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On the heels of Frames for Fluency winning the AEP Award for Best ESL/ELL Curriculum, we tracked down the author, Dr. Connie Casagranda Williams and asked her some questions about the program.

How did you come up with the idea for Frames?  

Before I retired from B&T as a Sales Representative, as an integral part of any Carousel sale I made, I would provide an inservice training for teachers in which I created, in advance, two sentence frames to support my demonstration lesson. I had these frames printed out on a strip of manila paper and exhibited them next to the Theme Picture and the Picture & Word Cards of the chapter that I had derived my lesson. I must admit that as a former ESL/ELD teacher for fifteen years, it was kind of second nature to do this extra step. Teachers would always ask me specifically how I came up with those two sentence frames and why I had added them to the lesson. I would explain by showing how I focused on a target function utilizing a specific grammar form within the chapter and proceed to make a sentence frame. Next, I would explain that the intent of the frames was to give students multiple opportunities to practice the vocabulary of a lesson within a frame. Of course, the purpose was for students to master the structure and then reuse it in a variety of creative ways with new vocabulary or by transforming the frame in some way, i.e. making it into a question, making it plural, or changing the noun subject or another part of speech in some way.

As time moved forward and due to the excitement about this additional activity and its potential for language development, I began to develop two sentence frames for each chapter in each set in order to encourage teachers to use them or develop their own, but at least they had several examples already created at their fingertips. Soon, in workshops I began to hear, “wouldn’t it be nice if we did not have to create these frames ourselves and they were already made for us.” Thus, I shared the feedback that I was getting from teachers with the CEO and owners of B&T, and the rest is history.

What was your goal in writing Frames?

I specifically had a threefold purpose in developing and using these frames in an English Language Development (ELD) environment, either to support the use of Carousel or as a stand-alone program. The first purpose of the frames was to provide students with an opportunity to further practice the language they were learning repeatedly in authentic, exciting, and varied ways. The repetition was critical, but I felt certain that it had to be authentic or it would merely be repetitious practice/drill, and students’ attention would soon wane. Secondly, I was convinced that students would develop a higher degree of accuracy with the language in a lesson if they were able to use it with greater frequency and in varied ways. Most of the research regarding second language learning emphasizes that students need multiple opportunities to use the language in a variety of ways in order to achieve a level of both automaticity and accuracy with respect to the language. Finally, the third purpose was to insure that students would develop fluency with the language whereby they would be able to use the language easily, creatively, automatically and with grammatical accuracy. 

What do you hope that students get out of Frames?

My hope would be that students are able to make the kind of progress from proficiency level to proficiency level in the time frame required at the state level. Most states require each English learner to advance one proficiency level of language growth annually. The opportunity to have a finite set of sentence frames that form the basis of language instruction is akin to giving students the tools to succeed to the next level of language in a given window of time and insuring a high level of proficiency and success at the end of their ELD instructional support and into the mainstream. 

What was it like to watch Frames come to life through the editing and design process?

There are no words to adequately explain what that feels like. I was blown away! It is so great to start out with something tangible, requested by teachers, experimented with over a year or two, and then suddenly to observe that evolution to ultimately an end product that you cannot even believe you started in the first place. I am extremely fortunate as an author to have editors in B&T (like Rebecca Ratnam) and a team of people with extraordinary expertise in graphics and design that can take an idea in writing and reconstruct it into an exciting and stellar product. 

What was your initial reaction in learning that Frames won the 2011 AEP Distinguished Achievement Award for best ESL/ELL Curriculum?

At first, I was just speechless, absolutely shocked, and then terribly excited and very happy, especially when I realized the significance of the award. Personally, I learned that just because one is retired, they do not lose their capability to create, write, and further develop products. I felt rejuvenated on the spot and now have a number of ideas in my head that I just want to bring to fruition. Of course, I will need my powerful team behind me and the encouragement that I get from the field of teachers and the sales representatives who keep me in the loop. I cannot wait to embark on to the next creation. Yes, I am truly thrilled and very thankful to B&T and to the AEP judges who selected this program as among the best in the field.