Active Learning

Tasks I Assign

In my kindergarten ELL classroom, I often assign the following tasks.

* Performance tasks
* Thinking maps
* Authentic tasks
* Kagan cooperative learning structures for content learning
* Journaling
* Portfolios (selection of artifacts)

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Based on the learning and assessment tasks I assign, I feel that student-centered learning is valued in my classroom. Many of these tasks could be amended to integrate web-enhanced learning. Two teaching and learning strategies that resonated with me were generative learning as well as authentic assessment.  Additionally, scaffolding is a strategy that I must use on a daily basis to be an effective English language learner (ELL) teacher and therefore an effective facilitator of differentiation.

Generative learning
appeals to me because its emphasis on helping students to organize information in a meaningful way correlates with the purpose and use of thinking maps. Thinking maps are eight "mental organizers" which stem from brain-based research; each map focuses upon one cognitive task such as brainstorming or comparing/contrasting. They can even help students to engage in the nine instructional tasks that Robert Marzano has found to be positively correlated to high student achievement (Holzman, 2004).  Generative learning emphasizes the importance of helping students to make connections with content; thinking maps also help students engage in this important task. One way to integrate generative learning with web-enhanced learning would be the use of Kidspiration, where students may create several maps that are similar to thinking maps. Students can also use a flip camera to discuss their thinking maps in order to reflect upon the maps and discuss connections with and between content; this provides an excellent assessment of students' speaking skills (especially helpful for English language development teachers.)

Authentic Assessment is appealing to me because it places focus on meaningful, engaging tasks to assess students. The performance tasks I assign include authentic tasks related to content. My students are actually given an ELL "exit exam" at the end of the year that is an authentic assessment (using an observational matrix called ELDA,) so I feel that it is doubly appropriate to use authentic assessment throughout the year to assess both language level and content performance. In light of the current prevalence of high stakes and English-only testing, authentic assessment has been identified as an alternative assessment that should be considered in order for states to accurately assess ELLs (Neill, 2005). One authentic performance task I gave last year was part of a unit on money.  After viewing several state quarters and participating in a lesson focusing upon the Tennessee quarter, students were asked to create a quarter about themselves. This task helped them to understand that state quarters express main ideas about the states which they honor. The quarters they created expressed main ideas about themselves, since this topic was obviously an engaging one about which the students were experts!  It also helped them to engage in self-reflection and was an integrated task, including standards from math, social studies, writing, and science (the students engage in a hands-on science "all about me" unit early in the year.)  Later in the year, when we discussed Tennessee symbols, students created quarters about Tennessee and presented them to the class. We did use the internet to view state quarters and to view Tennessee symbols and places.

In order to use a higher degree of web-enhanced instruction with these lessons, I could incorporate Kidspiration and let students create quarters about themselves using that program. I could also use flip cameras or Windows Movie Maker to help students publish video and audio regarding their quarters.  We could have also published the work to an online blog or wiki; students could have dictated narratives about their pieces.  When I realize just how web-enhanced instruction would have "enhanced" these lessons, I find that I am itching to do the lessons again with these engaging supports! 


Holzman, S. (2004). Thinking Maps: Strategy based learning for English  
      language learners (and others!) Retrieved from

Neill, M. (2005). Assessment of ELL students under NCLB: Problems and 
      Solutions. Retrieved from