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The role of railroads in linking the East Coast with points west

Social studies students have been studying American westward expansion and the role of railroads in linking the East Coast with points west. Part of this unit has included an examination of immigration—specifically that of Chinese workers. These groups of immigrants were major contributors to the building of the rails. They were also the focus of laws, policies, and varying levels of discrimination. Many settled in the U.S. and tried to create a new life in the West.
Upon receiving back students’ homework essays about the topic, Mrs. Swetner found that Li Chen had written his essay in Chinese. Li, an English language learner, had emigrated with his family from Nanjing, China to the United States just over two years ago.
Mrs. Swetner gave Li a zero on his homework, which upset him greatly. He brought the paper home and shamefully presented it to his parents. Knowing that it would be rude to question a teacher’s decision, the Chen family was at a loss as to what to do. They valued education greatly and set high expectations for their children.
What advice would you give to Mrs. Swetner? Think about some of the following:
o Differentiated learner needs of ELLs.
o The role of heritage language and literacy.
o Setting clear expectations for learners.
o Beliefs on whether to assign zeroes.
o Ways to find out what students know, understand, and can do.
o Cultural considerations.

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