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.
**This post appeared originally in www.MiddleWeb.com on August 29, 2018.**
One of my favorite lessons to help students develop critical thinking is the “Photo Analysis Learning Activity” from The Facing History and Ourselves program. You can use this strategy with any visual media - a piece of art, photograph, political cartoon, video clip - even a family picture.
During this activity, you are simply guiding students through a close analysis of an image. I encourage discussion by asking students high order thinking questions while they’re analyzing the image.
So, let’s analyze and respond to this picture below. What do you notice? What happened before this scene? What might happen after? What does the photograph tell you about the life of these people? If you could ask them a question, what would you ask?
I love this picture! I know is not the best picture you've seen but is the moment captured in the image what I love the most.
This is me in this picture. It was a January day in 1994. I was 15 years old. My two younger sisters and I were on one of many buses in our journey from Guatemala to Mexico.
Three undocumented and unaccompanied minors with so much fear that words cannot describe; but also with so much faith for a better future.
I can tell you exactly what I was thinking at that moment...
The school enrollment process was very quick and in no time I was attending school. I was enrolled at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village, NY. I wish I had a picture of my first day of school because I'm pretty sure I had the biggest smile you can imagine. I was fascinated with the building and with all the goodies I was offered upon enrollment. I was beyond excited to begin attending school. Finally an opportunity to be a kid and begin learning to one day reach the success I had always dreamed of.
Unfortunately, 3 years later, I walked out of the school in shame, disappointment, and heartbroken. I became part of the Latino High school dropout. I was told I couldn't graduate or obtain my high school diploma because of an end-of-grade test I had been unable to pass. I couldn't continue attending school because I had already completed all the required credits.
However, today, I realize that it was more than just a test what hindered my education.
You see, a test score doesn't determine success. A grade doesn't say students' dreams. A pop-quiz doesn't demonstrate potential, much less my passion.
This is why I wish my teachers knew...
I share this because the need for educators to know how our newcomers and ESL students are feeling in the classroom is critical. I can't tell you how many times my students express the sense of failure they have because they are language learners. The need for culturally responsive teaching is greater today that it has ever been.
If you have a newcomer or an English language learner, I beg you, take the time to get to know your student. STOP your focus on data, testing, and curriculum alone! Gain their hearts. Learn their story. Help them reach their potential. Let them feel that they MATTER! I promise the language and academic development will follow these priorities.
It is never too late to change your focus. Reach out for support and provide opportunities for our students to grow to be successful citizens.
Here is a post I wrote about ways to support newcomers in your classroom.
and here is a great post by Tan Huynh about essential collaboration to support English Learners.
Thank you for reading!