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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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Yeah--The Year Is Slowly Coming to an End:)


Hello everyone!  There are only another 6 or so weeks left to the school year with probably just a handful of students who might need some support in ending the school year on a positive note.  This is especially important with English language learners who have spent the year not only tackling the course content but also the language.  The focus in this newsletter will therefore be dedicated to offering some last minute tips on helping your ELLs finish the year on a positive note.

Many teachers give final exams to their students.  May is often spent preparing students for the finals.  Here are some ideas that are popular and effective:

  1. If teachers have had students keep notebooks throughout the year, they might consider letting them use their binders for their finals.Students who have religiously maintained their binders throughout the year will feel rewarded for their diligent work habits.
  2. Teachers often have success with having students (in teacher organized groups) lead study sessions for the class.When the students are responsible for creating review lessons for their classmates, they become class experts on their assigned area in the process.The technique used to deliver the lesson is left up to the students (power point, video, games, visuals, etc.). This approach is a highly effective review process.As the class listens to peer review lessons, they take notes on student created study sheets.Again, teachers might consider allowing students to use these review sheets on their final exams.
  3. Another popular review/final exam prep technique for teachers is to have students create a study card (index card).On it, students write everything they think that they will need for the final and then bring it to class on the day of the examination.
  4. Final examinations may also be broken up in a couple of class periods.For example, students might take a multiple choice on one day and then on another day take the writing component.
  5. Create a final exam game such as BINGO or JEOPARDY where, after participation rules are established, the entire class is actively involved in the review process.

Below are some websites with even more ideas to help students review and retain for finals:

12 Top Ways to Rev Up Classroom…

Making Review Time Fun and Worthwhile

Review Methods for Classroom Teachers

Have a great Memorial Day break!

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

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Facebook (ELL Teacher Pros) 161 followers

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Great FREE Academic Support Sites for ELLs and other Struggling Students!


Welcome to April!  Isn’t it difficult to believe that the end school year is just around the corner? 

So with that fun thought in mind (and 10 more weeks to go), what can be done to support those few English language learners who are doing poorly though they seem to put their best efforts forward regularly in class?  What can a teacher do to address the needs of those students who just arrived in the middle of the school year (very common with ELLs)?  How can their fellow classmates help these students without neglecting their own studies?  There are many solutions here and this newsletter will focus on many of them.

Technology-In planning any lesson for a class, some special consideration must come into play in preparing ELLs to do well.  SHOWME is an app that allows a teacher to develop videos, power points, white board activities, etc. for free!  Get the app and use some of the lessons already on file.  This is a great tool to use for ELLs who need to go through the content again or for students who were absent for the lesson.  This app helps the teacher keep her/his sanityJ

How about providing students with virtual tours of historical sites?  These tours would be available online 24 hours a day and accessible through iPads, smart phones, laptops, etc.  When students have the option to revisit material at home without peer pressure (and more L1 support), they are more likely than not going to understand more and that builds self-confidence.  The Statue of Liberty tour is exceptionally well done.

Knowmia provides over 30,000 video lessons from great teachers (you may also submit one of your own that you are particularly proud of as well).  Just imagine how this might alleviate a student’s anxiety in not fully understanding a lesson.  Here, a teacher would provide the link to both student and parent to make the lesson more accessible.

Organized Small Group Activities are a must for not just ELLs, but for students in general.  Asking students to make their own groups is essentially a train wreck in the making (humor intended).  Teachers need to create the groups with a healthy mix of students and talents.  Students must be clear that every person in the group (and that there is not only a group grade but an individual one as well) must work. Each person in the group has an assigned task for which she/he will receive a grade as well as a grade for the group as a whole.  With clear expectations laid out, teacher going from group to group to randomly call on persons in the group for information on group’s progress, and time constraints (to keep them on track), everyone benefits. 

Alternative assessments are only limited by a teacher’s imagination.  ELLs (as well as students with special needs) may require other approaches to demonstrate their understanding of a topic.  This link provides many tools that would offer such students a way to say to the teacher and the class that they have the same understanding of a given topic that all the others have.  Great self-esteem and self-confidence builder guaranteed!

Have a great spring break!

Denise, Marnie, Cheryl
Pinterest (@dmcyberteacher) almost 5,000 followers (all academic topics)
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Monday, February 29, 2016

Be a Constant Source of Inspiration and Support for Your ELLs:)

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ELL Teacher Pros                                          March 2016 Newsletter

With the start of March, students start the countdown to June:).  All too often, they need a gentle reminder that school continues for 3 more months.  At this point, ELLs need to be made aware of how much progress they have made in acquiring English skills.  How can this be done with meaning?  How can this be done in a personal way that sees the whole student and not just the grade received?

20 Tips on Delivering Positive Feedback includes many of the approaches I have used over the years.  Though all of these approaches are quality ones, I have my favorites (as any educator would):
  1. Feedback must be delivered in a timely manner.The longer it is delayed, the less effective it will be in addressing the problem.This type of feedback should be personal in nature keeping in mind that ELLs are trying to demonstrate their understanding of the assignment in a language that is new.The sooner the teacher and ELL have this conversation, the better. (#2 and #3 in article)
  2. Focusing on key questions (#4) is also a must.What can the ELL do, what can’t s/he do, how does her/his work compare to the class overall, and how can s/he do better?These are questions all teachers grapple with daily.For ELLs to do well, all content teachers must tie those questions to all assignments if ELLs are to successfully pass the class and be fully prepared to move to more challenging work in the next school year.
  3. One-on-one conferences (# 7) is a favorite of mine.ALL students love that time with the teacher in this setting.I always tell mine though that they must have a solid question to ask me on the work they produced (of course, as a class, we practice what is a quality question and what isn’t).Here, the risk of embarrassment is a non-issue
  4. Number 15 is an excellent one.Return tests and assignments at the beginning of a class.This gives students time to ask questions.Assignments given out at the end of class are generally crammed into backpacks.

Another great source on this same topic is found in Edutopia’s article entitled 5 Research-Based Tips for Providing Students with Meaningful Feedback.
  1. “Be as specific as possible” (# 1).ELLs especially need to know what they must correct and how.In delivering this information, teachers need also to let ELLs know if the quality of their work is improving and specifically how.This type of encouraging feedback boosts their self-confidence.
  2. “Present feedback carefully” (# 4).When corrections are offered, they must be for every single issue.Over-correction leads to ELLs giving up.The “red massacre” should never be used for any student since it kills any desire to improve.

One last excellent source for supporting ELLs is found in TESOL’s Motivating Language Learners to Succeed.  Several suggestions are very successful techniques in any classroom, but especially beneficial for ELLs.
  1. Teachers should build pair and small group activities into classroom lessons on a regular basis.Such learning environments build the ELLs confidence in learning the content while building English skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) in a low anxiety environment.
  2. Create a friendly classroom environment.Basically, set up a classroom where students help each other. Competition should take a back seat to assisting fellow classmates in learning the content.Small group activities are perfect tools for doing this.ELLs feel safer sharing their insight in small settings than in front of the entire class.

Again, many of these tips probably cover approaches that are probably already being used in most classrooms, but a refresher is good as the school year is quickly coming to a close.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Denise, Marnie, and Cheryl
Follow us on Twitter @ell_teacherpros (3,950 followers)
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P.S.  We will be presenting at CABE in San Francisco in March 24th.  Come by and say hi:)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Involving All Students in the Learning Process:)

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We are now halfway through the school year so how do we keep all of our students on track?  Though all benefit from being held accountable, not all do well here in this process.  What students struggle the most here-English language learners, those with special needs, and shy students. 

Setting up a learning environment for all to succeed or fully participate is not a daunting a task.  It only takes a willingness to step out of one’s comfort zone and experiment a bit:).

Here are some links with descriptions to start with and remember that these are only suggestions.  Explore to see what works for you and have fun!

Ten Ways to Engage Students-
  1. Many of these approaches are not new, but at this time of the year, a refresher is always good to have on hand.  Cooperative learning when the groups are carefully planned is an outstanding tool to use.  In such small settings, every student has a voice as well as peer support in completing a task.  When the teacher plans the composition of the groups, they build support within it so that the students with needs have peers who are more proficient in English or who stronger in grasping the academic content will experience success in accomplishing the assigned task for the group.  With this setup, the teacher can assess the progress of all students easily within the class period since the teacher is dialoguing with 9 groups of 4 as opposed to 36 individual students.
  2. Visuals, visuals, visuals!  There can never be enough of them to assist students in making connections between new content and prior knowledge.  Those supports can be teacher generated or student (group products) generated.  For ELLs especially, those visual links provide access for the ELLs to the content material.
  3. Identify KEY vocabulary and reinforce it consistently throughout the lesson.  Those key words should be key content vocabulary and not every interesting word in the lesson.  If every new word is addressed, it will be overwhelming.

Engaging Students in Learning
  1. Inclusive Teaching—All students must believe that they can succeed in the class.  All students must be held accountable for learning.  Teachers must identify student prior knowledge and build on it.  Teachers should share their experiences in learning the content when they were in school.  Students enjoy hearing about those stories since these stories show that even their teachers struggled in school from time to time and found the tools to eventually master the content.
  2. Teaching With Technology—Students love technology so it is a must to include it in lessons.  Google Drive allows students to collaborate online in writing or creating presentations.  Each student in the group (keep it manageable at 4 per group) has a different color so a teacher (as well as the group) can quickly see who was working and who wasn’t.  Power Points can also be easily created here through Google Slides.  Teachers can maintain folders for each class and within each class folder can monitor individual student submissions.  One feature I really like here is that a teacher can insert comments to guide a student in making corrections.  NO MORE PAPER!

How to Keep Students Engaged in Class
  1. Let students all know that they should all be able to offer an answer to a question with multiple answers.  When students realize that they are more likely to be right than wrong, they are more likely to try.  If a teacher allows them to collaborate with a partner first, success is even greater.  Try a randomizer (or popsicle sticks) to randomly call on students.  This holds all students accountable.
  2. When giving instructions, students need to be quiet.  This may take some practice at first, but it is worth the effort so that the teacher does not have to repeat the instructions over and over.  Randomly calling on individuals to see how well the class understood the instructions. 
Have a great February (leap year)!

Denise, Marnie, Cheryl
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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How to Take the Pain Out of Reviewing For Final Examinations:)

Wow!  It is difficult to believe that the year is almost over.  A well-earned break is just around the corner for all teachersJ

So, this newsletter will be devoted to making those 3 or 4 weeks productive and fun for both teachers and students.  If final examinations are on the agenda for the end of December (or at the return to school in January), review of content material is a must.  However, the “drill and kill” format is generally the least effective.  Since the goal is to support students in preparing for final exams, teachers should look at creative ways to facilitate the process.

1.  Here from the University of Central Florida are 101 activities to support all learners in fine-tuning their knowledge in any content area.  Though this is aimed at university students, many of the review techniques are commonly used in grades K-12! 

My personal favorites are EMPTY OUTLINES (pass out an incomplete outline of the class material and then have students with partners complete the missing pieces—I also pass out different outlines to minimize copying), PICTURE PROMPTS (visuals stimulate student conversation and that especially helps English language learners in building both conversational English and deepening their knowledge of academic English), DRAWING FOR UNDERSTANDING (in K-12 this is called a “quick draw” and students thoroughly enjoy it since they don’t need to struggle with spelling and are allowed to work as a small team in completing their work), and TOURNAMENTS (competition is fun for everyone AND if there are prizes, all the better).

2.  From Intervention Central, there is a collection of games, contests, and puzzles that motivate students to enjoy the learning/review process.  Again, teachers should see which games they feel their students will feel most comfortable doing and use them. 

          My own favorites here are QUIZZES DEVELOPED BY STUDENT TEAMS.  Some of the questions developed are even more creative than my own.  With this activity, teachers navigate the room listening in on the conversations and providing feedback as needed (without giving answers  since it is the team’s responsibility to make sure the questions are valid ones).  Another favorite of     mine is REVIEW-QUESTION BINGO.  Students   work in small teams to mark their bingo cards (they are marking only  numbers).  Once completed, the tea teams are involved, the odds of arriving at the correct answer are increasedJ.  Last, having students create COMMERCIALS ON THEIR ASSIGNED TOPIC.  With Google Slide, students can do a power point.  If they have access to cameras, they can film a commercial.  Again, teachers navigate the room and interact with teams as needed.

3.  The last site I would like to share on this topic is from QUIZLET.  I have created review questions for students on a regular basis on this site.  Students enjoy the diversity of activities.  Flash cards pop up with visuals and definitions.  Students may also elect to hear the word pronounced (a must for ELLs).  Then students play games matching the word to the definitions.  There are also several “video-game like” activities that are always well received.  Teachers could also have student teams create games to stump fellow classmates.

Well, I hope you and your students enjoy the activities.  Have a great winter break!

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

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