A pair of grins lit up the faces of Jared and Ruben as the meaning of their teacher's instructions sunk in. The fourth grade boys looked at each other, sending cues of affirmation.
A few minutes later, the duo embarked on a social studies assignment with permission to try something that up until now they hadn't been given the chance to do in their classroom: on a piece of paper taped to one wall they wrote, "Ona montonia se exploto."
"I don't know that we spelled it right," Ruben said. The detail didn't matter to the teacher, GLAD coach Denise Olson, who would spend 10 days in the boys' classroom at Pleasant Valley Primary to demonstrate an instructional model that immerses students in words through interactions and visual materials that encourage discussions and writing. All that mattered to her is that the boys discussed, and in the end incorporated, their native language into their lesson on explorers who came to Washington state.
Called Guided Language Acquisition Design, or GLAD, the teaching model provides a language-rich environment and employs a variety of student interaction techniques to prepare students to be literate members of a global society. Originally developed for English language learners, the strategy benefits all students through the use of high-level thinking and academic language, as well as cross-cultural skills.
Battle Ground Public Schools has trained 400 teachers to implement the instructional model over the past 10 years. The district has six coaches who teach professional development classes on GLAD techniques and then provide an in-classroom demonstration of how to create and implement GLAD lessons for teachers who want to implement the model. The demonstration can take up to two weeks, depending on the teacher's schedule, and helps the educator get comfortable with the instructional model.
Teachers can apply the model to any subject matter. It involves using visual images to stimulate group discussions and collaborative writing assignments and homemade books with large print that teachers can read aloud to the class while tracking the words with a pointer. "The power is in the whole package and how it supports students from diverse backgrounds in ways that empower them to use language," said GLAD coach Denise Olson.
GLAD also embraces a positive behavior system that asks students to do three things in each lesson: 1. make good decisions, 2. show respect and 3. solve problems.
Back at Pleasant Valley, the students in Whitney Larson's fourth grade class suddenly pointed across the room and said in unison, "Voyage." They completed the sentences they were writing on the papers taped to the walls of the classroom and quietly returned to their desks. It was that easy to end the lesson, and students moved in response to one cue word projected by GLAD coach Denise Olson: "Exploration."