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CaseStudy:AlexaGonzalez

PartA:StudentBackground
Cultural:
AlexaGonzalezwasborninColombia,andsheandherfamily(motherandtwo
brothers)movedtotheUnitedStateswhenAlexawas3yearsold,rightbeforeshestarted
kindergarten.HerfatherandtherestofherextendedfamilystillliveinColombia.Asa
singlemother,Alexasmomworkstwojobstosupporther3children,meaningthat
Alexaisoftenleftindaycare.Culturally,itisseenasasignofdisrespecttomakeeye
contactwithadultsorauthoritativefigures,whichmayexplainwhyAlexaseemssotimid
whentalkingtoherteachers.Withamotherwhoworkstwojobsfrommorninguntil
night,itseemsclearthatAlexacomesfromabackgroundthatencourageshardworkand
perseverance.However,herfamilyisalsounawareofhowtheschoolsysteminthe
UnitedStatesoperates,andwithhermotherbeingabsentasmuchassheis,Alexawill
needsomeoneadvocatingonherbehalfsothatshesucceedsinschool.
InColombia,Alexawouldnothavereceivednearlyasmuchindividualattention
intheclassroomassheishere,sincetherearemuchlargerstudenttoteacherratiosthere.
Inaddition,theruralareaofColombiawhereAlexasfamilylivedhadascarcityof
qualifiedteachers,whichmeansthatthequalityofhereducationwouldhavesufferedif
shehadstayedthere.AlthoughColombiasliteracyrateisrelativelyhigh(92.7%),school
isonlycompulsoryforchildrenforsixyears,andthegovernmentdictatesthatschools
cannotteachanymaterialconflictingwiththeteachingsoftheRomanCatholicChurch.
NowthatAlexaislivingintheUnitedStates,shecanhopefullyaspiretoaccomplish

thingsshemaynothavebeenabletoinherhomeland,suchasattendingcollegewith
scholarships.

Linguistic:
SinceAlexahadnoformofeducationpriortostartingkindergarten,shehasbeen
categorizedasanonreadingandnonwritingstudent.Inaddition,herteachershave
notedthatsheisinthesilentperiodoflanguageacquisition,meaningthatsheisstill
processingeverythingmentallybutisntsayingmuchverballyinEnglish.Whenspeaking
withothers,AlexaspeakswhatiscommonlyreferredtoasSpanglish.Forexample,
whenaskedwhatherfavoriteplacetogowithhermotheris,shesaid,Weliketogoen
themall.MixingtheSpanishwordenwiththerestoftheEnglishsentence
demonstratesthatwhilesheisindeedcomprehendingquestionsandansweringthemin
English,shestillreliesonhernativelanguagetoformsentencestructures.Inaddition,
whenhavingaconversationwithAlexa,itisclearthatsheunderstandsmostofthe
context(gigglingandshakingherheadwhentheteachersasksifshegetsadollwhen
shesbad),butshestillonlyanswerswithveryshortresponses,sometimesconsistingof
onlyoneword.AccordingtoherLanguageAssessmentScoreherEnglishskillsarevery
limited,buttheyareimproving;inthefirstandsecondquarters,shetestedasaNon
EnglishSpeaker(N),whereasinthemostrecentadministrationinquarter3sheimproved
toaLimitedEnglishSpeaker(L).OnherComprehensiveEnglishLanguageLearning
Assessment,shescoredintheLowIntermediateandBeginninglevelforall
categories.

Grammatical:
Atthisacademiclevelitisalittletooearlytodeterminehergrammarbasedon
writing,butsheisabletowriteafewuppercaseletters.Inaddition,ontheSOLOM
(StudentOralLanguageObservationMatrix),Alexascoreda3,whichindicatesthatthe
studentMakesfrequenterrorsofgrammarandwordorderwhichoccasionallyobscure
meaning.Grammar,alongwithvocabulary,appearstobetheareaoflinguistic
acquisitionwithwhichAlexastrugglesthemost.Forexample,whensheisaskedifher
motherbuysherdollswhentheyareatthemall,Alexaresponds,OnlyifIbegood.
Althoughthemeaningofthesentenceremainsthesame,itisclearthatshehasnotyet
masteredverbchoiceandsubjectagreementinEnglish.

Phoneticpronunciation:
HernativelanguagehindersAlexasphonologicaldevelopment,andsheoften
mixesuptheconsonants"d"and"t",aswellas"b"and"v".Forexamplewhenshetries
tosaythewordbest,itcomesoutasvest.Thismakessense,asthesesoundsare
interchangeableinSpanishandAlexahasnotyetlearnedhowtodifferentiatebetween
them.AnotherphoneticpronunciationthatAlexastruggleswithisthediagraphwh,
whichshepronouncesaswa.Soinsteadofsayingwhat,shepronouncesitaswat.

Finally,Alexaalsoappearstostrugglewiththediagraphsh,towhichshepronounces
asthoughthereisacbetweenthetwoletters.Forexample,whentryingtosaytheword
should,itcomesoutasschoold.

Social:
Asfarassocialprogressiongoes,Alexaappearstofeelmostcomfortablearound
herpeersasopposedtoadults(muchmoreeyecontact,smiling,andconversation).She
interactsfrequentlywithherclassmates,especiallythegirls,andappearstohaveseveral
friends.Attimes,Alexabecomesdistractedfromherschoolworkduetosocial
interactions;shedaydreamsoftenandlovestorecountthesestories,andstoriesabouther
ownpersonallifetoherfriends.However,sheisbeginningtoshowsignsthatsheis
awareofherlinguisticdifficulties,whichismakinghermoreshyandwithdrawnwhen
interactingwithclassmates.Infact,thereareseveralstudentswhohavebeencaught
makingfunofAlexaforthewaythatshetalks.Inadditiontoherstillprogressing
linguisticacquisition,whichcauseshertohaveaheavyaccentwhenspeakingEnglish,
sheisnowbeingscreenedforwhatmaypossiblybeaspeechimpediment.This
increasingsensitivitytoherspeechhascausedAlexasnormallyplayfulandoutgoing
demeanortoshiftintoamorereservedstate.

Cognitive/intellectual:
Onhernormreferencedreadingandmathtestsinthemostrecentquarter,Alexascored,
respectively,inthe30thand28thpercentile(Spanishedition)andinthe15thand8th

percentile(Englishedition).Clearly,thisindicatesthatherEnglishtesttakingskillsneed
alotofimprovementbeforetheyareanaccurateassessmentofherintelligence.Alexa
seemstoparticularlystrugglewithmathinEnglish.TwiceaweekAlexaistakenfrom
herclasstoworkwithMs.Lee,anESOLinstructionalspecialist.Currently,herbothher
readingandwritingskillsareatthepreemergentlevel.Herwritinginparticularhasbeen
makingimprovements;sheisnowatthestagewheresheiswritingrandommarksand
representationaldrawings.

Psychological:
AllofherteachersandspecialistshaveagreedthatAlexaisavisuallearner,
whichmeansthatshebenefitsfrompicturesandmodelingfromherinstructor.Shealso
respondswelltoauditorycontent,especiallywhenitinvolvesmusic.Infact,herteachers
havementionedthatshehasthepotentialtobeverygiftedinmusic.Regardlessofthe
assignment,Alexabenefitsfromlisteningtokeywordsberepeated,listeningtodirections
intheformofasong,andhavingtheteachermodelwhatsheisexpectedtodosothatshe
canimitateher.

PartB:
Strategies/techniques:
BasedoffofAlexasbackgroundandneedsassessment,Iwouldrecommendan
instructionalapproachthatintegratesalotofauditoryandvisualcontent,becausethat

ishowshelearnsbest.TotalPhysicalResponse,alanguagestrategythatuseswrittenor
verbalcommandstointroducenewlanguageandconceptstostudents,wouldbe
incrediblyusefulinthissituationbecauseitprovidesimmediatefeedbacktoherteacher
astowhethersheunderstandsaconcept.Alexalovesmusic,soutilizingjazzchantsisa
funwayforhertopracticestressandrhythm,andtohelphersoundmorenaturalwhen
shespeaksEnglish.Especiallywhengivingdirections,AlexasteacherMs.Darlin,
shouldpracticeguidinginteractionormodeling,sothatAlexacanenvisionavisual
representationofwhatisexpectedofherinadditiontotheverbalexplanations.Also,itis
veryapparentthatwhileAlexafeelsquitecomfortabletalkingtoherpeers(makingeye
contact,smiling),sheismuchmorereservedandquietwhentalkingtoteachersoradults,
soutilizingpeerworkcanbeausefultechnique.Forexample,studentscouldconduct
peersurveysforwhichtheymustinterviewtheirfellowclassmates;dependingonthe
surveythiscouldreallyhelpimproveherconversationalandacademiclanguageskills.In
addition,havinglabelsforclassroomitemswithboththeSpanishandEnglishtermson
themwillhelphermakeconnections.

Activities:
OneactivitythatwillbehelpfulinassessingAlexawhilealsoallowingherto
reviewwithherteacheroneononeisforMs.DarlintosetupagameofTicTacToe
Review.Thegamewouldworklikethis:

Ms.Darlinwritesoutalistofreviewquestions.
ShegivesAlexaalistofnumberstochoosefrom(howevermany
questionsthereare)
Alexachoosesanumber.
Ms.Darlinreadsthecorrespondingquestion.
IfAlexaanswerscorrectly,shegetstomakeamoveinthegame.Ifshe
answersincorrectly,itisMs.Darlinsturn.

Continueplayinguntilallreviewquestionsareanswered.

AnotheractivitythatwillallowAlexatopracticeherspeechwhilealsoutilizing
herloveofstorytellingandvisualcontentcouldbesomethinglikethis:

Breakstudentsupintoseveraldifferentgroups.
Givethempicturesofavocabularywordandaskthemtocomeupwith
sidestories.
Forexample,studentswhoreceivedapictureofamechaniccantalkabout
whomheis,wherehelivesandwhathelikestodo.

Thisactivityallowsstudentstobecreative,andAlexawillgettouseherimaginationand
expresswhatkindofstoryshewantstotelltoherclassmates.

ParentandAdministrativeSupport
AlthoughAlexasfamilyisveryencouragingofheracademically,therealityof
thesituationisthathersinglemotherisoftenatworkandthereforehastimeconstraints
thatinhibitherfromhelpingherdaughterwithherschoolwork;additionallyhermother
speakslimitedEnglishsothispresentsanadditionalobstacle.Becauseofthis,Iwould
recommendthatshebeputintotheschoolsfreeafterschoolprogram,whichwillgive
hertheopportunitytointeractwithtutorswhocanhelpherwithherwork.Alexas
interestsincludeanimals,science,fairytales,andmusic,andallofthesethingsshouldbe
incorporatedintoherlearningsothatsheisengagedtothefullestpossibleextent.While
wecannotexpectastudentsparentstobuydozensofbooksfortheirchild,theschool
canhelpsupportAlexabydonatingbookstoherthatshemaybeinterestedin.Finally,
oneofmyconcernsforherpsychologicalandsocialwelfareisthatsheisbecoming
increasinglyawareofhowdifferentherpronunciationandlinguisticskillsarecompared
toherclassmates,andbecauseofthissheisstartingtoactmoreshyandreserved.I

wouldliketoseeherinteractwithpeersdoingthingssheenjoys,suchasperformingin
schoolplays,singinginchorus,orplayingamusicalinstrument.

Competencies:
Teachertrainingisespeciallyimportantinacaselikethis;Alexaisatacritical
periodinhersocialdevelopmentandisalreadystartingtofeellikesheisdifferentfrom
herpeers,soMs.Darlinshouldbeencouraginghertoparticipateinsocialinteractionsby
forminggroups(eitherforschoolworkorplayperiods)sothatshecanhavean
opportunitytointeract.Teacherattitudeisoneofthemostimportantfactorsinthe
effectivenessoflearning,particularlyforELLstudents.ThereforeisnecessarythatMs.
DarlinandAlexaformatrustingrelationshipsothatAlexafeelscomfortableaskingfor
extrahelpwhensheneedsit.Thereareseveralworkshopsthatshecouldattendto
enhanceherskillsteachingELLstudents.Finally,Ms.Darlinmightfinditextremely
helpfultolearnsomecommonwordsinSpanish,sothatshecanhelpbridgethegap
betweenAlexasEnglishandSpanishlinguisticabilities.

Assessment:
Accordingtoherstatewidenormreferencedtestresults,Alexaisperforming
significantlybetterwhentestedinhernativelanguageofSpanish,soitwillbekeyforher
tobridgethegapbetweenSpanishandEnglishsothatshecanperformtothebestofher
abilities.InordertoaidAlexaduringsummativeassessments,Iwouldrecommend

supplyingSpanishwordsortranslationsonanyformalassessmentshecompletes.When
usingTPRforinstruction,herteachershouldlookforcuesthatAlexahascomprehended
theinstruction,suchasherimmediatelyrespondingwiththecorrectmotionwithout
havingtolookatherclassmatesforverification.Inaddition,asimplequestionnaireasa
formativeassessmentforAlexasteacherMs.Darlintocompleteeverymonthwillhelp
keeptrackofherlinguisticandacademicprogress,suchasonelikethis:

Students name: _____________________________________


Class: _____________________________________________
Teacher: ___________________________________________
Date: _______________ Grade: ______________
1. Progress during the past month (scale of 1-5)
2. Performance in class on: (scale of 1-5 for each one)

Oral comprehension

Reading comprehension

Completes writing assignments

Works independently

Asks for help when needed


Successful completion of tests and assessments

3. Recommendations: What kind of help does the ELL need during the coming weeks or
months?

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4. How can these recommendations be accomplished?

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5. Other:

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