**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.
I wanted to share a great conversation I had with Adam Strong, director of Re-Imagining Migration, on how to build effective and lasting relationships with newcomers.
You'll notice who this is a very simple conversation but loaded with practical and effective ways to create and maintain strong relationships with newcomers. I have no doubt that all students need and deserve a teacher who takes his/her time to get to know them and care for them. However, newcomers, students who not only left their country behind but could've experienced a lot to be here in the USA, have an urgent need to be heard and understood.
Our conversation was first posted on Re-Imagining website on March 3rd, 2020 - and you can read it here.
On March 13th, 2020 - Share My Lesson website shared it too!! I am so excited to see how a simple conversation about supporting newcomers is so very well accepted by these platforms that work hard to provide effective lessons to educators.
You can find the same post here: "Building Relationships with ELL Students and Newcomers: A Conversation with Emily Francis".
Learning and understanding what your students have experienced can give a perspective you’ve never had. Learning their experiences can open up your eyes to a world you’ve never seen or lived before.
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.
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!
Grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals.
When I went through high school as a newcomer student, my mother was there. When I put myself through college, my mother was also there. She witnessed my struggles, my failures, and hardships. So every time we talk about my accomplishments, she asks: "But how did you do it?" "Where did you get the strength from to finish your goal?" My answer was always: "I don't know, I just felt like I had to keep going." Today I know that it was because of grit!
Character Lab has a great post on grit that states that "Grit is a critical strength of most people who are successful."
It also gives some examples of what grit looks like:
In Boosting Achievement we learn that SIFE and refugee students, "embody grit and perseverance." We know this to be true because their experiences and hardships required them to be strong and committed to surviving in their environment.
"Many SIFE come to America with enough pain to fill a lifetime of sadness and despair." ~ Tan Huynh
Our responsibility as their educator is to guide them in using that strength found within them and apply it toward school and life goals.
Dr. Duckworth reminds us that grit "requires deep interest" - This means that our students need to be engaged in what they are interested in even if they fail. We have to provide opportunities for them to take risk and try.
Carol provides us with a great lesson she learned with her student, Hamsa. Watch this video where he shows perseverance in doing what he knows he can do and is interested about.
Ideas for Encouraging Curiosity, Creativity, and Global Thinking
Boosting Achievement provides a great list of ideas and opportunities to encourage our SIFE students to engage in topics of interest:
For more ideas and for details about given ideas on page #43 and #44, please visit bit.ly/SalvaBLog
Great video about meeting the needs of refugee students:
Older SIFE students may appear to have a wider educational gap, but FEAR NOT. According to Boosting Achievement, SIFE students come with a sense of urgency, and often have a deeper appreciation for educational OPPORTUNITIES!!
They already have the most important predictor for success: PASSION. PERSISTENCE. MOTIVATION. Just provide the opportunities and watch them soar!!
Thank you for reading!