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For Teacher Education’s Shin, It’s About the Journeys

Published: November 16, 2009

Teacher Education’s Fay Shin understands journeys.

The member of the university since 2001 created a classroom plan titled “Journeys” that she explained nationwide during a first-ever sabbatical in 2008.

“Journeys” promotes English language learning (ELL) through English language arts (ELA) and science content standards with a program Shin created especially for English language learners.

“Journeys” published by Rosen Classroom offers nonfiction kits for grades K-5 created in consultation with USC’s Robert Rueda. Each kit includes take-home books and parent letters in 10 languages: Spanish, Vietnamese, Hmong (White), Hmong (Green), Cantonese, Pilipino (Tagalog) Korean, Armenian, Khmer and Russian. The kits explore such basic areas as fruits and vegetables, seasons and weather, animals, life cycles, living things and the environment. In grades three through five, the kits explore plants, animals, the solar system, environments, the Earth and extreme weather. Each kit contains six packs of 15 titles. There are 15 lesson plan cards (one per title) with differentiated instruction correlated to National TESOL and English Language Arts Standards and Science Content Standards. The supplemental program provides teachers research-based instructional strategies and tools to integrate ELD (English Language Development), ELA and Science content in the ELL and Science classrooms.

There is new interest in combining literacy and science, Shin believes. “Some teachers say they don’t have time to teach science anymore,” she said. “That’s why I chose topics like fruits and vegetables. Many teachers argue they don’t have time to teach science when they need to address the ESL (English as a Second Language) students. This is a way to integrate both instructions. It’s been exciting.”

School districts are beginning to wake up to the fact that they need to teach science, she believes. “The ESL students get very little content like this. They are too busy with reading, writing and math. How can science be taught to students who barely know English? This program shows they can,” she said. “It is just a matter of how you teach it.”

Shin believes that all across the nation, there is an increasing number of English language learners. “They want materials that will help them in these new classrooms. One reason I believe this classroom plan succeeds is that teachers don’t have the time to create their own materials. This classroom plan presents the material ready-made. It’s been satisfying to hear how teachers have used the material and have been thrilled.”

One way to advance fluency was to play a game. “There was `animal bingo’ and `fruit and vegetable bingo.’ We wanted to make the plan fun and interesting for the students.”

Shin feels one of the advantages to hosting professional development seminars during her sabbatical was the face-to-face contact. “The teachers see I understand their situations,” she said. “Teachers want more than theory. They want the practical aspect of instruction for English learners. Plus, one of the benefits of face-to-face contact is revision. The program changes constantly. My goal is to make the program user friendly and to be as updated as possible.”

She feels one future market for her program is Asia. “I work with a faculty member at San Francisco State to prepare the program for use in China,” she explained. “For instance, my research was adapted into `summer reading’ to prepare Chinese students for English. The key is teaching children at different proficiency levels. This classroom plan integrates content and literacy.”

Fay Shin
Photo by Victoria Sanchez
Fay Shin

She is especially interested in integrating science with the teaching of English. As part of her professional development courses, she talks about integrating the solar system with English. “For instance, it is possible to get across the idea of proximity (what is close and what is far) by talking about the distance between planets and the sun,” she said. “Teachers can get across the concepts of heat and cold by talking about planet temperatures.”

Her international experience includes service as a consultant and co-director of the English Teacher Training Institute at Pusan National University of Education in Pusan Korea from 1996-2001. She has classroom experience as a teacher at Muscatel Jr. High and Savannah Elementary Schools in the Rosemead School District from 1987-90. She comes to CSULB from CSU Stanislaus where she worked from 1994-2001. She earned her B.A. Psychology in 1986 from UCLA before her multiple-subject teaching credential from Cal State Los Angeles in 1988. She went on to earn her M.S. in Teaching English as a Second Language in 1993 from USC plus her doctorate with a specialization in language, literacy and learning in 1994.

She is confident in the potential for programs like “Journeys.” “I feel plans like these represent the future of classroom instruction,” she said. “Learning English doesn’t have to be so difficult. I believe in the natural approach that gets away from grammar. The important point at the beginning of instruction is getting the student to want to learn.”

More than anything else, she wants to give English learners the opportunity to learn content material at the same time as they develop language skills. “I can say honestly that today’s teachers are so much better at teaching ESL students than they were 20 years ago,” she said. “But we’re still not where we ought to be.”