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Student Shadow Project

What's it like at your school for a student who is an English learner?

You have their test scores, grades, English proficiency levels, but do you really know what their educational experience looks like and sounds like? What about how often they communicate during class time and how they feel about their learning?

The Student Shadow Project provides the structure and support for your district or school team to be immersed in the perspective of English learner students for the purpose of enacting systemic change for their success.   

By following English learner students through a portion of their academic day, your team experiences how it feels intellectually, emotionally, and physically for these learners.  It helps your team tackle the barriers to equity and access by providing a front row seat to all the little things that are difficult to see, but critical to address.

Why Shadow a Student?Female student working in class.

If your English learner students aren't making the academic strides you expect, and you're ready to shine a light on their needs, then take a walk in their shoes. Follow them from class to class and gain invaluable insight.  Hear what they have to say about their learning, their challenges, and their goals.

Create an urgency in your administrative team, lead teachers, counselors, board members, and principals to prioritize the needs of your students who are English learners through the Student Shadow Project.

The project was adapted from ELL Shadowing as a Catalyst for Change by Ivannia Soto for K-12 students who are designated English learners.

Research reveals that English learner students are given few opportunities in class to engage in meaningful conversations with their peers, even though developing academic oral language is fundamental to their success. Program participants are tasked with paying specific attention to their students' academic speaking and listening opportunities in the classroom to reveal patterns and trends.

About the Program

The three-day Student Shadow Project begins with an overview of the shadowing process, including a deeper dive into the research on effective practices for English learners, the rationale for shadowing, and how to report and record your observations.

The student shadowing begins on day two of the program with two to three hours of observation, which includes tracking the students' academic speaking and listening. It is followed by a study and analysis of the collected observations and other available data, then a general conversation on next steps.

Day three is time for your district or school program participants to begin planning or refining professional learning and structures to address the newly-uncovered issues.

Shadowing often uncovers the lack of academic speaking opportunities and the need for more student-to-student interactions. Many times, it also reveals unintended consequences of structures in place, such as a student placed in an inappropriate class or group, or a need for more strategic staffing to meet the needs of English learner students.

When your empathy expands with the Student Shadow Project, your eyes are opened to the invisible hurdles that prevent students who are English learners from reaching their fullest potential.

While it was created for students who are English learners, the Student Shadow Project is easily adapted to gain insight into the perspective of any student subgroup on your campus.