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Forsyth Educator Lisa Hamilton Wins Award for English Learners Writing Plan

Writing may come naturally for some, but English learners often struggle to write outside their first language. It’s a subject Forsyth Academy EL teacher Lisa Hamilton identifies as the most difficult to teach. So, she created her own unit plan — and it won an award.
 
The plan, centered around the educator-developed RACE Strategy (Restate, Answer, Cite, Explain), leads scholars away from one-word answers and toward complete sentences. Students rate how well they’ve done and track their learning progress using a rubric and tracking table Hamilton created.
 
For that work, she was recognized by the University of North Carolina Greensboro’s EnACTeD program (Engaging and Advancing Community-Centered Teacher Development) with a cash award.
 
Sara Overman, Forsyth’s Dean of Intervention for English Learners and Exceptional Children has been amazed at what Hamilton has been able to accomplish with the students.
 
“She put together a rubric with different point values and worked hard together with the kids to see what set one answer apart from another,” Overman said. “She created that herself and I was just gracious that the University of North Carolina was able to identify just how great of an instructor she is.”
 
Reading comprehension has increased throughout the process for the students and Hamilton is able to see that progress during discussions.
 
“I find that my kids comprehend and are able to understand the text better because they have to dig a little deeper,” Hamilton said. “To see it from the beginning to now, and that they do it automatically, it’s awesome. I have a couple students who said that they do it enough now that they can do it in their classrooms and not just when we’re working on it.”
 
Hamilton has shared the strategy with classroom teachers at Forsyth who have been able to implement it for their students as well.
 
“A lightbulb has turned on this year with this strategy, unit plan, and implementing it,” Hamilton said. “Having the kids look at their own writing and being able to assess it has been amazing to watch. They’re spot-on when they grade themselves.”
 
Overman said it’s not just Hamilton’s plan that’s excelling.
 
“She really loves making personal connections with her students,” Overman said. “She brings her own personality into the classroom a lot and she has an infectious laugh. She’s firm with her students but she’s very caring. She’s one of those teachers that scholars love going to her classroom because they know they are cared for and will be loved.”
 
Hamilton’s latest project has her students tackling research essays using this new technique.
 
Forsyth Academy is part of National Heritage Academies (NHA), a charter school management company in Grand Rapids, Mich. with 98 tuition-free, public charter schools across nine states, serving more than 60,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.