Monday, November 7, 2016

Supporting ELLs in the Final Stretch of the School Year!

ELL Teacher Pros Newsletter                                              October 2016

It is hard to believe that it is late the year is fast coming to a close!  Soon, winter break will be here and all of you will have time to relax and, hopefully, have some fun!

With English language learners in classes, teachers may wish to modify assessments a bit to allow these students (as well as those with special needs) to demonstrate to a teacher’s satisfaction what they really know without being unduly penalized for occasional errors in their use of English.  So how can modifications be made to allow them to show what they know without watering down the content?  Employ a wide variety of highly engaging formative assessments BEFORE the summative is given.  Using these approaches build self-confidence for the ELL as well as for other students with special needs.

Here are a few ideas that I have used from Edutopia:

1.     Use a KWL chart with 2 modifications.  K (what I know), W (what I want to know), L (what I learned), H (how I learned it), and Q (Questions I still have).  The H and Q components provide the teacher with a better idea of how well the lesson was understood.  The Q component opens itself easily to small group discussions to help clarify murky issues.  Results would all be posted on chart paper around the room for students (ELLs especially) to access as needed in navigating new materials.
2.     Have small groups (ELLs, English Only, and special needs) teach a part of the lesson to the classroom.  This way each group becomes an expert in their assigned topic (with the understanding that EACH member of the group must be ready to share what s/he understood).  While each group discusses their grasp of the topic, the rest of the class is taking notes on a teacher-designed handout (this type of guidance ensures that everyone knows what to listen for). Once all groups have finished sharing, small groups can discuss what they understood and compare notes.
3.     Pass out chart paper and markers to each small group and have them create an illustration of what they understood of the lesson.  Post the results and then have students evaluate each chart (simple rating system—3 being the most detailed down to 1 having limited grasp of the topic).
4.     Design a pamphlet that will clearly cover all the main concepts of the lesson.  This will include diagrams, pictures, bullet points, short paragraphs, etc.  Each group will then share the results with the class by posting them around the room so that every student can review and rate them (again 3 being the best and 1 being needs work).
5.     Conduct teacher and student one to one conferences.  Students must have specific questions in mind when they approach the teacher.  From experience in this area, I can tell you that students really enjoy that one on one.  ELLs especially enjoy it since no one can hear the conversation but the teacher so the fears of stumbling in English fade away.
6.     Have students do a 1-minute reflection on what their big takeaway from the lesson.  This can be a written reflection, a sketch, bullets, cartoons, etc.  This type of freedom of expression will build student confidence in sharing what they know.
7.     Let students create a comic book or strip on what they understood.  Use Read, Write, Think comic strip creator for those who don’t feel comfortable drawing.
8.     Talk to colleagues to pull ideas from them.  Every teacher has a few fun ideas to reach their students.

We hope your students have a fun Halloween (and leave the candy home on November 1st).

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Celebrating Immigrants -- The American Story!

ELL Teacher Pros                                                                               November 2016 Newsletter
Thanksgiving was and is my favorite holiday.  Not only did we get out of school but we got to eat turkey and cranberry sauce (two of my all-time faves)!  My mom would make pumpkin, apple and pecan pies, mashed potatoes from real potatoes (she usually used powdered), sweet potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, etc.  My mother’s side of the family was far away from their immigrant roots.  My dad’s family, however, was not.  He was first generation American and his family was from The Ukraine and very poor.  As a child, he never had some of the foods we ate every Thanksgiving.

As I was thinking of my Thanksgivings I thought of my dad’s background and stories I’ve been told by other first generation folks and adult ELLs and thought about how we could validate their experiences through an exploration of the experiences immigrants have had with their first Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving in general.

The book, Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen, is directly about this experience and even older learners might enjoy having it read to them as a starter for discussion, project or unit on immigration or Thanksgiving.  The book is written for upper elementary school learners and is at a third grade reading level.

For elementary level learners there are a group of free lesson suggestions at:

For older learners, there are resources on the web that cover immigrants’ experiences with Thanksgiving and which could be used as reading activities.  This holiday includes culture, history, human rights, immigration and friendship – many themes to work with. These articles could be used for reading skill development as well as an introduction to personal experiences with Thanksgiving.

Some sites to review for Reading Skill work:
·       Reading Comprehension Skills for English Language Learners
·       Increasing ELL Student Reading Comprehension with Non-fiction Text
·       Reading Comprehension Strategies for English Language Learners

A lesson plan for Thanksgiving and the Immigrant Experience
LESSON PLAN Thanksgiving 2—The Pilgrim Story and My Immigrant Story

Articles covering the immigrant experience and Thanksgiving Immigrant Experience
 http://www.ibtimes.com/newly-arrived-immigrants-navigate-their-first-american-thanksgiving-turkey-all-1728786    An article in “International Business Times” on people from France, Burkina Faso, Mali, Yemen, and Dominican Republic.
“Beyond Turkey: The Migration of Thanksgiving Tradition”
Seriouseats.com                Cooks talk about food for Thanksgiving, from Ecuador, Turkey, Greek, Middle East, France, China, & Italy
“First Thanksgiving”
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/naperville-sun/news/ct-abn-first-thanksgiving-st-1122-20151122-story.html           Story in Chicago Tribune on immigrants from Dubai, Mexico, India, Nigeria
An article on Vietnamese immigrants and their Thanksgiving experience
“Modern-day pilgrims in North Jersey mark their first Thanksgiving”
“Immigrants adapt Thanksgiving feasts with tastes from home”
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/features/sf-ethnic-thanksgiving-food-immigrant-families-20141124-story.html   “Sun Sentinel” FL,   Immigrants from Brazil, Basque area in Spain, Egypt, Haiti & the Virgin Islands
“Thanksgiving is a story of immigrants” “The First Immigrant Thanksgiving”

As an idea to help this along, I want to share the story of a co-worker whose family emigrated from Italy and a tradition her family created for Thanksgiving.

As Molly did, Marie came home from school and told her mother she had to make a Thanksgiving dinner.  One of the foods was to be a stuffed turkey.  Her mother did not know what the stuffing could be and, of course, Marie had no idea either.  After thinking about it for a while, Marie’s mother created a rice-based stuffing which the family uses to this day.

We hope these sites contribute to a rich discussion on immigration and different cultures and tales on how immigrant families develop their own traditions for this iconic American holiday. 

Have a great Thanksgiving Break!

Marnie, Denise, and Cheryl
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Saturday, September 17, 2016

How to Support English Language Learners in NON-ELD/ESL Classes:)

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ELL Teacher Pros                                               September, 2016
Contributions of ELLs to Society                  Mawi Asgedom (T.E.D.)

Too often of late we hear that immigrants are a drain on society, a dangerous threat, predators, terrorists, etc.  As an educator who has spent her entire life working to support immigrants’ efforts to learn the language, graduate from high school, and go on to college, I can say that immigrants are one of America’s greatest strengths.  Mawi Asgedom is living proof of this.

Here is a man who came to the United States as a refugee from Ethopia with no English.  One can only imagine what went through his mind as all he heard, saw, and experienced was new and, in a way, alien.  The ELLs who come into our classes are often a bit overwhelmed.  Such students have so much to share, but are hampered by their lack of familiarity with this culture.  The one vehicle to ease the stress and assist such students in being fully integrated into our school culture (and society at large) is via the typical ESL/ELD classroom (or being with teachers trained in supporting such students in their mixed classrooms).  Dr. Asgedom was fortunate to have support from caring educators who never gave up on him and that led him to Harvard where he earned his doctorate.  With such experience, he has made it his mission to support immigrant youth through his travels around the states addressing educators at every level. 

So what can individual teachers do to support immigrant students in their classrooms?  Here is a short list (feel free to add to it):

1.     For mainstream teachers with ELLs in their classrooms, here are 12 ways to accommodate them.
2.     Build a family-like atmosphere in the classroom where are openly encouraged to help their classmates.  When small group work is called for, be sure that each small group allows the ELL to contribute with the help of the group.  Using this approach, not only does the student acquire English via content activities, but also the native speaker learns about different cultures in a personal way.
3.     Adjust assignments in ways that allow the ELL to show understanding of the content without getting bottled down in language.  Language will evolve over time through both direct (ESL/ELD teachers can assist here) and indirect instruction (content classes). 
4.     Build a classroom full of cultural contributions of all the groups (and then some) present in the classroom.  Be sensitive to cultural holidays that may not be part of their culture.  If a teacher wants to do Christmas, that teacher should also recognize the special holidays of other religious groups/cultures.  Such sensitivity teaches students to be culturally more receptive to different experiences and not fear them.
5.     Make an effort to learn to pronounce the names of ELLs correctly.  For some languages it may take some effort, but students will love and respect a teacher for trying.
6.     Keep ELLs relatively close to the front if the classroom is set up the traditional way.  This way it is easier to monitor them.  Place them next to students who love to socialize.  Socializers LOVE to talk so when small group work is called for, this group jumps at the opportunity to actively engage the quieter ones in the group’s discussion.  Sometimes, believe it or not, kids are better at getting a message across than teachersJ
7.     Discuss student’s progress with other teachers who have him/her in their classes.  It will offer insight into different ways to reach the student.
8.     Encourage parents to text/call you if they have concerns.

I have worked with immigrants for over 35 years and have truly enjoyed every moment of it. 

Hope September has gone well.  Only 8 more weeks until Thanksgiving (humor intended).

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Fun Starts to a New School Year!

School is open!  This is the “honeymoon period” of the school year since all kids are happy to be in school again.  So this newsletter will be dedicated to building on that enthusiasm in creative ways (including a dash of FREE new technology) so that no student is left out.

First, what non-technological approaches can used that will make all students feel confident that the school year will be a good one (including those with special needs along with English language learners at all 3 stages of language acquisition)?  Here are a few just for starters (no set order implied):
  1. Every classroom has rules.To provide students will a feeling of ownership, allow them to create some of the rules along with suggested consequences for breaking them.Using a randomizer (app on phone, popsicle sticks, playing cards with names on them, etc.), establish small groups of no more than 4.Try to ensure that friends are NOT sitting together since you want to build a family like atmosphere in the classroom where students help each other.Provide a couple of sample rules to start the process.For example, if a student uses his/her cellphone in class without permission, the teacher will take the phone and then give it back to him/her after class.This would be for the first infraction.Students could then offer ideas for 2nd and 3rd infractions.This would open the floor for a variety of approaches where all viewpoints would be respected (teacher could have groups post their responses on chart paper through words or pictures).The class could then vote on what they feel would be the best consequences.This approach sets them up to then proceed in their groups to address lateness, not doing homework, shouting out in class, disrespecting a classmate’s efforts to complete a task, etc.
  2. The classroom will have many students who don’t know each other.So a teacher needs to build a learning environment that is safe and supportive—family-like.How can this be established?Have students take turns interviewing each other.Again, using a randomizer, pair up students who don’t know each other.Provide the class with a set of questions to be used to interview each other.If some of the students have limited English, they could ask for support from those who share the same language.Once things are clarified, they would return to their partner to complete the assignment.After about 20 minutes, each pair would come to the front of the classroom and then introduce his/her partner to the class.Using this approach, students would need to fully pay attention to what their partners say and not focus on their comments alone.
  3. Create a class poster in which the diversity of the class is highlighted.A class poster coming directly from the students provides the students with a feeling of ownership.The finished products could be used for BACK-TO-SCHOOL night and would be a definite crowd pleaser as students explain the meaning of the posters and highlight their contributions to them.

Second, technology that could be used to ease student adjustment to a new school year is always fun.  Here are a few (again, no order is implied here):
  1. One fun approach is to have students write a letter to their future selves.Teachers may wish to provide a general outline of what students could include (ELLs and those with special needs might need that extra assistance).Such an assignment would of course be ungraded (and that lowers stress greatly).I would suggest giving the class the same end date so that the results could be reviewed as a fun assignment.Students will be shocked at their growth (smiles and laughter will fill the room---guaranteed).
  2. One strategy to build student confidence is to provide them with a MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCE online test.Students are always pleasantly surprised at learning what their intellectual gifts are.Once the test is completed, the class can survey their classmates for their strengths and then create a chart (or graph) on the results.Another benefit here is that for students who may have struggled in school, they now have the opportunity to see what they excel at.Further, the results benefit the teacher in planning class projects to make sure that such activities tap each strength in the class.
  3. Have students create a comic strip on their lives, their plans for the new school year, their family or friends, on their own imagined super heroes, etc.Once completed, teachers can have them print them out, dress them up with a dash of color, and then post them around the room (to use as a GALLERY WALK).Students would rate each one with 2 STARS and 1 WISH (no negative responses just ones that seek clarification).

Again, time spent making the students feel confident in facing the new school year is time well spent.  The more teachers know about their individual students the more effective their learning will be (and that leads to less stress on the teacher’s part).

Have a great school year!  Our September newsletter will be out after Labor Day .

Denise (denise@ellteacherpros.com)
Marnie (marnie@ellteacherpros.com)
Cheryl (cheryl@ellteacherpros.com)

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Welcome Summer Vacation!


This post is a little later than usual since we figured that most teachers were busy packing up, clearing out their rooms, and turning in grades.  At this point, vacations have finally started!

With the end of another year, there is a need to recharge batteries so to speak.

So let us look at ways teachers can recharge their souls:).

Free Spirit offers 10 tips to get started. More likely than not, these suggestions might not be new though many may not have fully.  Teachers tend to see their own needs after the need of others have been addressed.  It is what we do.  So this summer, why not reprioritize a bit.

1.     Plan a trip.  It could be a weekend getaway, a trip to another state, a voyage overseas, etc.  The goal is to be in a totally new environment minus stress-a place where the teacher is pampered for a change.  Expedia.com, Hotels.com, NEA, STA (Student Travel Association—Use International Teacher Identification Card), Discount Travel for Teachers (lots of local deals here), etc. are just a few sites with discounted rates for educators.  Immersing one’s self in something new and exciting can be a fully invigorating activity (also many great opportunities for fantastic selfies).  
2.     Build a garden.  This is my third year of doing this and I find it truly relaxing.  Also, since I am growing veggies and some fruit, I am eating healthier-lemon cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and strawberries.  
3.     Continue to stay active!  Walk, go to the gym, do some yoga, jog, or run.  Stay active and to make it fun, tie exercise to an app (I use FITBIT, MAP MY WALK, FITNESS PAL).  With these apps, users can earn awards and that is a motivator.
4.     Experiment with AUDIO BOOKS.  Amazon charges $14.95 per month and with each month, users earn a CREDIT which allows them to order ANY book with that credit no matter what the cost (my first one was $75.00).

In Sue Gruber’s REST, RELAX, RECHARGE, teachers will find additional ways to take care of themselves over the break.

1.     Take time to get together with friends.  A little laughter is very good for the soul.  Try movies, walks through the mall or park, having coffee at a café, do lunch, or just hang out in each other’s homes.  
2.     Build into the daily schedule some quiet time.  It is very calming.  I do it every day just to relax.  I will often listen to music or do crossword puzzles.
3.     Try to enjoy every day of the summer break in any way that seems appealing. 

Have a great summer!  Our July newsletter will go out just after the 4th.

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