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!
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.
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.
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:
Co-teaching according to Wenzlaff et al. (2002) is described as “two or more individuals who come together in a collaborative relationship for the purpose of shared work...for the outcome of achieving what none could have done alone”
There is no doubt that co-teaching is an effective practice to better serve English language learners.
Co-teaching is defined as two educators who team-teach by providing simultaneous instruction to a group of students. Through this model, students receive content-based language learning which means that students receive content learning as well as language acquisition support.
Co-teaching or team teaching is an opportunity to create a culture of shared experiences and shared responsibilities among two teachers. This, of course, increases the opportunity to provide a focus and intentional differentiation support students may need.
But as easy and as effective as it may sound - co-teaching can be challenging for many of us!
This was true for Mrs. Eudy and me during the 2019-2020 school year. However, we both faced our fears by putting our students' needs FIRST and the outcome was very effective. We now recognize that co-teaching draws on the strengths of both - the content area teacher who understands the structure, the content, pacing of the curriculum - and the special area teacher who can identify unique challenges and individual needs students may have to fully access the content.
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!
How to support immigrant students in challenging times?
Just wanted to make sure you knew about this fantastic (and FREE) webinar opportunity to learn how to support our immigrant and refugee students.
This free webinar is hosted by Re-imagining Migration and The Immigrant Learning Center's (ILC) Public Education Institute.
It is a two-day online workshop featuring researchers, teacher trainers and pedagogical experts.
Participants will learn:
You can register HERE for the 2020 Immigrant Student Success: Strategies and Tools for K-12 and Adult Educators on July 8 and 9, 12:00 to 3:00 PM EDT, three hours each day
I am honored and humbled to present on July 9th - My topic is: Personal Stories to Build Strong relationships. I also will also be part of a discussion panelist sharing our thoughts on Immigrant StoryTelling.
I hope you can join us but if you can't, I will be providing links to the recordings if you cannot join us live.
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.
**This post appeared originally in Seidlitz Education on April 21st, 2020.**
It doesn’t happen as often as it should, but when it does, it is the most amazing feeling one can experience. That moment when you’re reading a book and you see your life and family experiences reflected on every single page. That moment when you see text and images intertwine on a page to bring forth cultural validation and acceptance. That moment when you close the book and cry tears of happiness because you realize that stories are so much deeper than you ever thought.
I experienced all this and so much more the day I read Sometimes… by Hugo Ibarra and John Seidlitz.
(video of me reading the book aloud for International Children’s Book Day.)
Sometimes… is just the book we need right now. Ibarra and Seidlitz share with us a story in which immigrants’ experiences are legitimized, one that opens doors for connections and much-needed conversations. It is a story that made me think about how experiences and family stories don’t have to be forgotten. And about how significant it is when stories are shared, because they validate what is core in our existence and our hopes for what is to come.
Sometimes… is a story of hope. A story of courage and strength. A story of a family who worked together through difficult circumstances to make their dreams come true. And even though sometimes things don’t go as planned and changes need to happen along the way, we see the characters rising through it all. We see Andrés and Clara holding tight to the hope offered by their mother and teachers. A hope that helps them get through every situation that comes their way.
The International Children’s Book Day theme for 2020 was “A Hunger for Words”, and as much as I identify with this phrase, I also believe there’s a hunger for cultural understanding — a hunger for identity and individual acceptance.
Children all over our nation deserve to open a book and see their families’ experiences and languages heard and represented.
Through the lens of an unaccompanied and undocumented immigrant, an English language learner, and an educator, I closely analyzed each page of Sometimes… and wrote down a few essential points at which the book authentically reflects many of our students’ experiences.
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!!!
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.
In September 2019 - I shared a blog post on how I structure my ESL lessons for HS newcomer ELs. If you haven't read it, I encourage you to do so! Click here for the blog post.
The Scholastic Action magazine, which is one of the resources I use during guided reading, always includes compelling topics my students find very interesting. The November issue includes an article very close to my heart - "an immigrant story"!
Running from Danger, Looking for Hope - is the story of Freddy, an immigrant young man from Honduras. I was so excited about planning this lesson and looking forward to sharing it with my students.
To increase the understanding of the immigration topic, I assigned students' group projects on the same topic but using picture books as a resource for the information.
The picture books we used were:
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.
My English as a Second Language (ESL) for Beginners class is a period designed to serve newly arrived immigrant students who need to learn English as quickly as possible to be able to engage in content area courses.
You see, our newcomer students are held to the same accountability standards as native English speakers. These students not only are starting to develop their English proficiency but at the same time, they are studying core content areas.
In my opinion, the best thing that can help newcomers during their first few days is to gain power. Empowering students with what they CAN do. Empowering students with simple phrases to engage in social conversations. Empower students to set measurable language and academic goals.
After a wonderful week of getting to know one another and creating a great foundation where students feel comfortable in our classroom; we moved into content and language learning!
Understanding Our Language Proficiency Levels
First things first, students need to understand how their English language proficiency is measured. We talked about the 4 parts of the test and learned how each part of the domains is important because it helps us: 1) Receive information (listening and reading) & 2) Produce information (speaking and writing).
Each student received their WIDA ACCESS scores (or initial placement scores) and placed their scores on the language development continuum (left picture below). Some students quickly realized what their strength is and what are they need to improve.
They thought it was fun to share and compare scores among themselves. This was not something I encouraged but they felt comfortable to do so.
After analyzing our process; we moved to align our scores with the CAN DO Descriptors provided by WIDA. This was a great opportunity to encourage students to read words in English. I had students making a list of cognates and trying to decipher the statements.
In order to also develop our writing skills, students created a Google slide presentation with what they CAN do and the goals we set ourselves for the next time we take the test.
Here's an example of Jorge's presentation: I Can... I Will...
Survival English for Newcomers
We also spent a couple of days going over this great recommended survival English we need to master in order to engage in content classrooms. This is a great list but I do not recommend using it as a teaching guide. I told my students that this would be something they will be learning throughout the year and they can keep it to maybe mark off as they learn it.
Going through the list was interesting and was a great chance to clear up some misconceptions or confusions about the English language. Click on the image for a printable version of the list.
Students were having so much fun learning from each other. They were helping each other and encouraging each other to read and understand the list!
Check out this video! I caught students practicing how to spell their last name!
Teaching newcomers is not easy. I love having the advantage that I can speak their language so I can clarify something they don't understand.
Here is a great research I started reading about newcomer's programs. This study shows what's working and what doesn't from newcomer centers from around the nation. It's pretty long but interesting!
Thank you for reading!
Over the summer of 2018, I took the first step to a great journey...I made the decision to transfer to Concord High School (CHS) after working six years at Irvin Elementary school. The decision was based on a burning desired within me to support students who are facing the same struggles I faced as a high school newcomer student and language learner. Read more about my personal experience as a newcomer here!
I got our classroom ready with so much excitement! However, I was more excited to meet my new students. I had already met a few of them during our ESL summer enrichment program, so I was thrilled to meet the rest of my students.