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!
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 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:
Did you know that students are NEVER too old to enjoy a picture book? This article here tells you more. Even adults can learn from picture books - I do!
The book Dreamers, written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, is a stunning picture book with an amazing story about an immigrant mother and her baby immigrating to the US. While discussing it with our newcomer students, I began placing sticky-notes everywhere with all the ideas and thoughts that were rushing through my mind. Here is what I was thinking:
Packing Our Culture
I was 15 years old when I was asked to pack-up a backpack with a couple of outfits and whatever else I could fit in and carry with me on a journey from Guatemala to the USA.
I remember looking around the room and packing a few photographs and recuerditos (keepsakes) I didn't want to leave behind.
I do not doubt that many immigrants experience this moment when they have to decide what to pack and bring along their migration journey. Besides packing the essentials, many of us pack something that will remind us of the world we are leaving behind, representing our country, homeland, and believes.
Just like we pack-up objects, we also pack-up our identity within us and hold on to it as tight as possible because we know it is what makes us who we are. The things we pack-up within us are experiences, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, family, foods, music, culture, heritage, and more. All this builds our individuality.
Yuyi Morales narrates this personal experience perfectly in this image. We see how her backpack includes a jatana, a pencil, nature items, and Señor Calavera. If you follow Yuyi's Instagram account, you'd see how these objects represent her identity. Objects that she carried with her as she crossed over the Mexican border to come to the USA. And just like we see in her book, the objects that represented her identity were kept safe and packed up because they were being protected or perhaps they stayed packed up because she didn't feel like her individuality would fit in the new culture.
In Dreamers, we see the characters trying to blend in and function in a new country and culture but with a substantial struggle to be who they are.
I experienced this as well, and so do many immigrant students and individuals who come to the United States. While many of us love our home culture, our language, and everything about our heritage, society tells us that to function successfully, we must keep our background packed up and blend in the American culture and master the English language to be successful.
For many of us, it'll be years and years till we realize that our culture, language, and heritage are valuable and core to who we are.
For others, this realization will never happen - and heritage, language, and culture will be lost. To me, this is a sad reality that will hinder many generations.
Opportunities to Unpack
As an immigrant myself, I can tell you how intimidating it is to be yourself and unpack our background for all to see.
You look around, and everything is new and different. You listen around, you and all you hear is the new language -- a language you don't yet understand.
However, there are ways to embrace the differences while still appreciating what is packed within us and show them to the world.
Here are a few of them:
Having our culture and heritage unpacked is just the most wonderful feeling. How do you know your culture, language, and heritage is unpacked? - When you celebrate it, appreciate it, and embrace it. When you do not fear what others will say about who you are, how you speak, or what you're wearing. When you begin to find a place in your new home, you understand that we have more similarities than differences and contribute to society to create a beautifully diverse culture.
As we were reading this book with my student, we both had different takeaways from the text. Yousef here was able to draw what he understood what was happening in the story, then retell the story using his own words. He was able to personally connect with several parts in the story and was very confident understanding it because the images speak so much.
I am encouraged to write my takeaways because he did the same!
If you have read this book and would like to share your takeaways with me, please share them with me. I'd love to hear about your experience with this amazing book. Or if there is another book that would share these same ideas, I'd love to know of it.
Remember YOU matter! Your culture matters, your language matters, your heritage matters. So, showcase it...display for all to see and appreciate it.
Thank you for reading!
On November 26th, 2019, I received an email from Alex Granados, a Senior Reporter for EducationNC. His email stated that he was "working on a series about "rock star" teachers...who are considered particularly beloved, effective, or innovative..." and he wanted to come to my school to learn more about me and my students.
Of course, we were thrilled to welcome him to our school and see our classes and students in action.
On December 4th, 2019, Mr. Granados visited our ESL classroom and was able to see my newcomers and my instruction in action!
My students were all working at their seats working on other class assignments and/or an assignments I had provided.
Meanwhile, I was pulling small groups to provide individualized and personalized instruction.
Mr. Granados interviewed me, observed my students, and met with my principal, Dr. Auerbach.
While Mr. Granados was in the room, we took a minute to cheer and celebrate one of our students. Oliver had just received a letter from the NC superintendent congratulating him for a recent recognition as Athlete of the Week for the Charlotte Observer.
I share this with you because I LOVE it (and students do too) when we are highlighted and featured for what we do best...learning and building a culture where the possibilities as endless!
My Favorite part of the article is this:
"Sitting in her classroom, one can see how that experience translates into a personal connection. The students work on their ESL assignments. But they also work on homework from their other classes, periodically checking in with Francis to ask questions or seek advice. The students chat with her in a way that is rare for students to interact with teachers.
“If I didn’t have my struggles and experiences, I wouldn’t be as effective as I am,” Francis said."
So, here is the beautiful article Mr. Granados featured on us! Enjoy!
An immigrant’s dream to be a teacher: Emily Francis of Cabarrus County
This school year, my English for Beginners class is quite different than last year's class. This year I have a lot more newcomers <1 year in the USA than I did last school year.
Just in case you didn't know, this is only my second year teaching HS ESL and I'm loving it!
One of the challenges I am facing this school year is having so many different levels of English proficiency in one class. This is a challenge when planning one whole group lessons and not all your students are at the same level on the proficiency continuum.
My biggest group is in the entering stages of the continuum (Level 1), a couple in the beginning stages (Level 2), and another group of 5 students are in the developing stages (Level 3).
Of course providing whole group instruction would not provide all with the needed support to grow linguistically. I've tried a couple of lessons but I still had to end up diving students in the corresponding groups to work with students at their level.
So what I started doing is working in small groups! I started assigning them readings and projects as groups and they work with peers completing the assignment if they are not in a group with me. These assignments could be assigned by language domain or a project of choice.
I created this Wakelet with resources they can use to help them practice each language domain.
"Before planning any academic content, it is important to get to know our students and try to put ourselves in their shoes." - Sarah Ottow
August 26th, 2019 was the first day of school for students in my county. What an exciting day to finally meet all our new freshman students and to see returning students. I was more so thrilled to finally meet our 2019-2020 newcomer students who enrolled in the USA school system for the very first time.
I am not sure how a high school schedule is set up in other counties/states, but at our school, we offer only one period class strictly for English as a Second Language (ESL) services. The rest of our period classes are inclusion classes where our ESL services are provided at the same time core instruction is provided. This means that for one period students come to my classroom and for the other three periods you'll find me in different classrooms throughout the building supporting English learners. The only class period we offer in our ESL classroom is the English for Beginners course.
This course is designed with newcomer English learners in mind. In this class period, newcomers receive the foundations of the English language as well as any cultural views and lessons students may need to begin a successful and strong year in the United States.
To get an idea of what my day looks like, check out my daily schedule here!
So this is it! We made it!!
Today, Monday, June 10th, 2019, was the last meeting class with newcomers at Concord High School. It's a happy day because I get to see, hear, and read how much English my students have learned. This, of course, brings joy to my heart since I had them from day one as newcomer students in the USA.
But as happy as this day can be - there's also sadness. My heart feels heavy knowing that they will no longer be in room #225 with me.
English for Beginners is a course our school/county designed to provide the foundations of the English language our students need to be able to fully engage in our school, and mainstream classrooms. We meet every day for 90 minutes and we create an environment where risk-taking and changes are supported.
I have students who started the school year with only enough English to understand questions such as "What's your name?" - Today, they were writing complete sentences and sharing with peers how far they've come.
Of course, I couldn't just say good-bye and not have any memories written to show the world how awesome our class was this school year. So...we created our own presentation with moments that are forever in our mind and heart.