he said.

The 10-year-old GLAD program is recognized by the state of California as an effective approach to teaching English-language learners, who make up a significant percent of Newhall's students.

"It really is just good, solid learning," Superintendent Marc Winger said.

For the 2008-09 school year, about 25 percent of Newhall students were designated as English-language learners, Winger said.

But at sites like McGrath and Wiley Canyon elementary schools, about 50 percent of students are English-language learners, he said.

GLAD focuses on student participation, which includes designing charts and graphs, singing chants and songs and working in small groups to become "experts" on designated topics.

The units are based on life science and social-studies concepts and focus on auditory, visual and tactile skills to reach all learners.

"They're doing very stimulating specialized units and yet all the basic skills are in the unit: reading, writing and math are attached to it," Winger said.

For one exercise, students break into small groups to research a specific task.

At the same time, a group member meets with the teacher, who trains the students to be "experts" in a concept.

The "experts" take the lesson back to their groups to share what they just learned while understanding what their classmates just learned in their groups, as well.

Together the teacher leads the class to refresh what the students just learned.

Reinforcing the message are a range of tools, like chants, vocabulary activities and posters.

Through interactive lessons, learning becomes fun, Hintz said.

"They take a stake in their learning and they see themselves be successful," he said.

The teaching style benefits teachers, as the units cut down on the time teachers spend planning.

"By giving them a packaged unit that our experts developed, it just gives them a huge step up immediately," Winger said. "It was a big benefit for them as well."

Pair that style with summer school and students grow emotionally too.

"It's a boost of confidence that they can do this," Hintz said.

Newhall School District has stepped up its efforts to integrate GLAD's methods into the classroom across all of the district's 10 schools in the last five years, Winger said.

The program started in Newhall schools with a high population of English-language learners, which include McGrath, Peachland and Wiley Canyon elementary schools, Winger said.

And for Newhall, the new teaching style works.

"The proof is in the test score," Winger said.

Since GLAD's implementation, the level of achievement among English-language learners has been on the rise, Winger said.

The district has 10 certificated GLAD trainers who have worked with Newhall School District teachers through the years, Winger said.

More than half of Newhall's 350 teachers have been trained, Winger said.

A boost to the program has been a $400,000 grant from the state to further the district's efforts to use the program, he said.

At Old Orchard, one fourth-grade classroom was busy with students learning about insects in small groups.

Fourth-grader Miguel Chavez came to summer school to get a boost in language arts and social studies lessons.

He feels caught up with his classmates.

"When you get to high school, you'll be so smart and you can go to college," he said.

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