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6 Ways to Engage with Black History at School

During Black History Month each February, K-12 teachers across the country take a special look at their lesson plans. Will it be a guest speaker this year, or a lecture on Harriet Tubman? Although some prominent black Americans question the need for a Black History Month, Americans as a whole think it's worth commemorating. And all cultural backgrounds can benefit by learning about the black experience--then, and now. But to really engage students, this occasion requires thoughtful planning. Here are six ideas for making black history come alive in the classroom. Move Beyond Familiar Historical Figures Alonzo Herndon While names like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. are important, they shouldn't eclipse the names of unsung black Americans. The recent success of the movie "Hidden Figures" illustrates this point well. Depending on the ages of those you teach, why not craft a lesson around black inventors--or ask students if they have a lesser-known hero they'd like to discuss? Ask a local historian for further ideas. You can even talk about and play musical excerpts by black composers. Or profile black musicians in general. The point is: get creative. Learn More About the Underground Railroad Make history come alive by seeing how former slaves escaped to freedom via the Underground Railroad.
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Meeting the Needs of Secondary Newcomer ELLs Through A Rigorous Curriculum

A guest post  Teresa Vignaroli, ELL Supervisor, Loudoun County Public Schools, Virginia; Julie Baye, ELL School Improvement and Accountability Specialist, Loudoun County Public Schools, Virginia; Giuliana Jahnsen Lewis, ELL Staff Development Trainer, Loudoun County Public Schools, Virginia Imagine Learning now publishes monthly guest posts in order to stimulate conversations about K12 education across the country. Opinions expressed herein are those of the individual author(s) and may not necessarily reflect the official opinion of Imagine Learning.   Like many other districts in the nation, Loudoun County Public Schools has experienced an influx of older English Language Learners (ELLs). Currently, nearly twenty-seven percent of our high school ELLs are proficiency level 1 students; forty-five percent are combined proficiency levels 1 and 2 students. These students bring a myriad of situations and challenges that include varying ethnic backgrounds, low socioeconomic status, differing levels of formal education, and special needs status. The varying language learner types and their unique needs indicate that there is no one-size-fits-all service delivery model nor one intervention that addresses, in its entirety, the best practices in service delivery models for high school ELLs. Research, however, indicates that ELLs must have access to standards-aligned curriculum that is rigorous and grade-level appropriate.
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Why even fluent students struggle with comprehension

In a recent article published in Science Magazine, Harvard researcher Catherine Snow discussed a growing problem in our schools: the lack of academic vocabulary instruction. Many fluent readers, and especially struggling readers, have a difficult time understanding texts in science, math, and social studies because the terminology is so foreign. This disconnect hits hardest in junior high and high school, when the texts become more complex and vocabulary instruction becomes less prevalent. So what can be done?
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