Author Guest Post: “Their Story, Our Legacy” by Emily Francis, Author of If You Only Knew: Letters from an Immigrant Teacher
This post was first featured on Unleashing Readers website on September 25th, 2022 - HERE
During the first days back this year, our school received a special guest speaker, former educator and coach, who left a remarkable legacy. Coach Smith was fired up, sharing the wonderful stories that highlighted the amazing history of our school which he collected from 1893 to the day he retired.
I began to think about how his passionate stories impacted every staff member listening. The power of a story hit me to my core, and I began wondering about our students’ stories: What stories are students telling about our school? About us as teachers? Just like Coach Smith can share his powerful and impactful stories about a building, so our students are out and about telling stories about us.
Of course, I connected it to my personal experience as a former student new to the USA. As a fifteen-year-old scared immigrant, I entered high school with so much passion and persistence but left with shattered dreams. My story about my experience as a student in the USA is not a good one. It’s a story of pity and sadness and pain. I can close my eyes and feel exactly how I felt in my high school classes. These were uneasy feelings I don’t want my students to feel.
I cannot remember a teacher who would have incorporated practices to support my culture, identity, and strength. My high school years made me question my own identity. Just the fact that it was never acknowledged made me question my own existence.
Thinking about my personal stories from my former high school and listening to Coach Smith led me to think about my legacy. George Couros said, “Your legacy is not what you do. It’s what your students do because of you.” I dare to add… It’s what your students SAY because of you.
Feeling like we have been robbed of our identity may cause dysfunction in society. I know. I lived it. I now strive every year to make sure equitable practices are in place to better serve our students.
I had the honor and the privilege to attend and present at the 2022 Immigrants Student Success Virtual Conference.
If you can, check out the many different recorded sessions that can help you provided support to your immigrant students.
The conference covered:
My Session: Identity Affirmation Through Literature, Language and Storytelling
Let me know if you watch my sessions! I'd love to hear your takeaways!
Thank you for reading!
In May, I was thrilled to share with you the amazing cover of my book If You Only Knew: Letters from an Immigrant Teacher, soon to be published by Seidlitz Education Publishing.
During the month of June, advanced readers' copies (ARCs) were sent out to selected readers. I don't have the words to describe the feeling when I opened the package and saw my book for the first time. It was an excitement that words cannot explain. Holding the book in my hand brought tears to my eyes. I can't wait for the world to read it.
Some readers received a hard copy of the ARC, others received an e-book. Some readers I selected just because I've followed their work and knew they would enjoy the book and provide great feedback. Other readers were selected by the publishing company or the our marketing company.
I'd have to say that PR by Books is doing an amazing job helping me promote the book and making sure the world know about this great book. Just look at this great Author's Page and the NetGalley page where you can read some reviews.
I am honored and humbled to read these great reviews. All these authors are highly respected and are authors I personally admire and have learned from. I appreciate them taking time to read and review my book.
NetGalley and Goodreads Reviews
If you are a NetGalley member, you can request an e-book the book and provide your review. If you're on Goodreads, please, add this book to your "to-read" list! Click here to read more.
It feels my heart with so much joy to see my friends and network tweeps reading my book and providing such heartfelt reviews and comments. I was thrilled to see THE Valentina Gonzalez ,author, speaker, and professional development facilitator, make time to read my book. Thank you to all my friends and family for your support.
As always, thank you for reading and staying connected. Be sure co add your name to this book launch form so you are informed when you can order the book!!
My Name Is Jorge
I have to be transparent and share that poetry is not one of my favorite genres to read or to choose as a mentor text to teach my students. Of course, once in a while, I come across some amazing poems that shake me to my core - like "My Name is Jorge: on Both Sides of the River" by Jane Medina
I LOVE using this book towards the end of April to celebrate Poetry month but also to begin introducing our last unit of the school year - Moving Stories. I cannot remember how I came across this book, but what I do remember is turning every page and finding myself reflected in every word. I'd say that this is one of the first books I came across in my first year of teaching and it impacted so much in the material and resources I began using to teach my multilingual students.
What fascinates me about Jorge's story is that each poem is a window for the reader to learn about an event and experience in Jorge's life. Each poem is at a kid-friendly level that children can understand and learn from Jorge and his family.
Unfortunately, I only own two copies of this book so I had to get creative to have students read the book.
I started by analyzing the book first and deciding which poems are the core of Jorge's story. Even though all the poems are fantastic, I knew that reading the whole book would've been overwhelming for my newcomers since there are 27 poems.
The poems I chose are:
My Name is Jorge
Why Am I Dumb?
The Busy Street
Mexican Dummy Tine
The King of the United States
Men Don't Cry
Once I had selected the poems I wanted to have students analyze, I made a list of themes I noticed were highlighted by each poem.
The themes I came up with were Language, Food, Representation, School, Immigration, Name, Family Divided, Unfairness, and Back to Mexico.
I made a copy of the poems I selected (along with the Spanish translation) and I placed them all around our classroom. The idea was to have students get up and go around the room reading the poems. The assignment was to read each poem and think about what the poem was mostly about. Each student was given a sticky notepad to share how each poem is related to one of the themes listed by the teacher. I had placed the themes on chart paper on the board so students knew what each theme was. Many of the themes were topics we had discussed during previous lessons. I also left a chart paper with a question mark for students who wanted to brainstorm their theme.
My students learned a lot about Jorge and his family - As we were discussing what Jorge and his family had experienced in Mexico, throughout their immigrant journey, and here in the USA, I noticed that it was becoming easy for my students to retell the events and connect with Jorge's life.
So, the follow-up lesson was to take the sentences we had written on our sticky notes and the knowledge we had gained about Jorge's life to write all about Jorge's life in a narrative format.
I put together a packet for each student to begin a story draft. Each packet contained a cover white sheet of paper and ten notebook sheets of paper - one for each theme in the story.
After students created a cover for their story about Jorge, they were instructed to retell Jorge's story using the sentences they created from each poem and for each theme.
We talked about how a story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end - so as they picked the order of their sentences, they were to consider what might've happened when and in what order.
For example, the poem about Jorge's name is. a great poem to introduce Jorge. Next, poems that share about this childhood, migration, school, family, etc.
All books were different since everyone had a different perspective of the poems and added their perspective.
Each student's book about Jorge had at least 10 pages and was in chronological order.
Once the story drafts were ready, students took turns to meet with me to make sure the book was in the correct order. We also discussed ways to make the book interesting and with our perspective and connections added to it to make it interesting.
Students' stories were fantastic and I didn't want them to just remain a draft - I knew that these stories needed to go out to their world to read. These stories are such a great example of how powerful a story can be - how important it is for students to read books that reflect and affirm their existence.
I've always used the website WriteReader to encourage my students to publish their writing for the world to see. This, of course, was the first resource I thought about when thinking about publishing my students' stories.
Here are their stories. I encourage you to make time to read them and perhaps you can also find a personal connection with these stories.
Yency's Jorge's Story
Alanie's Jorge's Story
Jeydi's Jorge's Story
Yamilet's Jorge's Story
Miriam's Jorge's Story
Alhassan's Jorge's Story
Alhussein's Jorge's Story
Enrrique's Jorge's Story
Alexander's Jorge's Story
Jhosselyn's Jorge's Story
Luis' Jorge's Story
BIG NEWS! It's HERE. My book's cover reveal is finally HERE!
I am so excited to share with you the wonderful cover of my book:
𝙄𝙛 𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝙊𝙣𝙡𝙮 𝙆𝙣𝙚𝙬: Letters from an Immigrant Teacher - Published by Seidlitz Education
In my book, I share my immigrant story through letters written to my newcomer students
The publication date is September 1st, 2022
Be sure to complete THIS form to get all the updates!
Why should an individual feel pressure to pay a price to experience true belonging? And: What does it take for an individual to experience true belonging?
Just the other day I was having lunch in my room when Marcos, a multilingual student, came into my room and asked me if he could hang out with me instead of going to the lunchroom. I am so glad he did because we had the most wonderful conversation that got me thinking about all my students’ sense of belonging.
Marcos expressed that he was hungry but he didn’t like the food the cafeteria serves – he said he couldn’t wait to get home to eat because his mom would always make delicious and authentic Mexican meals. So, I asked him why he doesn’t bring leftovers and use the cafeteria’s microwave to heat it up so he wouldn’t go all day without eating. You would’ve thought that I’d said a curse word or something blasphemous by the way he reacted! He said, “I can’t bring Mexican food here! They’ll laugh at me. They’ll make fun of the way the food smells. They’ll make fun of me!”
His answer led to a whole lecture on culture and how proud he should feel about having a great mother cooking authentic Mexican food that perhaps a lot of students and teachers would pay to eat.
When Marcos left my room a sense of sadness took over my heart because I felt like I didn’t get through to Marcos (I hope he doesn’t think I was trying to make him bring me some food…haha).
As the sense of sadness washed over me, my mind began asking these questions: Why should an individual…especially a multilingual student… feel pressure to pay a price to experience true belonging? And: What does it take for an individual to experience true belonging? – Yes, our conversation was about food, but as I started talking with Marcos, I realized that it was more than the food he was ashamed of – he isn’t embracing his culture, his family’s background, or their home language. All of this seems to be in the way of “blending in” or better yet, of true belonging
Wrong Sense of Belonging
It’s not hard to build a wrong sense of belonging. However, the price we pay for a wrong sense of belonging is HIGH.
In a simple Google search, we can learn that “Belongingness is the human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group.” Here’s the problem, we live in a society that sets certain standards or checklists that dictate what is and what is NOT accepted from an individual in order to offer their acceptance. Hence, that which is NOT accepted from a group is immediately considered negative from an individual in order to belong. This is very dangerous for our students to experience.
The 15-year-old me knows this perfectly – It was 1994 when I arrived in the USA from Guatemala and enrolled at Martin Van Buren HS in Queens, NY. I walked into the building with my head held high because I knew my value. I knew what I had accomplished in 15 years after being separated from my mother and caring for my siblings for two years in Guatemala. I knew how to read, do presentations, write, and do critical thinking in MY home language – Spanish. I loved and embraced my culture and my family’s background. However, it didn’t take long for me to feel like an outsider. To question everything I knew and felt about myself. To realize that what I considered valuable was not affirmed or accepted in this school. In order to satisfy the sense of belonging I desperately craved I had to put aside or perhaps pack away my personal identity and cultural background. So, I assimilated. I learned the English language. But in a way – I betrayed who I was. I gave up my greatest treasure. My individuality.
So, I felt like I belonged. But little did I know then that it was the wrong sense of belonging. A sense of belonging I reached by paying a high price, because I began to be someone I wasn’t. Someone who broke me from the inside out. I’d go home and live one identity, speak my language, and enjoy a great Guatemalan meal. I’d enter campus and I’d be who I was expected to be in this new place, only to experience a wrong sense of belonging.
A True Sense of Belonging
As much as we try to fit in where we wrongly belong, our true self has a way of calling us back to our roots. Our family backgrounds, stories, love, and journeys are strongholds that are hard to break. I believe it’s a good thing. In a way, our roots call us from where we are to where we truly belong and who we are to be. I’ve learned throughout my years here in the USA, that true belonging comes from within – A true sense of belonging originates from a clear understanding that who we are, and who our heritage made of us is valuable and important.
So, what can you do to ensure students or any individual around you experiences a true sense of belonging and not a wrong sense of belonging
I wholeheartedly believe that we, as educators, have the power to make or break our students into how we want them to feel in our classrooms, on campus, and in our society. By simply doing our part, we can help our students find their true sense of belonging without having to obsessively try to be someone they are not. We can easily provide opportunities for our students to accept who they are and not have to be someone they are not.
Together we can create and maintain an environment where students are proud of who they are and where they can be windows of other worlds to their peers. Let’s embrace their greatest gift – their individuality and identity.
Thanks for reading!
hApPy New Year!
As a year ends and a new year begins, we often hear the phrase “Out with the old, in with the new;” this phrase may suggest that to move forward, one must leave it all behind and evolve new ideas and changes.
To some extent, this may be what we want to do, considering the rough year we’ve all had as educators. I feel like 2021 hit us so hard – the uncertainty, the stress, the fatigue, & the emotional roller-coaster in schools drained us. Yet, we showed up. We did what we are passionate about. We poured our heart, soul, and energy into those we love…our students!
As the year came to an end, I began reflecting on the core of my persistence and endurance through these difficult days. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE students. They are why I remain in the teaching field. However, we can argue that we are facing some challenges we’ve never faced before. The pandemic is stealing our strength, love, and passion for what we do. Too many excellent teachers are leaving the field. The teacher shortage is undeniable. So, as I think about the core of my persistence and endurance in the field, I can’t help but think of my professional learning network.
In Late September 2021, I started getting messages from teachers from all across the country. These teachers were not only under the pressure of the pandemic but also facing a fast-growing enrollment of newcomers (English learners new to the USA). I could sense their frustration but at the same time felt their desire to be the best and do what’s best for their students. I felt a very strong connection with these teachers and decided to connect with them. I sent out an invitation on all my professional social media accounts using the hashtag #PLC4newcomers inviting teachers to join a virtual PLC to collaborate.
By October 2021 I had a list of over 150 teachers of newcomers who were willing to meet via Zoom to learn and share.
Our PLC began meeting the first Thursday of the month. We invite guest speakers – professionals and researchers in our field – to share their expertise with us. After hearing from our presenter, we go into breakout rooms and just chat. We encourage one another, we share ideas, we provide resources, we have meaningful collaborations.
Now, I know that Zoom meetings are not new… in fact, some of us have probably had countless Zoom meetings. However, through these PLC interactions with other passionate teachers, we started gaining strength. Through these interactions, we began feeling competent. We began embracing learning as part of growing.
We began validating each other – praising each other for the work we are already doing. Teachers lifting up other teachers. It’s the greatest feeling!
We also began a Twitter chat to stay connected. Every Thursday at 7:00 pm ET, teachers know that we are connected either via Zoom or Twitter chat. We’re just a hashtag away.
Something I realized while interacting with other teachers was that the burden on our shoulders may be blinding us from seeing our full potential as educators. We begin doubting ourselves, not because of what we’re doing or not doing – but because our best is not being recognized or validated.
So, as you reflect on last year and brainstorm New Year resolutions, don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t let your overthinking discredit your growth. You don’t need new strategies, or a new YOU, to be the best version of yourself! Connect with others and continue unfolding your love and passion for your students. Create and maintain meaningful connections that will cheer for you and will lift you up. Share small celebrations with your professional network and seek their support. We don’t need coaching right now – at least I don’t.
I need support.
Support is exactly what we need to continue all fired up while serving to the best of our abilities.
If you’re looking for meaningful connections, please, join us. Add your name to our monthly meeting invite form and come learn with and grow with us: bit.ly/PLC4newcomers.
So, going back to the phrase “Out with the old, in with the new”: I choose to keep the old – because the old is working for me right now. I’m keeping my meaningful connections, evolving new ideas and changes as they come. Unfolding the real me.
Yours In Equity,
PLC - "A professional learning community is a team of educators who share ideas to enhance their teaching practice and create a learning environment where all students can reach their fullest potential."
I love this definition of what a PLC is all about because I've seen it and experienced it in action. For the past few months, the #PLC4newcomers team has been meeting weekly through Twitter space chat and once a month through Zoom. If you're not familiar with space chats, it is a new feature Twitter provides where a group of users can get together and share about a given topic. What I like about space chats is that you can hear participants share their thoughts and ideas. Over the past four months, I've been the host of our space chat. Educators from across the country share ideas "...to enhance their teaching practice and create a learning environment where all students can reach their fullest potential."
Anyway, the actual purpose of this post is to share all the notes I have from our Jan. 20th chat. This chat was by far the most attended and the most engaging of all. Along with teachers sharing in our space chat, teachers were also using the hashtag to share tips, images, ideas, and resources. It was an amazing time encouraging one another.
The topic of conversation was "Starting a new Semester - Get to know you activities" - Listed below are all the activities shared.
I was trying to balance all the information being shared on Twitter and the information our participants were sharing. I took notes and promised I was going to curate this information and sharing.
Below you'll see a Wakelet with all the resources shared on Twitter. If you don't have a Twitter account and would like me to share these resources, please let me know.
If you're reading this and can share some ideas with us, please, add them to the comments. I'd be happy to add them to this blog post.
Also, if you can join our Twitter space chats, that would be amazing. We chat on Thursdays evening at 7:00 PM ET, just follow the hashtag #PLC4Newcomers and join. We also meet once a month via Zoom. Hope you join us!
Thank you for reading!!
Students do not like tests/exams either.
They are, for the most part, created and administered with a "gotcha" in mind. For the most part, tests are to reflect what the student learned and can demonstrate. They cause so much anxiety in students and they're not accurate of the actual learning students acquired.
As I created my newcomers' final exam for our ESL for Beginners course, I created it intending to reflect on my teaching abilities and my skills to help students understand and ability to re-tell what they've learned. Their scores will evaluate ME.
I also wanted our final exam to serve as an opportunity for my newcomers to show what they've learned over the past few weeks.
It's that time of year again -- The beautiful time of year to reflect on the past year and plan for the New Year ahead.
There are many things I should probably be reflecting on; but, I choose to reflect on my previous years' #OneWord -- That One Word to help guide my year's actions, thoughts, ideas, connections, and choices. One word that has encouraged me to be a better version of myself since it becomes a vision statement for the year.
Tonight, as I sit here reflecting on my previous years' One Word and how my life experiences have revealed a little more of who I am, I can't help but be grateful for whom I've become.
I have do not doubt that my journey (personal and professional) is unfolding exactly as it should be. I know my life is not where it should be...YET... But, letting my journey unfold and reveal more of who I am is exactly what I need this year.
Unfold -open or spread out from a folded position & reveal or disclose.
Unfolding my passion.
Unfolding my energy.
Unfolding my knowledge.
Unfolding my love for what I do.
Unfolding will be core this New Year -- Allowing every experience and every step in 2022 to reveal more of who I am.
I'm super excited about my word. Do you have a #OneWord? Is there anything else you do as a resolution for the New Year? I'd love to hear from you.
Share your thought in the comments. Are you interested in learning more about the #OneWord? I'd be happy to connect with you and help you as you begin your #OneWord journey!
Happy New Year 2022!! I wish you the very best. I am glad we're connected.
Thank you for reading!
Thank you for reading!!
After having my newcomers in class for roughly 14 weeks, I've decided to create an assignment where each student would work independently to demonstrate literacy skills in English.
I showed students all the books in the "Welcome Newcomers - Fundamental" kit published by Saddleback Publishing (FREE sample in link), and had each student choose a book of choice.
I told students that they were going to read the book "in English" and provide a book report. They were not too intimidated to do the work since we had been working with Saddleback books during small groups. They knew to use the following strategies to help them understand the book:
The Scaffolds to a Successful Project
"When we invest in our students' identities, we can experience a return on this investment in th form of increased student engagement and higher performance, not to mention potentially more joyful teaching and learning." ~ Sarah Ottow #LanguageLens
I wholeheartedly agree with the quote above. Investing in our students' identities is so important, and it pays off.
To invest in our students' identities and create lessons around students' cultural interests, we must invest time to know our students.
I have a student who loves cooking. Every once in a while he'd send me videos and messages about what he is cooking. He loves telling me about the ingredients and the cooking processes. He knew it didn't bother me since I was always asking questions about his cooking.
This student was the influence for this lesson - Our first ESL Class' Recipe Book --
Teachers who inspire realize there will always be rocks in the road ahead of us.
They will be stumbling blocks or stepping stones...It all depens on how we use them.
~ Author unknown
Lessons that don't work for me or my students are my rocks! I don't know about you, but every now and then there is a lesson that must be abandoned...whether is because of planning or because students are just not into it.
But, just like the quote says - We can use these rocks in our way as stumbling rocks OR stepping stones to better our craft and better out students' learning.
The last days of October, my lesson plans were around using Scholastic articles and having students present in groups. Well, this lesson went down the drain when school started that week and I noticed my students were not into doing work --They looks very unmotivated since the first quarter was ending. I knew immediately that I needed to switch my plans and engage student in a fun activity.
This is when the elementary teacher in me began planning a craft activity. Of course, because I'm teaching English as a second language and LOVE using content to develop language...I decided to use NEWSELA as a resource for our lessons. We were in the week of Halloween (spooky time) so I thought it would be appropriate to read about our skeleton!
You heard it say...and I'll say it again - Teachers, work smarter NOT harder!!!
After my newcomers finished creating sentences based on their sketches of the story "Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah", (SEE LESSON HERE), I wanted my students to do something with their hard work.
THIS lesson here gave me a GREAT idea for our next lessons!
This lesson extension lead us to discuss "Big Ideas" found in the story, analyze visible and invisible traits, and compare and contrast ourselves to Emmanuel.
The "Big Ideas" were not a difficult process to explain since I presented them through a Jamboard, so my students quickly translated the ideas and were able to understand them. We sure practiced reading them in English and found sentences we had created to match each "Big Idea".
The list of "Big Ideas is in the lessons shared above on page #4. The handout is to compare and contrast, but I only had them complete the "Emmanuel" part.
The matching details supporting each idea had to come from the sentences students had already created; so, there wasn't any extra work to do besides analyzing the sentences and placing them on the corresponding "Big Idea".
One of my favorite and most impactful picture books I enjoy using to teach my newcomers is - "Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah" by Laurie Ann Thompson
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah's inspiring true story and the fantastic illustrations in the book are a great tool to not only teach English as a second language but also encourage our students to embrace who they are and believe in their abilities and potential.
The first thing I did was check with my public library to see how many books were available to check them out and use in our class. Eventually, I'll buy my own class set!!!
I LOVE highlighting and posting on Twitter and Instagram my students' work. Just like they are proud of their work, I'm proud of it too. So, last week, right after posting about my newcomers' fantastic writing, I received a question from a follower. She asked: "How are you able to get newcomers to produce that much written language? I am super curious!"
This question surprised me because I've worked with newcomers for years, and I don't have a problem getting my newcomers to produce written work - unless, the student is a SLIFE (students with limited formal education). -- But even like that, I've figured out ways for newcomers to produce written work that demonstrates their learning...see this lesson here.
Anyway, I thought I'd share here how my newcomers' written work was scaffolded so they demonstrate their full potential.
Picture Book Project
In my opinion, picture books are the best text we could use with newcomers that will provide the understanding and the language they need to be able to retell the story.
I started by sharing with my newcomers a list of guiding questions we were to use to help us understand and retell the story.
How much do you appreciate literacy? How do you encourage literacy in your family or with students? How do you demonstrate your love and passion for literacy?
These are questions that I would have not been able to answer during the first 15 years of my life. I attended school while living in Guatemala but I didn't appreciate how much the literacy I was learning in my home country was going to be the core and foundation to everything I have accomplished here in the USA. Read more about my journey here!
From the year I started working as a teacher assistant in 2004 to today -- Literacy has been something I've learned to embrace and enjoy. The foundations of the English language I learned sitting in a first-grade classroom as a teacher's assistance helped me understand how language works to make sense of words and use them to comprehend text and to write our own story.
As a friend, parent, teacher, sister, and aunt, I'm always looking for ways to encourage young children to read and write. One way I do this is by celebrating literacy on days that are nationally or internationally recognized - For example, there is National Multicultural Books Day (1/29), World Read Aloud (2/3), Library Lovers Day (2/14), National Write Your Story Day (3/14), Childre's Book Day (4/2), Día de los libros (4/30), National Book Lovers Day (8/9), National Read a Book Day (9/6), International Literacy Day (9/9), I Love to Write Day (11/15), etc!!
That's why tomorrow, September 8th, 2021 we are celebrating literacy in our English as a Second language classroom.
Exactly three years ago, I transferred to Concord High School after working 14 years in Elementary schools. Read more HERE about how and why I transferred!
Even though I've been at CHS for three years, this is the first time I get to attend our students' graduation ceremony. For the 2019 graduation ceremony, I had a scheduled trip to Mexico with the Go Global teachers team so I missed my first graduation ceremony. For the 2020 - the Covid19 pandemic hit and I was in quarantine the day of the ceremony so I missed it...again.
So, this year's graduation ceremony was very important to me. Because of the duty, I was assigned at the ceremony, I wasn't able to get all my students pictured and personally congratulate them. But, I did get a few - a few of my favorite newcomers, of course!
Pedro - I met Pedro during my first year at CHS. He had been in the USA for a year so he was not enrolled in my newcomers' course. Because he had only been in the US for a year, I made sure he received ESL support in his core instructional courses. I had so many chats with Pedro - Many of the conversations we had outside the classroom were about his behavior. He was just too silly! Everything was funny and he would make a joke of everything. I would have not had a problem with it if he was taking assignments seriously...but she wasn't. It wasn't until his senior year that I noticed Pedro began taking school more to heart. He was completing his assignments and his grades were doing well. Several times I'd see him in the hallways and he'd say "Have you seen my grades, Mrs. Francis? They're good!" - I can tell he was proud of his hard work and I made sure to let him know how proud I was of him too.
It was a joy watching him show up to the ceremony in his cap and gown.
Brandon - Brandon came to us my first year at CHS. Because he was enrolling for the first time in a US school, he was enrolled in my newcomers' course. Brandon didn't speak English - But this will not prevent him from enrolling in core instructional courses to graduate in 3 years since he enrolled as a Sophomore. It didn't take me long to realize Brandon's high potential. He was literate in Spanish and highly motivated to graduate high school and continue higher education. He completed his Sophomore year successfully but during his Junior year, the Covid pandemic hit. Attending virtual classes was very challenging for him. He withdrew from CHS and enrolled in a virtual academy school and lost track of him for a while. During our 2020 school year, Brandon decides to transfer back to CHS and hoping to graduate in 2021. It took guidance counselors several meetings to ensure they were enrolling him in the required courses for him to graduate on time with his peers. He had to take several online courses to fulfill the requirements, there were several emails, and messages, but he made it. Our only student from Uruguay was receiving his cap and gown and graduating and receiving his HS diploma.
Juan - Juan came to us at CHS in September 2019. As soon as he enrolled, he was placed in my newcomers' course because he was new to the US school system. However, I very quickly noticed his high English proficiency. I administered the initial English placement test and his scores - especially the reading, which was very high. He ended the semester with me but didn't need to be in ESL for newcomers during his last year in HS.
Juan was enrolled as a Senior since he brought his transcript with all the credits required to be placed in 12th grade. All he needed to graduate were the ENG and American Histories (with a few electives) to graduate in 2021. He finished the year strong - regardless of the pandemic and balancing hybrid learning - By June 2021, Juan was crossing the stage to obtain his HS diploma!
Jorge - Jorge came to CHS in January 2020. He was enrolled in my newcomers' course because he hasn't been in the US for many years. Jorge was born in the US but his parents took him to Mexico when he was little. He returned to the US for a year or two while he was in middle school but returned to Mexico till he was 18. His parents sent him to the US so he can finish his HS, obtain his diploma, and work to help the family.
Not only did Jorge bring with him all the transcript and credits required to be in 12th grade, but he also had a high English proficiency. His initial screener didn't reflect his high proficiency but just a month after his arrival, I administered the 2020 WIDA ACCESS test. I explained to him how important the test is and how I believed he can do much better this time around.
Well, he blew my mind! He didn't place out of the ESL program, but he did score very high in reading - So high that he didn't qualify for testing accommodations because of this high score.
Of course, teachers were made aware of his circumstances and they all worked with him to make sure that he was accessing content and receiving any classroom modifications necessary for his success.
Just three months in HS and the schools in the US shut down due to the Covid19 virus. This forced him to work full time since he was not attending school. He was a very responsible student tho. He always completed his assignments and his grades were always great.
For our 2020 school year, students were required to return to school if they were in the ESL program. He was working and the money he was making was helping the family. He was about to drop out of HS to just work - But, luckily he realized how difficult it is to work under the sun - countless hours without a profession. After discussing it with his parents and family, Jorge returned to campus full time and finished the school year strong. I was thrilled to see him crossing the stage to get a diploma he worked very hard to obtain.
Former Elementary Student
That's it! The school year 2020-2021 comes to an END - 😭
Dear CHS Students:
There's no doubt that this school year brought us many - MANY challenges. We started our school year with so many unknowns and unanswered questions. Not only were we fighting a pandemic; but, there was so much uncertainty on how school was going to happen since schools across the US were still closed.
We began our school year learning how to use Microsoft Teams - the new platform we used to connect remotely. This platform was new to us all. I must say you were very patient with your teachers. Hopefully, all teachers were patient with you too.
Throughout the school year, we had five first days of school - WOW! Between remote learning, hybrid, and face-2-face - These five first days of schools served as fresh starts for us. Some quarters in both semesters were better than others, but we made it.
I sure hope you took advantage of the support offered throughout the school year. We know you cannot do this alone. Coaches, resource staff, guidance counselors, and teachers were all available to help you through. I sure hope you NEVER find yourself alone in this HS journey.
Congratulations on making it to the end! I have several of you moving on and entering the workforce or college life. Wherever you go - You will always have a place in our hearts.
I hope you are proud of yourself as much as we are proud of YOU! If, by chance, you faced failures this school year - IT'S OKAY! Failures should serve as stepping stones to do even greater things.
Please, stay safe over the summer and stay connected - Be sure to follow me on my teacher pages!
Facebook: Mrs. Francis' ESL Class
Your ESL teacher,
I had two class meeting days left with our newcomers, and I wanted to do something productive. As an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, when I think of rich lessons, I think of activities that will make my students think critically, move around, use all language domains (speaking, listening, reading, and writing), and learn!
At first, I thought about showing movie clips about mystery or suspense movies. I could have had them identify story elements like characters, settings, problems, solutions, and describing the plot - which is what we did using text. But, I didn't want my newcomers to get the idea that I wanted them to watch movies as we end our school year. I also didn't want my colleges to see my newcomers watching movies instead of doing productive work.
So, what better than End-of-School Year reflection questions?!? Most of my students were face-to-face, but I had four student who were learning virtually. Hybrid teaching is challenging when you are trying to have an interactive and engaging lesson. But, technology comes to the rescue in times like this! I've taught my newcomers how to use google slides, Jamboard, and how to navigate our course Canvas page.
"When people say we don't want to reinvent the wheel, I stop listening: I want to reinvent the wheel!" D. Ed Hoggatt
For the most part, I agree when people say - "don't reinvent the wheel..." - Not reinventing the wheel has saved me so much time. I've learned a lot from other educators. However, when it comes to working with newcomers, you can't just use the wheels you find -- somehow, you must reinvent it to make it fit with the group of students you're teaching. You know - personalizing your lesson for a better outcome.
So, if I wanted my students to answers great end-of-year reflection questions, I quickly began searching for what other educators have created.
These were the two web pages I found useful to do what I needed.
I created a google slides presentation so it'd look presentable and colorful. Each slide had a question in big font to emphasize its importance. You can access the slides below!
Two reasons why google slides are useful with this activity:
My face-to-face students received colorful sticky-note pads to answer each question.They placed their answers on a chart paper that had all the questions.
My virtual students received a link to a Jamboard where they answered on a sticky note for each question.
Here is the Jamboard if you'd like to make a copy and use it with your students.
Students were all engaged. Not only were the questions open-ended so they could share their thoughts openly, but it created a stress-free time for students to share their voices.
Several of their answers will serve to make some adjustments as the support they need for the next school year. A great educator should ALWAYS make room for improvements - especially when students are giving feedback.
I also learned a few new things about each student - especially the two newcomers who had only been with us for a week or two. The activity outcome made me happy. I almost cried when I saw a few of them mentioning me in their answers.
Needless to say, we wrapped our last day with a group picture and selfies. See pictures HERE.
What feels like the end
Thank you for reading!
Amplifying the Voices of Unaccompanied Minors Virtual Conference
When & Where:
July 21, 2021
10:00 am – 1:00 pm CDT
What it is:
Amplifying the Voices of Unaccompanied Minors is an opportunity for teachers and school leaders to hear from those who have lived the experience as an unaccompanied minor in the American school system.
As our newcomers' course comes to an end, I began thinking of ways to make time and space for students to demonstrate their full potential. One way students, regardless of their English proficiency, can be by creating something to demonstrate their ability to put together all the skills and elements we've learned for several weeks.
When I think about students creating something, the first resource & platform that comes to mind is WriteReader.
I've used WriteReader for years. I've used it with elementary students and now with high school students. It's a student-friendly platform and easy to use for teachers. Once you create your teacher account, you add students to your class list.
So, as a culminating course project, my newcomers were to write their own mystery/suspense story after reading a couple of stories from Saddleback - To read about the lessons that lead to this final project. You can read blog post #1 HERE and blog post #2 HERE.
Lesson #3 - End-of-Course Project
The idea for this project was to provide an opportunity for students to show understanding of the story elements we had learned over several lessons. Elements such as characters, settings, problems, solutions, character development, and plot.
These elements may seem like a simple list for students to learn, but the key here is to use the elements in English. To be able to understand and respond using the English language.
I didn't want to overwhelm my students with so many instructions and/or rubrics for this project; though I believe a rubric would've been great to hold them accountable with all the required elements. Instead, I gave students a list of elements to include in their story. All the elements listed were items we had analyzed in previously read stories, so I knew they would have not struggled to understand and following the list.
Click HERE for a copy of the elements checklist for students' story
Each student received a copy of the checklist to use as self-check for what they needed to include in their story.
I showed students my own suspense story and highlighted every element in the checklist. Because the platform is student-friendly, it didn't take long to show them and explain how to create their book.
Several students shared their excitement to invent their own stories. Some talked about writing a suspense story based on a personal event. I thought this idea was fantastic. Using funds of knowledge is a great thing in our classrooms. It's just what we want our students to do - to use background and personal experiences to demonstrate their full potential.
Publishing Our Stories:
It didn't take long for students to begin writing their stories. I even had a student complete her story in 24 hours!
The day our project was due, I read aloud each story. As I finished reading each of their stories, I complimented them and praised them for their hard work. We went through each student's checklist to ensure they had all the required elements.
It was so much fun reading their stories.
If you'd like to read their mystery/suspense stories, please do so and share your thoughts.
Yocnaly's story: Amelia's Last Night
Yaquelin: What's Behind that Door
Abi: The Cabin
Citlali: What's in that Room
Guadalupe: What Happened to Everyone
Luis: The Mysterious Parota
Yousef: Missing Money
Samantha: Abigail's Reality
Leslie: Mikey's Graduation
Athalia: Fear in the Dream
Students were encouraged to use an electronic translator or write in their home language. As I read each story, I provided feedback edit ideas. All students published their work in English. I even had a couple of students whose stories were so long - They shared with me how excited they were about publishing their own stories and that once they started writing, they couldn't stop.
It was amazing to see how into writing they all were. Even my virtual students were super engaged!
I appreciate platforms like WriteReader that allow students to discover their love for reading and writing.
I also love having books like Saddleback books that not only helped developed my students' reading skills.
Have you used any of these resources? If so, share with me how you've used it. I'd love to add tools to my toolbox.
I cannot wait to show these books to my students next school year. I'm so proud of their hard work.
Thank you for reading!
I was thrilled to see how well our newcomers did while learning character development. But more so, I was excited to hear how much they enjoyed reading the stories and how well they understood them.
I have so much faith in the hard work Saddleback puts into each and every book that makes it to our classrooms. I enjoy using these books to teach our newcomers.
This blog post is a continuation of a previous post - to read about lesson #1, click HERE.
After our prediction, I read the story out loud while students followed along and tracking the text. There were some comprehension checks while reading just to make sure students were following along.
After reading the story we identified a list of characters and settings and used this list to create complete sentences - Our sentences were simple but they were able to create them themselves and read aloud on their own. See Jamboard slides 7-11 to see students' independent work.
Comparing and contrasting stories:
To teach the concept and the language of compare and contrast, I used this image of an orange and an apple. Students were able to tell me how these two items compare (similar/same) & how these items contrast (different/not the same) - It was a fun activity and students were engaged blurting out answers.
Once students understood the concept of comparing and contrasting, we were ready to begin tackling our stories. I began by showing students the stories side by side just like the fruits in the example above and shared one similarity and one difference between the stories. We made sure that anything we added was found in the text and not just our inferences.
Once I modeled, I let students help me out by sharing one more similarity and difference. This gave an idea of their understanding of the assignment.
See students' independent work completed on pages 14th - 19th.
To see the entire Jamboard, click HERE.
This activity gave me a good idea of their text comprehension. By providing text evidence and placing them in the correct box, I can tell that comprehension took place therefore language acquisition happened too!
Be sure to check our next lesson when we create our own stories using the elements we learned in these two stories we read.
If you have a different way to teach compare and contrast, please, share it in the comments. I'd love to learn from you and add tools to my toolbox.
Click HERE to read Part 3
Thank you for reading!
I cannot believe I am sharing our end-of-course lessons and project! This year, though like no other, went by so fast. So, here we are admiring how far our newcomers had come.
This school year, I had a couple of ESL student teachers so I didn't plan as many lessons for our newcomers as I usually do.
Though there were so many challenges this school year - teaching with masks, social distancing, balancing hybrid teaching and learning, and so much more; I'm glad we made it through successfully.
I started taking over my newcomers class in mid-April and I was so excited to do so. Since one of my student teachers was still teaching my class, I'd one day teach students on campus and another day I'd teach students online.
Of course, my first go-to resource as I began planning was Saddleback books! We read two books that lead to our end-of-year project.
We started by reading aloud "New Girl" - a mystery story part of the Engage Saddleback kit.
Halfway through the reading, students did a drag & drop activity identifying the characters (names) and settings (places) in our story.
Once we completed the story, we played a scratch and text-match activity. Newcomers need to see and hear the text and be able to find it within the book.
I gave them a list of sentences that describe the conflict (problem) & the clues in the story. We read them out loud and practice reading by ourselves. This was a great reading practice for all.
For accountability, each student had their page to show work and engagement. See Jamboard pages 3-7.
To explain character development, we discussed how characters change throughout the story. To identify these changes, we look at how the characters' feelings (emotions) change from the beginning of the story to the end. We look at the characters' words (what he says) that show change in character. And we look closely at the characters' actions (what they do).
I thought the images would help them understand what I was explaining.
Together we worked on identifying how our character Cole developed throughout the story. Our focus was: