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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles:
Adjust Your Teaching Styles for English Language Learners (ELL) in ESL/Bilingual Classrooms
Breads from around the World: How to Plan a
Five Lesson Curriculum for Primary Grades
Tobey Cho Bassoff

In this article, I take you on a journey of my planning and decision making process as I developed a thematic unit on bread for all of my students. Bread provides multiple entry points for teaching and implementing ESL strategies; therefore I focused the following five lessons around the unifying theme of international diversity and multiculturalism. For the purpose of this article, I have organized the process as follows:

  1. Planning
  2. Development
  3. Revising
  4. Lessons
  5. Reflecting

Through each step in my plan, reflection will be evident. As I adapted to the needs of the students, I learn that revision is an inevitable part of reflection and what I do naturally as a teacher.

Planning
When I set out to design integrated lessons around a unifying theme, I know that I have to identify the context and scope of the lessons first. The decision to pursue a mini-unit within the larger thematic unit of bread was obvious for me. I had a set curriculum around bread and I decided to deepen the content of the unit with three lessons developing a particular aspect of bread. Given the rich diversity of my class, it was clear to me that I wanted to connect their own experiences with bread to a global notion of bread.

What remained unclear, although I did not know it at the time, was the scope of the lessons and what was feasible given the limited time I had. At this stage, I felt somewhat confident that I could plan three lessons that would introduce students to the questions of "what makes bread different?" and "why was that difference important?" They would then be able to answer those questions and apply their new knowledge by the end of the third lesson. However, the unit took me five lessons to lead the students to the threshold of their own understanding, and I was still in the process of refining it during the fifth lesson. Nevertheless, we will push on with how I made this discovery later, for now I will go to the second stage of the planning process.

Development
When I began the mini unit, I started off by having the students complete a daily bread log for one week. At the conclusion of their recordings, I brought them into a whole group discussion and asked them to share their results. I used Bloom's Taxonomy of Thinking Levels  to guide me through their development of fully answering the question of "what makes breads different?" They were supposed to observe the breads (knowledge) and recognize differences (comprehension). After this lesson, I was going to use the model of inquiry to have them apply and analyze what they recorded in their logs. Finally, through the metacognitive model, I would get the students to synthesize the information.

The first lesson taught me that I needed to have a separate lesson on how to make observations and give detail, before sending the children off to do a bread tasting where this skill was a prerequisite for the exercise. Hence, I developed a lesson that adapted the model of Question and Answer relationships (Zarrillo 191). In this lesson, I gave the children a scenario in which they had to describe M&M candies to a friend of mine, from a different country, who didn't know what they were. They children were encouraged to think and search (connection to the QARs reading strategy) for answers that would help my friend know what they were. The exercise worked exactly as I had hoped. Students were inclined to take the easy way out and say go buy a pack of M&Ms, but I told them that this was not possible. After the initial laughter, my scientists came up with great descriptors. I was prepared, after their responses were given, with M&Ms so that they could look at and feel the M&Ms and decide whether they wanted to keep the list they had, or add to the list. Once I experienced the success of this lesson, I thought I was ready to proceed with my second planned lesson, but I thought of yet another snag: I did not formally introduce that breads from around the world were indeed different. Although we had been studying breads for three months, the subject of breads from around the world had not yet come up. The students had the language to discuss the differences (leavened or unleavened, etc.), but they had not had a formal lesson where they could apply (Bloom's Taxonomy) their knowledge.

The next lesson in my unit involved a reading of the book Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris, an author of whom we happened to being doing an author study. Planning for instruction involved using the integrative model for teaching reasoning with content (Zarrillo 147). I wanted to present the students with information about different breads from around the world (Describe), then I would have them compare the breads (Compare), explain the differences and similarities (Explain), guess why they were alike and/or not alike (Hypothesize), and finally summarize their thoughts (Generalize). Morris' book provided many entry points for students to share their prior experiences with the class, as well as observe new details from the photographs from around the world that Morris uses to illustrate her books. I even brought out the globe and showed the students where each picture was taken in the world.

My students were ready for the "fun" lesson in the unit - the bread tasting. Bread tasting involved the model of inquiry. I wanted to give the students a chance to problem solve and experience for themselves whether their hypotheses about why breads are different from one another were true or not and why (Zarrillo 120). This lesson was videotaped and it went very well. I integrated several content areas to include language arts, science, writing, and geography. Every student was engaged in the exercise and I could see how each student was experiencing revelations for his or herself. The lesson was set up as a whole group discussion, then a think-pair-share, and finally a whole group discussion. In the first whole group discussion, I reread Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris and we defined the problem of how do we really know how breads differ from each other. Students speculated on possible answers to the question and we gathered information about how we could find out the answers. Next, through the bread tasting, students tested their thoughts about what made breads different in pairs as they sampled each bread and recorded their answers on a sheet. In the second whole group discussion they shared their results and the answers to the mystery breads were revealed. Overall, I was happy with the lesson. Next time, I will look at how I can differentiate the lesson better so that all learners can experience the same feelings of success.

The next lesson in my mini-unit went very well. For this lesson I adapted the metacognitive approach to teaching critical thinking. In this teaching model, students are led through a process of developing higher order thinking skills. I used a read aloud entitled Breads from Around the World by Newhill to get the students to think critically about what makes bread different. Drawing on their in class experiences, I challenged them to think about what they learned about the breads they tasted and how they new they were either different or similar in taste, touch, feeling, etc. Student response was high. They were able to link what they were seeing in the pictures to what they experienced in the bread tasting. Students extrapolated why it is important to inquire about things learned from a book, and why it is important to ask questions like "what makes breads different?" As a result of this unit, students also had the satisfaction of solving a problem and seeing the benefits of multiculturalism and diversity. The students were able to tell me that without diversity we would not have the many varieties of breads that we tasted in class. This really brought our diverse community of language learners together. I used this final lesson in the mini unit as a way of assessing the students' comprehension of what makes bread different and why it is important to have different kinds of bread.

Revising
I could not maintain the authenticity of this mini-unit without revising it multiple times. This statement goes without saying that the goals of the unit would not have been met if I did not reflect after each lesson. The most important element of developing and implementing this unit was ensuring the quality of education that the students received. Bloom's Taxonomy was invaluable in helping me to organize my thinking as I led the students through their own understanding of what makes bread different.

Lessons
Listed under the Appendix is a complete set of the lesson plans that I used to carry out this unit. These plans include the models of teaching used, as well as other pertinent information regarding pre-requisite knowledge and assessment tools employed. (See Appendix - Lesson Plans).

Reflecting
Teaching the five lessons in this mini-unit reconfirmed the importance of my job as a teacher in being reflective and flexible. Reflection ensures that I hold myself accountable for meeting the objectives I set in the planned unit. As I became aware that the students needed certain skills before I proceeded with the next planned lesson, I realized that I had to be flexible enough to meet my students' needs, while maintaining the goals I had for the unit.
During the videotaped lesson on bread tasting, I saw the significance of being flexible. No matter what the students said, I used their responses to redirect conversation on a course towards our goal. At the same time, I saw how engaged my ESL learners were and what presentation styles and lessons they did not and did responded to best. The lesson went well, in the sense that students were engaged and learned about what actually makes breads different and how we go about describing those differences.

At the conclusion of the unit, I was amazed at the students' responses. Many of them said that it was "great to have so many different people who speak so many different languages, because without them we wouldn't have good breads to eat and knowledge to share with each other." Their responses were a pretty powerful validation that the lesson did indeed meet its objective.

To see my unit plan, go to  First Grade or ESL Unit: "Breads from Around the World."

To see my lesson plan, go to: Breads Around the World Lesson Plan.

Questions or comments? E-mail Tobey.

 

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