Northern Regional Promotes Common Core,
Proves a Resounding Success

May 19th, 2015 | By | Category: Conferences, Regional
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By BARBARA ISHIDA and ELLEN LANGE

—Participants had smiles on their faces and positive comments about the keynote speakers, presenters, and delicious taco buffet at the 2015 Northern Regional Conference, “Promoting a Common Core for Academic Success,” held on Saturday, May 9, in Stockton. The site was the spacious San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) Wentworth Education Center, to which participants gave high marks for the wide hallways with ample room to maneuver the halls and spacious exhibit area for publishers and the plenaries. The conference was a joint effort of CATESOL, the SJCOE Multilingual Office, and The California Association for Asian Pacific Bilingual Education. Although the conference was small (about 100 participants), many remarked that in a smaller group setting they had much more opportunity to participate, learn, and network.

Conference participants had a wide range of presentation choices during the morning and afternoon concurrent sessions. Topics varied from “The Chinese Presence in the English Composition Classroom” to “Ipad +Apple TV in the ESL Class” to “Critical Thinking Warm-Ups for All Levels.” The conference also featured six level rap sessions during lunch.

Patricia Carobus from DeAnza College leads the well-attended presentation "Authentic Materials: Creating Engaging Listening and Speaking Lessons." Photo by Annie Duong.

Patricia Carobus from DeAnza College leads the well-attended presentation “Authentic Materials: Creating Engaging Listening and Speaking Lessons.” Photo by Annie Duong.

Although there were no K-12 presenters, many presentations were relevant to all EL levels and the two keynote speakers had backgrounds in elementary and secondary education. In fact, one University Level instructor was overheard saying, “When I see how secondary education teachers involve their students in class and projects, I began to see that I can make my class come alive, too.”

The morning keynote speaker, Albert Lozano (CSU, Sacramento), spoke on “Writing and the California Common Core State Standards: How English Learners and ESL Students Will Be Writing in Our Classrooms.” He emphasized that teachers should engage students in oral interaction about a topic before asking them to write in order to better prepare them for a writing task. He also underscored that while the Common Core State Standards are well laid out, teachers have a great deal of freedom in the methods they choose to use to help students reach those objectives.

The afternoon keynote speaker, Mary Soto (CSU, Chico), expanded on this process with her numerous student examples. Her talk, “Engaging English Learners in Reading Through Novels in a Common Core Era,” was the epitome of a sheltered lesson. It started with building background knowledge, included checking for understanding, chunking, and scaffolding with the use of graphic organizers, and ended with synthesizing/summarizing in a culminating writing assignment. The particular class she used as an example had read Hunger Games and had done many nonfiction writing projects, including publishing a newspaper dedicated to the novel. It even included an obituary column, suggested by the students because “so many people are dying.” The best practices of these two speakers form the common core for academic success at any level, including teachers of higher education because of the critical-thinking skills involved in the activities and the academic vocabulary that is developed in the process.

The helpful and highly experienced SJCOE Multilingual staff were an integral part of the conference planning and were on hand to ensure that any setup and technology issues were promptly addressed so that everything ran smoothly. Thank you to Annie Duong, Toni Ludolph, and Sengmany Kingkhilysack!

Thanks to them, and to their whiz of a Mexican caterer, lunch was a dream come true with heaps of delicious, tender meats, boatloads of tasty rice, and masses of handmade frijoles. This was the day that Ellen Lange, 2011 co-chair, had been waiting for since the Mexican food disaster of the 2011 UC Davis Northern Regional. (That year, a taco truck had been highlighted as the magnet for lunch, but at the last minute, the owner decided he “could not accommodate such a high volume of eaters.” That left the university’s catering service, which would have worked had there not been more than 150 on-site registrants. The tacos ran out, it suddenly turned cold, and at lunchtime the patio gala could offer only a chilly place to sit and lukewarm food.) This year she was overjoyed to hear someone say, “That’s the best conference food I have ever had.”

At the end of the day an equal-opportunity raffle was held featuring wine donated by CATESOL’s Paige Endo, books donated by Jonathan Boggs (Pearson) and Luis Coloma (Spring ESL), wine-storage bags donated by Mark Hart (Tahoe Vineyards), and other goodies. Free books from the libraries of Barbara Ishida and the SJCOE Multilingual Office were also available to anyone who wanted them.

Conference participants and the conference committee left for the long drive home tired but smiling. What a way to celebrate the end of the academic year and to get ideas for the upcoming year!

Barbara Ishida was chair for the 2015 Northern Regional CATESOL Conference and Ellen Lange is CATESOL past president 2014-2015.

 

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