Meet Jill Ball!
Location: Boise, Idaho
Tell us a little about your teaching career: I currently teach 7th, 8th, and 9th grade English plus a speech communications class. I have been teaching refugee children and ELL students for 25 years. I have taught adult ed at a community skills center for immigrants and refugees. I have also taught at the university level teaching English prep classes for ELL students: grammar, reading, and research writing.
What's your favorite thing about being a teacher? Watching students grow in their ability to communicate both orally and in writing. Having great conversations about themes from classic literature. Listening and learning from each other. Watching students from a variety of cultures working together. Making great literature such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Romeo and Juliet available to them. I am currently working on material for Charlotte's Web (7th graders) and The Diary of Anne Frank (8th grade). Students are understanding and learning great life skills from the themes.
What is your experience teaching English Language Learners? I have been teaching ELL students my whole teaching career. I feel very fortunate to be working with this groups of students. Their minds are eager to learn. So often other teachers feel like they cannot understand higher thinking levels. I find that if material is presented to them in a way that is comprehensible, they can take the next step to higher thinking levels. It's all on how it is presented.
Tell us about the English language learners you teach. All my classes are English Language Learners. Class sizes vary as well as proficiency levels. We are a program that teaches newcomers to the U.S. They will be in our program for two years and then will be exited to their homeschools. Most of my students are level one or two based on our state standard for English Language Learners (IELA:Idaho English Language Standards) Oral language is usually higher and reading and writing are usually the skills students need the most help on.
How do you differentiate learning in your classroom to meet the needs of your English language learners? I am constantly assessing what each students' needs are and group accordingly. For example, in my seventh grade class of 13, though most are level one according to state testings, there are four different levels of language ability. We start the class together and then break into groups focusing maybe on characters in Charlotte's Web but they would be doing different activities to show they understand characters. The lowest group may be just identifying characters and learning to write the names while the highest group may be looking at text to describe character traits of the characters. I write different activities for the different levels based on where they are at. I usually have them share at the end of class what they have been doing as a way to bring them all together as a community of learners. I do rely on the higher levels students to encourage and help others when they can.
In the classroom I....love visuals and acting and get the students involved. I talk a lot about imagery in reading and writing to create pictures in our minds, a running movie! I teach to the whole child and know each of my students extremely well.
Outside the classroom I....have two children who are both in college. My oldest will be going to France this spring to study. Both my children are interested in other cultures and share my view that learning about other cultures will bring about more awareness and understanding. My husband works with at-risk youth. Both of us care deeply about our service. I love gardening and hiking in the foothills in Boise. And of course I love reading!
I bet you didn't know that I....protested by refusing to go to school when I saw that my second grade teacher was unfair to a classmate. I was seven years old when I started my activism for justice :) I explained to my principal what had happened and they placed me in a different class.
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Thanks, Jill, for being part of the Teacher Feature! I hope to hear from and about many more of you!