One way to help our students become strong readers and writers is by providing them with books to read. We cannot expect our students to embrace reading and grow academically and linguistically if they do not have the resources to do it.
This is why I am always trying out different ways to get books in my students' hands! Through Donor's Choose, Amazon wish list, and asking for donations, I've obtained books for students to read. And not just books, but compelling books, authentic books, and text that my newcomers CAN access, especially when they are attending school in a hybrid model (synchronous and Asynchronous).
So, when Saddleback Education Publishing reached out to me and invited me to try out their new digital books platform with my students, I was super excited. Not only because it's material I am familiar with, but because these are books my students are familiar with too. We've used these books pre-COVID, and they knew how helpful this resource can be.
I knew they were going to be as excited as I was.
Navigating the New Saddleback Digital Platform
Once I was familiar with their easy-to-navigate platform, I began creating our first lessons for my newcomers. I couldn't wait to introduce the Saddleback Digital platform to them as a new resource to read and learn. To get my students comfortable with the platform, before sharing our lesson, I gave them the link to the digital platform and provided them with a class login and code I had created.
Students logged in and clicked around looking at all the books available to read. As students clicked around, I was able to help students who needed a little more guidance getting into the platform. It is not complicated to get in, but if students attend school virtually, this might be a little more challenging to see if they are entering the correct information. Once students were all logged in, we played a game. The game consisted of a scavenger hunt. This was just to get students used to navigating the platform without any issues.
Our First Lesson Using Saddleback Digital Platform
Our first lesson was all about school language since we had students who had never been to a USA school and or not familiar with a specific USA school structure.
Since we had students who were new to a USA school and were unfamiliar with our USA school's structure, our first lesson was about school language.
Slide one: To explain the difference between one and the other, I had one slide where I explained how some books are stories made up by the author and how some books are research teaching us about a topic. Using images of books, I had students access the slides and sorted the book covers based on the category we thought they should be placed.
We used sentences like:
I think the book ___________ is fiction because _______________.
I think the book ___________ is nonfiction because _____________.
After modeling one or two books, students were all able to take turns and share a sentence.
Slide two: I introduced the two books we were focusing on for the following days and had them find each book on their own and scanned the book to get an idea about the content.
Slide three: I took this idea straight from the teacher's manual but because students were not on campus, I couldn't use the worksheet (and I don't like worksheets). As we read the text, we completed our informational web with all the details from the text. I'd read the text aloud first, then I'd have students read after me a couple of sentences at a time.
The slides were completed by students with my guidance while sharing my screen and supporting them in finding the information. It was a great way for me to see who was paying attention and who was understanding what the text was teaching us.
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!
The Bilingual/ESL Department at Region 10 ESC in North TX holds an annual symposium for their 500+ educators. This year, due to the COVID pandemic, the event was help virtually.
I was honored and humbled to be invited as their 2020 Symposium 'Power Of Unity' keynote speaker. I was so excited to connect and meet so many passionate educators who are working hard to provide their very best for all students.
The keynote presentation was on June 23rd and it was a way to kick-off the symposium - teachers had a long day of sessions to attend right after the keynote.
My presentation title was 'Shifting from Statistics to Stories'
The presentation was streamed LIVE so you can find the recorded version on my YouTube channel below.
Last week I found out about International Children's Book Day - a wonderful worldwide celebration.
I immediately started looking into it - If you know me...you'd know that I am passionate about children's books. I love picture books. I used them when I taught elementary with students in Kindergarten through 5th grade and now I use them with my newcomer high school students.
There's just something magical about a children's books & picture book. I've used them to teach all genres and I've found that students connect with these books and encourages them to learn more.
So, as soon as I found out that International children's Book Day is celebrated on April 2nd, 2020 - I started brainstorming about what book to focus on. Of course, all my cultural and diverse background book collection is in my classroom and there was no way I was going to be allowed in the building to get some.
So I started digging through the books I have at home found a book author John Seidlitz sent me. I had not taken the time to read it so I started reading it...and...Oh...EM...Geeeeee! I started crying while reading it. I couldn't believe there was such an amazing book on my bookshelf and I have not read it!!!
High-Impact Literacy Instruction for ELL Students
I wanted to share with you this amazing opportunity to learn ways to support your English language learners. Bret Gosselin from TX and I will be joining literacy expert Shaelynn Farnsworth on a webinar to share effective practices to support students with reading and writing.
Here's what you'll learn:
Participants will learn creative ways to build relationships and community, specific literacy instructional practices and strategies to implement in the classroom, and advice on how to measure achievement growth in EL learners. We’ll also be sharing tools and tech that you can use in your classroom, inclusive to EL learners, along with writing assignments designed to grow great writers.
The webinar will be on Wednesday, March 18th at 5:00 pm ET.
To register follow this link!
I hope you join us! Please comment below if you registered and share your thoughts after attending our webinar.
A recording will be posted the day after. A link to the recorded webinar will be posted here as well.
Thank you for reading!
In Stories That Sparkle Powerful Conversations blog post, I shared a lesson I started with our SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Educations) ELs. This lesson led to another wonderful week where students created a wonderful presentation to show the rest of the class.
All our newcomer ELs are expected to present their learning in our ESL class, of course, the bar remains high for SIFEs. Just like Kanako Suwa says,
"Simplifying is GIVING UP, Scaffolding is BELIEVING.
Simplifying is dumbing down/lowering expectations.
Scaffold = same expectations and content + supports put in place to help Ss meet the expectations."
With the understanding that these students are capable of more - I encouraged them to create their own book using the sentences they had formed from the book Dreamers.
My students were very excited when they noticed that they were creating their own book using the information they understood.
Both students were able to create and publish their own book but only one student had the strength to record the reading. It does take a lot of courage to do this knowing that your voice is being heard by others and you're not sure of yourself in the targeted language.
So the platform I use to publish my students' stories is WriteReader. This platform is student-friendly and it can be used by students K-12.
One of my students used the camera to take some pictures of the book that matched his text, another student took photographs of her own illustrations.
Here's Yousef's book: DREAMERS (link includes voice/reading)
Here's Abril's book: DREAMERS
Both of my students did a great job and they are very proud of the work they accomplished.
You see, it really doesn't take much to help our English learners (and SIFE) to perform at their highest potential.
If you choose to use this platform to publish your students' stories, please let me know! I'd live to share them with my students as well.
Thank you so much for reading!
I wanted to share with you a couple of lessons my newcomer ELs enjoyed this month.
Students had fun finishing up these lessons and they learned a lot. Their final project was amazing and very creative!
We started reading a couple of articles. One article was an article we read during small group guided reading, and the other was an article they read as a group. Both articles highlight the journey of teenagers who had to leave their home country to reunite with family in the USA.
The two articles we used were: "Running from Danger, Looking for Hope" from Scholastic Action magazines & "15-Year-Old Waiting Months in Shelter to Join Mother in California" from NewsELA.
If you need some ideas as to how to read articles with high-level text with newcomer ELs, check out this post with some scaffolding tips.
This post is a follow up to "Stories that Sparkle Powerful Conversations" - If you have not read it, I encourage you to read it since it provides the background you may need for this post.
My advanced newcomer English learners were assigned the picture book 'Refugees and Migrants' by Ceri Roberts. This book covers migration from its causes to what we can do to aid refugees. It covers life in refugee camps, about the application process for asylum.
You can see their presentation below. They did an excellent job providing important details, their thoughts, and visuals.
What you can't see in their presentation was the result of their presentation. As they were sharing their thoughts on the videos and the immigration topic, students began to cry all around the room.
You see, I have several students (including me) who immigrated to the USA just like the book and their videos showed.
Their presentation stirred up in us so many feelings we keep inside. Our immigrant experiences, regardless of what you experienced, mark our lives forever. Some feelings are happy, some are painful feelings, and some you can't even talk about.
When overwhelmed with emotions...tears help!
There was not a dry eye in the room. We all cried. We all hugged. We all shared. I even had a student share with me a video of him and his mother crossing the river to make it to the USA. THIS was when I lost it! I started thinking about how hard this particular student works EVERYDAY and how his teachers are only concern about his grades...when in his mind and heart THIS is what's going on.
Students hugged me and said, "Mrs. Francis, don't cry". But how can you NOT cry when you know your students are dealing with so much in their personal life.
We heard stories of concentration centers, stories of reasons why we left our home country. Stories of hope. Stories of resilience and strength.