Follow the Research
Follow the research!
The first time I heard/read about Virginia P. Collier’s research on second language acquisition was during my first English as a Second Language course in college.
I was blown away by the research that language, culture, and academic development MUST be supported SIMULTANEOUSLY not in isolation.
Read “Promoting Academic Success for ESL Students” book to learn more about this research and more.
As soon as I began working as an ESL teacher, I began practicing this research & sharing it with my colleagues.
I came to realize that to practice this research, collaboration with mainstream educators was IMPERATIVE.
My first co-teaching experience was intimidating but wonderful. We even ended up looping from 4th grade to 5th grade with our students — The best co-teaching years I've ever had at the elementary level with Ms. Culbreth.
Today, during a webinar (which I highly recommend) I was reminded of this important research— just look at the data in the image below. And though this well-known research across the US is on dual language education, I can't help but be drawn to the ESL pull-out services and its results.
Pulling students out of their mainstream classroom, beyond second-grade, to provide ESL services is detrimental & IT DOESN’T WORK.
I worked with elementary school children and from Kindergarten grades to 2nd grade, students didn't complain about coming to my ESL classroom. However, students in 3rd grade through 5th grade, would prefer staying in the classroom and working in small groups with me. They felt part of the classroom community. They knew they belonged and were different than their peers.
As my co-teachers and I planned our small group instructions, we intentionally grouped our ESL students mixed in with all students. Our book clubs and group services were so much fun.
So, here're some of the strategies that have worked as I worked with ESL students in mainstream classrooms:
This is just my 11th year teaching ESL so I am still learning and practicing. I'd LOVE to hear from you! What are your thoughts? Are you familiar with this research? How are you practicing this research? What services do you find more effective and why?
Please, share your answers in the comments below and I'll be happy to reply to you.
Thank you so much for reading!
One Word 2023
"One Word isn't about WHAT but WHO. Who do you want to become, not what you want to accomplish?" ~ Dan Britton
I LOVE this time of year - time of reflection and planning. Time to analyze what went well and what can get better. I'm not tough on myself. I know life is life and things happen. Sometimes things go as planned, some other times they just go the opposite of what we planned.
Anyway, while reflecting on 2022 and my #OneWord, I can see how this word really came alive. Many things unfolded in my life. I became an author, I started serving students mainly in an inclusion model, my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary...and so much more that is UNFOLDING!
I had a busy year. I know I did. But it really hit me when I read my daughter's Christmas card message. "I know you have been busy this year so I hope you like what I got you."
This message coming from my 8 year-old really got to me. It made me stop and think how many times have I told her "I'm busy" and put other things before her. Or how busy had I've beed that she didn't reach out to me because she knew I was "busy".
Anyway, as I was thinking about my #OneWord2023, I wanted a word that would help me with the "being busy" reflection.
I don't think I am stopping what I'm woking on since my book just released. What I can do is BE. Unapologetically BE who I want to BE and also BE present.
Thank you for reading!
A Year of PLC
"Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life." – Amy Poehler
What a year!! In October 2021, I started meeting virtually with a group of teachers of newcomers who are interested in learning new strategies, and gain lessons ideas to serve and teach their newcomers. I have a list of over 300 teachers who monthly receive an invitation to meet and learn together. Of course, not all teacher attend, but sessions are recorded and I know MANY go back and catch up on the recording.
Our monthly meeting routine is basically the same every time. We have an expert and guest speaker share for 30-40 minutes then we go into grade-level breakout rooms to discuss deeper about the topic.
In our breakout room, we have a shared document where we make notes of any ideas or resources we lean about from each other.
I am so grateful to amazing and superheroes in the field who have agreed to join us and share their expertise with us. We are better because of their teaching and guidance.
A HUGE shoutout to these amazing #PLC4newcomers’ superstars who shared with us from November 2021 to December 2022.
If you are interested in watching our previous meetings, follow this link to my YouTube channel ===> https://bit.ly/PLCplaylist
We are continuing these meetings in 2023. If you'd like to joining our PLC email list, please enter your information HERE and I will make sure you're invited to our next meetings.
Be sure to check out these amazing presentations and follow our SUPERSTARS!!
November - Supporting Struggling Learners with Patricia Vitale-Reilly -- @pattyvreilly
December - Does This Work with English Learners? Holly Genova -- @GenovaHollyAnn
January - Language Lens with Sarah B. Ottow -- @SarahOttow
March - Re-Imagining Migration with Adam Strom -- @afstrom
March/April -- Ramadan with Abeer Ramadan-Shinnawi - @shinram1
May - Wild About WIDA with Courtney Morgan -- @MrsMorganTeach
June - Celebrating Us with Lee Perez - @LanguagePerez
October 2022 -- Boosting Achievement with Carol Salva -- @DrCarolSalva
November 2022 - Engaging Families with Hannah Levister -- @HannahL_MLP
December 2022 - Sense of Belonging with Valentina Gonzalez -- @ValentinaESL
If you watch any of these fantastic presentations and find it helpful, please share a comment with me. I'd love to know how we're impacting YOU and your students.
Thank you for reading and watching!
#T2T Feature Post
This post first appeared on Teacher2Teacher website on November 30th, 2022 HERE
Buddy Systems & Beyond: 4 Ways To Make Classrooms Inclusive for ELL Students
As a longtime ELL teacher and inclusion co-teacher I work alongside content-area teachers to develop more welcoming experiences for our ELL students.
I traveled to the United States as a child with my family from Guatemala. Having lived the experience of learning English as a student, I have an instant understanding of what my ELL students are experiencing. But I know that many teachers don’t share that background. It can be a new way of thinking for teachers: What does a student who is learning English need in order to be successful in a general education setting? What does a student need to feel truly included in our learning communities?
Every teacher I know wants their classroom to feel comfortable and supportive for students. Here are 4 ways my teacher colleagues and I build those communities.
4 Ways To Include ELL Students in Your Learning Community
1. Create student learning profiles to communicate strengths and needs across teacher teams.
Last year, our team of ELL teachers collaborated with general education teachers to create student profiles that would be passed on to the next year’s teaching team. Our thinking was that after spending a full school year learning about the strengths and needs of our students, we’d gathered valuable information that could benefit those students moving forward.
We pulled some of the information stored in our school systems about each student, we added a photo and then described our students’ academic strengths and needs along with accommodations that each student found supportive. We shared what we knew about the students’ English speaking and listening skills, and which tools, like Google Translate, they used to help them.
At the beginning of the school year, we shared links to the profiles so teachers could glance at the photos and pick up some information even as they were still learning students’ names. Teachers would say, “Oh, I didn’t know Ani uses Google translate.”
The student data stored in our school system is full of numbers and information that can be a lot for a teacher to absorb about every new student. These profiles distilled the essential information, going beyond official records to highlight approaches recommended by one teacher to another. It cut down the ramp-up time at the beginning of the year, so students and teachers could hit the ground running.
2. Build trust and develop “buddy systems.”
In language-inclusion classrooms, our ELL students have the chance to learn alongside their peers and practice their English skills. One of the accommodations that can be required for immigrant students is to have a classroom buddy, and this works best when a sense of shared responsibility for one another’s learning is built in the classroom. Buddy systems can be so valuable, because we want our ELLs to work using the English language, but if they don’t have trust with the person you pair them with, then there’s going to be no communication at all. Teachers should develop a list of students who can share the responsibility students share as learners.
To identify potential buddies, teachers can create a Google form where students can express the level of support they are willing to share with peers. Maybe one would like to show the student around the building, maybe another student would like to go over class procedures, or another student could go over classwork and homework requirements. Students will feel more comfortable when all this important information comes from peers who are learning just like they are. As teachers, our job isn’t just to help our ELL students, but to build a community in which students support each other.
3. Try to shift perspective to understand students’ behavior.
The majority of the teachers who were born here have totally different lived experiences than our students, and that can lead to misunderstandings. So much of being an effective teacher for ELL students comes down to the empathy to imagine what it’s like to walk in a student’s shoes.
For example, a content teacher recently said that two of the ELL students in her class were “copying” each other’s work. I talked with her about how, from her perspective, “copying” an assignment is wrong, but I encouraged her to look at it from the students’ perspective. I said, “They don’t know English, and they’re trying to participate and meet your expectations. So, helping each other is actually collaboration, because they want to do the work and be active members of the classroom community.” The teacher immediately understood, and she began to reinterpret the moment from the students’ point of view. It was a moment of growth.
As teachers, we may not always have the opportunity to learn about every student’s full experience. But we can take the time to learn about immigrant experiences through reading books and having conversations. We can try to imagine: What would I do if I were sitting in a classroom where I didn’t understand the language, but I wanted to engage? That type of thinking can inspire small changes that support our students.
4. Tap into your resources for your own growth, and be willing to be vulnerable.
Now that I’ve moved into a full-time co-teaching role, I’m so impressed when teachers come to me with questions like, “Can you help me? I don’t have experience with ELL students. I don’t know how to approach this.” That’s being honest. I’m so grateful when teachers are willing to be vulnerable. Many schools and districts have resources available for teachers who want to grow in their ELL skill set, from ELL coaches and co-teachers like me to robust information-sharing systems.
Many states and districts are also forming Teacher Networks where teachers of Multilingual learners or experts in language acquisition are gathering information and sharing resource hubs such as shared documents, websites with tools, book studies, and Twitter chats for learning. Some districts use the ELLevation platform. Not only does it house our ELL data, but it also provides a strategic component, where teachers can acquire activities to make content accessible and have more ELLs engaged in content and language learning.
It can be hard to admit that something is beyond our expertise, but it’s so powerful. Coaches like me can do a lot more to support a teacher who is asking for help from that space of vulnerability. And I can return vulnerability in exchange, knowing that I may not know about math content, but I can offer strategies for sharing that content with our students. And isn’t that vulnerability what we ask of our students every day?
Thank you for reading!
Their Story, Our Legacy
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.
2022 IMMIGRANT STUDENT SUCCESS
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!
Reviews Are In
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!!
Narrative Inspired by Poetry
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
Book Cover Reveal
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!
Wrong Sense of Belonging
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,
The Power of PLC
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!!
Final Exams Can Be Fun
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!!
Independent Book Report
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 --
Spooky & Sweet Lessons
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!
Gig Ideas and More
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".
Sketching and Writing
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!!!
Getting Newcomers to Write
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.
Literacy Day 2021
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.
Newcomers' 2021 Graduation
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
End-of-School Year 20-21
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!