Title

Your Social Brain: Creating Safe Classrooms where English Language Learners Thrive

First Presenter's Institution

Clemson University Youth Learning Institute

Second Presenter's Institution

Clemson University Youth Learning Institute

Third Presenter's Institution

NA

Fourth Presenter's Institution

NA

Fifth Presenter's Institution

NA

Location

Session 7 (Scarbrough 4)

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance

“Your Social Brain: Creating Safe Classrooms where English Language Learners Thrive” connects to both the “Head” and “Heart” strands of the National Youth at Risk Conference. Classrooms display diverse students with diverse language capabilities, yet academic content is taught mostly in English. Due to linguistic isolation, English language learners tend to fall into achievement gaps simply because the classroom environment doesn’t provide both the mental support as well as the emotional support to thrive academically. By providing structures that support a classroom culture of hospitality, students will feel the necessary emotional and mental safety one needs in order to take academic risks to grow.

Brief Program Description

Your Social Brain: Creating Safe Classrooms where English Language Learners Thrive” will provide a brief explanation of the impact of relationships on language development. Planned for professionals in education, participants will contribute to the workshop session by designing inclusive lesson structures for diverse students through engaging with community-building activities that can be implemented in all classrooms.

Summary

Every class is made up of intersections of diverse students. No two are alike, especially when linguistic diversity is represented. Often, differences are viewed as a deficit to student learning and achievement. The emphasis on differences can alienate students, making them feel socially, emotionally, and intellectually unsafe and creating actual barriers to brain development and learning. By flipping the deficit rhetoric to viewing diversity as the strength that it is, teachers can connect to English language learning students as allies, forging safe teacher-student relationships. In safe relationships, the brain functions at its highest capacity to anchor short-term memory into the long-term memory. Finding the sweet spot for anchoring new information to long-term memory provides opportunity for English language learners to grow in capacity of academic content, while simultaneously developing language skill. Once English language learners find an ally in their teacher, they have the necessary foundation to contribute to a hospitable classroom environment, allowing all students to increase cognitive capacity as they are not distracted by feeling unsafe.

By implementing the I do, We do, You do strategy, session facilitators will guide participants in the application of specific rapport-building strategies. Additionally, classroom culture and lesson design contribute to an environment for optimal English language learning development. Because impactful instruction begins with teachers becoming allies with their students, participants in this session will leave with a personalized classroom design that incorporates specific structures and activities that create a safe and culturally responsive environment. Using this design combined with the rapport-building strategies, educators will be able to take tangible steps towards connecting with English language learners and providing appropriate academic support.

Evidence

Developing and maintaining safe learning relationships through community building strategies creates a more inclusive and successful learning environment. Geneva Gay (2010) writes, “culturally responsive teachers have unequivocal faith in the human dignity and intellectual capabilities of their students.” This belief is the foundation for productive student-teacher relationships and is critical in establishing safe learning communities. Gay indicates that students require rapport and alliance in order to gain cognitive insight (p. 52), and building rapport starts with active listening and building trust. Teachers can use a set of actions such as selective vulnerability, familiarity, concern, and competence to foster an environment of trust with students (Brafman & Brafman, 2011). Alliance comes through helping each student believe that she or he can succeed at learning tasks, according to Edmund Gordon in All Students Reaching the Top (2004). This alliance is reinforced as educators provide continuity in classroom culture and lesson design. Formal and informal conversations within the classroom community allows students to exercise the mental tools required for processing information (Bandura, 2001, on Lev Vygotsky’s theory). Protocols such as World Café, Four on a Pencil, and Give One Get One help create safe, fun talking structures for students and provide an avenue for educators to dive deeper into understanding both what students know and how that knowledge was acquired. As written by Michael Howe (1999), “for every individual, learning and remembering are strongly influenced by what that particular person already knows.” In order for educators to create an authentic classroom culture that is both impactful and inclusive, students’ prior perceptions, knowledge, and norms must be understood and valued for the academic opportunities they provide.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Emily Claypool is a ThinkShops™ Training Specialist with Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute. Emily’s background in teaching English to speakers of other languages has allowed her the opportunity to lead professional development in more than five countries. Specializing in soft skills for transnational contexts, she has partnered with the U.S. State Department to provide trainings for educators, government officials, and social entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia.

Emily believes in the capacity of every individual to contribute positively to her or his community through effective communication and collaboration.

Professional Learning Community - 21st Century Skills - Resilience

Catherine Moore is the Instructional Course Designer and a ThinkShops Training Specialist for Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute. Catherine has many years of experience developing curriculum, implementing best practices, and delivering training to schools, state agencies and business organizations. She was a member of the South Carolina English Language Arts College and Career Readiness Standards Writing Committee and has worked with a variety of learners ranging from middle level and high school youth to adults in higher education settings. Throughout her career, she has presented professional development information at conferences, schools, and various organizations.

Catherine truly enjoys creating learning experiences for both adult and youth learners. She believes each person has unique gifts and strengths, and it is the interconnectedness of these strengths that not only brings about good for each other but also our world.

Keyword Descriptors

English Language Learner, classroom, academic support, culturally responsive

Presentation Year

March 2020

Start Date

3-10-2020 2:45 PM

End Date

3-10-2020 4:00 PM

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Mar 10th, 2:45 PM Mar 10th, 4:00 PM

Your Social Brain: Creating Safe Classrooms where English Language Learners Thrive

Session 7 (Scarbrough 4)

Your Social Brain: Creating Safe Classrooms where English Language Learners Thrive” will provide a brief explanation of the impact of relationships on language development. Planned for professionals in education, participants will contribute to the workshop session by designing inclusive lesson structures for diverse students through engaging with community-building activities that can be implemented in all classrooms.